Antique Expert Tip #4 – Research Like a Dealer

Old Victrolas still Collectible

Look for maker’s marks, serial numbers, and any other info you can find.

One of the biggest benefits of getting an antique appraisal is finally being able to know what it is that you have – and what it might be worth. Antique appraisers have experience, have probably seen similar items to yours in the past, and have access to pay-for-use sites that give insider information on just about every type of item. They also know know to do research online. It’s possible, however, for you to do some basic research yourself.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  1. Choose the right type of research for your needs. There are two types of research – the kind that gives you information about the object itself, its history etc., and the kind that gives you approximate values for your (or similar) object. The information that you end up with with depend entirely on the keywords you use in your research.
  2. Examine the piece for any words that may show up on the item. This includes maker’s marks, serial numbers, names – any words that might help you with your keyword search. If you’ve read my other postings on “How to Read a mark on China” you know that it’s not always that easy – but you need to start somewhere.
Fenton Reg number

Note the Rd No 696571 on its base

The above mark on the bottom of a small mustard / jam jar makes it really easy. The marks identify the maker (Fenton) and the registration number tells us that the object was made between 1922 and 1923.

3. Use this information as keywords in your Google Search. It could look like this: “Enamelled mustard pot with metal lid + Fenton + C1922”. These words will show you the list of sites that may be relevant to your search.

4. Click on “Images” instead of “All” on the results page. This will take you to a large selection of images that may connect to your keywords. This is why having the proper keywords is so important. Look at the images and find the ones that most closely looks like yours. Click on the links and read what the site can tell you about objects like yours.

2 Cup saucer

An innocent looking cup holds an interesting fake mark

For example, using keywords such as yellow teacup and saucer is too ambiguous. Instead you could put china teacup and saucer, plain yellow with black handle made by…”. Think about how you would describe something if you were trying to sell it.

5. Add the words “FOR SALE” at the end of your keywords before you click on search. By having these words at the end of the phrase, the search engines know to take you to sites where there are objects that possibly correspond to your parameters and are for sale. Again, look at the images to see which ones connect most closely with yours and go to those sites. Look for at least three different sources to arrive at an average price you might expect such an object to sell for in a retail or resale situation.

Try for yourself – you may be surprised at what you can find out about the things you own.

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