Make sure it doesn't go for a song

John Andrew on how to value an antique and sell it

Stories of lucky purchases at car boot sales make good reading, providing you are not the person who sold the item in the first place. It is often forgotten that for every antique purchased for a song and then sold for a fortune, there is at least one loser. If you are thinking of selling an antique, make sure you do not lose out.

Before selling anything, it is essential to have some idea of its value. Active collectors, of course, do have the advantage. However, those who have not been following the market for some time will be completely out of touch with prices. Books such as Miller's Antique Price Guide can be of assistance, but they can sometimes be misleading. Although the picture of the object in the book may appear to be the same as your piece, there could be subtle differences.

However, there is an easy way of finding out what your antiques are worth and it's free. The larger auction houses all give on-the-spot advice and valuations. Simply go to their front counter and you will be given helpful advice from a specialist without any obligation to consign the piece to auction. Valuation days are also held periodically out of town. Details will be announced in your local press.

If you cannot get to a saleroom, send a photograph of the piece, together with a description. Include measurements and a sketch of any marks.

If you know its history, also include details. As well as identifying the object, an opinion will also be given as to the price it is likely to realise at auction.

Auction houses and dealers will also value items for insurance and probate. A fee in the region of 1 per cent, plus any out-of-pocket expenses such as travel costs, is generally charged for this service. Should you not know a reliable local antique dealer, contact the British Association of Antique Dealers (Bada) or the London Association of Provincial Antique Dealers (Lapada) and request a list of their members. Both organisations have very high standards.

Lapada, which has more than 700 members, will advise you of the dealers in your area who specialise in particular subjects. The organisation categorises its members' interests into 250 specialist classifications and matches an inquirer's needs to what its membership can offer.

Having established what a particular piece is worth, you then have to decide the way in which you are going to turn your object into cash. If you know collectors who may be interested, you could always try a private sale. It is also possible to advertise in magazines or newspapers, but such a route does present a potential security risk.

The better course is to offer the piece to a dealer, or to sell at auction. While there are some dealers who will buy anything, if you have something desirable it is best to offer it to a specialist. Selling direct to the trade does mean that you will receive a specific sum instantly.

However, there could always be the nagging feeling that a better sum could have been obtained. Human nature is such that certain individuals are never happy with the price they obtain for anything. For this reason, some dealers will only buy from the public if the sellers name their price.

Should you not need the money immediately, you can always ask a reputable dealer to sell the item for you on commission. The sum you receive will normally be better than for an outright sale, though of course, the length of time it will take to sell the piece will be unknown. Typically dealers charge around 10 to 20 per cent for this service. Naturally you should agree the minimum sum which you are prepared to accept and obtain written evidence of your arrangement.

The final method of selling is at auction. Part of the auctioneer's skill lies in putting an object into a sale which will give you the best possible price. Even at the larger auction houses, which hold regular specialist sales, the period between consigning the item and the actual sale can be eight weeks or more. There will also be a further wait of up to four weeks before you receive the proceeds.

Normally when you put an item in a sale, the auctioneer will agree a reserve with you. This is a sum below which the item will not be sold. Should it not sell, you will not be charged commission. Of course, you can stipulate a higher reserve. However, if you do this and the lot does not find a buyer, you will have to pay a commission based on your reserve price.

Naturally, the price at which the object sells depends on the bidding on the day. It is not unknown for two equally determined potential buyers to battle for possession, seemingly at any price. Equally, a very desirable object can attract little interest. You could be extremely pleased or a little disappointed with the outcome.

Auction houses charge both vendors and buyers. Sellers are typically charged a commission of 15 per cent (plus VAT). Some auction houses have a minimum charge. Additionally, there is an insurance charge, normally 1 per cent of the hammer price. If the item is illustrated in the catalogue, there will normally be a photographic fee.

Whatever course you decide to follow when selling antiques, it is important that you feel comfortable. This is my experience of consigning an object to auction. The gentleman at the first saleroom remarked: "A charming piece. It's likely to realise pounds 400." His colleague was not as enthusiastic so I moved on. At the second, an arrogant individual dismissed it with: "Only worth pounds 150." I disagreed. The specialist at the third described it as "exquisite". We agreed on a reserve of pounds 500 and it sold for pounds 600.

Contact addresses:

BADA, 20 Rutland Gate London SW7.

Tel: 0171-589-4128

LAPADA, Suite 214, 535 Kings Road, London SW10. Tel: 0171-823-3511

Bonhams, Montpelier Street, London SW7. Tel: 0181-584-9161

Christie's, 8 King Street, London SWI. Tel: 0171-839-9060

Christie's South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7. Tel: 0171- 581-7611

Phillips,101 New Bond Street, London W1. Tel: 0171-629-6602

Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1. Tel: 0171-493-8080

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

    £221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

    Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

    **Financial Services Tax**

    £35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit