Every expert has some clever little tricks that quickly help him to determine the good from the bad. A few minutes with a shelf full of dishes is all that is needed by someone who knows his stuff. He can spot the “Instant Expert” clues and immediately determine which of the dishes should be examined further. The truly gifted collector will say, “It shouted at me from across the room at the antique show.” Beginners often wonder how, with thousands of antiques on display, the collector can frequently find the really fine example.
That is what it is to “know your antiques.” It is almost a sixth sense that develops because the obvious signs are recognized and considered. In this post, we will be talking about how to research your antiques, use related fields to find information on your pieces, how to buy or sell antiques, and whether or not you need an appraisal. Many of these suggestions are quite apparent, and you may wonder why they are included; but it is often the very obvious that escapes us.
Researching Your Finds
The first place to start looking is on the actual piece itself. If the item that you are interested in is signed or marked, that gives you quite a bit of leverage toward finding out more about it. Another aid in research is the patent date. Just remember that patents for designs and patents for inventions are listed separately and must be looked up accordingly.
Once you’ve look over your piece and gleaned all of the information that you can from it, it is time to start your investigation. Fortunately, we live in a day and age in which information is just a mouse click away. Your keyword searches should include any info that you found on the piece. Brand, date, mark, model number and collection name are all things that you can search to find out more about your piece. You can also take the old fashioned approach you can make a trip to your local library. Most libraries have a large collection of books about antiques. There are also books devoted solely to marks. Magazines are also a good source of information about antiques.
When searching for information about antiques, one of the best resources for collectible is information on other subjects that are related. Look at lists of silver-plate makers to find pewter makers because one man often worked in both fields. China dolls can be traced in books and websites devoted to pottery and porcelain. Because many silversmiths eventually became jewelry stores, the missing clue to a signed lamp may be the record of a grandfather who worked as a silversmith.
Company names, particularly those that are still in existence can often be a help in dating. There have been slight changes in the wordings of the names of man companies, and Googling info on the company history can help.
If you still come up with nothing after your best efforts, you may consider consulting an expert. There may be a fee involved, but then at least you’ll be sure that the information you have is accurate.
Selling Antique Items
If you are looking to sell, many antique stores do buy and consign items. If what you have for sell isn’t of interest to the antique stores, you may try auction houses, resale business, or thrift stores. You may also want to try an online auction like eBay. It is really not as hard as it seems. You can make the freight shipping the responsibility of the buyer and that makes selling much easier.
To get a ballpark figure of the value of the item you want to sell, you can check out what they are going for online. Just keep in mind that just because someone is asking a certain price for an item on the internet doesn’t mean they will get that. Someone we know had a collection of TY Beanie Babies for sale. She had 2 of the Princess Diana Beanie Babies. She looked on eBay and there were Beanie Babies just like the ones she had listed for 1 million dollars! She wound up getting $10 each for them. So be sure and look at listings for items that have actually SOLD when trying to identify the value of an item. Sellers can ask whatever amount they want for an item, but all that matters is what buyers are actually willing to pay.
If you own many antiques, you may be wise to look into getting an appraisal. Any large collection should be insured, and the insurance company will require a current appraisal. Appraisals can also be needed for tax purposes or for dividing inheritance.
The appraiser that you hire should specialize in antiques and be an accredited member of an appraisers society like the International Society of Appraisers. This is important, because while most serious collectors can give a fairly accurate appraisal of antiques, an accredited appraiser will provide you with a legal document that will hold up in a court of law and be accepted by your insurance company. Don’t waste your money on anything less!