Tips by Dr. Lori

Antique Appraisal vs. Purchase Offer

by Dr. Lori Verderame
Antique Appraisal vs. Purchase Offer

Most of us don't like to hear the same thing over and over again. Yet, I discovered while teaching art history at some of the finest universities that repeating information aids in learning. The repetition allows the information to remain in your mind. With that being said, allow me to repeat a statement I have made several times about antiques: "You have the Stuff! You have valuable items right in your home and most of you don't believe that you have anything of value."

During one of my yard sale visits, I met Sally who asked me to appraise an old toy. Sally held a 15 inches tall, mint condition, mechanical toy robot named Mr. Mercury sporting a plastic remote control battery pack.

Sally told me how a dealer had been hounding her to sell it, "The first day, he sat in my house with my own father, for an hour, trying to give me $100 for it saying that was a fair price." Sally continued, "Returning the next day, the dealer offered me $450. But, I wouldn't sell." Sally was very wise to keep her robot. I researched and appraised it, based on actual sales records, finding that other robots like hers had sold for $4,500.

Is 10% Fair?

The dealer's $450 second offer was about 10% of the actual current sales price. If she had sold it to him and listened to her father, Sally would have lost 90% of the toy's actual value or $4,050. This so called "fair" deal would have made the dealer a 90% profit. The 10% offer was no surprise to me since folks from all over come to my appraisal events recounting the same story where a reseller offered next to nothing for an antique. I have also heard the old adage, "You can't get that much for it" or "That's a fair price" when a seller is about to lose big money.

You should think twice when you hear that "you can't get that much for it" because after doing some comparing, I found sellers who did get that much for it! I researched current market values for similar  remote control toy robots. The actual sales records for related models reflected prices much higher than a mere $450 offer. One sold for $4,500, another sold for $11,500 and a third toy robot of similar quality and condition sold for $14,000.

The Lesson: You may think that a dealer is giving you a fair price, but how do you know what is fair when you don't know the actual value of the item in the first place?

Know the value first, then decide if you want to sell or not. Remember, "You have the Stuff!" and when it comes to selling antiques, 10% of the true value is anything but fair.

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