Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

Using Antique Price Guides

A search on Amazon for "antiques price guides" brings up 35,000 books. Obviously, price guides are popular.

In this article, you will learn how to use a price guide, and some common mistakes made by users. You will also learn how to access the reliability of a price guide.

How Price Guides Determine Value

First lets talk about how price guides come up with the values inside them. There are three ways prices get into guide books:

  1. Prices are taken from auction results.
  2. Guide prices are observed at shows, stores, and within advertisements.
  3. Prices are gathered by surveying dealers
  4. .

Most antiques price guides are compiled using a combination of the three methods listed above. Using a combination and averaging the results is the only way to get reliable information.

Any antique guide that features only prices taken from auction results will give exaggerated prices. This is because auction prices are usually a bit higher due to bidders getting excited and over bidding.

Observed prices are not a good indicator of value either. If something is sitting on a table at a well attended show it is priced at or above the actual value. Anything priced significantly below its value will sell during the show set up. Any desirable antique priced at or slightly below its value should sell at a well attended show. Therefore, anything left over is either over-priced or undesirable. Or both.

All good quality antiques price guides should contain a statement within the introduction outlining how the values are determined. If a price guide doesn't tell you how the prices are determined, do not place a lot of value on the prices.

Another way to tell if an antique price guide contains real prices is to compare the values given for different conditions. Many guides contain two or more prices for each item. For example a "Like New" value and a "Very Good" value. If these prices are mathematically derived, the guide should be suspect. In other words, if the "Very Good" value is always 60 percent of the "Like New" value it's suspect.

This is because the values of rarer items usually have smaller spreads between conditions than more common items. Said another way, common items will have bigger price spreads based on condition. This is because lower grade common items are easy to find, and collectors will pay a premium for really nice examples.

Common Antiques Price Guide Mistakes

  • You are always better using a specialized guide than a generic guide. For example a price guide listing all pottery made in the US will not be as accurate as a book listing only Fiesta dishes.
  • Guides must have depth. There are a large number of small "pocket price guides" on the market. Most of these do not list variations. If you are researching prices on a collectible where variation affect the value, you must use a guide that lists these variations. I once bought a $1500 item for my collection from a dealer for $125 because the dealer was too cheap to buy a detailed price guide.
  • Some yearly guides are updated by changing the values mathematically. These lazy publishers just multiply every price in the guide by 1.05 or some other number to get the new prices. In any category of collectibles, values do not change based on interest rates or other economic indicators. Values change based only on supply and demand. See researching antique values for more information.
  • Many inexperienced price guide users concentrate on the higher prices. Remember, price is dependent on condition. Reading only the highest price is misleading.
  • Forgetting they are price guides. Many antiques and collectibles dealers seem to forget the guides are only guides and base all their pricing on them. Price guides are only one component of researching items. You must have a knowledge base to draw on in addition to the guides.
Remember, price guides can be a valuable resource, but are only guides. Get a high quality recently updated guide and use it to guide you to the value of an item.

PS. See also Antiques Appraisal Advice.

"The IWantCollectibles Guide to Ebay Sales"
is now available for immediate download.

Many of the articles and free reports here on IWantCollectibles were originally sent to readers of my Antiques and eBay Newsletter. Not all articles make it onto the website, and readers also get notices of free reports and special offers.

Ted at his desk.

Most Popular Articles on IWantCollectibles
  • Finding Products To Sell On eBay
    How to find products to sell on eBay is the most common question I get from my readers. This page has links to all the articles and reports I've written about finding eBay products.
  • How To Be An Antique Dealer
    The best way to start an antiques or collectibles business. Part 1 of a five part series on being an antiques dealer.
  • Understanding eBay Changes 2011
    This page covers eBay changes and has links to all articles on IWantCollectibles about working within the changes. Sign up for my free newsletter for articles covering new changes as they are announced.
  • Tips for Starting an eBay Consignment Business
    Selling on consignment is the perfect way to start on eBay. This article is an introduction to consignment selling, and explains what you'll need to be successful. First in a series on eBay Consignment.
  • Shopping For eBay Products At Garage Sales
    Thirteen tips for garage sale shopping. Part one of a two part series on garage and yard sales.
  • Finding New Products for eBay
    If you want to sell new products you need to concentrate on items others are not selling. You need to find sources other sellers are unaware of. That is not hard to do. Here's a list of articles to get you started on the right path.
  • eBay Auction Category, Title And Keyword Advice
    A series of articles about getting your items found on eBay. Covers category selection, eBay keyword rules, and researching keywords. Finally you'll learn how to write an informative, keyword rich title.

The IWantCollectibles Guide to Ebay Sales
is now available for immediate download.

Free Antiques and eBay Newsletter
Get 9 Free eBay Ebooks
Free emailed newsletter includes free ebooks, interviews with eBay sellers, and helpful articles. You can unsubscribe at any time.

More Newsletter Information

eBay Questions and Answers

About .

Contact Terry

Free eBay Ebooks

eBay Advice

Antiques Advice

Antiques and eBay Reports

Antiques Articles

How To Sell Antiques On eBay

Learning Antiques Values

How To Be An Antique Dealer

A Few Quick Buying Stories

Resources For Buying On Craigslist

Search Craigslist Across Cities and Categories

How To Sell Antiques

How To Learn About Antiques

How To Act At Antiques Shows

Selling At Antique Shows Versus On eBay

7 Habits Of Successful Antiques Dealers

Tools of A Successful Antiques Dealer

Finding eBay Keywords For Antiques

"Storage Wars" and Mini Storage Auction Tips

Should You Be Selling With Fullfillment By Amazon Too?

Sorting Antiques To Sell Them

Avoiding Common Mistakes Made By Collectors And Dealers

Are You An Expert On Collectibles?

27 Ways To Find Antiques To Sell On eBay

Buying Antiques At Garage Sales

Antiques Reports

Finding Profitable Hidden Bargains at Garage Sales

Get Into Estate Sales Early For The Best Deals

Negotiating When Buying Antiques and Collectibles

How To Sell At Antiques Shows And Flea Markets

Buy Collectibles With Terry's Proven Strategies

Learn How To Spot Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries

Start Your Own eBay Consignment Business

Buying Antiques and Collectibles In Stores And Malls

BMO Harris Mortgage Brokers Lie

The Resentful Consumer
© Copyright 2001-2020 Terry Gibbs
IWantCollectibles LLC
IWC LLC PO BOX 842, Mesa, AZ 85211