What’s it worth?

  • Date:
  • Posted by kindle

I am moving my blog posts/articles from our store’s site to this one in order to preserve them for future viewing. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.


A question that I continually have to deal with in the antique business is “what’s it worth?”

It is a valuable question and one that deserves answering. However that is not always an easy task.

The easy straightforward answer is, “It is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” But that turns out to be neither easy nor straightforward.

There are several different types of value to be considered such as collectible value, insured value, wholesale value, retail value and investment values. You can start to see where this could get murky.

Wholesale value. This is the amount someone might pay you for your items if they were to try to resell them. Dealers need to purchase inventory for their stores or booths. They need to buy items at a cost that allows them to make a profit. This is how they stay in business and earn a living.

Retail value is the price you would pay in an antique store. This figure is as varied as wholesale value. There is no set pricing structure for antiques as there are for durable such as appliances. These types of items are manufactured by companies who sell them at wholesale prices to a dealer/store/chain who sells them to you at retail prices.  Markups can vary widely. New furniture can range 200 to 400%. Clothing between 100 and 300%, Shoes 100 – 500%, Jewelry can be even more. (remember this when you rush to get to that 20% off sale) Antiques, not so much. There are guides, but nothing that can be firm. Much depends on the market area and economy.

Insured value is the price the insurance company will repay you if the item is lost, stolen or damaged, say in a fire or flood. Many insurance companies may require a certified appraisal to establish an item’s insured value. You would have to pay for this service. The insurance company may also require you to pay a separate rider (additional fee) to insure your item. Years ago, I asked my insurance company about my antiques, and they said if you use them, they only insure replacement value for like item. Your antique 300 year old desk, may be just a desk to them. Confirm exactly what the rider covers first.

Collectible value is the value the item may have in the collectible market and depending on where that market is located, many factors drive the price. How many people want it? What is the condition? How many were manufactured? Does the item have any significant ties to history? Does it have provenance (the history of ownership) if it was owned by someone famous? This type of value varies greatly.

Investment value is similar to collectible value but often these types of items are bought like any other investment. The buyer it is expecting it to increase in value so it can be sold at a profit later, but this takes years not days, weeks or months. Think paintings, wine, coins and cars.

Remember when we are selling and buying we are talking about two different prices. The dealer wants to buy your item at as low of a price as he can so he can maximize his profit, and you want to get every last dollar you can for your items. One thing to remember is the dealer cannot pay for emotional attachments. To you, your item may have been in the family for years, and once belonged to your favorite aunt or sibling and is valuable for this reason, but to the dealer it is a product to buy and resell.

When you agree on the price, remember you have your cash in hand. The dealer’s job continues and he will not get his money back until the item sells. Some dealers will pay more for quality items, others won’t. You have to expect that. Most dealers will make an offer on an item based on their experience of what they have paid for similar items in the past and what they think they can sell it for.

You can see why this is a difficult question to answer…

How to research what your item is worth in part II.