Could your house clearout unearth valuable antiques?
- Credit: not Archant
Antiques expert Christopher Proudlove gives his advice on what to do with all those things you found while spring cleaning.
There was no excuse for not doing the spring cleaning this year - with the country on lockdown and everyone spending more time at home, more sheds, cupboards and attics have been cleared and tidied than ever before.
And now you’ve sorted all that stuff, what are you going to do with it? Once restrictions are lifted, charity shops would be glad of it and much of it will undoubtedly end up at a recycling centre, but check it before you chuck it – your junk could be someone else’s treasure.
It doesn’t have to be a long-lost Old Master or Ming vase to attract interest at auction, everything has a value and dealers and auctioneers have customers for it all. And although shops and salerooms have been shuttered during the lockdown, many offer online valuations.
There are pros and cons to each of the three main approaches. You could chose to go it alone with one of the many online auctions – the most famous of which is eBay – but caution should be your watchword.
Research is the key to protecting yourself and your possessions, so spend time exploring the sites, comparing like with like. Decide if you’re going to sell at a fixed price or by auction over a period of days and fix a price you would be prepared to sell for. Compare photographs in other sales on the site with your own object and check the prices at which they have sold – that’s the true price you can expect to receive, not the hoped-for values of optimistic sellers.
When you’re ready to take the plunge, take pictures of the piece from multiple angles, including any damage, and write an honest description to go with them. Then sit back and be patient and if the object fails to sell, relist it, perhaps with a lower reserve. Remember you’ll need to subtract any charges the website makes and you’ll need to send the object to the successful buyer, although this will be at the buyer’s expense.
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The second option is to sell to a dealer, which means you’ll receive the cash without delay. Again, research is important – find prices similiar objects sold for and send images and descriptions to two or three dealers – their contact details can usually be found online – but do not accept the first offer you receive.
Playing one off against another excessively should be avoided, but there’s no harm in suggesting you’ve had an offer of X and asking another if they could do better.
If you choose to sell at auction, you’re likely to benefit from the competitive nature of the bidding process and the internet means however small an auction house may seem, they now offer sellers a global marketplace.
Before consigning your property for sale, an auctioneer will give you a saleroom valuation, which estimates the likely sale price based on their past sales and experience.
This service is free and gives you a useful guide when placing a reserve figure on your items – a confidential figure below which your item will not be sold. Knowing in advance roughly what an object is worth before discussing these figures will pay dividends. There are costs for an auctioneer’s services. Salerooms charge a commission on objects sold – usually between 10% and 20% – and the deduction is levied on the price reached at the fall off the hammer.
In these days of social distancing, the cost of contactless collection and delivery to the saleroom by a removal company or shipper is also deducted. The balance is paid to the vendor usually two or three weeks after the date of sale.
Sale by auction is not necessarily a quick way to raise finance – you’ll have to wait for the next appropriate sale – but it is the most reliable way to achieve top market value prices for your property.
Buyers can view auctions remotely and bidding is conducted by a real person taking bids digitally. Timed auctions, carried out over several days, follow the same process, but without an auctioneer. The winner is the highest bidder at the end of the time period. The same contactless delivery by shippers continues as an essential service, while some auctioneers are offering free or generous terms for storage so that items may be left at the saleroom until restrictions are lifted.