If you're wondering about the value of your treasures but don't want to pay for a full professional appraisal, you may still be able to get an idea of how much your items are worth. There are a few ways to get an informal appraisal locally, but it's important to remember that this type of verbal valuation will not work for official purposes.
Four Ways to Get a Free, Local Appraisal
Attend Appraisal Day at a Local Auction House
Many auction houses regularly host free appraisal days, during which community members can bring in their treasures. A specialist will examine each item and offer an auction-value estimate, which is the projected amount the item would fetch at auction. This is a verbal appraisal which means you won't receive any documents about the item's value. Typically, these events include a limit on the number of items you can bring.
Here's how to get your items valued during an auction house's free appraisal day:
- Look for auction houses in your area. If you live near a major metropolitan area, you'll likely have at least one or two options. A few notable choices include Weschler's in Washington, D.C., Doyle New York on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic States, Rago in New Jersey, and Michaan's Auctions in California.
- Contact the auction house to find out if they hold appraisal days. Ask about the date of the next event as well as important information like the number of objects to bring and any limit on the type of antique they will consider.
- Bring your item to the appraisal day. Don't forget to bring along a notebook and pen so you can jot down any information the appraiser gives you. Since you likely won't receive a written report, your notes will be important.
Go to a Major Local Antique Show
Major antique shows are another great place to get free appraisals. If you live near a big city, chances are good you have an annual antique show in your area. Many of these shows hire the services of a professional appraiser for ticket-holding guests. You'll have to pay to get into the show, but the appraisal itself is free. Often, there is a limit to the number of items the appraiser will evaluate for free. Additionally, this is usually a verbal appraisal.
Here's how to get your item appraised at an antique show:
- Find out about antique shows in your area. You can ask around at local antique shops and flea markets if you don't already know about nearby events.
- Check into whether the show will offer free professional appraisals. You can look online or contact the organizers of the show. Some notable show that provide this service include the Central Massachusetts Antique Show, The Original Miami Beach Antique Show, New York's Pier Antique Show, and California's Pleasanton Antiques & Collectibles Faire.
- Bring your item to the show. Remember your notebook to record any information you learn during this verbal appraisal.
Attend a Visiting Appraisal Show
There are a couple of television shows that focus on valuation of antiques, and these travel the country. Ticket-holders can usually get one item appraised for free during these events. The key is knowing which show may be in your area at any given time. The following travelling shows post their schedules online and offer free appraisals when they are in town:
- Antiques Roadshow - Arguably one of the best known antiques shows on television, Antiques Roadshow travels across the country each summer with a team of professional appraisers. If you attend the show, which is free, you are entitled to two free verbal appraisals. The schedule is posted online although it's important to note that this show only makes about six stops per year.
- Dr. Lori's Antique Appraisal Show - With over 150 events throughout the country, Fox's antique appraisal show is a great place to find out the value of your treasure. Dr. Lori's schedule is posted online, and she will verbally appraise one item for free if you attend the event.
Ask Antique Shops and Auction Houses
Many antique stores and auction facilities will give you a free verbal appraisal of an item in the hope that you will sell the piece through them. This is a good way to learn a bit about the item's value, but you need to be cautious. According to the Appraisers Association of America, it is part of their code of ethics that the appraiser have no outside interest in the value of the item. This means that a professional appraiser should not offer to sell the item for you. However, many of the shop owners you ask do not belong to a professional appraisers' organization; they simply know a lot about antiques and their value.
As long as you are aware of the conflict of interest involved in this type of informal appraisal, you can get some good information this way. Make sure you check with multiple sources if you really want to know what something is worth. Here's how to get an informal verbal appraisal from a shop or auction house:
- Contact the owner or manager of the shop or auction facility and explain that you are wondering what something is worth. Be honest in telling the individual that you are collecting multiple appraisals and may or may not sell through them.
- Bring the item in to the shop or facility at the appointed time. Be ready to answer questions about the piece's history and what you may have paid for it. Bring along a notebook to take notes.
- Check with at least two other sources if you are considering selling your item.
Helpful Tips to Remember
No matter which source you use for your local appraisal, it's important to keep the following in mind:
Know the Item's History
Before you take the item to the appraiser, make sure you take an inventory of what you know about it. If you bought it, what did you pay and when? If you inherited it, how long has it been in your family? How much do you know about the piece's history? Is it in working condition? This information will help the appraiser give you an accurate value.
Check Scope of Appraisal Before Going
Check to see if the appraiser or appraisal event is limited to a specific type of antique. Sometimes, appraiser may not feel qualified to offer an opinion on all types of collectibles and will limit the scope to jewelry, art, furniture, or another class of antiques.
Remember Free Appraisal Limitations
Remember that most free appraisals will be verbal in nature, which means you won't have any documents that indicate the value of your treasure. If you need to provide documentation for a specific purpose, such as settling an estate, getting an insurance rider, or negotiating a divorce, you'll need to pay for a written appraisal instead. Talk to your insurance company or attorney to find out the specifics.
Selling Your Appraised Antique
Never sell your antique to someone who appraises it, unless you are certain of the value from other sources. Professional appraisers should not offer to buy your item or sell it for you. If you believe you have a valuable item, invest in a written professional appraisal.
If you can't find a local source to evaluate your item, consider getting a free antique appraisal online. There are a number of sites that offer this service free of charge, although you won't have the convenience of visiting a local appraiser in person.
Online Communities Are Options
If you live in a remote area, you might be best served to use the internet as your local source. For example, online communities like What's It Worth provide the opportunity to interact with antique enthusiasts from around the globe all from your home computer.
Satisfy Your Curiosity
Knowing what your treasures are worth can satisfy your curiosity and give you an idea of what you might ask for them if you choose to sell. Although free appraisals won't give you official documentation about your items, they do provide a lot of fun information about a piece's history and monetary value.