ANTIQUES, FINE & DECORATIVE ART…..
IS EVERYTHING OLD VALUABLE?

By Sarah McCullom

          Some people don’t think about any of their things being valuable, while others think that everything they own must be valuable, particularly the things owned by grandmother or great aunt Ginny.We all have emotional attachment to some of our things.The problem is that this sentimental value may not translate into monetary value.An appraiser will be able to look at your belongings without any sentimentality, and while their conclusions may not be what you want to hear – they will be the objective truth.Most everything does has some kind of value. The trick is to be able to separate the sentimental from the monetary.

          The definition of an antique is something that is over 100 years old.But again... just because it is an antique, does not mean it has a high value.Age is only one aspect of an item.Consider the following:

  • What is popular right now?Just like buying stock, the value of a piece can be largely determined by how many people would like to own it.A good example is silver.The value of silver has not appreciated much recently. The price of silver by the ounce is not very high, and silver hollowware and flatware is greatly determined by the amount of silver in the piece, for instance the difference between sterling silver and silver plate.In addition, people don’t buy silver to use like they used to. Young couples prefer to register at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel – not register for a silver flatware pattern.Plus, to the young and on the go, it’s too much trouble to polish.
  • How well is the piece made?Was it made by a known craftsman, or is it machine made?The construction of a piece gives clues as to its age and quality.Comparing it to others that are similar will also give clues to the quality.
  • The condition of a piece is critical. If you watch the Antiques Roadshow you have heard them talk about condition.If there is a crack or chip in the ceramic vase the value is lower.If a piece of furniture has been refinished or damaged, it lowers the value.Antique toys that have not been damaged – particularly those with the original box are much more valuable than toys that have been played with.
  • Rarity is significant as well.Clearly things that are hard to find because most had been destroyed, or items of which only a few were made can become very valuable.
  • Provenance is very important.That is the background and history of the piece. Something owned or used by a well known person can gain value just because of that.A toaster that otherwise would not be valuable, if owned by Marilyn Monroe suddenly becomes very valuable.Any chair that documented provenance says George Washington used has value.Documentation is key to determining provenance..
  • And don’t forget the one that many people don’t think about.How does it look, ie.:Is it pleasing to look at?Is the scale right, are the proportions right?What is it made of, what is the color?Do people look at it and just love it?

          These all aspects that an appraiser looks at to determine the value.Research is done on all of these areas as well as other factors.Just remember that while the appraiser may not identify a high monetary value, don’t discount your treasure.The sentimental value may still be the most important thing to you and your family. 

 

 

 

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