Antique china values, bow ties and half rim spectacles seem to be joined at the hip. But wait, let's do things differently . . .
In this post:
But, if you're just burning to get something valued, I got that covered too. Join my inner circle, where I issue discount voucher codes for quick, painless appraisals. Click on the banner below to become part of the tribe.
You may have noticed on just about every thread in my china-chat
forums there's a little voice somewhere saying "Does anyone know how
much my stuff is worth?".
This is a question which gives the appraisal hawkers a good living.
We don't really want to pay them unless we really have to, do we?
According to Forbes, the boomer generation have accumulated over $30 trillion dollars in collected wealth . . . which, sadly, their offspring mostly have no interest in. Hence the issue.
Today's blog post is to do
with helping my readers find accurate pricing information online themselves. So,
in a sense, helping them be confident to self-research the value of
I am very sympathetic to people who would like to book an expert only as a last resort, after trying some research themselves - and, after all, a written report from a paid expert is only really necessary for estate tax purposes, estate planning, equitable distribution, or tax-deductible donations.
In terms of knowing the
value either to sell, keep or sweep, people can easily research the
value of their items themselves, but few know where to start.
@theclayartist.com and tell me about yourself and your circumstances).
So the question is; do we just give it all away to charity and goodwill? . . . Or do we set about doing something proactive - making the right decisions about how to categorise the keepers, sleepers, sellers, weepers, and heavers?
(what are these categories, exactly?) . . .
Read on for a bit of valuation DIY savvy covering how to value our stuff.
We owe this to ourselves and our stuff.
This stage is short but oh so sweet. Do this and you are off to a flyer.
You would be diagnosed with Antiques Roadshow disease if you'd love nothing more than to wait in a queue a mile long for a TV presenter wearing a bow tie and half-rim specs to give you a couple of minutes of his precious time.
We need to move away from being frozen in awe of TV celebrity experts and certified appraisers
in order to free up a new mindset – because if we do this we suddenly
realise we can happily begin researching some facts and figures about
our items in order to inform our own opinion.
The secret sauce of experts
Many of my readers have already discovered that the secret sauce of the experts is they know (or can look up) what an item historically fetches at auction.
In many cases, thanks to the internet, we can know this too. The internet is an abyss, yes, but once we learn the nuances of a few simple tools the web hides away we can do some pretty accurate estimation of our vintage and antique china values.
Once you have a good route map through the abyss, which, hopefully this post will give you, sourcing accurate pricing information and antique china values becomes far less difficult.
Remember, with all its faults, the internet is, without question the most powerful knowledge and networking tool ever invented by mankind, but you have to know how to harness its power and ignore its foibles and snares (Google burn-out, a.k.a. GBO, being one of them . . . see Stage #3 below).
A bit of practice and thinking outside the box makes all this possible, even for those who consider themselves 'low tech'.
Consider yourself to be cured of Antiques Roadshow disease from this moment on.
Apart from eBay which needs separate consideration (see free cheat-sheet download here), learning how to get inside the various auctioneer platforms is the key to researching the value of your items.
Some auctioneer platforms are open source, but you need to be prepared to learn how to get into them. Some are closed, requiring monthly subscription. Some are in-between the two.
The point is . . .
TAP THE FREE RESOURCES
IGNORE THE DEMANDS FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS
. . .Have a go at some self-valuation research before you start shelling out your hard-earned cash and eating into the value of your assets.
There are a mind-blowing, 15-20 million past lots going back a
decade for us self-researchers to seek out items similar to ours. My mini-guide accompanying this blog post gives my full working resource list . . . [more]
Remember, any of the currently open platforms may change their policy to a closed one at any time. This is a growth industry with constant acquisitions and mergers. So let’s do this sooner rather than later.
I’ll go through details of how to get the best out of them in future posts and workshops. Suffice to say, each database has its own concealed entrances and ways of working.
Meanwhile, let’s make a big picture roadmap of the valuation landscape.
The auctioneer website to go to depends upon the type item you are
Our stuff can be separated into three main tiers - Top End, Middle and Lower End.
Think in terms of which platforms best suit each sector of vintage/antique china values.
If you have a prized art object, rare artifact or highly sought after
item, you need to check out the sold listings of the top end
auctioneers like Sothebys, Christies and Bonhams. You can do this
efficiently by using a touch of Google-fu (covered in stage 3 below).
In fact, it's a good idea to look at the landscape within these luxury listings for the type of item you are researching first in order to cross check your item doesn't fit into this category (we can wish!).
If you have something nice whether collectible or old, but not necessarily the top luxury bracket of antique china values, you need to be looking at the middle tier of auction houses which comprise of the boutique auctioneers, the regional establishments, the online houses and the aggregators (who work in partnership with all of the above). This segment, for most of us, is the sweet spot in terms of researching values.
So we have the top end auction sales listings and the sweet spot in the middle, but what of the popular end?
This sector of sales listings is extraordinarily useful as it gives a sharply focused overview of antiques and collectibles found in a wide range of estate sales and therefore, by the law of averages, more likely to be found in our own homes.
My 'go to' platform in this sector is the excellent and beautifully named ETBH.com (which stands for 'Everything But the House'). Since 2008 they have been going into homes photographing and cataloguing the contents and then auctioning the items individually online to a worldwide audience. They are the kings of online estate sales.
This amounts to quite some database of pricing information.
this site's past lots database, we can get an overview of more commonly
seen items and what they sell at an online estate sale for. The prices
attained are often, but not always, at the more popular end of antique china values.
Again, the EBTH database is great, but again, has its own cryptic ways. I’ll cover how to get into it properly in future posts and workshops (click the banner below and sign up to my list for updates).
Welcome to the Google-fu dojo where GBO prevention (Google burn-out) is the ninja-skill we study.
Cranky, tired. Shouting at the dog? If you lose the will in this way, you are suffering from GBO.
Take some time-out, Grasshopper.
The key to finding vintage/antique china values is to first identify what you have, then find other examples similar to it and see what they tend to sell for. This process can be tricky, but turns out to be especially difficult with unmarked china items.
Joking apart, efficient use of search engines is the key here.
There are many ways to enhance your search techniques to achieve more accurate and precise search results but we can begin by starting to think differently about search – using 'power searching' techniques, even if we consider ourselves relatively 'low tech'.
Let’s take a difficult subject: the area of Chinese blue and white china
with indecipherable markings . . . . quite a banana skin for the
average person without ninja-search skills.
So a newbie searcher who owns a blue and white Oriental vase which an indecipherable marking might start with a keyword phrase that might look something like this:-
chinese vase blue & white (image search)
This is an epic fail – bringing up nothing but 704,000 results of every type of vase imaginable but nothing useful for valuation research. This search term brings up stuff related to news blogs, stuff for sale on swanky websites and other detritus, but nothing enlightening about antique china values.
We need to narrow it down a bit for Google.
Let’s say, for example, we could pick out a distinguishing feature. Say we had a 6-sided vase. Let’s speak to Mother Google and see what she tells us on that.
So we put this search term in:
vase hexagonal OR hexagon OR '6-sided' blue white (image search)
Note: the capitalised word “OR”
Note: we exclude the word “Chinese”
The word “OR” being in capitals denotes we just wrote it as ‘code’ rather than as part of the search term.
If Google were a person and we were explaining long-hand what we wanted her to search for, the conversation might go something like this:
“Hi Mother Google, I have this six-sided blue and white vase and was wondering if you could find some photos which relate to vases of this type, bearing in mind that websites may be using different words to describe the same thing like ‘hexagon ’ or ‘hexagonal’ for example, please.”
Google responds to this politeness with a search which immediately
crystallises the world of hexagonal blue & white vases. We see that
this is indeed a Chinese style and those items shown on the photos
range from the top end of antique china values to the lower end.
If we spot something that might look similar to ours on a photo from, say, the above-mentioned EBTH, we may be tempted to immediately click over to EBTH to see.
However, this might not be the best Google-fu strategy at this point.
Before we rush over there, we might want to just try another bit of simple power searching first.
Sometimes it works a treat, sometimes it doesn’t.
We want to just get a little window on the EBTH website without having to click there just yet.
So we put in this search into Google:
site:https://www.ebth.com "hexagonal" blue white vase (image search)
Conversationally, we would be asking this:
“Hi again G, could you please look only on the EBTH website for blue & white vases, but the word ‘HEXAGONAL’ must be on the page somewhere”.
This second search gives us a clue that our type of vase is definitely similar to some of those shown on EBTH. We know our vase is not the type of blue and white vase that was showing up in our previous search on the more swanky websites.
So these two simple and quick power
searches gave us an immediate context to our vase. It may not, sadly,
be a sleeper. We now click on the image and go to EBTH to see that it
sold in a lot with other items for $30 USD.
We go to a couple of other auction websites to double check and see a pair of our exact vases has been estimated to be worth an auction price of $100 - $150 at a swanky UK auctioneer. So, a sleeper, maybe not, but a seller, yes.
I’ll be covering this topic in more depth in upcoming workshops. Click on the banner below to make sure you are signed up to my content updates . . .
And Finally to . . .
Treasure or Trash? Stash or Burn? How do you know the value of
your stuff without paying an expert? Answer: You unearth hidden
information waiting to enlighten you if only you scratch a little
One of my readers said - "It's easy to find the things that are there.
Harder to find the things that aren't“. My upcoming workshops &
guides will look at this issue. Don’t get taken advantage of by not
Often the information is out there but you need to look harder,
longer and with more insider knowledge at your disposal.
Be patient, let's get past the obvious and I'll help you to delve
deeper and unlock the mystery contents of your garages, attics and
So, with a little bit of knowhow, we don’t have to be the voice in the forums saying ‘does anyone know how much this is worth?’ We can find out ourselves in a couple of clicks.
How do I know this stuff? Over the years, working with experts on antique china value appraisals for my readers, a few bits of brain fluff have inevitably rubbed off.
Years of experience gives these appraisers the skill of 'instant
recognition'. With a bit of quick research in the right places we can
achieve 'nearly instant recognition'.
But is a little knowledge a dangerous thing? Perhaps, but at least we can develop a 'nose' which gives us a very good place to start sniffing, and we will no longer be that little voice in the forums saying "anyone know if this is worth anything?"
Ask, tell, share . . .