The day I found Henry the metal head at the doll show.
When Mom and I first started our adventures on buying antiques and collectables it wasn't easy. Mostly we had to learn from being hands on, and learning from other collectors and dealers.
The books at the time were not always easy to find either. We had to go to major antique shows to find a book dealer. Then you had most books with lots of descriptions and very few photos. However at that time many dealers took books like Kovels at face value on price, selling was good because casual buyers were clueless.
With every down side to selling there is an up side as well. Now you are able to reach out to more people. This means you can sell quickly and sometimes for more money in an auction format.
Without the help of the net back then we spent many nights going through dozens of books searching for items we had found that day. We would find a description and say the job was done. But was it? With no pictures I shudder how many times we were wrong.
Along came the internet. Sadly Mom never had a chance to experience it; she would have been on cloud nine. In the last 10 years the net has changed the face of collecting and buying forever.
You have major auction houses that you can bid on at your fingertips! Then the growth of eBay, fantastic for buying, and yes some selling but not always. Those hard to find items were not hard to find anymore. It flooded the market bringing the price down on many things.
Such is life, but what I like to do is research, and today it's easier than ever. Google has changed my life. I was known as the queen of Google on finding just about anything on anything or anyone. I love the hunt even when it was the good ol' days with the books. Now the net helps me with my collecting and my occasional sales in a whole new way.
Experts on line willing to help, completed listings from all the major auction houses that give you a better idea of prices and extremely hard to find items, all this right in your own computer.
If you start a collection I have to tell you the best way to learn is to join a board that is item specific to what you collect. In the long run you don't only want to only know what to have, but what to look for. I would still be floundering had it not been for the Ebay doll boards and my friends there. What I found out the first week was I didn't know a darned thing about dolls! I also found out I will never know everything about every doll.
Follow this recipe and appraise your junk!
Are you a Junker? Or do you just pick things up that look like they might be worth something? If you found something at a yard sale, or just ended up with those passed down items you have no clue about, this is the place to start.
So you have an item and you either want to know what it is or where to start? My formula usually works.
First I type in short description into Google. Sometimes you are lucky and the right site pops up right away. When it doesn't I change the description but most times I hit images at the top left corner of Google. What is easier than seeing a picture of the very thing you are looking for? You can follow the site by clicking on the picture, then X out the picture to see the site when it loads.
Remember when you Google you are looking for "key words" If I am looking for a black haired doll marked p-90 (Toni doll) with a plaid dress, and red shoes, I can't type all that in and have it work. Start short but sweet. First start with "doll p-90", Google will come up with the doll. Then type in black hair, Toni doll original clothes. Nothing worth doing is worth doing half arse. It may take time so be patient!
You may have to change your key words several times to find the item. Most times it will come up, remember to check images when searching.
If I find the item, what I'm hoping for is a name. Once you find out what you have it's easier to find out what it's worth. Going through images helps you to find the right key words to continue your search. Many times people ask on boards what they have, but don't do their own research. This I don't get because more times than not its right at your fingertips! That is not to say that searches do come up empty because they do. So we continue.
What if you still can't find your item? Did you look to see if the item is marked? For example you have a doll that is marked on the back of her head p-90. The first thing I would do is Google "doll, p-90"..Bam! There it is!
Now you are frustrated because you still can't find the item? One source that is over looked is the eBay discussion forums under "community" Go to the category specific boards. Here you can find people that collect about anything. First sign up for eBay if you haven't already. It doesn't cost anything and being an eBay member does not mean you have to buy or sell.
Now you find yourself an image hosting web site. I use photobucket. It's free and you can store gazillion images here. You need an image host to post pictures on the eBay boards, and most ezboards out there.
Why do you need to post pictures? It's like asking someone where the exit is when the lights are out, you have no direction. Your description of the item might sound like dozens or even hundreds of items, they can't help you without a picture. So be ready to give them direction.
Still can't find it? I have links to other discussion boards, Collectors weekly is a great source. Or ask an expert! Google the item with the word collector, or expert, or identify (item) When you find someone that knows or collects item's like yours email them. Hey, all they can do is say no, or not answer you. It’s not like you'll run into them any time soon right? Take a chance!! I have found most collectors are more than happy to help out. Just remember this. Only ask them when all else fails. You might really need this expert later on, pick your battles. If you email this stranger 20 times about 20 items they are going to get ticked at you for not trying to do this on your own. They are doing you a favor remember that!
For some items that are so old they can't even be called antiques don't over look your local college or museum, or even not local remember you can find anyone on Google. Really old pottery, or artifacts should be identified by a real expert. If they can not help you they will find someone who can.
I don't ask them for how much it's worth. Antiques and collectables are like the stock market, what its worth goes up and down. My main goal is to tell me what I have, who made it, what year. It's like asking for a free appraisal and not very polite therefore they may not answer you. Most times they will give you some idea what its worth, if not we move on.
So now you know what you have or a good idea anyway. This is when I go back to eBay. I search for my item on there in auctions. It's a good way to get a better idea of what you have, but I want to know what its worth!!
I'm here to tell you books are great for finding out what you have, but not how much it's worth. The prices are usually inflated and change too often for it to be accurate. This isn't to say don't buy books!! I have a large library of books, these are for identification only however. Most of the battle is knowing what you have. So even old books with good pictures never lose their value in the hunt for the perfect treasure.
So I know what it is, who made it and I'm on eBay. In your search box do not hit “Include description" go to the left column, find "completed listings" and hit it. If you include description, completed listings do not work. Myself I change my search to highest price. If this item has sub categories you could be searching forever. (If you are not an eBay member "completed listings" will not work for you.)
There is your item and what it sold for! Remember condition can bring the price up or down. I have also found if you want to sell it at a flea market or antique store you can sometimes go slightly higher price. People do include shipping in the cost of what they are buying, and some people don't like to buy things they cannot touch. This makes the flea market and antique shops never in danger of extinction. And some markets just do not do well on eBay.
For one: Many collectors will not buy coins on line. It's too easy to end up with a fake. With items like paper money, coins, autographs, rare gems, you are better off to find an expert and ask them. You will be low balled on eBay, and rarely get the price when selling on there, unless you are have high and positive feedback. Even then some collectors will pass.
Do you have an old autograph coin, paper money? Go to Heritage auctions. They will answer your questions and even sell them for you if they are what they are looking for.
If you are starting to collect something you need to learn as much as you can about it. If you don't you are either going to pick up junk, pay too much, or pass over something you should have picked up! Check on line for local shows. They have shows for about anything, pottery, dolls, glassware you name it. Even if you have no money go and look around. Don't be afraid to ask questions. A dealer loves to show how much they know, trust me.
Buy books!! It doesn't matter how old they are if they have pictures to go with most items. Finding out what you have is most of the battle.
Go to eBay and search your collectable on there. You can put items on a watch list to see how high it goes. Don't just do this with what you have but anything you want to know more about. Search the completed listings to see what is selling high, and why it is selling high. Pay attention to marks. As you do all this start a journal. I have a small journal I can take with me as I go to yard sales or flea markets.
Another great tool you may have is your phone. Take pictures of things you want to know more about. If you have the net on your phone you can check for it on line! Practice looking for items and in no time you can do this quickly.
You are not going to become an expert over night but you have to start somewhere. It may take you years to know half of what you need to know. In the meantime it's worth it. You meet great people, you are learning, and while you learn you find fun stuff.
If and when you make up your mind to try to be an expert, do it with something you really love. I have learned so much about stuff because i had to, and it's tedious and boring, sometimes even frustrating. Passion is what drives a collector. Sadly I love way too many things. This is why I call myself a Junker.
Does this help? Do you have a question? Go to the forum.
First off you should have at least tried to find your item before going to a board or forum. It is your stuff after all! Second you should have already taken a good, clear picture and be prepared to post it. This might mean having an image hosting site. Pictures should include any marks or stickers, anything unusual about the item.
First you should understand board etiquette. I know some people don't type much but..using all caps is considered rude, it's like yelling in the computer world. If you don't want to waste your time typing correctly keep everything in small case letters. This way at least you are not screaming at people!
If you go to an on line board, or forum read the rules before you begin. Most boards do not want you to use their space to sell your junk. Time and time again I see this and regulars really hate this lack of decorum. You not only will not get an answer, but your post will be deleted.
It's common sense people! Always remember you are a GUEST on these sites, follow the rules!
You should prepare yourself to not get the answer you want. Not everything is going to make you rich. I cannot tell you how many times we've seen people say "This belonged to my grandmother when she was little." I know you might have been told that, but it isn't always true. Sometimes the junk in your Grandmother attic is just junk, sorry.
We have also had the displeasure of having people being darn right rude when they don't hear what they want. Well guess what? Having a hissy fit and showing your butt does not make that thing worth more! You can not really think those people care if a person makes a fool of themselves on the net do you? So take a breath!
If you are unhappy with the answer don't be a putz. Say thank you and maybe someone else will give you a better answer. If they don't give you the answer you want go to another place to get a second opinion. Either you will get a good answer, or you will have to face the facts.
Always come back when your post has been answered to say thank you. Didn't your mother teach you anything? You have been helped, say thanks or be prepared to be ignored the next time you come to ask.
Last but not least I will repeat this.. NEVER come back to a post after you find out about your item to say it's for sale or give an eBay auction number. It's rude; it's ungrateful and makes you look like a pig. Not only is it just bad form on all levels your post on most places will be deleted. A forum or board is not your own personal craigslist so get a clue!!
Yeah I know I'm too direct and to the point, but what have you learned?
My Name is Lynda and I'm a junker