What’s a fair price for a vintage or antique item?

Most of us who sell old things struggle to find a price that’s not too cheap or too expensive. That’s because most of us adore antiques and want to share them with others. We love the way they look, feel and smell. We hate to see them end up in a landfill. And we really do want to find good, loving homes for unique things that will never be made the same way again.

It’s amazing, how much work goes into research and pricing!
Newly made items are easy to price. The manufacturer sets a wholesale rate and the retailers do the rest. But with vintage items and antiques, it isn’t so simple. A cheap-looking piece of jewelry could be extremely rare and valuable. The one thing you always thought was worth a fortune will fetch maybe $10. On a good day.
So we spend hours reading expensive books, searching online, asking experts. “What is this pattern?” “Who made it?” “How old is it?” “How do I know it’s authentic?” “What are common selling prices?” Some of us spend day after day scouring flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales and yard sales to uncover that one item we know you’ll fall in love with.

Sometimes we can’t find a comparable sale. Other times, it’s so difficult to find an item that it seems it never existed!

Other than two similar bottles that were sold on Etsy, these seem to be the only ones in existence. Nobody knows what they are, how old they are, or anything. A total mystery!

Other than two similar bottles that were sold on Etsy, these seem to be the only ones in existence. Nobody knows what they are, how old they are, or anything. A total mystery!

Honest dealers and retailers try very, very hard to find a balance.
Because of the unique nature of antiques, it’s rare to find two dealers who have the same inventory. (That’s why you often see rows of antiques stores on the same street.) We’re often willing to help each other out, even if we’re competitors. If someone has trouble identifying an item, another shop owner will gladly provide information. (Although the Lovejoy novels provide a hilarious take on this issue.)

The same item may be priced differently for a variety of good reasons. One is in its original box, in mint condition. Another has a slight crack or chip. One item is being sold as a complete set; another is just one piece from the set.

The bottom line is to know exactly what you’re paying for.

If you’re interested only in the signature Baccarat “Nuit de Noel” bottle, for instance, you’ll pay less than if you’d rather have it in its original shagreen tassled box.

Vintage Baccarat bottle of "Nuit de Noel," circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of SeppScholl, Etsy

Vintage Baccarat bottle of “Nuit de Noel,” circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of SeppScholl, Etsy

And you’ll pay even more if you also want the original outer presentation box.

A good antiques dealer is happy to help you.
Established stores can be excellent places to get advice and find genuine items.
But sometimes, even the dealers can be fooled!
One reason I started this blog was to help you evaluate old items yourself. Antiques are important to us because once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. We share our knowledge so that when you visit an antique store, yard sale or flea market you’ll know what to look for. What to avoid. And what to snap up immediately.

The hunt can be a lot of fun — I hope you enjoy it!

About sarathurston

I'm a marketing communications writer who also loves antiques and collectibles. You can find my shop on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/shop/JanvierRoad
This entry was posted in Antiques, Art, Ephemera, Fairings, First Edition Books, Glass, Imari, Majolica, Music, Porcelain, Promotional and Advertising Items, Real or Fake?, Tobacciana, Toleware, Vintage and Antique Furniture, Vintage clothing, Vintage Jewelry, Vintage Toys, Why Are Antiques Important? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What’s a fair price for a vintage or antique item?

  1. Pingback: A terrific “real or fake” website | Janvier Road: Where old becomes exciting and new

  2. felicitaciones!!muy buena la pagina

  3. sarathurston says:

    I sell on Etsy, and I’ve found the others on that site to be wonderful! People are willing to promote each other’s sites (I promote both my own shop as well as others on this blog). And I’m Facebook friends with a wonderful place called Treehouse Antiques in Cape May, NJ. The owner actually read over this article before I published it, because I wanted to make sure it was real. She said it was right on 🙂
    I think where it gets hairy is when you want to ask another dealer what price you should set. But in the end I’ve found that most prices are well within a certain range. It’s still awfully tricky, though! LOL

  4. Wow this is so true all of it. I have never found anyone willing to help for free though. I try to hold on to items I do feel may be unique or valuable and hope to run into an answer some day by chance.
    I really love the learning and the history that goes with it.


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