Best places to sell antiques & collectibles [online/in-person]
Here are some tips for how to sell your items easily, at top dollar
As popular television shows like “Antiques Roadshow,” “Pawn Stars,” and “American Pickers” have demonstrated, antiques and collectibles can be worth a lot of money. If you’re lucky, you might find that you’re in possession of a piece you’ve inherited, intentionally connected, or that you unexpectedly found while cleaning your attic.
If you’re looking to earn some extra cash, you’re probably considering putting these items up for sale. As it turns out, there is a lot more to selling your antiques than you’d think. You need to have a strong idea of what the item is worth and an understanding of the huge variety of places where you can sell it.
The process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We can walk you through what’s involved so the process is both easy and productive. You want to walk away feeling good about what you’ve done and got the best payday possible for your piece.
First, understand the value of your item
The first step to selling any piece is to fully understand the value of what you’ve got. This knowledge keeps you from losing money or missing out on great opportunities because your expectations were too high. It also puts you in a stronger negotiating position when you’re working directly with potential buyers.
Research can take time, and it is important not to cut corners so you know your results are solid.
This value is going to be determined by a number of factors including the piece’s age, its condition, and its rarity on the marketplace. To get the most amount of value possible, try to document the piece’s history and its validity through research.
Remember, it is important to keep any kind of paperwork that can be firmly connected to the item, including sales documents, certificates of authenticity, and family letters.
Should you valuate items yourself?
As a next step, your research can proceed in two different ways. You may choose to continue to conduct online research yourself, comparing your piece to the price paid for similar items in a similar condition. This research can take time, and it is important not to cut corners so you know your results are solid.
If your piece is extremely valuable or specialized, you may want to work with a professional appraiser. They’ll document their estimate of what a piece is worth. In some cases, this kind of formal appraisal is required but even if it is not, you might appreciate the validity it adds to your claim of a certain price.
Next, evaluate options for local brokers
Once you have a sense of how much your piece is worth, you’re ready to decide where you’re going to sell it. One of the first options to consider is the local dealers who live in your area.
These dealers can most often be found at an antique mall or at a stand-alone shop. You may identify one through the newspaper or online listings.
At some point, you’ll need to be very clear about what you think the value of the item is worth.
There are a few things that you should anticipate as you begin to discuss your item with this shop. Firstly, you should expect that they’ll want to run their own appraisal of your item. This will be based on knowledge of the market and of similar items that they’ve worked with.
You should also expect that, at some point, you’ll need to be very clear about what you think the value of the item is worth. Be prepared to use the details of your research and any formal appraisal results you have to back up your claim.
Remember, not all local brokers operate the same way
As you consider working with one of these local brokers, it is helpful to understand that they can work in a variety of ways. They may be open to simply buying the item from you for an agreed-upon price. However, don’t be surprised if the ultimate payment you receive isn’t equal to your research.
Many dealers expect to pay a significantly decreased price for the cost of the item and then sell it at it’s higher market value. They reserve the difference to cover the overhead for their store.
Consignment prices may be a lot lower than your research shows, but this gap helps pay the broker for their time in finding an ultimate seller.
Some dealers may also be willing to take the item from you on consignment, agreeing that both of you will only be paid when they’ve found a buyer and processed the sale. In this case, you and the seller will have to agree on a consignment price that you’ll receive.
Be aware that, again, this will be a lot lower than your research shows but the gap helps pay the broker for their time in finding an ultimate seller.
Online options work well for some sellers
Nowadays, there are plenty of online options available for anyone who wants to work directly with the ultimate buyer for their item.
One of the biggest advantages of this approach is that you don’t have to negotiate with a real-world dealer who is looking to buy at a reduced rate so that they can cover their overhead. In addition, it can be easy to connect with a whole host of customers in the market for items like yours.
As you might expect, there are some drawbacks to this approach. One of these is that, as the item’s ultimate salesperson, you’re responsible for getting the item to its destination. This involves some careful shipping maneuvers that can take time and be risky if the item is fragile.
In addition, there are other tricky areas involved in the transaction. For instance, you’re responsible for negotiating all costs (including shipping costs) and you need to find a way to ensure that the seller is honest and actually pays for the item.
Each website operates a little bit differently
As you look to sell online, you need to understand your options for the various online websites that are available. Each one operates a bit differently. Some have multiple ways that sellers can post goods and identify the best buyer for a piece.
Most sites will also require payment from you in some form, either as a straightforward fee, a commission on the purchase price, or both.
It’s important to note that most sites will also require payment from you in some form, either as a straightforward fee, a commission on the purchase price, or both. That’s because just like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online retailers have operating expenses to cover. They deserve to be compensated for the service they provide. Understanding the commission or payment structure can be a significant factor in determining which website will be best for your antique or collectible.
General options for online marketplaces
To help you better understand how options for online marketplaces work, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the more popular sites. This list will give you a good idea of where to find sites, how they charge, and the pros and cons connected to each one.
Keep in mind that our list doesn’t include every option that’s available. There are other larger outlets to use or you may know of some local options relevant to your area. Whatever option you choose to work with, be sure that you carefully understand how it works so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
For years, eBay has been the go-to place for anyone looking to sell an antique or collectible. The site draws a huge audience but has fees that are larger than some other sites. However, there are advantages to the platform, as it can be customized to sell items either through a bidding auction format or for a fixed price. Sellers can easily define how their sale will work. Lastly, the site allows buyers to firmly rank each other. If someone is dishonest, they’ll be called out for it.
This website is one of the most well-known places to sell general goods. There are no charges associated with using it. However, if you’ve got something very specialized to sell, it may not be the right match for you. In addition, the buyers on this site aren’t very well verified, which has led to problems for some people. However, for others, this site is just what they need and it consistently works well for them.
Options for websites that specialize in antiques
In addition to general websites, there are some that are more specialized in antiques:
This well-known site functions almost like an online shopping mall and selling on the site is almost like having your own mini-shopping page. If you use the site, be prepared to pay a listing fee, a transaction fee, and payment processing fees. As you use Etsy, you’ll see that the site’s fees are lower than what some sellers have found on eBay but many people have also found that items sit for longer on the site. If you have patience, it can be a good site to try.
This site can almost be thought of as an alternative to eBay that focuses on antiques, art, jewelry, and collectibles. Like Etsy, it lets you set up your own website and you’ll need to put the time in so that your pages represent you well. There are fees associated with this site, just like others on this list. However, a lot of sellers appreciate the knowledgable, curated customers who they get access to with the site.
If you’re looking to sell an extremely rare or valuable piece, you are likely well beyond the services of mass-market selling platforms. In this case, you may want to talk with a larger, professional sales or auction house like Sotheby’s. These experts can walk you through your options, including online options for sales that are available for a variety of mobile devices.
A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:
- Antiques Roadshow’s most interesting finds of all time | Finance 101
These finds on the hit television show will surprise you.
- You’ll be shocked when you see what these autographs are worth. | Finance 101
Believe it or not, some celebrity signatures can be worth big bucks.