Alongside this is our appraisal service where users can upload photographs of their items which in turn are sent directly to participating specialists at auction houses working with us. It is exciting to find out how much something is worth but there are many different types of appraisal available. They all mean something different and are used in different situations. When getting your appraisal, you may hear specialists use a variety of terms so below are some simple definitions to ensure you get the most out of your appraisal experience.

Auction Threshold

An auction threshold is the minimum value at which an auction house will consign an item. Seller charges can include auction house commission, photography fees, catalogue illustration fees and these are taken from final sales. If specialists consign anything below their auction threshold, that sale will not be profitable for the client as they won’t make a worthwhile amount of money to cover these charges.

Items described as “below auction threshold” can still be sold however, as different auction houses have varying seller charges, commission rates and thresholds. In instances like this, it is recommended to try for a second opinion with a local auction house or dealer as they do not charge seller fees.

This reproduction Winnie the Pooh print could not be sold at auction but may find another home in a local second-hand shop or collectables dealer for a decorative price:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 12.07.09 Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 12.07.24

Decorative Value

Decorative value is the value given to something for ornamental worth. It is essentially how nice-looking something is and generally it is used for items that have no auction market value and are below auction thresholds.

This value should be decided upon between the buyer and the seller. It is as much as a person is willing to sell something for, balanced with the amount someone else is prepared to buy it for because they like it, rather than because the item has any historical value.

This Alice Heath sculpture, for example, is dated from the late 20th cenutry and would not reach auction thresholds. However, the artist has a modest collecting community so this item could find selling success on platforms such as eBay:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 12.12.43

Auction Value

An auction value or auction estimate is a price an item is expected to fetch at auction. Specialists will give a low value and a high value as a guide. If something is very rare or highly desirable the bidding can exceed the high-value estimate which is why valuable or rare things are often brought to auction rather than sold privately - everyone interested in that item has a chance to bid before it disappears again.

With more common items, second-hand furniture pieces, for example, an estimate will be lower than what the retail value would be. This is because the market is saturated. There are plenty of places to get brand new affordable furniture, from the high street or online, to second-hand shops that offer a quick and unfussy way to experience a more vintage feel.

Keeping the estimates low for items like this encourages bidders to try buying such items at auctions instead.

Dealers, by contrast, can put their prices higher. They can set their retail price and wait for the right client to come along.

Retail Value

The retail price is the amount an object can fetch in an antiques dealer's store.

in 2011, this hanging mobile from Alexander Calder, dated sometime in the 1940s, was valued on Antiques Roadshow in Florida. It was given a retail value of $1 million but the auction estimate was $400,000 - $600,000:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 11.23.29 Decorative Arts specialist, Chris Kennedy with an Alexander Calder mobile

People often get confused when trying to sell their pieces because a dealer won't buy their piece at its full retail value but dealers can't pay full retail value because if they do that they won't make any profit when they sell it. Reputable dealers offer objects at retail prices the market can support and take away the competition of buying at auction for a more relaxed and personal experience.

Insurance Appraisal 

Insurance values tend to be set at the top end of the value so those who need to replace items that have been lost or stolen can buy replacement items at current market prices.

Unlike an auction estimate which is usually verbal, free and can be suggested after just seeing an image, an insurance appraisal is a legal document. It involves a lot of careful research for many different legal areas such as capital gains tax, inheritance tax, divorce or private treaty sales and it will give protection in a courtroom. Because of this, these appraisal are paid for.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 12.22.12

Barnebys does not offer insurance appraisals but many of our associated auction houses do and we would be happy to recommend some if requested.

Why not try the Barnebys appraisal service today and see what you discover!