What's it worth?

Think like an Appraiser

Sometimes it takes an expert to properly value an antique. Here are 10 considerations to make before calling an appraiser.

Quick Disclaimer: There are always counter examples. The unsigned piece worth thousands, the ripped poster worth hundreds, etc. But these instances are so rare they’re not worth considering in detail. For nearly every circumstance of appraisal, the following advice will serve.

Appraisal Cost

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An appraisal will cost you around $100 per hour. If you know the item in question is worth less than the appraisal, do the research yourself.

If you think the item may be worth several hundred dollars or even thousands, read on.


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If your determination of value includes your family history (and you’re not famous or connected to the maker in some way) then ask yourself this: If a similar item came up for sale which had no connection to you what would it be worth?

This is how you begin to think as an appraiser.

Sentiment does occasionally factor into the value of a piece. For example, local history plays a significant role. Locals who have a shared history with the item to be appraised will value that item more than people from other locations with no connection to the piece.


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In nearly every case, if your item to be appraised has any value, its condition will determine how high or low. The item must be in perfect or near-perfect condition to appeal to collectors. Unless your item is so rare that condition will not matter (if it’s the only one in existence), condition is the most important value determinant.

Chipped paint, cracks, refinishing, and breaks will greatly decrease value.

Is it fake?

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Maker’s marks can be easily forged and are not a determining factor of value. Research your item to find a list of qualities that item must have to be authentic. If you find it has all these characteristics, it may be worth appraising. The appraiser can use advanced tools to determine its authenticity, condition, and estimated value.

Quality of Workmanship

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This is not for the laymen and can often only be determined by an expert in the field. By expert, I don’t mean any appraiser, but someone who studies the time period, provenance, and artist in question.

As earlier stated, a quick search of your item will help you determine standard quality of authentic pieces.

Is it rare?

Can an eBay search turn up your item with dozens or hundreds of results? Is it easily found in antique stores across the country? If so, the item is not rare and you can not expect to sell it for more than the antique dealer or eBay reseller.

If you can’t find it on eBay and it has only sold in reputable auction houses, then you might have something rare worth appraising!

Current trends

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If you’re not currently working in the resale market, you may have a hard time determining current trends. When researching items which have sold in online auctions, always check the date and location. Just because something sold for $1000 ten years ago does not mean it will today.

Is it signed?

To be of importance to collectors, a piece often needs to be signed and that signature must be genuine.


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Family history (your great-grandmother told you her rocking chair belonged to Abraham Lincoln) is not reliable evidence of provenance (an object’s place of origin.)

You must have written, visual, or some other type of credible documentation to validate provenance.

Provenance is not to be confused with regionality

items related to local celebrities will sell better in the celebrity’s hometown.

Consider the buyer

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Is the piece easily transportable? Is it enormous and will take a moving truck and movers? Will it fit in someone’s home?

The easiest and fastest way to see what your item is selling for in your area is an eBay search. Under search preferences, choose SOLD listings and narrow the search by zip code.

If the item is too large to easily transport, store, or display, its value decreases.

Knowing these considerations will help you understand appraisal value. If after performing your own evaluation of an item and concluding it may hold significant value, an appraisal will be well worth the expense!

For advice on appraisals leave a comment below!





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