Do you own antiques, collectibles, or family heirlooms? If so, you’ve likely wondered how much they’re worth. In many ways, the internet has made antique evaluation easier than ever, with multiple online resources available to use.
However, not all online evaluation tools provide accurate results. Before attempting to appraise an item on your own, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of each method. Here’s a closer look.
To use these sites as an appraisal tool, you’ll want to find the sale prices for items similar to yours. Ideally, you’ll want to compare multiple, recent sale prices across a variety of different auction sites.
Online auctions can give you a general idea of your item’s value, but there are limitations. While some auction sites use a professional appraiser to help set the minimum bid, less reputable sites will inflate the evaluation, resulting in an artificially high sale price.
Online price guides are another popular resource. Two well-known antique guides are Kovels Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide and Miller’s Antiques Handbook and Price Guide.
To use a price guide, you simply look up your item by type, model, and year. Major price guides are typically updated annually. They’re usually available both online and in print editions.
As with online auctions, price guides can provide a reasonable estimate, but usually can’t tell you an exact value. You’ll need to correctly identify the model and year of your item, which is often difficult to determine for many items such as jewelry, figurines, and silverware. Also, you’ll need to correctly evaluate the item’s condition, which typically requires extensive knowledge of the genre.
Many professional appraisers offer online appraisals. You’ll take detailed photographs of your item, which you then email to the appraiser, who will use their professional expertise to determine the current, real-world value of the item.
Online appraisals are fast and easy. You don’t need to transport the item anywhere or schedule an in-person appointment.
Online appraisals are often very accurate. If you provide detailed photographs, a professional appraiser can assess the item’s model, age, condition, and other relevant factors necessary to correctly determine its value.
The biggest drawback to an online appraisal is that they’re not accepted by insurance companies, banks, the IRS, and other professional organizations.
With an in-person appraisal, a professional appraiser will arrive at your location to examine your items directly. They’ll photograph the items, research recent sales, and consult with other experts to determine the real-world value of your item in the current marketplace.
Plus, only a professional appraiser can develop an appraisal document that adheres to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, an organization created by Congress. USPAP compliant appraisals are often required for charitable deductions, property distribution, insurance coverage, and more.
Without question, a professional appraisal conducted by a trained expert will give you the most accurate evaluation of your item. Plus, the appraisal document will typically provide other details about the item, such as any relevant history.
On the downside, this type of appraisal isn’t quite as quick or convenient as the others, because you’ll need to schedule an appointment. Fortunately, antique appraisal companies can usually meet with you fast, including during off-hours and weekends.
What should you do if you suspect an antique or collectible you own is valuable?
An online search of auction houses and price guides can give you a general idea of the item’s value. If you want to know the specific value of what you own, contact a professional antique appraisal company for either an online or in-person evaluation.
Your family heirloom might hold more than sentimental value – it could be a hidden treasure!