Have you got a few bits around the house that you think might be antiques, 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 to find out.
If you have a piece of vintage (and that includes 1980s) 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 have 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 an antique selling expert
Most auction houses have on-site specialists who can advise on a myriad of collectibles. They’ll 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 Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers. Their services may cost, but it’s well worth it if you’re 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’ll get back to you almost immediately.
Jasmine Birtles, founder of MoneyMagpie.com, once inherited an old china doll. Jasmine knew it was a collectible but wasn’t sure how much it was worth. She 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 her almost immediately to say she might get £20 for it if I was lucky! Disappointing, but useful to know. Jasmine took it to her local charity shop and told them to sell it to a specialist.
Once you have an idea of the value and if they are interested in the item, you can then take it along to the auction house of your choice.
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’s still a charge and you may decide to re-enter it into the next auction sale.
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, but the faff often means that you can be enticed to take the first offer you get instead of claiming back the items. It may be a good option depending on your circumstances though.
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’s 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’s set in is tarnished. If it’s showing discolouration, then it’s 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’d 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.
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.
Quick tips for taking photos for eBay:
- Avoid background clutter.
- Use a white background (table, countertop, bedsheet, etc.).
- Take lots of photos (eBay allows up to 12 for free), and choose the best one as the featured image.
- Make sure your images are bright and clear. You may want to adjust the brightness on the image on your phone (as long as it still represents the item well).
Remember you can use the ‘Advanced’ option next to the blue search button on eBay to find items that have actually sold, and their prices. Tick the ‘Sold listings’ box, and on the results page, the green numbers show the sale prices.
Take a moment to consider this: The sentimental value might outweigh the money. In that case, you may want to evaluate if you’re ready to part ways with your precious possessions.
Many people sell their valuable 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’re selling before going ahead with any sales.
- Chiswick Auctions is a good place to start, as they have several experts to help with valuations. There are also 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.
- Auctioneers will be honest and only take items which they feel have a chance of selling.
Your item might go into 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. Anything you sell at an auction house or eBay is counted as income.
Have you sold any small vintage or antique items? What was your experience? Share your story with us in the comments below.