So you’ve decided to sell Great Aunt Sally’s dining set, but you’re not sure what to do next. Before you call the antique dealers, follow these guidelines to keep from making costly mistakes.
1. What’s the condition of the piece or pieces you’re selling?
Now’s the time to set aside any sentimental attachment you have and look at the piece through the eyes of a potential buyer. The condition will affect the price. Is the furniture damaged, legs loose or cracked, veneer lifting, fabric soiled, ripped or faded? If the wood finish is just a little dusty and scratched, try a little Old English Scratch Cover; it comes in several colors for different woods. Wipe it on and let it dry; it covers a multitude of problems. As for fabric, just taking your vacuum attachment and vacuuming the upholstered areas will remove the dust and grit. Soiled areas can be spot treated with upholstery cleaners. Make sure you pay attention to the type of fabric and blot the stain; don’t grind it further into the fabric. A little elbow grease will help your piece look better and pay dividends when negotiating a selling price.
2. How old is the piece?
Just because Great Aunt Sally gave it to you doesn’t mean she acquired it at birth. An antique is usually considered anything 100 years or older; however, even though it may not be an antique, it could still be very valuable as a “collectable” item. This is where you need to do a little investigation. It is important to educate yourself about the items you’re selling. You can go to online auctions or try the library if you don’t have any antique reference books readily available.
3. What’s it worth?
Now that’s the question! Most of us have seen an episode or two of “Antiques Roadshow” and delight to hear the happy endings. We are in hopes the ugly vase hiding in the closet, is worth a small fortune. Well, now’s the time to find out. Go to online auctions, antique stores, or antique reference books and find something similar. Keep in mind that with reference books and antique stores, the prices you are looking at are retail. When you go to sell your piece to a dealer, he or she will offer you a wholesale price, which can be approximately 40 to 60 percent of the item’s retail value. The value of a piece can also vary depending on where you live. What commands a high price in New York may not be a popular item in Arizona.
4. What’s your time frame for selling your item?
Are you moving and need to get rid of it before you leave? Have you already purchased a replacement and it has to go immediately? Or are you just thinking about selling, depending on what it’s worth? If you know you want to sell a piece, and you can take your time, then do that. You can do your research, find out its value and find a buyer. Don’t wait until the last minute, panic, and have to sell quickly. In your haste, you will more than likely settle for much less than what it is worth. Better to take your time, do your homework, and feel good about the sale.
5. Should I call a dealer and get an appraisal?
Before you call you should understand the difference between getting an appraisal and calling an antique dealer for a price. Sometimes, an antique dealer is also a certified appraiser; however, if you want a written appraisal of the fair market retail value, they will charge you a fee. An antique dealer is coming to purchase your item at a wholesale price, not give you a free appraisal so you can sell it yourself. (Would you drive all over town, paying high gas prices, just to give free appraisals?) If you have done your homework, you should know what you want for your piece, and know if what they are offering is a fair price. If you haven’t taken the time to do your research, and the dealer is not reputable, he or she could use this to their advantage. Be prepared!