Whether you're a casual collector or a serious enthusiast, a basic understanding of antique prices can come in handy. Several popular price guides for antiques offer insight into the value of everything from fine silver to furniture. Keeping these guides handy as you shop can help you get a great deal.
Printed Antique Price Guides
For decades, print guides have been the go-to resource for pricing antiques. Many are small enough that you can carry them in your tote bag or purse as you peruse the wares at estate sales, flea markets, or your local antique shop. The downside to printed guides is that they represent a snapshot of the antiques market at the time they were printed. This means you may need to invest in a new guide every year or two.
Warman's Antiques & Collectibles
Warman's Antiques & Collectibles comes out annually and is one of the most respected guides on the market. At less than $30, this 10-inch by 8-inch book is both small and affordable. You'll find pricing information for more than 6,000 items and color photographs for many of the listings. There's also a section devoted to the future of the antiques market, detailing predictions for items that are likely to increase in value.
Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles
Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles bills itself as "America's most authoritative antiques annual." The authors of this guide collect data from antique auctions on items in over 700 different categories. There are more than 2,500 photographs to help you identify your item. At about $28, it is an affordable investment; however at nearly 800 pages, it may not be the guide to take with you when you go antique shopping.
Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide
With pricing information for over 50,000 items, Schroeder's Antiques Price Guide is no lightweight tome. At 8.5 by 11 inches, it's also likely too large to carry with you on shopping jaunts. However, the wealth of information in this book, which usually retails for around $30, is unmatched by many of the other printed guides. Schroeder's also includes profiles of many of the companies that manufactured antique items, helping you understand the history of your piece.
The Antique Trader Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide is only six by nine inches, making it plenty small enough to fit in your shopping bag. In addition to being a good resource for information on American antiques, this guide also details the pricing of imported items. The information contained in this guide comes from auction data, making it a great resource for up-to-date market prices of popular items. It provides 8,000 listings for specific items, as well as trend reports and market predictions. This guide retails for under $25.
Miller's Antiques Handbook and Price Guide
At about $45, Miller's Antiques Handbook and Price Guide is one of the most expensive annual guides on the market. However, this guide offers a great insight into the international antiques market and includes more than 8,000 photographs to help you identify your treasures. With almost 650 pages, this book weighs in at over four pounds in hardcover, but it still may be a good resource to accompany you on shopping trips.
Online Resources for Antique Prices
Since printed price guides tend to become dated after a couple of years, many collectors now rely on online price guides to help assess the value of antiques. Some of these online sources even offer mobile-friendly layouts that allow you to look up values from your smart phone or iPad as you shop.
Kovels', which also publishes printed price guides and a monthly magazine, offers a searchable price guide online. You can type in the manufacturer, materials, or type of item and see recent auction prices for similar pieces. Additionally, you can browse through the categories to find your item. You must register with the site for free access to the information.
WorthPoint, a website that specializes in selling and buying antique art and collectibles, offers a price guide for its members. Basic membership starts at about $10 per month, but the site offers a week-long free trial to new members. WorthPoint has a mobile application to make it easy to look up antique prices on the go.
In addition to site specializing in antique prices, you can also get information about value from online antique shops and auction sites. To find out how much your item is worth, search for similar listings on some of the following sites:
Tips for Price Guides
Keep the following tips in mind when using printed price guides and Internet antique pricing resources:
- A value given in an antiques price guides is usually a range. This is because there is a great deal of variation in antiques prices depending on the condition, type, age, and rarity of an item. Additionally, antique dealers will vary in how they price items, and there are differences in pricing from region to region. A price guide will provide a buyer with a current estimated market value for a particular item.
- When you go shopping, take your antiques price guides with you. This can help you find the antiques you want to collect and show a dealer you are serious about your purchases. It may even help you negotiate a better price if the item is priced out of the values range in your book.
- If you're buying a print book, look for price guides that have color pictures of the items you are collecting. Color photos of items can help you identify color variations, which can be important when collecting items like plates and Depression era glassware.
- When you are shopping for printed antiques price guides, look for a book that has items cross-referenced in the index. For example, collectors may know an item by several different names. Having an index that includes all of the names of an item can help you find it quickly and determine the price range easily.
- One of the best places to find price guides is at your public library. This is a great way to check out a book before you buy it and see if it meets your needs. Since purchasing price guides can be expensive, trying before you buy can save you money. Used bookstores sell price guides as well; however, current market values may be incorrect depending on the book's age.
Price Your Treasures
When it comes to antique prices, the more you know, the more likely you'll be to get a good deal. Price guides, both online and in print, are the best way to ensure your pricing knowledge is current. With the right information, you'll be able to identify and price the many treasures you find when you're antiques shopping.