What’s it Worth?

Every collecting category has its own valuation criteria (and as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). However, here are some general criteria that often play an important role in valuation:

  • 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 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 the original.
  • 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 (e.g. 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 previously doesn’t mean you’ll get the same price. Look for as many comparables as you can - eBay (completed items), local auctions, internet auctions, etc.
  • 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.