Is my item worth anything? Things to know before requesting a valuation

At Gray’s Auctioneers, we receive hundreds of requests for free valuations each month. What we see a lot of are requests for items that, unfortunately, would not sell well at auction. Therefore, we decided to help people understand the main things to look for before requesting an item for valuation, and also a few pointers to help you find the value of your item on your own.

Household items

Old household items such as pots, pans, bottles, dishes, glassware and flatware, have a limited value at auction. Look for complete sets, a makers mark, and for silver marks. If you have these your pieces are more likely to have value.

Paintings, sculptures & photographs

Do you think you have artwork of value? First, see if you can determine if the artwork is a print or a painting. Use a magnifying glass to investigate if there are pixels. If that is the case, it’s a print. Some prints can be very valuable depending on the artist and the number of prints in the edition. Do a search online to try to find more information on the number of prints. The fewer, the better!

Also, look for signatures. Most paintings are signed either on the front or the back, and sculptures are usually signed on the base. Hand-painted ceramics are signed under the base or on the underside.

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If you’re lucky to find a signature, you can look their name up on the internet to see if you can find other items being sold online by the same artist. LiveAuctioneers.com is a useful resource.

Old photographs can be valuable if they are by well-known photographers or if the sitter is famous. A great tool you can use is Google reverse-image search. Simply drag and drop your image into Google images, and Google will pull up the same image (if it lives on the internet somewhere) and you can begin your investigative work.

Fine jewelry

Many factors should be taken into consideration when it comes to appraising jewelry. Know the differences between costume jewelry and fine jewelry using the tips from our other blog. For instance, look for hallmarks and maker’s marks.

If you’re onto something...

See if you can research the value yourself!

E-bay is not usually a useful place to research values because the seller can set their own price. At a true auction the buyer determines the value. The more in demand an item is the more bidders it will attract and therefore the higher the value it will achieve.

However, LiveAuctioneers.com offers real-time auction values, available to anyone for free. You can sign up and search their database to help you get an idea of the value of your items.

Again, Google is your best friend. Try to find information about the history of the piece (also known as provenance.) Use the reverse image search tool on Google, scour the results for similar images to find further information.

If in doubt and you think something you have is valuable after you’ve done your research, contact a reputable specialist at your local auction house.