Let’s say you visit your garage or basement, looking for something you’ve stored there. As you trip over boxes, furniture and odd-shaped items that you’ve been housing there for years you realize that there is a lot of interesting stuff there… family heirlooms, furniture, art, books…but they aren’t on display and they’re just taking up room. All that could be worth something. What do you do about it?
If you think you want to sell some of it, this post is about finding out how much things are worth so that you can make a decision about whether to have your own estate sale, send items to auction, or donate things to your favorite charity…or a specific group, such as a local historical society, that would appreciate your collection of ephemera.
Mostly what determines an item’s value is current culture and styles. Even if something is very old or cost a fortune back in the day – if it isn’t valued in modern culture nobody will want to buy it! A beautiful set of antique china may not sell well because modern families just don’t entertain that way.
There are a variety of free online resources you can use to get a sense of how well different types of items would sell. Live Auctioneers is an international online auction site – their Auction Results Database is a great resource to search by keyword and see how comparable items have sold at auction.
Other resources for specific items:
Metals are a little different from other items in that regardless of how popular the type of item is, if it is made of a precious metal it will always hold the current market value of that metal. Monex.com is where you can find out those rates.
How do you tell the difference between sterling silver and silverplate?
Silverplate usually is marked with the label “EPNS,” “EP,” “EPS” or “EPC”. Silver will have the mark “Sterling Silver,” “Ster,” “925” or a picture of a lion. Another test is using a magnet – solid silver is not magnetic so if a magnet sticks to your silver item it likely is silver plated.
Another resource for finding out values is appraisal days at local auction houses. Here in the SF Bay Area both Clars, Michaan’s Auctions, and Slawinski Auctions host weekly appraisal days where you can bring in a few items for assessment. Most auction companies will come out to look at items if you have a significant amount or do an assessment from a photo if not.
Do you know of a good resource for valuing items? Share it here!