Updated: Jan 10, 2021
Do you collect, resell or love a bargain?
Are you a fan of auctions, yard sales, estate sales or all things thrifting? If you read my blog, you probably fall in to one of those categories. Or, you are just a kind friend, patronizing me and bless you for that too. Big hugs, but this time, just maybe, I got a tip or 2 for you. And to save you time, did you answer yes, to any of those questions above? If so, then read on because I got a few tips, and what I think will save you time and give you advantage over the competition. Also, an easy money maker. You may know a few or all of these, so to some, I am preaching to choir, but I might just have some nugget for you too. No one knows everything.
Okay, Alexa might, but she keeps a ton of it secret.
As you may or may not know, I often write about the tips and tricks of the trade. The auction & appraisal trade. My passion is researching & writing about the odd collectors’ genres. I love when readers send me mysteries. If I had all the time in the world, I would follow all the great Facebook identification groups, plus Reddit and Quora…. Taking on all the mysteries. I also like to follow resale trends, seeking out what is hot and what is new in the second hand industry. I know what you are thinking, nerd, but to me it is fun. Helping a stranger solve a mystery is very rewarding in some way. And all that said, when I get a mystery item from a reader, 90% of the time its “how did you figure that out?”
And I wish I had more of a documented process. That would be “the $299 online program” friends have been trying to get me to write for years. The problem is, I am a bit of an ADHD mess. You know…I got 6 windows open, head down worm hole after worm hole, eventually solving the crime, but wow...i like distractions. A few have gone unsolved for a long time. There are Artist signatures out there I have come back to years later and miraculously solved, typically by running in to the answer, completely by chance, working on something else. And to that point, if you ask me, the toughest job for any personal property appraiser is solving "illegible" or "unknown" Artist Signatures. I will do a video on what I do, that might be unique...look for that in a few months. But I want to talk about solving and listing the “stuff.”
How do I figure out the Stuff?
I find the number one thing I do when researching anything is a quick Google Image Search of the Obvious. I have watched teams of cataloguers, seasoned appraisers and known experts search with all their might, for hours, OVERTHINKING the obvious….lets just say, they will search every adjective and never the noun or some word or mark that’s actually on the thing-a-ma-bob….it’s funny. I catch my self-doing it too but have learned to really focus on the obvious. Here is an example. You have a bronze buddha head. And you search, Chinese-large-metal-vintage-old-Asian….you end up with plates, vases, furniture and so on…and you are frustrated but if you would have just looked up bronze buddha head, you’d be hot on the trail. This is a funky example, but next time you are doing it…watch yourself. I have seen people type…Beautiful, Red Leather, Studded….and forget the keyword “love seat.” While trying to figure out a maker or designer. Makes for an interesting search depending on the cookies on your computer. Not judging.
Nothing But The Facts...
But once you home in on what it is, if you are going to list it or sell it, how can you make it easier for your potential bidders and buyers to find it? Same process, and again….do not out smart yourself. “Bronze Buddha Head” is most important and now you may add qualifiers. Antique, Vintage, Signed, Decorated, etc. If it is an online auction, you just want to lead the horses (bidders/experts) to the water (the item.) Give them a title that draw them in. The descriptions should be “just the facts” and then let them determine what it is, and the result should be the true fair market value, shown by their bids, etc.
How Much Should You Ask?
What if you are not auctioning and need to determine the value you want to place on the item? How do you price it? That is where a few secret weapons come in handy. You can use eBay’s completed price search. Looking for actual realized prices versus asking prices. Anyone can ask anything but what something actually sold for is the key. Sites like Live Auctioneers, Bidsquare and HI Bid offer the ability to look up past auction & sales results with a little skill and are free. Sure, you have to register, but free is awesome. The problem is they only search their platforms which may be limited to the items sold on their sites. And eBay only lets you look at a limited time window. 90 days, but what if you want to know more. I use Worthpoint. It is a pay site but I think when you see all the Pros, you’ll see why.
If you are serious about collecting or reselling, its “cost“ is a no brainer. They have amassed an unparalleled amount of data and have designed a site, plus an app, to put it all at your fingertips. Next time you see someone on their phone hiding in the corner at an antique store, they are probably using Worthpoint. They know the secret. I try to be a little more classy and sneak out to my car, like a proper picker.
Anyway, I like facts and numbers so here are a few. They have an incredible database of 500 million actual prices from 350 data partner sources and counting. This wealth of historical pricing data is aggregated from both online marketplaces, including eBay, and most of the leading auction houses from around the country. I find those to be some of the most beneficial. Also, millions of new items and their prices are added to the Price Guide every month. What used to take me hours to figure out or look up in a book is right there.
And speaking of Books…a feature that might be new to you if you remember the “old days” of Worthpoint. You know, the flip phone days, is they now have a digital library of more than 1,000 antiques & collectibles books. You get access to all these digitized books, guides, and catalogs from all the leading publishers, covering just about every antique and collecting topic. Plus, I hear hundreds of books are added each quarter. You can Search by topic, title, or publisher. They even have the option to read page-by-page or click through to specific sections or chapters. It is nuts. I remember driving around with about 50 books in my trunk and always not having the right one with me. It is totally Star Trek and I have a feeling they are nowhere near satisfied. That is what I love about Worthpoint. They just keep adding, updating, and improving. They know what we want, and if they do not already have it, it is in the works. Did I forget to mention you can save your completed searches or mark your favorites to refer to repeatedly.
Another cool function is the MAPS Gallery which is getting better and better each and every month. A growing resource gallery of makers’ marks, autographs, patterns, and symbols. Currently you can search more than 130,000 identifiers by topic or classification. Searches and items can be saved for future research. I got a bunch bookmarked.
FREE you say?
I feel like saying “and there’s more…” like in a late-night infomercial and maybe they will hire me to shoot one for them one day, but I do want to let you in on another secret. You can basically get this for FREE. What? I will explain, because nothing is truly free...except that annoying voice in your head. It is always there, judging, for free.
Anyway, I think the full monty of services is like $40 a month these days, and that is for all the bells and whistles. You have options, but really its a no brainer. It will pay for itself in a week with one thrift shop score, but I didn’t want to pay $39.99…I wanted my Hulu without commercials, so I found out a secret....they have an affiliate program. Meaning, if you want to annoy your friends...tell them how awesome this is...and they sign up…your commission will virtually pay for yours. There I said it. You people are paying for my subscription. But I love you for it and you are going to love me for it and... your friends will love it…that is a lotta love in one app. I think there are other apps for that, but you get me…
And as with all good infomercials, try it for free for 7 days and if you do not like it…no harm, no foul. Or no credit card charge. Send me your feedback after you give it a try and send me your scores too. I am always following the trends in whatever you collect. Ice Cream Scoops, Firecracker Labels, Pokémon Cards, Kachina Dolls…. you know we are all weird right?
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