It’s Old! How Age Affects Your Valuables

“It’s Old!”
“It’s vintage!”
“It’s an antique!”

“So it must be worth a lot of money, right?”

In almost every phone call that comes into my office, there is someone on the other end interested in the price of something “old.” Because their item is an “antique,” the client assumes the object has a high monetary value. In truth: Sometimes age increases an object’s value & sometimes it does not.

MYTH: If it’s old, it must be valuable.
I appraise objects in an unbiased manner…in today’s marketplace.  I tell it like it is, which may or may not be what you want to hear. Just because an item is “old” does not make it worth a lot of money. All marketplaces change, and the fine and decorative art market is especially volatile, eccentric and sensitive to economic circumstances. Tastemakers declare fashion “in” or “out.”

The item has historical significance

The item is rare, or hard to find

The item has decorative value for its “vintage” feel

The item is popular & experiencing a revival in modern interests

The item has “wear and tear” (Occasionally, signs of age are proof thereof, considered part of the object’s “character,” and do  not discount the value).

The item is common, from a mass-produced series

The item is considered ugly or “dated” by modern standards (Then again, this one is tricky because beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Sometimes “dated” is good to the right buyer).

The item is unpopular because its style or purpose has fallen out of modern tastes

When thinking about how age affects a collectible, it is a good idea to start by thinking about the item’s intrinsic value & the price when it was originally sold. Everyday objects tend to depreciate over time. Yes, some common objects increase in value, but that increase is still only relative to their original price. These 12 “Vintage” Coke bottles sold for $22.99 on Ebay, each bottle worth less than two dollars. This amount is probably more than the bottles were worth when they were first purchased. Selling an empty coke bottle for $1.92 isn’t going to dramatically boost your bank account, but it will add a little weight to your pocket.

There ARE times that valuables are worth significantly more with age. You might have a family heirloom sitting in your attic that you have no idea about.  Are there words to describe it? Is it a rare, fine, or interesting object? What is its history? Who owned it and how much did they pay for it?

These items tend to warrant closer study.

For instance, in England, Robert, Darvell Jr. inherited a postcard-sized painting from his father. His father bought the painting for $46 in a lot with some other old items, but he knew nothing about the little landscape he had purchased. Junior took the time to consider the history of the painting, performed some healthy research and found out that it was by the respected artist, John Constable (1776-1837). Shortly thereafter, it sold for more than $390,000!

Remember: Not everything that is old is going to valuable. But if you think you have something with intrinsic value or something elevated for its historical, decorative, or collectible characteristics, it could be worth getting a verbal consultation.

To know all about your personal property, email Lynn Magnusson today at

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Jack Daly, Administrator

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