How to get an antique valued

Whether you're thinking about selling, or simply want to choose the right insurance, having your antiques valued is a worthwhile pursuit

A selection of antique blue and white china on a mantlepiece. Photography by Katya de Grunwald

Whether you own an army of carefully curated heirlooms, or just one fine antique, arranging a valuation for them is a worthwhile pursuit. Not only is this information important if you’re thinking about selling, it’s also necessary for determining the right level of insurance cover. Antiques valuations may also need to be undertaken for probate purposes.

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How to find out the value of an antique?

‘It can be as simple as sending in some photographs of the item,’ explains Briony Harford, Valuer and Head of Auctioneering at Sworders. ‘Try to take photos in daylight with a plain background, and provide as much information as possible. Provenance and history are key.’ It’s important to focus on detail when sending photos for valuation. ‘You can often tell far more about an object by the interior of the furniture, the back of the painting, or the bottom of a vase,’ says Briony. ‘It helps to examine the structure of the piece and any clues as to the maker, age or story behind it.’

Who can value an antique?

Knowing that you are consulting a trustworthy, knowledgeable organisation, which will offer an honest, unbiased assessment is vital. If you’re looking to sell, reputable auction houses and BADA or LAPADA-affiliated dealers are a good starting point. ‘Bear in mind that dealers will try to buy the item at a reasonable price in order to sell it on and make a profit,’ says Briony. ‘Though when you sell via auction, the auction house does take a commission, which is usually a percentage of the hammer price agreed before sale.’

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What kind of antique valuation should I get?

The kind of valuation you receive will depend on your purpose – whether it’s for insurance, probate or to sell – and the results may differ accordingly. ‘Auction valuations give an indication of the price we would expect the objects to achieve when they are sold under the hammer,’ says Briony. ‘A probate valuation is similar to that of an auction estimate but, whereas auction estimates may tend to be slightly lower in order to attract more buyers, probate valuations on a deceased’s chattels tend to reflect an average price that similar items repeatedly fetch at auction. Insurance valuations give you more of an idea of what you might expect to pay in the current retail market if you were to replace the item.’ Probate and insurance valuations are a more official process than sale estimates and will generally have a set fee attached.

Whatever your reason for a valuation, the most important considerations for achieving accurate and reliable information are enlisting a respected specialist and making sure you are able to offer them as much information as possible. ‘Valuations go hand in hand with research,’ attests Briony. ‘And the more clues you give to the history of the object, the more in-depth and relevant research the valuer can do for you!’

Tips for getting an accurate antiques valuation:

• Ensure you approach a knowledgeable, reputable organisation for valuation advice.

• Give the valuer a detailed description of the item, including close-up photos if it’s not a face-to-face valuation.

• Getting more than one valuation is a good idea if you want additional assurance of
an item’s value.

• Keep a record of all valuations. This will help to build a complete history of your collection and may be useful for future owners.

• Antique values change over time so consider getting your antiques valued every few years to see how the market is fluctuating – especially important if you’re looking to find an optimal time to sell.

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Words: Jenny Oldaker