Today I did it. You know. The thing you do when you think for that one minuscule second that all other people agree with you. That other people know most of the same stuff that you do. I quickly learned how wrong I was. I made a post in a Facebook group about wondering why people threw up pictures of things that are, to me, obvious and want to know what they are and what they are worth. I guess maybe I wasn't wanting to know the real answer to that as much as knowing that other people agreed with me. And therein is the great flaw of social media. We want some type of affirmation. An agreement. We don't want to tackle those difficult issues whether it is political, societal, or regarding religion unless we know that people agree with us. I got a little too big for my britches.
If you haven't read my about us section, then you won't know that I am a third generation collector. And by collector, let me tell you, we run the gamut of them all. Antique furniture? Have it. Pottery? Which type--McCoy, Roseville, Hull, Old Sleepy Eye, Shawnee, Weller, stoneware, redware? We have them all. Dishes--Fiesta, other Homer Laughlin, Johnson Brothers, Spode, Limoges, Depression, American Fostoria...have all of that and much more. (When my mom passed away we had over 12 different sets of dinnerware...full sets.) Where was I? Oh glassware....you name it, we have it. Then we get to the more modern collectibles. Department 56, Lowell Davis, Norman Rockwell, Maude Humphrey Bogart, Fitz and Floyd, Peggy Karr Glass...the lists can go on and on forever. All of that being said, I forget that not everyone has the same extensive background that I do and a lot of the history that I have. And at the same time, I am realizing that I don't know so very much except what is familiar to me. I learned that a lot of people don't have the same research capabilities or skills that I have--and that is what this post is about. How do you find out what you have when you have no clue of where to start?
Good old eBay. Love it or hate it, it is probably your number one resource to find out what an item is and what it sells for in an online retail setting. ALWAYS check sold listings first. Not current ones. Someone might want $120 for an item that realistically will only ever realize $25. I like to look at each sold listing and then sort of average them out--but DO NOT forget to look at what they are charging for shipping--items that sell for significantly more than the average generally have free shipping meaning that the cost of shipping is figured in. Then if you are really interested in selling your item, look at the current listings for the same thing. Find prices that are around the same as what has sold and price yours to sell first. Always do it though at a price that makes you and your buyer happy though.
2. If you can swing the payment, go ahead and subscribe to pages like worthpoint.com, kovels.com, or antiquetrader.com. I subscribe to all three services and will take them off on my taxes at the end of the year. These three pages offer invaluable advice on sold listings--Worthpoint will go back years on their sold listings, so use it as a general guideline if your item sold in let's say, 2008. The market changes a lot! Kovels is fantastic for their marks library and is pretty accurate on what very hard to find antiques are currently worth--but don't expect to find a McDonald's Happy Meal Toy price on their page. They are strictly high end antiques. Antique Trader is just a good general source guide on where there are auctions and flea markets, they give some values, you get a great magazine in your email and the regular mail plus you get book reviews and discounts.
While my mom was alive she subscribed to over 40 magazines. We had them all. Mostly they were all cooking, decorating, and farm related. But we always had Country Living, Southern Living, Midwest Living, Country Home, Country Sampler....you get the idea. To this day, Country Living is my favorite magazine to read each month to see where the trends are going. When an item makes an appearance in a magazine, be sure to be on the lookout for whatever it is, because the price will go up a bit and the item will sell in your store!
I am the person that is really disappointed that a large majority of the Antiques and Collectibles books are no longer being published. You could learn so much information from the books. Even if you didn't know what you were looking for, they were so much fun to read. (I know I am sounding like a big nerd at this point!) I did find that you can still get Warman's Yearly Antique Price Guide, Antique Traders Collectibles Book, and Kovels Antique Price Guide Book. I was so excited when my new books came months ago! But, if you stumble across old collectible books at yard sales, you might grab them. I like to know the history of companies and their items. The old books still have some of the best information out there.
A couple of weeks ago a lady who is getting out of the business sold me every single one of her collectibles books for $200. There must have been over a hundred AND she is sure that she has more, so she will just put them in a pile for me as she finds them. Anyway, we scored some great books like silver identification, Happy Meal Toys, Barbie, Hot Wheels, Lefton, Weller, Jewelry Identification, and so much more. I haven't really had a chance to dig into all of them, but a Nippon book already helped me out with a listing.
5. Internet Searches
This one is the obvious one. When you do a google search, don't rely on the first page of results as your primary source. The first ten or so results that show up are getting some type of a kick back from google. They are showing you the information that they want you to see. Dig a little deeper and you will probably come across the websites you really want to find. Be descriptive with your search topic. I have sometimes put twenty words in a search just hoping that the right word might trigger a correct result. Put commas between your keywords...something about that changes the algorithm that is used for results. And when you find a website that works for you, for goodness sake, BOOKMARK it!! I have a website bookmarked for English and American Silver Identification Marks, Breyer Horses, Pollypockets (don't make fun of me, those suckers sell fast!), Hot Wheels, etc. Try and find a website that works for the information that you need and make a note of it!
6. Social Media
This is where I got into trouble earlier today. For me, I use Facebook as a last resort to find out what my item is. It goes right along with the thrill of the hunt, if you will. If we don't know what something is, we will spend hours looking for it and when we finally find it, there is definitely a euphoria that goes along with it.
I know that there are more, but these are my go to's. Learn to love the research. It is almost even more fun than selling that $10 item for $300 because we get to have the knowledge for next time and memories to last a lifetime. And there is one more that I forgot to mention and it is pretty important. People that are selling their things like to talk about them and the history behind the stuff or the joy it has given them. I can't tell you how many things we have bought for our own personal collection by being nice and talking to people and just listening...even when we are in a hurry to get to the next spot. Letting people know that their beloved possession is going to be going to another home where it will be loved is sometimes more helpful to the original owner than we will ever know. And that is what I forgot today, I forgot to be nice. I don't know about you, but I learned what this lesson was about.