Dealing With Doubting Appraisal Customers and Sellers

Along with constant requests for them to purchase items, antique dealers must also deal with requests for valuations, appraisals and estimates from customers seeking to gauge their possessions’ values. The value given on personal belongings and antiques by a dealer or appraiser is almost always lower than the value expected…just watch any episode of Pawn Stars or American Pickers.

For years the Antiques Roadshow experience is what most people think they are going to experience when they have their items appraised – you know, the valuation of their grandma’s ring for $200,000, that sort of thing. When in reality, for every item featured on the show, there are dozens of people standing in line in the background holding stuff that isn’t worth anything. Harry Rinker recently wrote and article for Worthpoint about how to respond to disappointed people after an appraisal or price is given and how to answer their “But it’s _____?” questions.

We agree completely with Rinker’s entire article, it’s pretty much right on the money about how people react to appraisals of their items. One thing that he did not touch on, however, was the “But_____” question that we often hear, which is “But you have one like this and you’re charging X dollars?” This question mostly applies when a customer wants to sell an item and the dealer gives them a price – though it can apply during a straight out appraisal as well.

The first thing that people need to understand is that antique dealers might have one of something, or they might have a dozen, but real dealers who are buying and selling for their livelihood would rather have zero of them (ie. they’d rather have the money than the item) in most cases. Having an item on a website or in a store means one thing – that it hasn’t sold yet. Could be that the right person just hasn’t seen it yet, could be priced too high, could be that it has little collector appeal, could be condition issues, or the combination of all those things.

I particularly like the way Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars handles this situation. He tells the seller bluntly that their item is a tough sell and might require a lot of man hours to accomplish the sale. He sometimes also references the enormous overhead costs associated with offering an item for sale (store, utilities, wages, etc.). If every item that a dealer purchased could be sold the next day for a two dollar profit, they would certainly give you two bucks under what they would charge and just buy thousands of items each week…but that isn’t how it works.

Even some items priced at a fraction of book value might sit in a stores online or store inventory for years. As a seller, you must also take into account that dealer, online or otherwise, may have sales from time to time. Just because an antique is marked at $100 doesn’t mean that the dealer wouldn’t gladly take $75 for it. In fact, if dealers could instantly sell their entire inventory for 75% of the sticker price, most would be able to retire wealthy and many would do so immediately.

Another thing to consider when the dealer has a similar item for sale, yet offers a considerably lower price is that maybe the item in question isn’t really intended for sale. Some items are worth more for their conversation or novelty value in a store, or even for boosting traffic to an online site. Sometimes a price reflects the “right price” level (everything’s for sale if the price is right). A dealer might not be willing to sell a specific rare item for say under $1000 because it’s a nice display piece outside their store, but if they could pick another one up for a few hundred, they would be willing to sell the duplicate for well under $1000.

The thing to keep in mind if a dealer already has a specific item in stock is that the dealer has not yet sold the one he has for his asking price, this fact will likely lower the dealer’s offer. So contacting a website that has the exact item might not actually be the best approach for you to get your top dollar when selling an antique, you might do better by contacting a site or store that doesn’t have one.