Pro - An Affordable Appraisal Alternative:
Hiring an expert antiques appraiser to evaluate one, or even a few, antique or collectible items can be quite costly. Most charge by the hour with a one or two hour minimum, so the fee can oftentime be higher than the worth of the item being evaluated unless you're looking at a real rarity.
Using an online appraisal service offers an affordable alternative, ranging from $9.95 to $29.95 in most cases, to obtain the value of a single item. Collection appraisals are also offered by some services at an increased cost, but still well below traditional in-person appraisal fees.
Con - Condition Factors Can't Be Evaluated Accurately:
The possibility of overlooking condition issues is the main drawback to online appraisals. If you aren't completely honest about the condition of the item, it can't be evaluated accurately. The trouble is, unless you're an expert, you might not recognize pertinent condition issues for every object you submit for appraisal. Most online appraisers are adept at looking for signs of condition issues through photos, but in some instances it can still be difficult.
Most online appraisers will pass on an evaluation if they feel they cannot offer an accurate appraisal given the photos and information provided.
Pro - You Often Get More Than You Pay For:
If you are assigned a really good appraiser (the knowledge and communication skills vary from item to item and category to category), they may be able to provide other details about the piece beyond the value such as age, style and history in addition to providing care tips. Not every appraiser will feel motivated to share so much information, but many times a few extra details can be easily jotted down and they're usually happy to share their knowledge whenever possible.
Con - Sometimes You Get What You Pay For:
Because appraisals are usually assigned randomly among a number of experts serving a single antiques and collectibles category, you may get someone who is less adept at communicating through the written word than you'd like. These appraisers often just give the bare bones information and value without adding many additional details.
And because the appraiser is usually splitting the meager fee charged online with the service employing them, they aren't going to have time to research extensively given the amount of money they're earning per appraisal. A point that's always wise to keep in mind.
Pro - Convenience Counts:
Instead of having to make an appointment with an appraiser at their convenience, you can use the Web to submit an online appraisal at any time day or night. You simply snap a few detailed photos, answer a questionnaire about the item to your best ability and upload the form. Most services make an effort to turn submissions around very quickly too, so you should have your valuation back in a timely manner in most cases. If the item is truly obscure, it might take a little longer to find the right person to give an accurate appraisal.
Con - Details Can Be Overlooked:
Even beyond condition and detecting repairs, which is usually one of the most important factors in valuaing an item, other details can be lost in photography. These include clues about reproductions, obscure marks, quality and other defining details the owner may not recognize or mention.
Most experienced appraisers know how to look for important details online and ask for additional information or photos before passing judgement on an object if they're not sure. Even still, it's important to realize there are a number of limitations when working from a photograph and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Pro - Online Appraisers are Screened and Qualified:
When you work with a reputable service, the credentials and references of online appraisers have been verified before they go to work. Because there is no licensing or regulatory agengy to monitor personal property appraisers, anyone can hang out a shingle touting themselves as an antique appraiser. While many qualified antiques dealers offer appraisals, you never quite know what you're getting when you open up the phone book and point to a name. Check each site you consider for more details about their qualificaiton process to make sure an expert is evaluating your antique.
Some antiques experts are adamently against online antique appraisals
. They believe there is no way an item can be evaluated accurately in terms of condition and other key factors by simply reviewing photos. Others find that online appraisals are useful tools in helping collectors determine the value of their antiques and collectibles. It's ultimately up to each individual to decide how effective online appraisals are, and to what extent they are accurate in determining values.