Why can’t I determine value on the internet?

Q:  You make it sound complicated to establish value of my heirlooms.  Why can’t I just look at the internet and find the value myself?  Surely there’s plenty of stuff for sale on Ebay that I can find a similar item and see what they are asking for that item.

A:  The arrival of the 21st century has enabled us to find 90% of what we are searching for on the internet.  What a great tool — but with greatness also comes weakness.  What a double-edged sword.  If used correctly, you can find the answers.  If used incorrectly, it can truly mislead you, or cause permanent damage to one’s reputation. 

I read numerous articles, newsletters, and blogs; I see so many wanting to research what their possessions are worth. 

There are multiple factors involved in assigning a value to a particular item, not limited to the following:  marketability, condition, collectability, age, rarity, provenance, materials used, handmade vs. factory made, etc.  Age alone is not the only important characteristic, for all that is old is not necessarily valuable.  Original condition is a very important factor, as is rarity. 

One problem is everyone seems to believe they have something hard-to-find or rare, based on family stories told over years.  Families are often disappointed to learn that the old bench great-grandfather made in 1857 is just an old bench and has more sentimental value than monetary value.

People have a tendency to jump onto Ebay, which is not always a good thing.  While Ebay is a huge site with a broad variety of items, the market is currently down and often cyclical.  There are better times of year than others to sell on Ebay.  It’s also important to compare apples with other apples, and not an item that just looks like grandma’s old figurine.  You must first have an accurate description of the item, then you can begin your search.

Remember too, the cardinal rule: If you go searching on the internet, make sure you accurately find the price the item sold for, and not just the asking price.  Many times people say, “Julie, you only appraised this item for $200 and I see it on the internet for $675.  Why is your appraisal so different?”  My research in comparables accurately depicts what it sold for.  Anyone can ask any price they wish.  Go on Ebay and you will see some pretty ridiculous asking prices!  But note, the items have not sold for these prices.

It is important to also remember to search multiple search engines, as well as different values: not just Ebay, but online auctions, in-person auctions, estate sales, etc.  Find the fairest comparables you can.  Keep in mind that professional appraisers have extensive training and knowledge in research, writing, and databases, which the average person does not have.  When in doubt, please hire a professional appraiser to offer you the knowledge you need to make good, sound decisions about your personal property.

© 2011, The Estate Lady

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