5 Ways to Add Value to Your Antiques

Antique compasses on pile of money

Getty Images / aydinmutlu

Many antiques are valuable in a sentimental way. Others have value driven by demand in the secondary marketplace. Then you have intrinsic value found in pieces made from precious materials.

Whether you’re planning on selling your antiques or passing them on to future generations, you can actually add even more value to your collectibles in a number of ways.

  • 01 of 05

    Document Provenance

    If you can provide proof that a piece was once owned by someone famous, or was used in a historically significant context, that’s better than simply relaying a rumor and it will definitely add to the value of an antique. And even if your documentation of provenance doesn’t add monetary value to an object, just knowing who a piece belonged to when it’s passed on from generation to generation will be valued by your family.

    Provenance can be documented by:

    • Original receipts showing the purchaser’s name.
    • A photograph of a person wearing or using an object, or of an object in a specific location.
    • Handwritten notes from previous owners or from a gift presentation.
    • Other documented research proving an item’s history.
  • 02 of 05

    Do Some Research

    Part of the fun of hunting down antiques and owning collectibles comes through learning about them. Sometimes uncovering a fact you didn’t previously know can add to the value as well. Suddenly a vase that was nice to look at transforms into a valuable treasure.

    Start your value-adding research by answering these questions:

    Does the piece have a manufacturer or maker’s mark or signature? Be sure not to overlook a mark that might provide valuable clues about the piece's origin. 

    Is there a way to identify an associated pattern or style? Use reference books from your local library, online pattern guides, and even china matching services to learn more about your china, crystal, and silver. Knowing the pattern makes researching the value a lot easier.

    What is the age of the piece? You'll want to know how old an item is if you decide to sell. Knowing whether you have an older original or a newer reproduction will have a major impact on the value of an item, too. 

    Am I sure it’s not a reproductionSome reproductions are worth a good bit of money in their own right, but usually not as much as an older original. If you need to, call in an appraiser to help with this task.

    Can I test it to determine the material and age, and detect repairs? Learning more about testing antiques to find out what they're made of and whether or not they've been altered goes a long way in bolstering value.

  • 03 of 05

    Obtain an Authentication

    Once you’ve done your research and you feel certain you have a very valuable antique or collectible on your hands, having it authenticated by a professional would be a good way to add to its value. This is also the first step in selling at auction, if that's what you decide to do.

    An authentication is a letter or certificate coming from someone considered to be an expert in a given field relating to antiques and collectibles. It states, in their educated opinion, that the piece appears to be genuine. It may also grade the piece in terms of condition, but an authentication will not state an estimation of value. However, having an authentication on hand should you decide to sell will likely help you garner a higher price, especially with a very rare object or an item that has been commonly reproduced.

  • 04 of 05

    Obtain an Appraisal

    Sometimes authentication is done as a part of the appraisal process, but not always. Many appraisers research values on items outside their areas of expertise. Ask what your appraiser will include in their documentation. If you need separate authentication, it’s wise to know this before you begin.

    Also keep in mind there’s a difference between a written appraisal and a verbal estimation of value. Showing a piece to an antique dealer or appraiser and asking them what something is worth is different than a well-researched, documented written appraisal based on past sales records (also known as comparables) rather than an off-the-cuff educated guess. Either type of appraisal, however, might add value to an antique if you have no clue about what it’s worth.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Proper Care and Storage

    Adding value to your antiques and collectibles isn’t only about what you do to care for them, but what you don’t do as well since you don't want to ruin your antiques accidentally. Be sure to learn about the proper way to handle, clean, and restore your precious pieces to retain their value because it varies from antique to antique.