Antiques Selling Guide

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Antiques Selling Guide
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Antiques Selling Guide

Antique collecting is a passion which is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Unquestionably there are buyers out there who may be interested in precisely what an antique seller may have to offer. Redecorating the house? Buyers are looking for all sorts of antique decorative items such as antique pottery and rugs. Cleaning out the attic? Make room by selling those antique trunks, mirrors, and glassware. Whether planning to sell antique furniture, patchwork quilts, or even vintage buttons, it’s easy to earn extra cash by selling these items. Placing a classified ad, holding a garage sale, or listing antique items on eBay is a great way to clear the clutter and make some money.

There are a few simple steps to selling antiques on eBay. Taking the best possible photographs to accompany the informative listing, determining the proper shipping rates, and communicating clearly with the prospective buyers add to the appeal of the product. Selling is simple once the basics are mastered.

Already have an antique to sell?

Cash In on Antiques

Many antique collectors use eBay not only as a place to buy unique antiques, but as a way to fund their growing collections. Whether a seller is saving up for that must-have addition to their collection or needs supplies to finish their latest restoration project, selling on eBay is the perfect way to earn extra money. Swap out unused pieces in the home like that art deco clock in the closet, or that French bureau in the attic, and invest in a new treasure. Or simply bank the money for future use while clearing out unwanted items in the home.

What Is It Worth?

Once you’ve identified the items you want to list and sell, visit the Antiques Discussion Board available through the eBay Communities tab to get tips from seasoned antique sellers. Or search completed listings to see how other sellers have fared recently selling similar items. This information can help set the price and provide insight to what details to include in the listing. There are numerous antique value reference books in the local library, but while these may provide excellent historical details, the prices found searching eBay are likely to be more realistic based on current market and buying conditions.

Find Out What’s Hot in Antiques

Antiques for every room of the house on eBay, from antique salt and pepper shakers for the dining room to antique wall clocks for the office. The following provides just a small sampling of the myriad of antique items which can be readily sold on eBay. To get a real-time view of what is currently in demand, what buyers are presently searching for, and what items are selling, visit eBay’s Antiques Seller Central page.

Popular Antique Categories

Antique Silver

Antique silver from any time period, of any style, or from any maker can be readily sold on eBay. Individual pieces, such as antique silver-plated serving forks, are also popular with buyers. Antique flatware sets, whether sterling, silver plate, or foreign-made, are frequently listed. Silver holloware service items such as bowls, trays, vases, casserole dishes, and tea sets are also popular. Sterling silver is the highest-quality silver, but silver plate is also popular and retains all of the beauty of sterling. American silver that is slightly lower in value than sterling is often referred to as coin silver. Look on the silver for a hallmark, or stamp, which often indicates the standard of silver, origin, and other valuable information.

Antique Ceramics and Porcelain

Porcelain is also known as china, so named for the country of its origin. Chinese porcelain was originally exported to the U.S. in large quantities with patterns of rose medallions, honeycombs, and butterflies. English china was also widely exported by makers such as Spode and Royal Dalton. Blue and white is a popular color scheme for dinnerware and other porcelain; well-known examples are Meissen’s Blue Onion and Royal Copenhagen’s Blue Fluted Lace.

Antique Pottery

The mineral content in clay gives antique pottery its basic color. Some varieties of antique pottery include redware, yellowware, and stoneware. American art pottery was created in large quantities during the mid-19th century and is now widely collected.

Antique Clocks

There are many varieties of antique clocks, including tall case clocks (or grandfather clocks), carriage clocks, mantel clocks, wall clocks, and pocket watches. The case design of clocks generally follows the furniture style of the period. Clocks that are elaborately designed tend to be more highly valued, but austere clocks are also quite popular on eBay.

Antique Metalware

Antique metalwork or metalware comes in many forms ranging from magnificent bronze sculptures to humble pewter utensils. Metals commonly found include bronze, iron, copper, brass, nickel, and pewter. One popular form of metalware being sold today is folk art.

Asian Antiques

Asian antiques can include antique carvings, scrolls, statues, porcelain, and various other art forms; these antiques originate from areas like China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Antique Buddha figures, which can be made of various materials like bronze and wood, are quite popular. Also popular are highly detailed antique jade statues as well as matching antique Cloisonné vase pairs.

Antique Furniture

Whether one has an antique headboard, a Victorian curio cabinet, an old French cupboard, Hitchcock chair, or other antique furniture items, they can sell just about every item on eBay. Period furniture, as opposed to reproductions, was made during the time period when that particular style was new and popular. After furniture manufacturing technology became prevalent, antique reproductions flourished in various styles. Some American furniture styles and periods include the William and Mary period from 1690 through 1725, the Queen Anne period of 1725 through 1750, and Chippendale period of 1750 through 1780. Other popular periods are the Federal period from 1790 through 1815 and the Country and Quaker style period from 1690 through 1900. Some French furniture styles include Louis XIV from 1643 through 1715, the Louis XV period from 1723 through 1774, and Louis Philippe period of 1830-1848. Popular English furniture styles include the Georgian period from 1714 through 1812, Regency from 1812 through 1830, the Victorian period from 1837 through 1901, and the Edwardian period of 1901 through 1910.

Antique Rugs

Many antique rugs are handmade and are truly elaborate works of art. Rugs can have a flat surface, such as a tapestry, or a pile surface. Anything smaller than 9 x 6 feet is considered a rug, while anything larger is referred to as a carpet. Runners refer to long, narrow carpets typically used in hallways or large foyers. Antique rugs are those rugs which are more than 50 years old. Oriental rugs are typically of Chinese or Persian origin. Persian rugs include prayer rugs, urban-made rugs, village rugs, and nomadic rugs. Other rugs include those of Native American origin, and folk rugs.

Other Popular Antiques

Other popular antique categories on eBay include architectural items, books, cabinet cards, ethnographic items, maps and atlases, jewelery, political items such as campaign buttons, tin signs, and textiles. There’s a buyer for just about any item offered.

Get Top Dollar for Those Antiques

After identifying the items to be listed, it’s time to think about how to attract antiques buyers. Some of eBay’s most successful sellers have found that keywords are a great way to attract buyers to a listing, especially when used correctly in the listing title. Listing titles are used by eBay’s search engine to pull up listings during a search. Wisely use the 55 characters allotted by eBay, and try to anticipate what buyers will be searching for. Review what is currently being searched with the list of Popular Categories.. Be sure to include common search terms like "vintage" and "antique" when appropriate. Stating important characteristics of the item such as age, country of origin, style or brand is important to buyers. Search current and completed eBay listings to see what other sellers include in their titles for similar items.

The Listing Description should include both the basic information and details about the item. A good description is concise, well organized, and easy to read. Create bold section headlines, bulleted lists, and be sure to restate the information featured in the title plus additional details such as dimensions and weight, condition, estimated value, repairs or restoration, or other interesting features. Insert photos or links to videos that highlight the unique attributes of the item. Think about the listing from the buyer’s perspective. The more information provided, the more likely the buyer will be to place a bid on that item. Be creative. The key is to pique the buyers’ interest; photos and concise titles are an excellent way to grab their eye immediately.

Abbreviations are commonly used by many sellers to describe their antiques. Make sure to only use a term when it clearly applies to the item. The abbreviation C, or CI, stands for Circa. Circa is used to describe an approximation of a date. COA refers to a Certificate of Authenticity. If an item was produced in limited quantity, it may have been sold with a Certificate of Authenticity stating important information such as artist, production number, production limit, and date. In rugs particularly the abbreviation KPSI (knots per square inch) is valuable information to present if known.

Always Research

Antique guides are available on almost every type of vintage and antique item, and will help to identify key markings for specific items. Porcelain marks and silver hallmarks, for example, can help to reveal information about the origin and maker of an item. Examining an item closely can help to identify details that will give away the age of the item or where it was produced. When looking at antique silver pieces, most American sterling silver is post-1860 and marked "sterling" on the piece. Silver manufactured before industrialization may show signs of being hand-hammered. Also look for initials engraved in a piece which can provide clues as to the date and origin. For example, the style of the lettering might provide hints as to the time period. If selling antique pottery, look for marks stamped, painted, or incised on the bottom or back of the piece which can provide information about the date and country of manufacture. Antique furniture and woodwork styles can give away age; circular saw marks are a sign the furniture was made after 1840. Note if there are any smooth edges produced by a circular saw, which would indicate the piece is of post-industrialized construction, and therefore produced after the 1840s. Look for branding that has been carved, painted, or burned into the wood. When trying to sell a rare antique it may be worthwhile to get the item professionally appraised and authenticated. Authenticating a piece not only provides a good estimate on an expected sale price, but it also builds buyer confidence.

Third-party graders and authenticators are qualified, experienced professionals who pledge to provide unbiased opinions. Bear in mind that opinions expressed by evaluators are theirs alone. eBay does not examine items listed on its site and does not have the expertise to evaluate items. eBay cannot guarantee the findings of any evaluator’s authentication. Grading can be a difficult, often subjective matter, where experts themselves occasionally disagree. Each of the companies listed on eBay’s Opinions, Authentication, and Grading page which provides authentication and/or grading services is an independent company, and eBay is not responsible in any way for any action, inaction, opinion, or service in connection with these companies. Review the credentials of each company before using any company’s services.

Showcase All Antiques with Great Photos

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Photos are the best way to present an item to potential buyers. Some tips on how to best represent an item include choosing the right background for the photo. By placing an item on a solid black or white backdrop it will draw a buyer’s attention immediately to the item. This is easily achieved by hanging a bed sheet or placing poster board behind and under the item. Most importantly, avoid background clutter that can distract buyers or confuse them regarding what is actually being offered. Take pictures from multiple angles and distances, zooming in on important details. Make sure to highlight any signatures, branding, dates, frame or painting style with a close-up picture. Zoom in to show textures, and include photos of any flaws, tears, or marks to give buyers a clear idea about the condition of the piece. This helps build a buyer’s confidence in the item as well as the seller.

It is always best to use natural light, as it tends to give the best representation of the item. Direct sunlight can have the undesired effect of casting shadows, so it is best to use an area that receives indirect sunlight. Try taking the item outside on a sunny day and photograph it in a shady area. If there isn’t an area which is suitable, or if indoor lighting is preferable, try surrounding the item with adequate lighting such as a desk, overhead, or floor lamp. Above all, avoid using the camera’s flash which causes distortion and shadows. Consider adding a gallery photo to the listing as this will attract attention to the item with a photo next to the listings in the search results. In addition, when a buyer uses the picture gallery to look at search results, the listing will be shown. The gallery picture should be a very clear, uncluttered view of the item. Since it is the only photo visible on search pages, make sure it provides a very good representation of the item.

Maximize Profits with Low Priced, No Reserve Listings

Auction style listings are a great way to create excitement around antique items, which in turn can develop into a bidding frenzy among buyers may well result in a higher selling price. The keys to a successful antique auction style listing are to get the first bid and encourage bidders to continue bidding. Some proven methods include setting a low starting price. Getting that first bid is critical, as other buyers are generally more likely to jump in if they see there are already bids on an item. To do this, many sellers prefer to set an opening bid below what the item is actually worth. Try beginning with a low starting price, such as 99 cents, to jump start bidding activity. No reserve listings are listings which do not have a fixed minimum selling price. Be careful when setting a reserve price as buyers may lose interest in an item if they place a bid and find it doesn’t meet the reserve price set. Because they do not know the reserve price, they may assume the seller is simply asking too much for the item. To prevent this from happening, try listing with no reserve. Items sold with no reserve typically attract more buyer interest, as buyers know that they will actually win the item if they are the high bidder.

Ship The Antiques

Specifying reasonable shipping and handling costs in the listing is essential for smart selling, and it improves a search ranking when buyers sort by total cost. Never leave a buyer wondering how much shipping will cost.

Typically shipping costs will vary by distance. To make sure the shipping charges reflect this, incorporate a shipping calculator into the listing. With the shipping calculator, eBay can automatically calculate the shipping cost for the buyer based on the size and weight of the item and the buyer’s location. The calculator can also be programmed to add in the cost of packaging materials and a handling fee, if any.

To protect both the buyer and the seller against loss or damage during shipping, consider purchasing shipping insurance for the packages, especially for higher priced items. Shipping insurance is available through most shipping companies, and can be purchased at the time of shipment. Factor in the cost of shipping insurance into the shipping cost, but make sure to state in the description that insurance will be included. If selling larger items such as bookcases, beds, vanities, or other antique furniture, freight shipping might be the easiest and cheapest way to get the item to the buyer. Freight shipping is usually reserved for items over 150 pounds, and is available in the United States and Canada. Find out more at eBay’s Freight Resource Center.

Be sure to package all antique shipments carefully and securely. Use bubble wrap, foam, or other packaging materials to make certain that the item is not damaged during transit. If an item is taken apart to ship it, include a list of pieces and instructions on how to put it back together. When packaging, a few key steps to consider include wrapping items separately with lots of cushioning such as bubble wrap, peanuts, foam, corrugated dividers, or crumpled paper. Be careful using old newspapers as the ink can rub off and damage items. If using foam peanuts, be aware that they may shift in transit, so overfill the box. Remove any glass and package it separately wrapped in glass-skin or plastic to avoid scratches. If any pieces could potentially be damaged by water, make sure to wrap them with a layer of sealed plastic. Protect edges of frames by cutting foam or cardboard to fit. For many smaller items consider ordering free USPS Priority Mail boxes right on eBay. The United States Postal Service will even deliver them at no cost. For larger items use a corrugated box with rigid sides, intact flaps, and plenty of room for cushioning on all sides. Don’t exceed the maximum gross weight of the box, which is usually printed on bottom flap of the box. Use strong tape designed for shipping rather than masking tape, cellophane tape, string or paper over-wrap. After the package is securely sealed, it is possible to pay for shipping and print shipping labels right from a PayPal account. Or request a pickup from USPS or UPS, saving a trip to the Post Office or UPS location.

Build A Reputation

Communication is the key to a successful transaction. Make sure to be available before, during, and after the sale. Answer any questions about the item promptly. By including a thank you note in the package the buyer will be surprised and encouraged to leave positive feedback or buy from you again.

Feedback is extremely important for all eBay users. Consistent and positive feedback lets buyers know that you manage transactions well and that care about your reputation. Some important ways to help ensure good feedback are to communicate well, represent the item truthfully in the listing, and be professional. Also remember that the buyer’s feedback rating is as important to them as yours is to you, so be courteous, thoughtful, and truthful when leaving feedback.

Be more than just a username to buyers. Introduce yourself through your About Me page and My World page. Add pictures, keep track of favorite buyers, and tell the community about your interests and collections. Show your expertise by writing reviews and guides. Connect with other antique traders and collectors on the Antiques Discussion Board.

Consider using the eBay Sell for a Cause feature. Support a favorite cause and enhance buyer trust and loyalty at the same time. eBay Giving Works listings tend to sell at higher final prices, because buyers are more willing to purchase, and often pay more for, items that benefit a nonprofit organization or cause. Get more exposure and receive a receipt for the tax-deductible donation.


Selling antiques can be fun as well as profitable. While the buyer may not be able to physically see and touch the antique item, including well-written descriptions and detailed photographs can help to make the sale. Listing on eBay does have the distinct advantage of attracting potential buyers from around the world as opposed to traditional selling methods such as classified ads or garage sales. eBay makes the process and experience simple.
Now you have all the information you need to sell antiques on eBay, so start selling today!

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