Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Looking for Value in All the Right Places

QUESTION: I’m a novice at putting value on furniture and other old things. Can you tell me the best way to do this?

ANSWER: Putting a value to an antique or collectible isn’t as simple as black and white. Finding out about the value of an object involves several steps.  First you need to authenticate it—that is, find out if it’s real or fake. Then you need to determine the value you want to research. And if you discover that you have something valuable, you need to consult a certified antiques appraiser.

While there’s no fixed value in antiques and collectibles, there are two types of value you need to consider—replacement value and retail value. Which type you need to research depends on whether you’re planning keep or sell the object.

If you’re keeping it, you want to find its replacement value. Replacement value is the retail price you would pay to buy an object that’s identical to the one you own. Though that sounds simple enough, it isn’t. The object has to be exactly the same, including its condition. Then you’ll have to purchase it from the same type of source—an Internet antiques store, eBay, an antiques shop or show, or flea market. The retail price of the object will be different at each of the venues. So, unless you purchase it at exactly the same type of sales outlet, you may have a problem.

In the end, you’re the one who determines which price applies. Most beginning collectors use the highest price. While this may boost your ego, this may not be the best value. What about averaging all the prices? That won’t work, either. You’ll just have to consider the most likely place to which an average person might go to purchase the item.

Traditionally, insurance companies have considered the retail price asked by a dealer at an antiques show or at an antiques and collectibles mall as the replacement value. But, let’s face it, who pays the asking price? Smart collectors don’t. The object is to buy pieces at the lowest price possible, so that they’ll gain value right off. A lot of novices are turning to eBay to determine the replacement value. But this isn’t good, either. Any of the auction sites are just that—auctions. That means that buyers bid against each other, often sending the price higher than it should be. If you’re going to use eBay to determine value, you’ll need to study several months worth of pricing data.

If your goal is to sell your object, the price varies depending on retail venue. Traditionally, people sell items through garage sales, flea markets, eBay, and antiques shops and shows. You’ll need to research the potential value in all those categories. Each one has hidden costs, so the price represents only a portion of the amount paid. Auctioneers charge a commission to sell objects. Antiques dealers have to mark up their wares to make a profit. Flea market dealers have to do the same, albeit not as much, to make a profit over space rental fees. Ebay sellers have to add on numerous fees. Only garage sale sellers can charge the least amount and still make a profit. If you base your object’s value on their pricing, you’ll never get anywhere, even though some price their items based on what they see on eBay.

About the only way you’ll get the full value from an item is to sell it privately. However, while private buyers will pay the highest amount, they have to want the object. Most private buyers have been collecting for some time, so the list of what they want is usually short. Most of the time, they’ll already own the item. Further, finding a private buyer is a time consuming and difficult process. The best example is trying to find a buyer for collectibles from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. While there are certainly many collectors of these souvenirs, finding them is another story.

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