Valuing antiques and collectible items can be a tricky road to navigate.
There honestly is no definitive way to go about tackling such a task, because in the end, what matters is that the seller and the buyer have agreed upon a sale price and finalized a transaction.
Whether on eBay, at a live auction, inside a brick and mortar store, or even through Craigslist, buyers and sellers have the right, and power to determine what they feel the collectible item is worth TO THEM.
What are they willing to pay for it? AND how much is the seller willing to "let it go" for?
That doesn't mean, however that a thoroughly researched value to begin the asking price with is not important and well worth the seller's time.
Because negotiations are almost always going to arise, seller's often start their listings off with a higher price, leaving room to accept a lower offer.
This can backfire however, because buyers may, and often do, look right past the listings that do not fall within the range of what they are willing to pay for a certain item...negotiations considered, or not.
So, it is very important, especially in the online marketplace, that the seller, give a fair and accurate description of the item, accompanied by a very fair, or competitive asking price.
Of course, hiring a professional appraiser to value your collectibles is always an option.
But, for the times you'd rather do it yourself, there are a few things to consider.
First, understand the different types of buyers...
The buyer of your antiques or collectible items will significantly impact how much you can expect to receive from the sale.
There are several types of buyers in the marketplace, and you must decide, WHERE you will sell your item (either online, locally, at an auction, or at an antique show), which will likely determine to WHOM you are selling.
Below is a simplified list of the types of buyers you can expect to be interested in your items.
- Pickers - Pickers are those who scavenge yard sales, flea markets, auctions, and the like, to find valuable items, at rock bottom prices, to then take to dealers, who will resell those items in their brick and mortar, or online shops. You can consider pickers to be the "wholesaler" in the retail process. This work is very important because it eliminates the need for the dealers to "hunt" for inventory themselves. Selling to a "picker" means you will get the least amount of money for your item, but will likely sell it very quickly in the right place. The best place to sell to pickers, is locally at a yard sale or flea market. Expect them to come to you, if you have advertised your sale, or set up at an established market. Price your items low, to move and motivate the buyer! Great for items you wish you simply get rid of fast!
- Dealers - Dealers are the one's who own the shops. Be it online, or in a local store front, the dealers are the ones who are doing the work to attract the collectors. Selling to a dealer, means you will again, get a "wholesale" type price. You may find that the dealers are NOT interested in buying your item. This is completely subjective to the type of shop they run, and who their customers are. Not every dealer will buy every item. It is always at their discretion.
- Collectors - Collectors are ultimately the ones who are going to pay the most competitive prices for your items. They have no intention of buying your item for resale, therefore are willing to pay premium prices because they have no need to "leave room for profit". You essentially become the dealer in this process and must price your item according to the "market value", which we will cover in this next section. Finding the right collector to purchase your item takes time and effort, and may require you to take your item to an auction, or sell online in a marketplace such as eBay.
Now, begin your search on online auction sites...
Auction sites like eBay are a great way to get an idea of the market value for your item.
Although looking at the listing price, is a great start, it should not stop there.
To get a more accurate value, you must look closer at what the item actually sold for.
To do this, perform what is called an advanced search on the site, and look at the sold listings.
To perform an advanced search on eBay follow the instructions below, or simply click here to go directly to the page.
- Go to www.ebay.com
- Locate the button in the upper right hand portion of the site that says "Search". Do NOT click it.
- Look to the right of the button for the small text that says "Advanced". Click that.
- Once you are on the Advanced Search page, continue by filling out the fields as necessary, and make sure to click the box that says "Sold Listings"
- Perform your search, and take notes of what you find.
Discovering what items similar to yours have sold for is undeniably useful.
However, due to the varying conditions of antiques and collectible items, it is often very hard to find something that is an exact match to what you have.
Even if you do find something that is nearly identical, this does not mean that you are guaranteed to receive that sale price.
You must consider that many factors are in play when it comes to selling an antique, including the date of which it was sold, the demand of the item, and of course the availability of the item to the buyer, paired with their desire to buy it!
Determining the highest and lowest "sold for" prices, and finding an average is good practice for determining your starting price.
Decide on a time investment threshold.
Using that average price, knowing what type of buyer you're appealing to, as well as how much time you are willing to put into the sale will help you to feel confident in your beginning asking price.
- You find a vintage vase just like yours was sold to the highest bidder for $75.00 on eBay, and another one was sold at a low price of $30.00.
- You determine that a good middle ground price to ask, would be around $50.00.
- You decide you want to take the time to photograph, accurately describe, price, and publish a nice listing on eBay, and accept you will have to package and ship the item as well, once it has sold.
- After some time, your item has not sold and you decide to remove the listing from eBay.
- You notice an antique shop in your town has a sign in their window that says "WE BUY ANTIQUES!" and you decide to take your item there.
- Once inside, the shop owner says he'd be interested in buying your item, but knows he himself will only be able to sell it at the most for $60.00 in his shop. Considering his overhead, and cost of goods sold, he offers you $10 for the vase.
Weather or not you accept the offer is up to you.
But, if you hold onto it in hopes of getting a higher sale, and end up putting it in a live auction, where there was low demand, and a few buyers of the "picker" type, you could end up getting no more than $5.00 for the item.
This example goes to show how much variation there can be from sale to sale.
A strict sale price, will likely result in a sale that takes more time to finalize, but may be worth the wait in the end.
On the contrary, a quick and easy sale for a lower profit, may free up time better spent in many cases.
It is up to you to decide how long you are willing to wait to make the sale.
With that threshold in mind, consider HOW you will spend your time selling the item.
Will it be online? At a yardsale? A live auction? To a dealer?
Each option, has it's own set of time consuming responsibilities, so it is in your best interest to examine all options before you start your valuation.
Check local resources.
There are plenty of resources that pertain specifically to your local market, if you decide you'd like to keep your sale close to home.
Buy and Sell Facebook Groups, Craigslist, and Let Go, are all wonderful sites to research and list your items for sale.
These sites are not generally used as a tool for valuations, because they do not accurately display what an item has "sold for".
You can however, do an in depth search through the sites, to see if there is a comparable listing.
If so, then you can at least know what your "competition" is within the local market, and make decisions on how to move forward.
Consider the cost of shipping or delivering your item locally.
Not all things are worth their weight in shipping when selling online.
For example, if an item is only valued at $15 and is costing the buyer $20 to ship because of its weight, then you may have a harder time selling the item.
There are many price + shipping combinations that you can play around with to find a fair asking price.
If the item is not worth shipping, selling locally is a great option.
What if I can't find any information on typical websites?
The antique world is full of strange and unusual things.
That is why most of us love it after all. :)
The more rare your item is, the harder it will be to find comparable listings.
There are however, many lesser known auction sites across the internet that can offer you additional information.
Many professionals use subscription sites like WorthPoint.com to conduct their comprehensive research in a timely manner, and get information about rare artifacts that you may not be able to find on eBay alone.
These types of sites gather information about millions of items, images, and values from both auction houses and online marketplaces, and put them together in one place, to create a very user friendly, time saving experience.
This particular site, WorthPoint, offers a 7-day free trial to anyone looking to try the service. If you have just 7 items or less to look up, it's a great way to get insight on the value of them in a quick and professional way.
You will only be billed for a subscription if you choose to continue the service. Please visit the website for more information.
Valuing antiques and vintage collectibles for resale requires some leg work, but can be performed by anyone, professional or not.
Casual valuations are not to be confused with an official appraisal.
Determining how much time and effort you are willing to sacrifice for the sale of your item will help you decide if setting firm, top-dollar prices is reasonable, or if a quick and easy sale is more beneficial to you and the customer.
GENERALLY speaking (and yes, I know this does not apply to every sale), a competitively priced item with room to negotiate will sell faster than a firm, top-dollar priced item.
Sometimes remaining firm in your high asking price is fair, and worth the wait.
Always look for "sold for" prices rather than "asking prices" when comparing listings online.
Consider professional valuation sites, like WorthPoint.com for more in depth information regarding your rare antiques or collectible items.
Always consider the cost of selling your item. Marketplace fees, packaging, shipping, and/or delivery costs can add up fast, so don't forget to factor them in when listing your item for sale.
Now, be fearless in your pursuit of valuing antiques and collectibles for resale! Onward!
There is no greater risk to the sale of your item, than you not ever making it available for sale!
Do not let the fear of pricing incorrectly hinder you from moving forward.
Using these tips, you should be well equipped to get a fair and accurate resale value for your antiques or collectible items.
Thanks for Reading!
I hope you found this article useful.
I'm always interested to hear of other's experiences, so please leave me a comment below, and chime in if you have any tips for valuing your antiques!
Take care, as always! - Hallie ❤️️
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