We buy and sell collectibles, but we aren’t appraisers and can’t give you a price on your collectible. However, we can show you how we do it! The main thing to bear in mind is that an item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. That means you need to find out what it’s actually selling for, and where it’s selling.
Second, your item will have a different value in different markets. You need to figure out if you can sell it best at a yard sale, local consignment store or auction house, ebay, specialty website, etc.
Third, condition is everything! Just because a 1912 widget sold for so much on eBay, doesn’t mean yours will. The details and condition of your widget can make a big difference in your price.
Which leads to the fourth point – don’t restore it until you’ve done some research! Some collectibles are more valuable cleaned and restored, whereas others will lose their value if you clean them. People who collect old coins and railroad keys, for example, value the patina of age. Whereas railroad lantern collectors love a beautifully restored piece. So do your research!
If you don’t have enough information on your item, hit the library. Most libraries have a lot of antique and collectibles guides. These will help you figure out the age and condition of your item. The prices will only be estimates, but can give you a good idea of the relative demand for various collectibles.
Now you’re ready to price shop!
Your first stop is eBay. Log into your account, then enter your search term and click “Advanced Search”. Then click on the box “Completed Listings”. This shows you what was listed in the last two weeks, what the seller was asking, and how many sold and for what price. Also go to the category for your item and look around. See how many are listed, and how many have bids. This helps you see if it’s rare or common online, and what the demand is.
Move on to your favorite search engine. Search for your item by name, and by name + “forum”. You’re looking for independent websites that sell it, and also for collector groups. You may be able to find pricing information there – or maybe even a buyer. See if the site or forum has a sales or classifieds section you can put an ad in.
For local prices, read your local weekly free ad publication. You can find them at convenience stores. Check your Sunday and Wednesday newspaper classifieds, too. Also look at online free classifieds like Craigslist. These are good options for something that’s expensive to ship, and sometimes you’ll find that you can get more for an item locally than online.
If you have a rare or potentially very valuable item, you’ll want a professional opinion. Worthpoint provides opinions for a fee. You can also get free auction estimates from the big auction houses Christies’ and Sotheby’s, though this will take about six weeks. Of course, an appraisal based on pictures may not be as thorough as you want. You can also check your yellow pages, and ask local antique dealers, to find if there are local appraisers.
You can also ask a dealer what he would pay for it. Of course, that won’t be what he would sell it for. But if he has contacts you don’t, as well as space to hold and display it, you may be just as well off to sell it to a local dealer as to try to ship it elsewhere. It just depends on the market and how quickly you want to sell.
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