Don’t Get Taken Selling Antiques

You are trying to sell your art, antiques or collectibles and you don’t know where to start. You have an idea of your piece’s value because you got an appraisal from me–my online appraisals are popular–and easy to submit and quick to receive–but you are new at selling so you don’t want to make a big mistake. One of the best things to do when selling a vintage piece or antique object is to know as much as you can about your object. By knowing the full history and background of the object, you will be able to attract the greatest number of interested buyers.

For instance, if you have an autographed baseball by Mickey Mantle from his years with the New York Yankees and my appraisal research reveals that your baseball was once owned by Frank Sinatra based on an personal inscription that was discovered on the baseball, then you may be able to attract both baseball and music collectors to your object. Get all the info before you start to market your antique. Here are some other tips that will help you when you are ready to sell:

1. Beware of Stories that Tug at your Heart Strings


Potential buyers will try anything to get you to lower the price for your art, antique, or collectible. They try to discredit you, post incorrect information online to devalue the object that you are trying sell, comment on condition when your piece is in excellent shape, etc. No one is immune to these tactics. Some people will go to great lengths to get you to reduce the price, even if you have your piece priced fairly based on the market and market data.

I have heard so many stories over the years about why it is not possible for the potential buyer to pay the asking price for your piece. Some people contact me through my social media pages and they go to great lengths to outline their alleged problems. They will stop at nothing– some even claim health issues that may or may not be real. Of course, health issues are nothing to ignore, but some will go so far as to lie about them and use them to pull at your heart strings. Do your research on the potential buyer.

One guy wrote to me via Facebook and said that he couldn’t afford anything because he was deathly ill but he feels entitled to a discount on appraisal services of his antiques. So I visited his Facebook page. I was surprised to see him looking very well in recent Facebook photos, eating burgers, running, traveling, and not looking very ill, certainly not deathly ill. Of course, Illness is one major thing, but claiming to be deathly ill is quite another. Plus, if I were deathly ill, I’m doubtful that I’d be thinking about buying anyone’s antiques or anything else for that matter. The lesson here is… be careful since some stories from potential buyers can be fake. I have heard so many stories over the years about why it is not possible for the potential buyer to pay the asking price for a piece. Remember, this may be a tactic to get a seller to consider lowering the price. It may be the potential buyer’s way of starting a negotiation too. It may not matter the validity of the story, what matters is this could spark open dialogue. Where there is open dialogue, both parties get closer to making a deal.

2. Excuses by Auction Houses

If the long list of sob stories from individuals in the antiques business aren’t enough, then you’ve got the auction house representatives. I hear all kinds of stories from my clients and fans who have had all types of dealings with auction houses like the woman who was yelled at when she refused to leave her pedal car at the auction house for them to sell it. She thought that the auction house appraisal was too low and wanted to set a reserve price for it so it wouldn’t sell for too little money and the auctioneer screamed at her as she turned around to leave with her antique. That’s a common story I hear. But, then there was this excuse that an auction house representative gave one of my clients. Here is the real example that I received. My fan sent me this note recounting what happened to her, it’s a real winner:

“Dr. Lori, I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but I’ve got a question. I just reached out to Mr. NONAME of NONAME Auction house near my home to see if they’d be interested in auctioning my set of antique ivory poker chips, and he informed me that under today’s strict regulations, they very seldom auction ivory these days. As an expert in this field, could you recommend any place where I might be able to sell the poker chips? Thank you very much!”

While I helped my client, this is not the first time I have heard about auction houses rejecting objects for no reason. I had a client with a great collection of American Colonial furniture be turned down by an auction house and the excuse to him was that they don’t “sell much furniture.” When I reviewed the auction house’s website the photo on the home page was a piece of American Colonial furniture that could have actually belonged to my client it was so similar. Odd.

Back to the ivory incident…while there are restrictions on certain types of ivory, ivory poker chips which date commonly to the 19th Century are sold at auctions regularly. As a matter of fact, having checked that other particular auction house’s sales records for ivory poker chips, the auction house had indeed sold ivory poker chips and other types of gaming chips along with various types of ivory including walrus ivory. Of course, I can’t speak to the auction house representative’s reason for rejecting the client’s offer to sell the poker chips for her and I am not privy to all of that particular auction house’s policies, but the lesson here is don’t believe that your piece is not valuable just because an auction house–for whatever reason–does not want to auction it off for you.

3. Selling to Appraisers

Consider the major problems you face when selling to appraisers. If the person buying your antique is also the same person who told you the value of your antique, odds are that value that they told you is much lower than the true value of the antique. Why? Because they want to get a good deal for themselves when they buy it. So, you must know the difference between a reseller and an appraiser. An appraiser is paid to evaluate your object and give you an appraisal but a reseller is someone who wants to buy it and resell it for their own gain. It is a good idea to avoid selling to appraisers at all costs.

When you sell to someone who wants to resell it, a typical reseller will complain that your price is too high and that they have to make money on the item when they resell it. Well, that’s not your problem. The asking price should remain firm. Just because the buyer is a reseller and wants to make money off the item that you are selling, that is not a good reason for you to take a loss when selling your antique. Watch me explain this idea in my video Don’t Sell Antiques to Appraisers.

Remember, when you are trying to sell an antique, work of art, or collectible, you have to know as much as you can about the identification of the object, the market for selling the object, and the intricate background of the object. Try various sales outlets, not just one or two markets. Market and post your object for sale on social media, online websites, at local flea markets, etc.

Also, you have to be aware of what may be going on in the minds of your potential buyers. Are they looking for a sweet deal? Are they lying to you about their motivation, mission, or intention? Are they just lazy and don’t want to be bothered negotiating with you about your item? You have to think about what their agenda might be. When you are trying to sell that thrift store antique, family heirloom, or yard sale find, remember there are times when others will try to take you for a ride. Consider my easy tips to ensure that you won’t get taken when selling art, antiques, or collectibles. Follow my tips on how to sell your antique in three steps.

Read More »