What’s it Worth? – How to Estimate Resale Value Online

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I’ve sold several thousand items on eBay by now, so I have a reasonably good idea of how the process works. However, the first step that I take with any new potential item for sale is almost always the same – I do my homework to evaluate the resale value and market for a particular item.

Many people believe in order to establish the value of their items, they simply need to go online to match-up the item, and that’s what they can expect to get when they sell it. This strategy is only partially correct – yes, you can go online to see how identical / similar items are currently priced for sale, but that does not necessarily mean that is what the items will actually sell for. Ever heard of retail price versus resale price?

When I estimate the resale value of an item, I seek out the prices for the same / similar items that have recently sold, as they serve as much better predictors as to what future items will sell for. This is particularly important step to do for rare or valuable items.

In eBay, all you have to do is change your search preferences slightly to find this info. After searching for your item, simply select the “Sold Listings” box on the left side of the webpage. If you could imagine eBay as a huge store with nearly anything for sale in the front of the store, this small change in search preferences now gives you access to the backroom of the store, where everything that has sold in the last 4-6 weeks can viewed, including prices.

After locating the sold items, next you’ll want to sort them by “Price + Shipping: highest first”, which will list the items with the highest resale value at the top of the page. This is important because it provides a baseline for comparison between items that have recently sold for the most money and your particular item. If your item happens to be in better condition or more complete than the “top” item, there’s a good chance that it may resell for more. Oftentimes though, most items fall in the mid to low range, as they have flaws.

If you can’t find what you’re trying to research on eBay, Liveauctioneers.com can be a great alternative, as it compiles sales data from a number of major auction houses throughout the United States. Simply sign-up for a free membership, which will allow you to browse both upcoming and live auctions, as well as sold results from past auctions.

If you still can’t find what you’re trying to research, you may need a paid subscription to a specialty website or a good reference book, of which I have many of both! Just send me an e-mail with a brief description of the item (including condition and reference marks) and I can typically find it and provide a free sales estimate with a few minutes of searching.


The original article can be found in the August 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.

What’s it Worth? – Porcelain Figurines

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Porcelain figurines are one of those collectible categories where quality and value can vary tremendously. Many modern figurines are mass produced and can be purchased in stores, flea markets, or thrift shops for a few dollars. Yet if you have a good eye for particular makers, that dusty Goodwill find might just be worth a lot more than what you paid for it.

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Whenever I evaluate a porcelain figurine for sale, one of the first things that I do is to lift it up and look at the maker’s mark on the base. Many prominent porcelain manufactures will have signed or stamped their wares,and the mark may not only tell you the production company, it can reveal age, country of origin, and perhaps the finishing artist as well.

Although are some quite valuable porcelain pieces that come from China and Japan, I tend to focus more on European and American porcelain makers, as they tend to be easier to research. If the company’s name or initials can be read on the bottom, usually a quick web search can help you learn about the company and may help you date the piece. For pieces marked only with symbols, I’ve had luck entering a basic description into Google and doing an image search. If you still can’t locate your maker, there are some excellent pictorial reference books on porcelain marks that can help identify and date your piece.

After you’ve located the maker, it’s time to find comparable items that have sold, which can help provide an idea of the value of an item.  You’ll want to be sure

to properly assess the condition of your figurine as well. Does it have any chips, cracks, or crazing (hairline cracks in the glaze)? Is it the same color and size as item that has sold? Does your piece stand alone or is it part of a set?

Hummel and Lladro figurines are regularly found for sale online, typically re-selling in the $20 to $100+ range (depending upon size, box availability, and rarity). More valuable collections may include pieces made by Herend (Hungary), Staffordshire (England), or Meissen (Germany), with pieces often selling for several hundred to a thousand dollars or more.  Generally, the larger and/or more intricate the piece, the more valuable it may be.

A few summers back, a client asked me to look at a vintage porcelain figurine set that he had inherited from a relative. He had a magnificent set of Lipizzaner horse figurines from an Austrian manufacturer, which ended-up selling from around $200 (for the one missing a foot) to over $1400 each! So next time you’re dusting Mom’s old figurines in the curio cabinet, take a few minutes to turn them over and do a little research. You main gain a better appreciation for her collection afterwards.

The original article can be found in the July 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.

What’s it Worth? – Vintage Perfume Bottles

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This 1920 Lalique perfume bottle sold for an incredible $19,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2012.

This 1920 Lalique perfume bottle sold for an incredible $19,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2012.

I was recently given a box of vintage perfume bottles to sell by a client. While they smelled nice and reminded me of my grandma, I didn’t think they would be particularly valuable. However, by the time all of the bottles had sold, much to my surprise (and my client’s delight), that small box of perfume bottles ended-up selling for several thousand dollars!

So, where do the most valuable perfume bottles come from? Primarily France, which also produces many of the world’s best (and most expensive) perfumes. Two French manufacturers in particular – Lalique and Baccarat – are responsible for some of the most artistic and desirable bottles sought by collectors.

Lalique was originally founded by Rene Lalique in 1885. Lalique was a brilliant designer who expressed his artistic talents in numerous forms, ranging from perfume bottles and vases to chandeliers and car hood ornaments. Some modern Lalique bottles can be purchased for less than $100. However, it’s the vintage bottles, mostly from the 1920s and earlier, that routinely sell for hundred or thousands of dollars. Original Lalique pieces are often hand-signed on the base, but can be imprinted as well.

Baccarat was named after the town in France that started producing glassware at the bequest of King Louis XV in the early 18th century.  Originally producing items such as windows and mirrors, the company later expanded their production line to include items such fine barware, chandeliers, and perfume bottles. Modern miniature Baccarat bottles can be found for under $20. Yet the prices can shoot up quickly, depending upon the age and intricacy of the bottle. Baccarat pieces can usually be identified by their circular acid-etched logo on the base.

Although chipped and only half full, this  Baccarat bottle sold for $356.

Although chipped and only half full, this
Baccarat bottle sold for $356.

In addition to glass and crystal, highly collectible perfume bottles can be made from porcelain as well. Many of these bottles were made to resemble figurines of people or animals and were produced by highly skilled French or German porcelain manufacturers.

Identifying the manufacturer of your bottle is the first step towards evaluating its value. The bottle’s label or mark can be very helpful in this process. After you have narrowed down the origin, determining condition is extremely important. Are there any chips or cracks? Is the original box available? Is there any of the original perfume left and is it still fragrant? Collectors will want to know as much detail as possible, so it’s important to describe both bottle and contents carefully. Doing so will help bring you the best prices for those old perfume bottles – and you may be surprised as what they are worth!

The original article can be found in the June 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.

What’s it Worth? – Sports Cards – Part 2

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Jordan RookieLast month, we talked about several key factors that make certain sports cards more valuable than others, which included rarity, age, and condition. This month, we’ll talk about the impact that an athlete’s significance plays in the value of a card, as well as how to maximize the sales potential for your best cards.

Every sport has iconic players that most fans would be able to recognize. Can you name the sports in which Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan played? Typically, cards from a famous athlete’s first professional or “rookie” seasons tend to be highly desirable to collectors. Additionally, cards from the years in which these athletes achieved certain milestones, such as winning championships or setting new records are also in demand.

Lets say that you’ve located a card that is rare, features a star athlete, and is in excellent condition. The next step to maximize its sales potential is to have the card graded.

Grading a card typically involves sending it to one of two companies – Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) or Beckett. For a fee, these companies will grade your card, which means they will assign it a score of 1 to 10 based upon the physical condition of the card. A score of 1 is the lowest while 10 is the highest. A lower score indicates to potential buyers that the card has some sort of flaw or damage, while a higher score means that the card is in better condition and therefore more desirable. Since it is very difficult to get a card that receives a 10 (as that score is considered flawless), such cards can command a significant premium over near identical cards with a lower grade.

Mantle RookieFor example, if you find a 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan card, congratulations! You have a very desirable rookie card. According to PSA, the card is worth approximately $790 if graded as an “8”,  $1500 if graded as a “9”, or an incredible $8750+ if graded as a “10”! Of course, 13,408 of these exact cards have been submitted to PSA to date, of which 326 (or 2.4%) have been graded as an “8”, 2108 (or 15.7%) have been graded as a “9”, and only 156 (or 1.1%) have been graded as a “10”. The population or “pop” of a card with a particular grade also lends value to a card, as cards with high grades and lower pops means that the card is rare.

If you think you may have a valuable card, it should be stored somewhere that is climate controlled (like inside your house), out of direct sunlight, and inside a protective card sleeve, to minimize potential for damage. And for goodness sake, if you come across a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card, please don’t use it for a bike motor. It may be worth enough to buy you a new car…. or house!

The original article can be found in the May 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.

What’s it Worth? – Sports Cards – Part 1

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Aaron - FinalWhen they were growing up in the 1950s, my father and his friends would go down to the corner drugstore and pay 5 cents to get a pack of baseball cards. The gum, of course, was what they wanted the most. The baseball cards were merely a consolation prize, to be pitched, flipped, traded, or put in bicycle spokes (as they made great bike “motors”!).

I’ve heard numerous stories from my father and other Baby Boomers regarding prized card collections in shoeboxes that were tossed out with the trash. If only Grandma had know that shoebox could have potentially paid for a new car or college someday, she may have thought twice before tossing those old cards out.

So what makes one particular sports card more valuable over another?  Here are a few key factors that affect the prices of sports cards: 1. Rarity / Age  2. Condition  3. Significance. Each characteristic builds upon one another, so it’s important to understand them before you start hunting for the “diamonds in the rough”.

A particular sports card may be considered rare either because it was released in a very limited quantity or potentially because of its age. Older cards have a tendency to be more valuable than newer cards because they are harder to find, as not as many were produced or have survived over time. When popularity of collecting sports cards exploded in the mid 1980s, and so did the number of cards produced, making them less valuable in general.

There are a handful of modern cards produced each year that are considered valuable immediately, but they tend to be much harder to find than cards collected from the 1970s and earlier. The newer cards that are more valuable are usually rookie cards of star athletes or limited edition cards that are signed or include embedded snippets of memorabilia such as bats, balls, or jerseys.

If you do find a rare card, the next criteria for determining value would be the condition of the card. Factors such a bent corners, centering, and focus contribute to what is know as the card’s “eye appeal”. While bent corners are easy enough to understand, a “centered” card means that the image should be equal distance from all edges of the card, with as little variation as possible.  Focus refers to the sharpness of the picture. As printing techniques have changed over the years, so has the criteria for judging how sharp the picture should be.

Tune in next month where we’ll highlight some iconic cards from various sports and discuss how to get the most money for your best cards!

The original article can be found in the April 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.


What’s it Worth – March 2013

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They’re little. They’re cute. And often, you see them in groups of at least 10 or more. If you or anyone in your family served in World War II, then there’s a good chance that there’s a group of Hummel figurines somewhere around the house.

Hummel figurines resulted from the artistic merits of Berta Hummel, who was born in Bavaria in 1909. Growing-up, Berta loved to draw and was particularly fond of portraying children in her portraits. After graduating from the Munich Academy of Applied Arts, she joined the Franciscan Covent of Siessen, which would allow her to devote her life to both her faith and her art.

Several years later, Berta took the name Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. Sister Hummel’s sketches began to appear on postcards in Germany and Switzerland throughout the 1930s and managed to get the attention of Franz Goebel, the head of a prominent German porcelain business. Goebel established an agreement with the Convent that allowed his artists to reproduce Sister Hummel’s sketches in figurine form. They were released in 1935 and immediately became a success.


At the end of World War II, American soldiers stationed in West Germany began sending Hummel figurines home as gifts. They soon became popular collectors items, especially after they started appearing in U.S. Army Exchanges. In the 1970s, Hummel values began to skyrocket when the small figurines’ popularity peaked.  During this time, plates, bells, music boxes, and other Hummel collectibles were introduced.

Since that time, prices for Hummels have come down dramatically. It is difficult to get anywhere near “book value” for figurines, as there is simply greater supply than demand for most pieces. Having sold over 600 Hummels last year, I would estimate the common 3”-5” figurine without damage sells for between $25-$50. However, specialized collections like The Nativity Set can sell for $500-$1000+, while rare pieces or the largest figurines can command premiums up to $5,000 per piece. The trademark stamp on the base will help you determine the age of your Hummel with the oldest figurines displaying a crown on the bottom.

Collectors worldwide still love and appreciate the innocence of Hummel figurines. I have shipped them as far as Singapore, Australia, and even a few back “home” to Germany. Although Sister Hummel passed away over 60 years ago, her simplistic portrayal of the world around her have managed to live for generations beyond her.

The original article can be found in the March 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.

What’s it Worth? – February 2013

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If you’ve ever been to an estate sale or auction, most likely there was at least one silver service, tray, or table set for sale. Yet, why do some pieces sell for high prices at the auction house while others arrive at the local thrift shop?

One of the primary factors in determining the value of anything “silver” is whether it is made from sterling silver or if it is simply silver plate. Sterling silver consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, while silver plate is comprised of a base metal such as copper, brass, or stainless steel that has been electroplated with sterling silver.  Silver plate became popular in the late 1800s and made silverware more affordable for the masses.

Sterling items are typically stamped with either “925” or the words “sterling” to indicate their composition. Pieces produced in Great Britain often have a small lion hallmark, in addition to other marks that may indicate the city, date, or maker.

On the other hand, silver plate items may be stamped with “silver plate”, “EPNS” (Electro-plated Nickel Silver), or “German Silver.”Older pieces may exhibit wear spots from use, exposing the base metal beneath. They can be re-plated by a jeweler or even through “do-it-yourself” kits.

Items made from sterling are always worth at least their value in silver, which has increased in price by over 600% in the last 10 years. Simply look-up “Scrap Silver Calculator” online and enter in the weight of your pieces to get a rough estimate of what’s called the “spot” value. If you decided to sell your sterling items for their silver value, be aware that a fee is usually charged for the transaction and to cover the cost of refining the metal.

Both sterling and silver plate pieces can increase in value, depending upon the manufacturer or intricacy of the object. I recently sold a Tiffany and Company sterling serving spoon worth only about $45 by weight, yet it sold for over $200. Manufacturers like Tiffany’s often command a premium from buyers due to their reputation for quality. Last April, at their Historic Chinqua Penn Auction, local auctioneer Leland Little sold several silver plate items in the range of $300 – $900, due to their ornate nature and regional provenance.

So next time that you’re getting ready to use Grandma’s silver service, take a moment to turn it over and see what it’s made of. Its value might just surprise you.

The original article can be found in the February 2013 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: http://www.southernneighbor.com/upload/Feb13web.pdf

What’s it Worth? – January 2013

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If you were born before the era of the cell phone, than most likely, you’ve owned at least one wristwatch in your life. Not only were they the preferred device for telling time for most of the 20th century, but they also provided their wearers a chance to express a bit of personality with the mere flash of the wrist.

Wristwatches started to become popular towards end of the 19th century, when fashionable ladies wore them as jewelry. In 1904, a pioneering aviator named Alberto Santos-Dumont lamented to his good friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of viewing his pocket watch while flying. He asked Cartier to develop a watch that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls while flying. “The Santos”, as it became known, became a signature achievement for Cartier and helped to make wristwatches popular among men because of their practicality.

Common versions sell between $500-$1500, with rare pieces selling upwards of $10,000 or more.

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 5.02.01 PMEarly wristwatches were made with manual movements, which required the wearer to periodically wind the watch in order to keep time. Beginning in the early 1930s, Rolex helped to usher in the era of automatic wristwatches that used the wearer’s movement to keep the watch running.  Nicknamed “Bubblebacks”, these early automatic Rolexes regularly sell for $3,000 to $8,000, with the most desirable versions worth greater than $20,000.

Not all vintage watches need to be wildly expensive to be collectible. One such example is from the iconic Hamilton Watch Company, which introduced the first electric watch in 1957.  One of Hamilton’s most famous customers was Elvis Presley, who liked their electric Ventura watches so much that he often gave them away as gifts. Years later, the Ventura gained a new following after being reproduced for the “Men in Black” movie series. Vintage editions can be purchased for as little as $300-$500, with near mint editions valued up to $2,000.


Currently, eBay is one of the best venues to buy and sell collectible watches for great prices. If you want to buy a watch, find a reputable seller with a policy that allows for returns if the watch is defective. If you have an expensive watch (or collection of watches) to sell, provide as much detail about the item(s) as possible and be sure to take clear, high quality pictures for prospective buyers. Who knows – maybe that old watch in the drawer is now worth enough to pay for your next vacation!

The original article can be found in the December 2012 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com/upload/Jan13web.pdf

What’s it Worth? – December 2012

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With Christmas quickly approaching, it’s time once again to break out the holiday decorations. If your family is anything like mine, perhaps you have more ornaments that you know what to do with and it might just be a good time to downsize. Yet before you toss out or give away some of the older or unwanted items, perhaps they may be worth selling instead.


Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 3.07.17 PMFor example, if you happen to have any belsnickles, they might be worth something. What a belsnickle, you ask? Typically 12” or smaller, early belsnickles were bearded figurines made of painted paper mache or cardboard. The name originated from of the German legend of “Pelze Nichol”, which translates to “Nicholas in furs”. Pelze Nichol was bearded and sometimes wore a mask. On Christmas Eve, he would enter homes through the keyhole and leave sweets for the good children and switches for the parents of bad children.  Depending upon their condition and rarity, figurines from the late 1800s to early 1900s can be worth a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars each.


Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 3.10.43 PMIf you don’t happen to have any belsnickles in the attic, perhaps you may have some nutcrackers. They come in all shapes and sizes, from a few inches in height to life-sized versions. Some of the most collectible nutcrackers are made by the Steinbach Company of Germany, which has produced nutcrackers and other wooden products for nearly 200 years and spanning seven generations of family. If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage nutcracker signed by Christian Steinbach (who led the company to its current prominence), they’ve sold for up to $3,000 apiece recently.


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Finally, we turn to tree trimmings. There are all sorts of interesting items that adorn Christmas trees, such as garland, lights, and ornaments. While most of the value from these ornaments is sentimental (anything I made when I was in elementary school is now priceless, according to my Mom…) some ornaments have become quite valuable in a short amount time.  Swarovski started a series of annual Christmas ornaments in 1991. Their crystal stars were sold for about $50 each, which is no small sum for a single ornament. Since that time however, those ornaments have appreciated in value tremendously and can sell for $1500 or more, an increase in value of nearly 2900%.


Perhaps this holiday season, you’ll give some thought to the gifts on the tree and not just under it. They might just turn out to be the best gifts from Aunt Mary and Uncle Ned yet!


The original article can be found in the December 2012 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: http://www.southernneighbor.com/upload/Dec12web.pdf

What’s It Worth? – November 2012

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From time to time, clients will provide unusual items that most people (including myself) are unfamiliar with. They’re usually from a bygone era and have either gone out of style or were made specifically for a niche group of users. These are the items that I call “curios” and are one of my favorite categories to sell, as I enjoy learning about the items and the people that used them.

For example, when you think of calculators, what comes to mind? Most people nowadays probably use their phones for everyday calculations. Basic calculators exist as far back as 2000 B.C. when the abacus was invented. The first mechanical calculator was invented in 1642 by Blaise Pascal and was called a Pascaline. It could perform basic arithmetic functions such as addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.

A few months back, a client pulled a weathered piece of metal with several rotary dials from a cracked leather case.  It turned out to be a Quixsum Adding Machine from the 1920s, originally used to add different lengths together and probably used by architects and others in the building trade. Although it was not in the best of shape and was missing the original stylus, it still proved to be a desirable collectible, selling for $577 to a buyer in China.

Another item that originally perplexed me was a small box that contained a heavy piece of pointed brass with a cap.  Although it looked a lot like a plumb bob (which is used to ensure constructions are vertical), some online sleuthing revealed that it was actually an antique oil lamp used by miners. Not finding much previous sales information on our “Plummet Lamp”, we decided to take our chances and list it for sale anyhow. Nine different bidders pushed the low starting price to $738 by the end of the week!

More recently, a client showed me an ornate, silver-plate cherub riding a hummingbird chariot with a blue flower-shaped glass insert. What could probably be mistaken for an unusual potpourri or soap caddy was actually a Victorian-era card receiver from the late 1800s. At the time, it was customary for people to visit friends, family, and neighbors and leave their “calling card”, which may have contained initials, art, or even poetry. This particular receiver had the dual function to hold cards and serve as a small bud vase. While most silver-plate receivers are valued between $100-$300, this particular one exceeded all expectations and sold for $1000.

So next time that you come across something old and unusual that you haven’t seen before, spend a little time researching your “curio”. You’re guaranteed to learn something new and you might be pleasantly surprised by what it may be worth!


The original article can be found in the November 2012 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: http://www.southernneighbor.com/issues.html

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