Age alone is not always what determines the value of an antique. Often the better the condition of an item, the greater its value. When it comes to selling an antique, a general rule of thumb to remember is that it is only worth as much as someone else is willing to pay for it.
Get appraisals from several different sources, as prices can vary. Sometimes there can be quite a difference between the lowest and highest appraisal values you receive. Although there are no licensing requirements, there are many qualified antiques appraisers who can tell you if an antique is the real thing or just a cheap imitation.
Hiring an Expert
Get the opinion of an expert. This is reason enough to ask for references when searching for a reputable professional appraiser. Contact the American Society for Appraisers. Members must take classes related to appraising, pass an exam on valuing property and have five years of experience as an appraiser. Hire someone who specializes in the kind of item you want to have appraised. A real estate attorney or banker can usually recommend a credible appraiser. Find out how long an appraiser has been in the business.
Appraisers typically charge by the hour for their time and expertise. Rates can range from $100 to more than $300 depending on geographic location. If an appraiser tells you he will charge you a percentage of the antique's value, keep looking. Chances are he will appraise the item's value on the high side in order to make more money.
Never sell an antique to the same person who appraises it. Antique dealers make a living by buying items at a low price, then reselling them to make a profit. If an appraiser wants to buy the item, he has probably appraised it for less than it is really worth.
Despite the popularity of online appraisals, turning to the Internet might not be a smart step either. A free online quote is not the best way to get the most accurate appraisal. An experienced appraiser needs to see a piece up close in order to determine its true value.
If you hire an appraiser to determine an item's fair market value, the value will be less than what the item would be priced at retail. However, some people need appraisals to insure an item of value. In that case, the appraiser will determine how much it would cost to replace the item with something similar. The value will be higher than an appraisal based on fair market value, as retailers will mark up the price. Appraisers also look for maker marks and signatures. Because value is often based on whether an antique was made by a specific company or during a particular era, even a professional appraiser must do thorough research.
Get a written estimate beforehand of what the appraisal will cost and how long it will take to prepare a report after seeing the item. The report should state how much the object is worth and not simply be an estimate of its value. A description of the item, what methods were used to determine its value and why the appraisal was requested should be included in the report.
Do not do anything to the item before you have it appraised. Improvements can actually diminish an antique's value, and you can always have the item restored after you get an appraisal. Antiques experts are skilled at recognizing the signs of aging that allow for normal wear and tear. An antique has greater value when in its original condition. Antiques appraisers must have a keen eye when looking to spot repairs or other signs of restoration. They also consider how rare an item is. Items produced in greater quantities tend to have less value.