Before deciding to sell it is important to consider carefully the various aspects associated with selling a piece, and to understand any charges that could be deducted from the proceeds of the sale. If you bring art and antiques into the UK from outside the European Union, VAT at 2.5% will be charged on their entry.
Selling To A Dealer
Seek a dealer whose stock includes similar items to the one you wish to sell, and consider trying more than one. If you need help in finding a suitable dealer seek advice from a trade association since they will be able to recommend a dealer near you who they know to be reputable.
If a dealer is interested in your piece, he will be happy to travel a reasonable distance to see it. Under no circumstances allow anyone into your home unless they have made a prior appointment.
Do not expect the price you are offered to be as high as the price at which the dealer will sell your piece - like everyone else he too has to make a profit to live. Prices you are offered may vary considerably. This is not dishonest, but is likely to reflect different opinions as to what the dealer believes he can sell the item for. A dealer will pay you immediately, without any deductions.
Selling Through A Dealer On Commission
Some dealers will accept a piece for a limited time to sell on your behalf, taking a percentage of the sale price as a fee.
If you choose to sell in this way then you should agree in writing the following terms:
- minimum selling price
- percentage of the sale price to be retained by the dealer
- who will insure the piece
- conditions under which the agreement can be terminated.
Selling At Auction
The advantage of selling at auction is that your items are exposed to a number of potential buyers at the same time. One of the disadvantages is that this can produce a very low price if there is not much interest in your item, as well as a good price if there are competing bids.
Remember that if you sell at auction you should agree a reserve price below which you do not wish to sell - but don't forget that if it fails to sell you still have to pay a charge.
You must wait for a suitable auction before you can attempt to sell your piece. When you do sell then you must pay the auctioneer a commission - typically 15% of the sale price, plus VAT. There will also be charges for insurance, any catalogue photograph, and recently some auction houses are also deducting a handling charge from your sale proceeds. Therefore don't be disappointed if the money you eventually receive is a lot less than you expected.
You will not receive payment from the sale until some time after the item has been sold.
You can place an advertisement in a local or national paper or a specialist magazine. However never include an address, and think carefully before using your telephone number, a box number is preferable and safer.
Art and Antique Fairs
There are a bewildering number of art and antiques fairs and collectors fairs that take place throughout the year - it seems that there is at least one on every day except for Christmas Day. Many are one-day events held in village halls and community centres with rows of trestle tables with 'collectibles' and bric-a-brac, some of which may have been made quite recently. Such events may not have any quality requirements or vetting procedures but they can nevertheless be fun to visit and you may find something that appeals to you even though it is not a real 'antique'. Serious collectors will do better to visit the multi-day events organised by professionals who expect a standard from their exhibitors. For the visitor who may not have time to visit shops or galleries, good art and antiques fairs offer under one roof dealers in varying disciplines ranging from period furniture to jewellery. You therefore have the opportunity to examine a wide variety of antiques and compare examples of the items you are looking for, as well as being able to discuss them with the dealers, many of whom are authorities in their own particular fields. Only the knowledgeable and energetic should tackle the giant events that take place several times a year in UK at Newark and Ardingly where up to 4000 dealers can be found!
Important fairs will have different criteria as to datelines, vetting and quality. The lack of datelines should not be seen as a negative as some of Britain's best fairs, including The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair and The LAPADA Fairs, do not have datelines as their organisers believe that quality and authenticity are more important than date, but they do not allow reproductions. Vetting is a procedure whereby every item displayed at a fair is examined by a team of experts in the field to ensure that they are genuine and accurately described. This should give you added confidence when buying, in the same way that you can have confidence when buying from any dealer who is a member of a professional association such as LAPADA. You should always be given an invoice with a proper description of the items you have bought, whether at a fair or at a shop or gallery: this will be essential if there is a problem later.
It is advisable not only to secure your home against theft with the advice of your local Crime Prevention Officer but also to ensure that your possessions can be identified if they are stolen.
All valuable items should be photographed individually with colour film preferably in natural light or with a digital camera.. The item should take up as much space as possible in the picture and be set against the plainest possible background. An indication of size can be given by including a ruler or a coin in the picture. An additional photograph should be taken of any details or marks on the piece which would help in identification.
Make an inventory of all valuable items with full descriptions, details of labels or identifying marks, and dimensions. This should be kept in a secure place together with the photographs and negatives. Ideally a second copy of the inventory and photographs should be kept off your premises, perhaps in a bank or with a solicitor.
Police recommend marking items with your postcode followed by the house number or first two letters of the house name using a suitable security marker pen that can be bought from stationers and DIY stores. The mark should be made on parts that are not easily visible or normally cleaned, for example under a tabletop or at the back of a chest of drawers. It is recommended that the backs or undersides of drawers be marked as well as the carcass of the piece. Electronic security tabs are available that can be inserted into furniture without causing any damage.