You've uncovered a unique item in the recesses of your basement or attic. Now, what do you do with it?
With all of the treasure-hunting shows on TV, your first inclination may be to find out its value.
Enter the appraiser, an expert who can eyeball your wares and estimate their rough value. Before you venture out, here's a brief guide to appraisals and a current look at which items might have you clapping all the way to the bank.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Appraisers may offer free verbal appraisals to clients who bring items to their stores, but fees for written appraisals usually range from $100 an hour to several hundred dollars an hour, depending on the appraiser's expertise, research and travel time, says John J. Rosini, secretary of the Long Island chapter of the American Society of Appraisers and owner of Mineola-based Rosini Furniture Service.
"When you put something in writing, you're adding to some responsibility of yourself," says Philip Weiss, an "Antiques Roadshow" appraiser who owns an auction house in Oceanside. "People should not expect a written appraisal for free."
Appraisers may use a magnifying glass or touch an item during an examination.
Written appraisals come with detailed reports, Rosini says, showcasing "logical research and comparables to support the concluded valuation."
When it comes to placing a value on personal property, Rosini says, it's all about "specific purpose and intended use." Values can fluctuate, depending on whether an appraisal is for resale, tax filings, charitable contributions or insurance, he says.
In the collectibles market, "It's supply and demand," Weiss says. "How many people want a certain item and what's the availability of it?"
The nostalgia factor reigns supreme. "People who are in their late 40s and early 50s are making money and buying stuff when they were kids," such as Star Wars and Beatles memorabilia, Weiss says.
Conversely, collectibles from the 1920s and 1930s seem to be losing value. "How many kids played with cast-iron toys that you know? They really aren't around anymore, so the market for that is dying out," he says.
When it comes to buying an antique item for an investment, Weiss says, "you buy the best, and you leave the rest. You're better off buying one good item for $1,000 than 100 mediocre items for $10 each."
Southampton-based appraiser Sheila Guidera says items that were mass-produced typically don't have a lot of value. "If it was hand-produced, hand-painted and was expensive and wasn't made in huge quantities, it probably has held its value or gained its value," she says.
Condition also is very important. Particularly when it comes to tabletop items, "it can't have chips or cracks or major repairs or replaced parts," Guidera says. "It's about having something in its original condition."
SAMPLING WHAT'S VALUABLE
-Vintage sports cards
-Rare books signed by Hemingway, Faulkner or Mark Twain first editions
-European silver manufactured up to 1900
-Tiffany lamps signed by L.C. Tiffany between 1900 and 1920
-Most furniture manufactured by Knoll and Herman Miller
-Early American (18th-century) furniture
-Mid-century modern furniture, such as Vladimir Kagan table and chairs
GENERALLY NOT WORTH MUCH
-U.S. postal stamps (1960s-1980s)
-Hess trucks produced after 1970, excluding the 1984 training vans
-Most contemporary sports cards (1980s-on)
-Cabbage Patch dolls
-Collectible plates that commemorate films or actors
-Knock-off furniture pieces modeled after Marcel Breur or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designs
SOURCES: Sheila Guidera, Philip Weiss, John J. Rosini
INFO 516-764-7459, rvcny.us
COST $10 an item ($25 for three items includes museum membership)
INFO 631-323-2480, oyster pondshistoricalsociety.org
COST $20 an item ($35 for two; $10 each additional item)
Presented by Oysterponds Historical Society, appraisals by Kerry Shrives, Victoria Bratberg and Stuart Whitehurst, from Skinner Auctioneers in Boston.
Test your appraising skills
1. How much did a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card sell for at a 2008 Philip Weiss Auctions?
B. $1.23 million
2. True or false: Appraisers cannot be held legally responsible if they make an appraisal error and a bank loans their client money against the appraisal.
3. True or false: Ebay.com and kovels.com can be used as price guides to determine how much people generally pay for collectibles and antiques.
1. A ($791,000)