What’s my item worth?

Every collecting category has its own valuation criteria and, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Since we’re not appraisers, dealers, or experts in any of the hundreds of collecting categories we cover, we can only give you some general tips on estimating value.

  • Completeness: Does the item have all its original parts or equipment? The original box or instructions? Its original patina? Is it part of a set and do you have the other pieces?
  • Condition: Is there damage (chips, scratches, discoloration, etc.) or is the item in close to original condition? How well has it been cared for? Has it been restored? (Depending on the quality of the restoration, this may increase or decrease the value.)
  • Function: Does it still work? (Some collectors or certain types of pieces care, others don’t.)
  • Attractiveness: Is it appealing to look at? Impressive? Will it display well? Is it a good conversation piece?
  • Name association: Is it signed by the maker or does it have a manufacturer’s plate, mark, or label? Is it numbered? Is the maker well known?
  • Authenticity: Is it all original, or part or all reproduction? Reproductions of antiques and collectibles abound, and are often hard for even experts to distinguish from originals.
  • Provenance: Where did it come from? Who owned it over the years? Is there written documentation? Is the story interesting? Was it associated with a famous person?
  • Scarcity/rarity: How many copies of the item were produced? How many survived? Some items such as prototypes were made in such limited quantities that only a small number of examples survived.
  • Current demand: How often do similar items come on the market? Is the item currently popular among collectors? Would a museum be interested? Demand can vary seasonally, geographically, and even randomly—just because a similar item sold for a high price previously doesn’t mean you’ll match it. Look for as many comparables as you can, including completed auctions on eBay, local estate sales, and results from international auction houses.
  • The value to you: How much do you like it? Does it have sentimental value? Will you ever find one again? At the end of the day, this is what drives most antiques and collectibles transactions.

To learn more about your antique or vintage item, we recommend exploring our category pages and then checking out the links there to various informational websites—from clubs to fan sites. You might also want to read the articles we have written on various topics, many of which include interviews with collectors, authors, and historians.


Back to all questions »

Related Questions