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How to Get the Most from an Online Appraisal

Submitting Photos and Descriptions to Obtain Values for Antiques


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Services like ValueThisNow.com offer online appraisals for as low as $19.95.

When the Internet was in its infancy, the pros and cons of online appraisals were widely debated. Now though, more and more antiques experts and appraisers have become tech savvy. They’ve honed their proficiency online by doing research on varied topics for their appraisal businesses as well as trading online. They know how to evaluate photographs and decipher them almost as if they were looking at a piece right in front of them. And they also know which questions to ask if they can’t get the clues they need from a picture.

The truth is though, what you get out of an online estimation of worth is about equal to what you put into it. And to set the record straight, that input has nothing to do with how much it might cost monetarily. There are a number of reasonably priced services employing veteran appraisers and experts that will do a great job for you.

What you really have to understand is that an online estimation of value is only going to be as good as the information you provide to the person doing the evaluating. They can’t pore over horrible photos or make assumptions about pertinent details and give you a quality estimate about what your antique is worth.

Follow these steps when requesting an online appraisal to make sure you get the most bang for your buck:

1. Provide Clear Photos – Since an appraiser can’t adequately evaluate an item without seeing it, be sure that you provide several photos to illustrate the object you’re paying them to value for you. This means not blurry or fuzzy, not too dark, and as close to the item as you can get. Try taking the item outdoors if you’re having trouble photographing it inside. Make sure any damage is shown in the photos if at all possible. If there are embellishments or accents that make it special, try your best to highlight those in your pictures. And most importantly, include photos of any identifying manufacturing marks or artist signatures as well.

2. Write Strong Descriptions – To properly evaluate your antique, an appraiser is going to need to know the size, so measure the height and width of the item carefully and include that in your description. Describe the color to the best of your ability, not only with the photographs you provide, but in words as well since color on computer monitors varies from user to user. Tell the appraiser about anything that seems to make your item unique compared to others you have seen. It’s better to include too much information than to leave out anything that might help the person working on your behalf to come to an accurate conclusion.

3. Accurately Describe All DamageCondition affects value, and there’s no getting around that. If there’s any damage at all to the piece from crazing on pottery to missing pieces on toys to chips on glass, tell the appraiser in your write-up as well as showing it in your photographs. It makes no sense whatsoever to pretend something you have is in better condition than it is. You’re paying for an accurate evaluation. Make sure you get one by describing all flaws to the best of your ability.

4. Include Provenance – Just as condition can diminish value, verifiable provenance can increase value. And in some instances, it can increase it greatly. If the piece you’re submitting has a story behind it, share its history with the appraiser. Most of the time family stories won’t add much to the worth of an antique beyond sentimental value. Nevertheless, let the appraiser be the judge of that. For instance, if your grandfather worked in a notable pottery factory in the early 1900s and brought home a piece that was never released for sale, it could be a rare prototype. Include that information in your write-up. The same goes for any connection to a celebrity, famous political figure, or a significant historical event the item being appraised might have. Include copies of receipts, photographs or other documentation that supports the item’s claim to fame as well.

5. Follow Up as Requested – If an appraiser asks for better (or more) photos, additional details about the item, or anything else, after your initial submission, it’s because they can’t adequately complete the valuation for you without it. Do your best to follow up, and in a timely manner. You’ll both be much happier with the result if you do.

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