Selling antiques can prove to be highly lucrative, especially if you have the right item at the right time, in the right place. A variety of factors contribute to whether you truly have an antique and, if you do, how much it may be worth. Another aspect to think about is to which dealer you sell to, or if you should sell it yourself. Read on to discover what to know before you sell and where to find a buyer for your antiques.
What Qualifies as an Antique?
Per Old and Sold: Antiques Auction and Marketplace, a defining characteristic of an antique is its age. However, there exists debate about how old an item must be to be considered an antique. The article clarifies that some people strongly believe that the age should be specific. One standard indicates 80 years, while another begins at 100. However, some dealers believe the standard should be 50 years old.
In a glossary entry on Antique Roadshow’s website, Michael Flanigan, an expert in American furniture and consultant to the show, states that an antique “generally refers to an older object valued because of its aesthetic or historical significance.” However, he specifies that dealers tend to use the 1930 Tariff Act to define an antique. It only identifies the age of an antique (at least 100 years old). This definition allows dealers more room in determining if an object is antique since it omits judgments on aesthetic or historical significance.
How to Determine an Antique’s Value
Before selling your antiques, it’s always a good idea to have them appraised. This will give you an understanding of what you have so that you won’t be underpaid. You can have an appraiser or dealer physically inspect your antique and give you a written evaluation.
When determining your antique’s value, dealers and appraisers take several factors into consideration. They will ask questions about its history. They will also examine it for manufacturing marks, signatures, color, composition, and condition. According to Old and Sold, repairing or restoring the antique may lower its value, so hold off until after it is appraised.
One other thing can affect its value: supply and demand, so timing sometimes plays a part. American Society of Appraisers suggests asking an appraiser during an initial valuation as to how long the appraisal will be up-to-date. Antiques can raise or lower in value as demand for them changes.
To have your antique appraised by an online company, you can visit Value My Stuff, Country Living, or AntiqueAppraise.com. Value My Stuff charges about $20 for one appraisal, $45 for three, and $120 for 10. AntiqueAppraise.com will appraise an item for about $10. Country Living offers only a “possible appraisal”, but there is no charge. Barneby’s offers free online appraisals. Each of these will appraise your antique based on pictures and information you supply.
Another option available involves hiring an appraiser. This is more costly, as appraisers’ charges vary by expertise due to their time spent researching your item. Generally, it can cost between $100-$400 for an appraisal. American Society of Appraisers recommends asking the appraiser for a fee schedule and an estimate before having the appraisal done. To find an appraiser near you, visit the International Society of Appraisers.
Local Antique Dealers
You may simply be wondering, “Who buys antiques near me?” The simplest way to part with an antique is to just take it somewhere local. There are associations that can guide you to credible antique buyers close-by. These associations have stringent standards that a dealer must meet in order to join.
Keep in mind that many dealers will buy your antiques even if you’re out of state, and the possibility of selling to a long-distance buyer who’s willing to pay more might be worth skipping the convenience of selling locally.
Antiques Dealers’ Association of America
- Resources Offered: Education; online show; news; online inventory; and events.
- Contact: Write to ADA, PO Box 218, Northwood, NH 03261. Phone: 603-942-6498. Email: info@ADADealers.com.
- Locating Dealers: Members of this association are isolated to the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. To find an association member, visit the ADA Members site to browse dealers by state.
Antiques & Collectibles National Association
- Resources Offered: All resources are for dealers.
- Contact: Write to Antiques & Collectibles National Association, PO Box 4389, Davidson, NC 28036. Alternatively, use their online contact form.
- Locating Dealers: Members of this association are not listed by state. The dealers are listed by category. You can find the categories on the association’s website in order to find links to dealer websites.
Journal of Antiques and Collectibles
- Resources Offered: A monthly magazine; antique shop finder; resource directory; and an antique events listing.
- Contact: Write to PO Box 950, Sturbridge, MA 01566. Alternatively, use their online contact form.
- Locating Dealers: You can search for dealers in 20 different states by using the journal’s online directory.
National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America
- Resources Offered: Online inventory; news; and links to events such as fairs.
- Contact: Write to The National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America, 220 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022. Alternatively, use their online contact form.
- Locating Dealers: Members of this association are isolated to the following states: Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. To find an association member, visit the NAADAA Members page to browse dealers by state.
In addition to antique stores, there are some other ways to sell your items locally. If you have antique jewelry to sell, you might consider contacting a jewelry broker who will work on your behalf for a commission. Remember that there are many well-known jewelry stores that will buy your jewelry as well. Knowing where to sell used furniture can be helpful, too, and you might also consider contacting an estate sale company if you have numerous items for sale.
Online Places to Sell Antiques
Dealers will not pay exactly what your item is worth because they are looking to make a profit; however, you can use your appraisal to sell the item online. And while dealers won’t buy from you directly online — they want to meet face-to-face — there are sites where you can list your item and set your own price.
Below is a list of the most popular places to sell antiques online. Keep in mind that many of these sites charge fees.
- Resources Offered: eBay Valet (someone else sells it for you) — learn more about this service eBay’s site; lists first 50 items per month free, but seller’s fees apply once your item sells; quick listing tool; option to sell as an auction or a fixed-price; shipping labels; and seller protection.
- Fees: eBay charges a percentage of the sales price.
- How You’re Paid: Via PayPal (PayPal charges a transaction fee).
- Contact: Customer support for eBay can be contacted online.
- Resources Offered: Etsy offers tools, such as building your own site and monitoring sales, as well as online support and education to help you sell your items.
- Fees: Listings are about $.20 each, with a 3.5% transaction fee and a 3% plus $.25 processing fee. To sell your antiques, visit Etsy’s registration page.
- How You’re Paid: PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and Etsy Gift Cards are some payment options for customers, and funds are direct deposited into your bank account.
- Contact: You can contact Entsy through an online support form.
- Resources Offered: This site is designed for those wanting to create an online store. It offers mentoring for new shops, communication tools (such as Skype with customers), a secure site, customer support, and other features to help establish and maintain your shop.
- Fees: $100 set-up fee; monthly maintenance fee of about $70 for the first 80 items; and about 19 cents per listing. To set up a shop, visit Ruby Lane’s registration page.
- How You’re Paid: PayPal, unless you choose an alternative method of payment. All transactions, however, are between you and the customer.
- Contact: You can contact support through Ruby Lane’s help desk.
- Resources Offered: Easy to use interface; professional templates; business tools; support; guides; videos; forums; and online tools. This site is designed for those wanting to create an online store. In other words, you’re looking to sell many antiques.
- Fees: Shopify charges a monthly fee to use the site — about $30 as a base, $80 for a slight upgrade, and $300 for complete benefits. There are also transaction fees for using external payment gateways and credit card payments. Visit Shopify to register and start selling.
- How You’re Paid: PayPal and Bitcoin are specifically mentioned, but the site boasts that you can receive payment through over 70 external payment gateways worldwide.
- Contact: You can open an online chat or send an email by visiting the Shopify help center. You can also call customer support at (888) 746-7439.
TIAS — The Internet Antique Shop
- Resources Offered: You can sell only one item or open a shop. Items can appear simultaneously on Google and eBay.
- Fees: No set-up fee and no per-listing fee. Instead, you pay TIAS a 10% commission on the sale of your item, with a max commission of about $40. If you open a shop, you only pay a commission of about $35 per month), but a 12 month commitment is required. To sell your antiques, visit the TIAS registration page.
- How You’re Paid: Not specified.
- Contact: You can call support at 1-888-653-7883 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Antique Dealers and Roadshows on Television
You can always take your antiques to those who are renowned for dealing with antiques. A variety of shows aired on television feature shops, trade shows, or competitions involving antiques purchases. Below is a short list of shows and how they work.
- How It Works: The stars of the show, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, operate a store called Antique Archaeology. You can complete an online form or visit one of the store locations.
- Location: There are two store locations: Le Claire, IA and Nashville, TN.
- Tickets: No tickets are distributed. You do not have to appear on the show to sell your antique.
- Contact: You can call either store locations or send an email by visiting the Antique Archaeology store locations page. Alternatively, if you want to tell them about your antique, complete their online form.
- How It Works: Those with tickets are admitted at specific times. Volunteer appraisers evaluate antiques and give only verbal appraisals. You will have to stand in line for each appraiser. You may bring up to two items. Antigens Roadshow recommends wearing comfortable shoes and obtaining several appraisals. You cannot sell your antique at the show, but you can contact appraisers after the show.
- Location: This is a traveling roadshow with various stops that change each year.
- Tickets: Tickets are free, but you must apply before the annual deadline and be selected. The ticket has a specific admittance time. You must go during the assigned time. No one is admitted without a ticket, and tickets are not sold at the door. Some local networks do sell tickets for fundraisers, so keep on the lookout locally.
- Contact: To find out how to apply for tickets, visit the Antique Roadshow tour rules page under “How to Apply for Tickets.” To ask questions, send an email to email@example.com.
- How It Works: The name of the store is Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. It operates much like any other pawn shop. You bring in your item and haggle over the price, except when the item may be worth much more. They will seek expert advice to find out what your item is worth. Then they make an offer.
- Location: Las Vegas, NV
- Tickets: No tickets are sold — just walk in.
- Contact: You can call the store at (702) 385-7912 or complete the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop online contact form.
Now you know who buys antiques, and the variety of ways to sell them. Which way you choose all depends upon how much you’re willing to accept for your antiques and how fast you want to sell them. A dealer will likely give you less than if you sold online, but you will generally get paid faster. The benefit to selling online is that you can set your own prices.
However you choose to sell your antiques, always remember to have them appraised either online or in person. It may cost you something up front, but it could turn out to be much more profitable for you in the end.
Do you have an entire house you’re trying to clear out? See our list of companies that buy contents of houses.