What’s It Worth?

by John Werry on December 5, 2010

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Antique Value

Having a blog that is well entrenched into the Google search results leads a lot of new site visitors here that send me photos of their items asking, “what is the value of this antique?”  The problem is, it depends where they would be selling it, when they’d be selling it (the luck factor of who is in the market at the time), and how long they’d be willing to wait for their price.  All you need is two bidders to show up to the party that REALLY want the item to make the price $1,000 instead of $300.  The ebonized, Aesthetic cabinet above is a case-in-point.  It has been on Ebay for a week and has seen 32 bids – 22 are from the same 2 bidders.

Had the second rabid bidder not shown up to the party, the other top bidder would have possibly scored the cabinet for only $300 (the bid just above the third highest bidder).  However, due to the presence of two parties that REALLY want it, it has been bid up to $1,000 as of this writing.  They have been battling it out for 4 days and with four hours left, I am betting that the battle will continue.

This just goes to show you that putting a price on a piece of history is subjective and can be way off (above or below) the actual selling price because who knows who will show up to the party.  This is also why valuing items with a range based on historical results is much more realistic than throwing out a single number.  So many of the people that ask me what something is worth tell me that “so-and-so valued it at $10,000 five years ago”.  Is that an auction estimate?  Retail estimate?  Insurance estimate?  They don’t say.  The other variable in providing value estimates is shelf-life.  A valuation from five years ago isn’t necessarily accurate to what it would be worth today.

Anyway, back to the cabinet at-hand – which by the way, a Kimbel and Cabus attribution is being given on this item by the seller.  I think it is  a great example of the problem with providing antique values.  You never know…

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John Werry December 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

Sold for $2,753.00

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Michael January 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Hello John, and everyone else.
I think your web site is awesome. Would you or anyone happen to recall the ebay buyers “screen name” on that ebay winning auction page for this piece?
Thanks ;-)

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John Werry January 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

That information is shielded by eBay, so we will never (and did never) know.

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michael January 24, 2011 at 11:59 am

Hello John and everyone: Thanks for the reply John. I am a regular ebay user so I am versed with ebay in general. OK, I’d like to re-ask the question. If I was to note the buyer of an item because I had either placed the item in my ebay watch list or I had bid on the item myself…then I would see the contact link of the buyer. The buyer is shielded( only the buyers screen name is visible), though I would be able to e-mail the buyer with an email through the “contact member” link to ask the seller/buyer (ebay MEMBER) a question. I have bought many times on ebay though I have never bought furniture yet on ebay. :-)
So, please–would any one happen to know?
Thanks

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P666 February 6, 2011 at 1:54 am

Why do you need the buyers contact info?

Vintrest-John S. December 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

Went for over $2,700, so someone thought it was a pretty good piece. It is certainly in line with prices for similar pieces and the buyer probably knows more about the maker and/or provenance. I really liked the piece myself.

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james conrad December 6, 2010 at 11:21 am

It went for $2753, i have no idea if thats more than the cabinet is worth or not however, it was worth that to the winning bidder. This sort of thing happens at auction when 2 or more bidders are determined to “own” the same object no matter what the cost is.

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John Werry December 6, 2010 at 11:27 am

Some new bidders came into the party in the end and took it away from the two battlers.

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james conrad December 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

LOL, kinda reminds me of an early american carved box i bid on a couple weeks ago. The box had an auction estimate of 1-2k, i figured how can i lose if I bid a maximum of $3500? I wasnt even in the ball park, box went for $8400.

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TheMortonMagician December 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm

What a completely bizarre piece – is that really a bat with wings spread carved into the left door, with an owl on the right? Plays right into the Addams Family/horror movie caricature of Victorian aesthetics. After seeing this piece, maybe it’s not such a caricature after all. That said, I probably would have put in a few bids if i was online at the time. It’s cool for someone with odd taste like many of us, but maybe not quite $2,800 cool.

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John Werry December 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Yep, bat and owl. Certainly a new one for me.

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