How to sell antiques and collectibles

How to Sell Your Antiques and Collectibles

This is a question I get asked quite often; how to sell antiques and collectibles. It is also a question for which there is no easy answer.

The first thing that you need to do is assess what you have to sell. What category or genre do your items fall in to.

  • Antiques are items that are at least 100 years old.
  • Primitives are in the antique category but the style is what defines it. Primitives are usually handcrafted for everyday utilitarian use but you do find small toys, dolls and decorative items that fall in to this category.
  • Collectibles are items that were produced in large quantity for the collectible market.
  • Retro can be any item made from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  • Mid-Century refers to wares from 1950.

Once you make the above determination you then look at condition. On old items we expect to see some signs of wear and use but if the item is tattered and torn this could lower the value and in some instances make it not worth messing with at all.

You need to consider the geographic location in which you will be selling your antiques and collectibles. If you rent booth space in an antique mall off the beaten track you will not be able to sell for as much as someone renting booth space in a large metropolitan area.

The same goes for selling your items in a garage sale versus an estate sale. If I go to an estate sale I expect to pay a little more than a garage sale but I don’t expect to see antique shop prices on items. I don’t care if you do have printouts from eBay auctions on every item.

This brings me to online auctions sites. When it comes to selling in any auction if you don’t have at least two people who are wanting the same item at the same time chances are very good that the item will not sell for the price you expected. You have to be very realistic when pricing items for an online auction. Unless you have something that is extraordinary it is very easy to over price and not get any bids. The best thing to do is look at closed auctions and see what the same or similar item has sold for in the past. Once again you need more than one person who wants what you are selling.

If you have quite a few items to sell and the desire to sell on a regular basis my recommendation is sell through a site such as or build your own website. This gives you a worldwide customer base.

The most important thing you can do is research what you have to sell. There are some good websites with valuable information but the library is still the best tool especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on reference books.

I would love your feedback on the above information.



Written by Michelle Staley

Michelle Staley has over 35 years of experience as an antique collector, picker and dealer. She has done hundreds of insurance and IRS appraisals in addition to just satisfying another collector or dealer’s curiosity concerning what an item is, does or its worth. Other experience includes her work as a forensics consultant and in archeological identification and dating.

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  1. hi Michelle , I got myself in way over my head offering a elderly friend who wife passed away to help him sell her large collection of vintage porcelain. I am doing hours research and losing my mind for instance I have a adorable trinket box oval 3×5 with fat cherubs in 3 D all around and on the lid the bottom only see Italy 740/217 I had thought capodimonte but can’t find anything with the same markings . Then I have a royal Worcester by the markings I think it’s from 1896 but it also has what look like H H and numbers 403 . I could go on but I really need to know how to research the stamps . I have a two handle jug or pitcher with long neck and flowers that has. Vienna Austria with a W and a J and C on each side in cursive red crown and the letter a under Vienna can’t find anything Help

    • Michelle Staley

      Hi Sandi,

      It can be a very daunting task researching marks. I am a big proponent of using reference books instead of relying on the Internet for information. I have some information on my old website – Porcleain Marks and Information all of the information on my site has been verified by several sources so I know it is accurate, the same cannot be said for most websites.

      If you have quite a few items I suggest purchasing a Kovel’s book of marks as it covers marks from all over the world. Most libraries have this book but you cannot take it home with you. I believe that you can register free of charge to view information on their website but I don’t think that viewing backstamps is free. Heck it is worth a shot.

      Here are a few site I can recommend – covers many German and Austrian marks and has links to good refrence sources. has Staffordshire England pottery marks and is a trustworthy source.

      Royal Worcester is one that you have to be careful with because there are many imitations of the backstamp here is some basic information With pieces such as this you have to look also look at the type of clay used, the weight and feel. The HH would be the artist and the numbers would be the style number but a piece this old should also have a registry # or RN.

      As for Capodimonte, I really need to write an article on this, those of us in the trade would refer to what you have as “in the style of” since there is no mention of Capodimonte, the crowned N or other indicators. It is a very confusing area to research and true pieces from the 1700s are hard to come by.

      The best tools are good reference books. There is nothing wrong with sitting on the floor at the bookstore and browsing books. If you have a Half Priced Books store nearby you can get excellent books at a great price.

      Good luck in your venture,

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