We receive emails nearly every day from people asking how to sell antiques or vintage items. Sometimes they have inherited antiques, sometimes they are just downsizing or have another reason to let go of a piece of furniture or other antique that they have enjoyed for years. Either way, they aren’t sure where to start. So here is our advice on how to sell antiques.
How To Find Out What Your Antiques Are Worth
A great place to begin searching for values of antique or vintage items is Worthpoint.com. Of course, you can also explore sites where people sell antiques online, like Ebay. But Ebay only shows the last 30 to 45 days of data whereas Worthpoint has a huge database. It stores many years’ worth of information from ecommerce venues like Ebay and GoAntiques.com as well as other important auction houses.
Worthpoint is definitely worth the price for unlimited access for 30 days if you have specialty items or many things to look up. If you want to try it out first, Worthpoint offers a free trial period for a limited number of searches. You can also send a description and photos of your item to a “Worthologist” to get an expert online appraisal for a fee of $29.99, which is very economical.
I suggest the Worthpoint.com appraisal service because you’re unlikely to find an antiques dealer to give you a free appraisal. Dealers receive so many requests for free appraisals and although they are lovely folk, if they spent all day helping people with advice they would never have time to run their own businesses! So if you want to sell antiques but don’t know how to price them and don’t have time to research values, it’s well worth paying for the service of an expert appraiser.
If you are handling the estate of a relative, you may want to hire a licensed personal property appraiser in your area. Or you can contact a local auction house to help you determine the value of items. If you have rare or especially valuable antiques, you might want to find a specialty auction house. For instance, you would go to Theriaults for dolls.
How to Sell Antiques Online or Locally
Obviously you can sell antiques through a local or specialty auction house. Or you can list things for sale on Ebay or GoAntiques or Etsy. You can even post an ad for free through your local Craigslist. You might also contact interior designers in your area to see if they could place a piece of antique or vintage furniture with one of their clients.
You could also contact antique dealers in your area to see if they are interested in purchasing a piece outright. In this case, realize you will need to accept a wholesale price, not a retail price. Dealers have large overheads and sometimes they have to keep an antique in stock for a long time before finding a retail customer. The upside is that by selling to a dealer you’ll receive payment more quickly and don’t have to do all the selling yourself.
However, many antique dealers may only be interested in taking a piece on consignment. This is assuming that it fits with their inventory and they have the space in their gallery. Most dealers would expect to charge a 30 – 50% consignment fee, and you would be responsible for the transportation of the piece to the dealer’s gallery.
Keep in mind that it can be quite expensive to ship a piece of antique furniture safely. That shipping cost will come out of your pocket if you contact a dealer outside your geographical area. You’re usually better off contacting antique dealers in your closest large city.
Tips If You Sell Antiques Online
If you opt to sell antiques online through one of the ecommerce sites, you’ll need to write good and detailed descriptions. Even if you don’t know much about antiques, make a note of any makers’ marks or hallmarks and give exact measurements.
Door detail on antique 1880 French Brittany style chestnut buffet
Also take good, clear photographs from many angles. A picture speaks a thousand words! Include close-up shots of any decorative details and maker marks, and ideally show the insides of cabinets or drawers. At EuroLuxAntiques.com, we tend to provide lots of images when we sell antiques so buyers can see everything as clearly as they would inspecting the item in person. Then they are confident about making a purchase, or they can ask for more details if uncertain.
Finally, be honest about any damage or wear. People expect antique items to show a little wear – that is part of their history and unique charm and it proves their authenticity! But nobody wants any nasty surprises when the item arrives. The condition of an antique is a big factor in assessing its worth, as two similar pieces can sell for vastly different prices if one is in mint condition and the other rather more well-loved! For this reason, also be honest about the condition with appraisers if you get an online appraisal, otherwise the expert can’t give you the best advice.
If you have other suggestions for people wondering how to sell antiques or vintage items they own, please tell us in the comments box below!
Aimee owns EuroLuxAntiques.com with her best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Connect with Aimee on Google+ or you can sign up to receive this blog in your inbox!