So you’ve stumbled onto a lucky find at a flea market or found that perfect item on ebay. The real question is: How lucky are you? If you’re even a passive collector you’ve likely seen TV shows like Antique Roadshow or Pawn Stars where everyday people bring in items that they think are valuable, only to find out that those pieces are reproductions, counterfeits, or just not that uncommon. Outside of blindly trusting the seller, how can you ensure that you’re not getting taken for a ride on claims that just aren’t true?
Look At Comparables
Unless it happens to be a five or ten dollar splurge at a garage sale, you’ll want to do a little DIY background research. Take other items of comparable age and condition and see what those pieces are selling for at auctions or online. Keep in mind, you’re not looking for pie-in-the-sky asking prices, but prices at which similar items have actually sold. This can be a great starting point when gauging the asking price of any item.
Consult An Expert
If you happen to have a preferred auction house – or simply know of one nearby – many auction houses will offer up a free appraisal in hopes of landing future sales. If you don’t happen to have an auction house in your area, you can find appraisers trained in specific skills through groups like the International Society of Appraisers, the American Society of Appraisers, and the Appraisers Association of America. These professionals have a depth of knowledge and resources at their disposal that one can only hope to achieve from years of practiced craft.
Protect Your Funds
Whenever possible, it’s smart to safeguard your funds when buying an item based on an appraised value. Online escrow services are an excellent way to provide a safety net for both buyers and sellers. Buyers gain the benefit of knowing that their funds are held securely until items are shipped or have arrived – giving them a chance to verify condition or even have the items reappraised. Sellers know that the buyer is genuine as the total amount of the sale is verified and deposited upfront and held securely in escrow – removing the risk of nonpayment or returned checks.
As it turns out, you may have an army of appraisers at your fingers tips – much like the cast of Pawn Stars – and not even know it. From your local auction house to the national database of specialized appraisers, today’s collectors have no reason to skip out on the one thing that can make your day or break your wallet: knowledge.