Archive for September, 2014

When to Get an Appraisal

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

An appraisal is an estimate of value of an item by an expert in the field. A formal appraisal is written and can serve as a legal document in the event of damage, loss, or in a legal dispute. It may include provenance (history of ownership), specific features of an item (such as cut, color, and clarity for diamonds), and an estimate of replacement value. Appraisals can be done on anything from art and jewelry to coins and comic books. So when is a formal appraisal necessary and when can it be skipped?

Formal appraisals should be performed on any rare or valuable personal property that the owner wishes to insure. In the event of loss or damage, an appraisal provides proof of ownership and value to the insurance company, which will work with the owner to either provide a replacement or compensation for the item.

If you have an item that is inexpensive or you’re simply curious about what it may be worth, there are several steps to perform an informal appraisal of an item.

Step 1: Is the item authentic? Depending on the item, this step can either be very easy or very hard. Certain items such as art or autographs require specialized training to authenticate, so if you suspect it may be quite valuable, it may be wise to have professional look at the item. If the item has any markings or special features, be sure to compare them to other items that have previously been authenticated.

If you are the original owner and purchased the item from a reputable source (such as buying a luxury handbag directly from the manufacturer), then it’s reasonable to assume that your item is authentic.

Step 2: What is the condition / completeness of the item? Items that are as close to new condition as possible will usually bring the highest value (with exceptions being if the item was owned / used by someone famous or in a historical context.) A small chip in a porcelain figurine might lower the value as much as 25%, while a significant repair can affect the value by 50% or more. If an item has multiple pieces, such as a vintage board game, are all of the pieces included and in good condition?

Step 3: What have comparable items sold for recently? Sales information on the same / similar items that have sold in the last 3-5 years can provide a good estimate as to what your item would be worth if you were to sell it. Good sources for this information include eBay, Live Auctioneers, individual auction house websites, and subscription websites such as and .


The original article can be found in the October 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

Online Bidding Etiquette

Written by traderchris on . Posted in Uncategorized

I recently had a buyer purchase a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet from me at auction on eBay. I shipped it expedited for free with a current appraisal. She exclaimed that she was in love with it until she took it to her local jeweler, who said that she paid too much for it. (Keep it mind that she purchased it at auction where she decided the final bidding price.)

After several e-mails back and forth, I allowed her to return the bracelet even though buyer’s remorse is not normally a valid reason for return (items arriving damaged or different than originally described are acceptable reasons for returns). After I received the bracelet and provided a refund, I was rather flabbergast when she contacted me again asking if it would be ok for her to bid on the bracelet again, with the hopes of buying it at a lower price. At that point, I said “no” as politely as I could and blocked her account.

EBay is what you’d call a hybrid auction site, mixing items that are listed for sale at fixed prices as well as those that are being auctioned. With a bit of knowledge (and luck), it’s a great place to get deals on a number of things. You just have to know how to ask for them.

Many sellers list items on eBay with a fixed price and also include a “Make an Offer” feature that allows interested buyers to offer a lower amount on an item. A reasonable office might be 50% to 90% of the original asking price, depending on what similar items have recently sold for. If you’re not sure what to offer, simply ask “What’s you’re best price on this item?” It’s a perfectly acceptable way to negotiate a better price without a lot of haggling and avoids the risk of making an insultingly low offer to the seller.

If you’re considering buying something that’s being auctioned, it’s a good idea to review the item description and pictures carefully, in addition to the shipping and return policies (and any other fine print included in the listing). Most experienced sellers are very thorough in addressing common concerns in the listings, such as including item dimensions, damage/defects, or the ability to combine multiple purchases in a single shipment. If there is any information missing or not clear, it is best for the prospective buyer to ask questions before placing a bid, so that they have all of the information necessary to make an informed buying decision.

Auctions also have a tendency to pull bidders in emotionally. It’s exciting to outbid several people and “win” an item in the closing seconds of an auction. However, you should make sure beforehand that the amount you’re bidding is what you feel the item is truly worth (and more importantly, what you intend to pay!) There are few things more frustrating that having a buyer attempt to back out of a sale as soon as an auction is over. This costs the seller both time and money and typically results in the buyer being blacklisted from future sales by that seller.

If you’re not quite sure about how something works (whether it’s the item or the auction process itself), it never hurts to contact the seller or auctioneer in advance to ask several questions. Most sellers are more than happy to educate / accommodate their buyers, proving that the request is made with respect and in a timely manner.


The original article can be found in the September 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here:

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