How to sell your antiques and collectables?

selling antiques and collectables
selling antiques and collectables

So, you have made a collection, found some amazing bargains and, suddenly, you lust for cash. How do you go about selling up?

auction house
auction house

Traditional Auction House

There are several factors you will need to measure before handing over your valuables and collections to an auction house. First off all you will need to do some research and shop around to find the best auction house for you items, especially if your collection is something special. Remember a special item must be handled by a specialist. It is possible that XYZ auction house has a wonderful expert in Japanese sword fittings but the painting by John Atkins Grimshaw should be sold by the ABC auction house because their Victorian Paintings Department is better. If you are unsure about a collection or item and you think it is valuable then you should consider consulting an art and antiques agent who will give you independent advice and will let you know the best route to take or which auction house is the best for your collection.

You also need to consider auction house costs. This is crucial when you make a decision to take your items to an auction house. Some auctioneer will charge much as 25% to the vendor and a buyer’s premium to each purchaser, which can be much as 20%. If you add up these two costs then you will realise you can lose as much as 45% of the value of your goods in commissions alone and then add to this cost is VAT on commissions. Not all auction houses charges vendor 25% but the buyer’s premium never changes. The best thing to do is first find out all the cost involved by calling the auction house you select or see their up to date auction catalogues for information. Most auction house these days will also have websites with all the relevant information but make sure all the information on their website is up to date.

If your item is very valuable then you will also get stuck with insurance, at another 1-2% plus VAT. There may also be addition costs for illustration in catalogues and delivery charge if you can’t take the item to the auction house and the auctioneer does not provide free pickup service.

Before taking your antiques and collectable to an auction house, always be sure where you stand with charges and auction costs and make sure you are at the right place with your precious and valuable items.

online auction
online auction
ebay auction
ebay auction

Selling on the internet

There is undeniable proof that local people and people all over the world are looking for antiques on the internet and even though tradition auctioneers such as Sotheby’s failed to dominate online auction world and ceased their online auction site in 2003, site such as eBay auction proved to be successful. EBay founded by Pierre Omidyar and his wife in September 1995 as a route for collectors to source and trade their collectables inexpensively; it has remained loyal to that deal. The collectable and antiques category on eBay’s website turns over $1.1 billion each year, with 85 million worldwide users.

Off course eBay is not the only place on the internet to sell your antiques, there are other specialist auction sites for antiques and collectables and many established dealers are selling their items on their own websites and store front.

Selling on the internet is pretty easy and most of the job is done by you. If you are selling your items on auction sites like eBay, all you have to do is register your details on the site, take few pictures with your digital camera, upload the pictures on to the site and describe and list your item on the antiques and collectable categories. Most auction site will guide you and make this process simple for you, so don’t worry if you have not sold any items previously. All you have to do is look on the help section of the auction website.

Remember like traditional auction, selling on online auction will also cost you money but the costs and charges are slightly different. A simple ad in one category with couple of pictures will cost you less than a pound to list and if the item sells then there is a final selling commission to pay for. Some auction sites will allow you to list for free and then charge you a higher commission if the item sells. Please note different auction sites operate in different ways and their pricing structures are different. It is very important that you check on each site before listing any items on there. You will also need to consider other charges such as postage and PayPal fee if you are taking payment via PayPal online payment processor.

Point to note also, collectable as a category experience a small incidence of reported fraud – just one in 10,000. So take extra precaution when selling your valuables on auction sites.

Some eBay facts:

- In the antique category on an Oriental item sells every 15 minutes.

- A model train sells every 2 minutes

- A map listed in the Book and Manuscripts category sells every 25 minutes

- An item in the twentieth-century category sells every 11 minutes

- A Clock sells every 18 minutes

If you have your own website to sell your antiques and collectable then you will need to consider the cost of designing and updating your website, you domain cost, your website host cost and merchant account cost if you are using an online payment processor to take payments.

The potential for selling antiques on the internet is huge and this is just begun to be tapped. Traditional auctioneers will also benefit by switching to the internet as they will have wider audience and be able to illustrate their catalogues more professionally via multiple images and online video.

antique dealer
antique dealer

Selling Directly to a Dealer

If you have some good contact with several antiques dealers then this may be a quick way to sell your item and make a quick profit. Sometime people think selling at auction house is better because they will promote your item better and they are well established and they stay away from dealers. But one good advantage you may get from a dealer is that it saves your auction costs and they may be keen on your item and may pay more than what you will get on an auction or online auction. If the dealer likes your item, he or she will try everything to get hold of the item, even pay more.

With dealers, it is typically a local transaction and your market is within the surrounding area of where you live.

Antique dealers know their business, and can instantly recognize the quality of your product. They can tell you how much you should expect for a certain item, and may even have a particular buyer in mind. Using an antique dealer allows you to get the best possible price for your items and they help you to sell your item fast. When selling to dealer all you have to do is be careful and find out the market value of the item before going to them to make a deal. A dealer belonging to a reputable trade association will pay a decent price for fresh to the market, privately sourced goods and remember there is no commission or charges to pay.

antique fair
antique fair

Selling Privately

How many times have you been to a Sunday market or car boot sale and found a bargain, thanks to private owners selling off their valuable collectables at car boots sale and small antiques fair. This option is not for high value collections and antiques as you can’t expect much for your items. You will have to be prepared to take the knocks. Be prepared to be jostled, roundly abused, and even intimidated by folk trying to beat you down on your asking price. Only go with this option if your items are less valuable and you want to clear the items that you are finding difficult to sell.


For information on up-coming Antiques Roadshow events around the UK log on to

Bonham Auction House London (020 7393 3900) with 9 sales rooms throughout the UK.

Christie’s (020 7389 2886)

Sotheby’s (020 7293 5000) you can view their catalogues at

The Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (SOFAA), 01483 225891,

LAPADA (The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, 020 7823 3511,

BADA (The British Antique Dealers’ Association, 020 7589 4128,

EBay auction site, or

Ebid auction site,

Cqout auction site,

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Comments 6 comments

Jein profile image

Jein 5 years ago from UK

Good information!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Voted up! Well written and so helpful. I know people who swear by ebay and have done quite well. My problem with selling is that I love my old stuff way too much, even though I should clear some of it out.

nikki roach 4 years ago

I was going thru my kids books and came across a 1947 curious George book we looked it up and its valued at like 1400-2400 where can I try and sell it?

Angela Crittall 2 years ago

I have some old victorian photos I wish to sell, but don't know how to

olga 2 years ago

thank you! very helpful information

gemma fripp 17 months ago

I have some antiques that i need to sell its 2 vintage wardrobes 1 vintage dressing tablet and 1 vintage glass cabinet where on online can i sell them

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