5 steps to make money from selling small antique items
Have you got a few bits around the house that you think might be valuable, but you’re not sure?
You might have inherited it or simply found it lurking in the attic after many years.
It’s kind of old, kind of nice, but you don’t really want to keep it.
Is it worth anything? You’re not sure but you really want find out.
If you have a piece of vintage (and that includes 1980’s) jewellery or an antique ornament lying around your house, and have always wondered how much it could be worth, here’s how to get it valued and possibly sold.
- 1. How to get your item valued
- 2. Consider making a sale at auction
- 3. Don’t settle for your first offer
- 4. Selling vintage jewellery – what should you be looking for?
- 5. Sell on eBay or elsewhere yourself
- Are you ready to part ways?
- Tips from a antique selling expert
Most auction houses have on-site specialists who can advise on a myriad of collectibles and will usually provide free verbal valuations (although may of course charge for written valuations). Independent specialist valuers are another good source of expertise and will advise on antique and vintage goods.
Reputable valuers will usually be accredited by recognised bodies, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers. Their services may cost but it’s well worth it if you are able to sell an item for the best price.
If you can’t go to the auction houses, you could take photos of the item and email them to the specific experts at that auction house. Often they will get back to you almost immediately.
I once inherited an old, china doll. I knew it was a collectible but I wasn’t sure how much it was worth. I photographed it, including specific photographs of the markings at the back of the neck and sent them to specialists at Christies. They got back to me almost immediately to tell me I might get £20 for it if I was lucky! Disappointing but useful to know. I took it to my local charity shop and told them to sell it to a specialist
There are auction houses in every major town or city – often several of them. Pick one or two that are close to you and see what they offer.
If the item has enough value, it will be placed in a specialist sale and you will be given a contract and customer number with the reserve price etc.
After the sale the auction house will email you to confirm if your item was successful. You should receive a cheque within four weeks which will have their commission costs taken out of your fee as well as insurance, advertising and vat deductions. If the item doesn’t sell there is still a charge and you may decide to re-enter it into the next auction sale.
Don’t forget to search online too; there are a number of sites which will show comparable examples if you want to research your goods. These include Invaluable, the Saleroom.com and Artnet.
Shop around like you would when you buy any items. Don’t let anyone put the pressure on to make a sale and try to remain level headed. The right price is worth the hassle.
It can be tempting to send your items off for a postal evaluation and the hassle often means that you can e enticed to take the first offer you get instead of claiming back the items.
Try to always keep your items with you until you’re ready to make a sale. Where possible, send a photo in the first instance. Most auction houses accept that, particularly the big ones.
I talked to Samantha Lilley, Head of Valuation at Borro for her top five tips for finding a hidden sparkly gem.
- Check for Hallmarks: This sounds a lot more complicated than it is but if something is set in precious metal of either 9ct, 14ct, 18ct or 22ct, there is instantly a value in this. It is always worth checking necklace clasps and the inside of rings and bracelets for hallmarks.
- Check the settings: A lot of Victorian jewellery may not be hallmarked, so see if the metal it is set in is tarnished. If it is showing discolouration, then it is most likely plated jewellery, but if not then it may be a gold set piece.
- Check the stones items are set in: Again this is easier than it sounds. Often, items which are set with paste or glass are quite easy to spot as they lack the “depth” of other gemstones and diamonds.
- Avoid pearls which are peeling: These will be imitation and not worth a thing.
- Don’t turn your nose up at costume jewellery: You would be surprised at just how collectable some costume jewellery is, despite being made of synthetic materials. Check for signatures. For example, Chanel and Dior jewellery will command high prices at places such as Kerry Taylor auctions or Christies for example as well as “Vintage” shops dotted around London.
Once you have a valuation, particularly if it’s a low amount (i.e. under £100) it might be best for you to sell the item on eBay or another auction site.
Take a look at similar items on the site. See what they’re going for. Once you have a ballpark figure of what you could get – taking into account the valuation you got – put it on the site and offer it for a fixed price, offering it for at least 30 days.
If it’s large and delicate it might be best to offer it for collection only as sending it could be a problem.
Take very good photos and put as much description in as possible, including photos of hallmarks or other marks that show the manufacturer/maker.
Many people sell their precious items such as sentimental jewellery or childhood possessions thinking they can buy it back at a later date, only to find the sale price is higher than what they were given, or that the item was sold on to someone else.
Make sure you really don’t want the item you are selling before going ahead with any sales.
Sue Miller from Acton has been buying and selling small vintage items for the last couple of years. Here are a few of her handy tips if you have antiques or interesting items at home that you would like to sell.
- Chiswick auctions is a good place to start, as they have several experts to help with valuations. They also have general sales every Tuesday.
- They will normally only take items at a value of £80 minimum so sometimes they suggest you ‘group’ similar items to make the ‘Lot’ more attractive in the auction sale.
- They will be honest and only take items which they feel will have a chance of selling.
Your item might be placed in a specialist sale (vintage clothes, coins, fine jewellery etc.)
- Over the years, I’ve had excellent success rates selling items. If something fails to sell, then they might suggest you place it into the following week’s sale at a reduced price. The choice is yours.
- If the auction house feels that my item is not appropriate for their sale, then I usually either place it on Ebay, Gumtree, take it to local antique shops, Portobello Road, a Car Boot Sale or give it to the local charity shop.
- Be aware that you will need to keep all the paperwork with proof of your sales for tax purposes, as anything you sell at an auction house or Ebay is counted as income.
Making extra money – do you have to pay more tax?
Have you sold any small vintage or antique items? What was your experience? Share your story with us in the comments below.
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