How Much Is Your Stuff Worth Anyway?

How Much Is Your Stuff Worth Anyway?

If there is one question I hear from clients more than any other it’s “is this worth anything?” Whether it is due to the state of the economy, or the popularity of Antiques Roadshow, or any other number of reasons, people want to know if there is value to the items they own. It’s a valid question, but typically the answer is not much.

I started my career in the Fine Arts Industry after graduating college. I worked for major auction houses and galleries in New York, London, and Los Angeles. It was my business to know the value of fine art photography, including the primary market (or retail) and secondary market (or auction) values. The number one thing I learned: art is a fickle mistress; it’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it on any given day. This is true for most categories – not just art.

So how do you determine if something you own is worth anything? There are a few things you can do:

1 – The first step would be to search the internet for other similar items. Check Craigslist, eBay, TheRealReal, Chairish, or 1stDibs. If you find there is value, you can sell through the site, which will take a portion of the proceeds for their commission.

2 – Consult with a certified appraiser. A generalist or specialist appraiser can usually let you know based on photos and a brief description if your items have value. They also have connections to venues where you can sell your items. Alternatively, they can provide a formal appraisal for insurance purposes if you decide against selling your items.

3 – If you live near a city with an auction house, see if they have a free appraisal day and take your items in to see a specialist. They will give you a verbal appraisal and let you know if they are able to sell the items. Alternatively, you can email the auction houses with information/photographs of your items asking if they can sell them, and if not, can they provide you with suggestions.

4 – A last option would be to check with a local consignment store or pawnshop. They might be able sell the items for you, or have other recommendations. Use Yelp to see if there are any of these stores in your immediate area.

Don’t get discouraged. Most of us do not have high value items lying around that we are unaware of. Although there were a few times people would bring an item to the auction house that they picked up at a garage sale or charity shop, which ended up being worth a lot of money. It’s rare, but it does happen!

The best thing to do is make it a priority to find out the value and salability of the item. If there is, consign or sell it. If not, determine its value to you and/or your family. If you decide not to keep it, let it go to live a new life with someone else. Remember, the key is to live with less.

Lauren Mang
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