Antiques from Junk

From time to time, a story emerges in the media about someone who has struck lucky, finding a valuable antique in amongst the detritus of a house clearance or jumble sale bundle. Getting rid of everything in one go can be tempting when trying to clear a house or business premises, but beware of throwing away something you might regret letting go of later. If you find something that you think might be worth money, put it to one side and check it out at a later date. Here 's how to work out if you really do have some treasure in amidst the trash, and how to make the most of it if you do.

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What's the story?

Antiques that come with confirmed provenance can command top prices on the market. For example, campaign medals will b far more sought-after if they are accompanied by the soldier's diary or letters home. Likewise, books signed by the author will be of greater interest than non-signed copies, as will pieces of jewellery in their original boxes, or accompanied by the original receipt. Even old photos can become valuable when dated and identified, especially if they have anyone famous in them.

Become an expert

Investing in a couple of books on antiques, hallmarks etc. could help you identify the hidden gems amongst your rubbish. Other avenues of knowledge include specialist magazines, TV programmes and websites. Read up as much as you can on the types of objects you might be throwing away to avoid missing a significant clue of something valuable. Visit local antique shops, auction rooms and even charity shops to see if they are selling anything similar and what prices are being asked.

Watch out for tomorrow's antiques

If you have room to store unwanted items that could become valuable, it could be wise to do so. By holding on to items for a few years, you might be able to take advantage of upcoming trends. For example, first editions of modern classic books may not fetch much now, but could be worth a fortune in ten years' time. Other examples of items to hang on to 'just in case' include designer-branded kitchen utensils, hallmarked silverware, Indian and Chinese arts and crafts and original paintings by contemporary artists.

Don't 'improve' things by yourself

Never be tempted to try and clean or repair a potential antique, just in case you damage it or break it further. Modern-day materials, such as sellotape, glue, staples and paints can devalue an item or even render it completely worthless. Brush dust away gently, using a soft brush with natural bristles, or dip china in warm water with a small amount of washing up liquid in. But leave the intricate cleaning and mending to the professionals.

Don't rely on online valuations

Looking up average prices online can be misleading, as a valuation normally depends upon the condition or provenance of the object in question. Making contact with a valuation expert over the internet or email alone is also not advised either, as a genuine appraiser will not be able to value anything properly from a photograph or description alone. Taking the time to visit an appraiser in person will reap rewards in the long run, as you will be able to get a much fuller picture of the item's condition, history and monetary value. There are also a lot of online scams out there, which can be easy to fall prey to in a moment of enthusiasm.

Never sell to your appraiser

If you want to seek a professional valuation with a view to selling an item, it is wise not to sell to the same person who gives you the valuation. Make it clear from the start that you will not be selling your item to the person you approach to value it, and they will be far more likely to give you an honest appraisal. When you do come to sell, you will be in a strong position as you can approach the dealer knowing exactly how much your item is worth and what you want for it. Never let yourself be pressurised into selling, and take time to seek further valuations if unsure.

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