This is probably the most frequently asked question, and there is no easy answer, so the best place to start is at the begining. Unfortunately, unlike our age that keeps going up, the value of an antique or collectable item will vary and can go up or down. Talk to any serious collector and you will find that a major part of the fun is actually finding out the background, including price, and researching into the item.
Antique or Collectable
When is a collectable an antique?
The difference between an antique and a collectable is a much discussed subject, so there is little wonder that people are confused about these two terms. The confusion probably arises because the two terms are similar and both characterise an item by something other than its physical attributes. Having said that, what is the difference?
The Rarity4u definition is as follows:
An Antique is defined by the age of the item
A Collectable is an item whose value revolves around its utility or aesthetic attributes but has since been enhanced by widespread interest.
The Customs and Excise for most countries define an antique as an item 100 years or more in age. This then sets the rate of tax or duty payable and is perhaps the most important definition. The age can vary from country to country, but the 100 year rule is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Price Guides
The Millers Antiques Price Guide is perhaps the most widely used book to find items and set prices. You will be very lucky if the item you are looking for is exactly the same as the one shown in the book, so you will need to read the description, condition, age, size etc. And compare this with your item.
Local Library and Bookshops
You can always research the old fashioned way by seeing what types of books on collectables are on hand in your local library. Or, make a trip to a large bookstore and see what you can find there. When you are reading collectable guides, remember the prices are often inflated and you may not be able to sell an item for that much. Why? Authors sometimes use erratic auction prices in their valuation averages, which for better or worse, can dramatically skew the results. Values also vary from country to country and from rural to urban areas and different locations within the same country.
Antique & Collectable Magazines
These can cover either general or specific areas of interest. Most magazines show items of interest with prices paid but you can also look at the items For Sale and the items Wanted advertisements. You may be lucky to find the item in which you are interested listed.
Antique & Collectable Fairs
There is a wealth of antique and collectable fairs, flea markets, car boot sales, garage sales and similar. Talk to the sellers, but remember they are there to sell and not to give you free advice.
Collector Clubs
Most collector clubs keep an updated record of current prices for for items in their particular area of collecting. Usually these clubs will ask for a fee or require you to join the club before you can access this information.
Online Auctions
Visiting online auctions to look up past results or logging onto an antique site and searching the inventory for comparison pricing are two more convenient ways of assessing approximate value. You will want to keep in mind that online pricing, especially in auctions, can reflect values far less than dealers tend to ask in brick and mortar shops and at antique shows.
Online Search
Google, Yahoo and MSN are the most popular search engines but ther are many others. Try to find search engines that specialise in antiques and collectables. The search engines will show many results from dealers and online auction houses. Ebay is still the biggest, so be prepared to scan through pages of results.