How to Profit from the Past

Do you know what your stuff is worth?

Is your family heirloom just a vase or could it also net you a nice sum?  Who knew that Art Deco travel posters featuring historic sites are all the rage?

Not everyone can make it to the Antiques Roadshow, so here’s a quick primer on how to assess your decorative assets.


Condition affects value dramatically.  An item in mint condition demands more dollars than an item in below average or poor condition.  Be sure to look for:

  • Cracks
  • Defects
  • Finish Condition
  • Missing Parts or Pieces
  • Stains
  • Tears or Rips

Watch the Trends
Antiques and other collectibles can be affected by market trends.  Prices go up and down depending on the fickle tastes of collectors at any given moment. If you’re using a price guide, the prices reflect those at the time the guide was issued.

  • Kovels’ is a reliable source. It’s 2017 price guide, includes 25,000 listings, more than 2,500 full-color photographs and up-to-the-minute information to aid your research.

Age Does Not Equal Dollars
If you think your aunt’s tomahawk is worth a lot simply because it’s old, you might be out of luck. There are thousands upon thousands of items that qualify as antique (100 years+) and are worth about as much as people paid for them a 100 years ago—which is to say, very little.

Marks or insignias can be the first signs of some real cash.  In fact, they are the first things an appraiser looks for and they say a lot about the piece.  Here’s what they can tell you:

  • Fake or Real
  • Date Item was Created–Many makers changed their insignias frequently and knowing your symbols can help to determine the age and authenticity of a piece.
  • Who Really Made the Item – Value is determined not just by the company or where the item was made but by which artist or maker created it. For example, not every Tiffany lamp was personally designed by the legendary Lewis Comfort Tiffany.
  • Pattern & Design – Specific patterns or designs influence value. Some are more popular than others.

The harder to find items are worth more as rarity plays a significant role in the value of any antique or collectible.  Often, extremely rare items with damage demand more in the marketplace than more commonplace pieces in perfect condition.

The pressing question—genuine, fake or reproduction?  Always remember, the most popular “original” antiques were reproduced for the masses so lots of phonies prevail in the market.  Here are some things to look out for:

  • Signs of Wear and Tear–Are the wear marks in places you’d expect them? Take a chair, for example. The wear marks should be on the seat and back where someone would grab it.
  • Difference in the Signatures or Marks – Do your research and see if you can find any discrepancies.
  • Proper Construction Techniques—Does it appear the piece was constructed in keeping with the methods and techniques used during the period it was made? Can you tell if modern tools were used?

Ask the Experts
Taking all these things into consideration gives you a glimpse of what your belongings might be worth.  Next step is to ask an expert.

  • Auctions Houses–If you have a hunch your antique is high-end and praise-worthy, (no chipped saucers, thank you) contact one of the major auction houses – or
  • Chat Online–Talk with an antiques expert at and receive a free estimate.
  • Don’t Ask Your Local Antiques Shop; Seek-Out a Certified Appraiser–The going rate for this service is either a flat fee or $200 to $400 an hour. You’ll receive a written report including a full description of your item and the procedure used to estimate the current value.

To find an appraiser just ask The Society of Appraisers at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s