A cluttered room with aged items including clocks, chairs, tables and ceramics

How to value arts and antiques

If you suspect your art may be valuable there are many ways to conduct research around the item before taking it to be valued. If you're goal is to get an idea of how much your item might be worth prior to a valuation then you'll need to consider a variety of factors including its age, rarity and craftmanship among other influencing factors.


A good place to start is by researching the artist themselves. Knowing who created the item or where it was created can help to identify its value. In most cases this will be an artist signature but for some items like furniture or ceramics this could be the mark of the factory. Determining if the art is an original artwork or a print can help to give an idea of its worth as well, look for brush marks and variations in surface of the painting. If the piece is a print, that doesn't necessarily mean its worthless, limited edition prints by a well-known artist can still be valuable. Do not remove the frame from older pieces of art, this can devalue the work. In some cases, like with oil paintings, the frame can add value to the painting if it's the original. To find out if there were copies made of a particular artwork, use a search engine to reverse search the image. This should provide you with information on the piece and if any copies were made of it.

Age and rarity

Rarity is a principle determining factor in deciding how valuable an item is. The most valuable items are unique and one of a kind, when buying opportunities for items are scarce, the demand is greater.

While age is an excellent indicator of worth, alone it isn't enough to make an item valuable. The quality and skill of the crafts man as well as rarity of the item all contribute to its worth. But age doesn't always have to mean paintings and antiques from the 1800's, these days, a lot of furniture and technology from the mid-century can be worth quite a lot of money.


This is perhaps more important than the age of an item, its condition can either add to or detract from its value. This varies depending on the item being sold, some toys that are still in their original packaging can be worth almost double the price. Some oak furniture that hasn't been repaired or restored can be worth more than one that has. Rarity is more of a determining factory here; many buyers will be willing to pay more for rarer items in worse conditions.


This refers to the ownership history which is important for a few reasons. If an item is from a collector or private ownership, it's less likely to be a fake and can also be rarer as they are less known about than those in public view. Relevant ownership has also been known to add value to an item. This can be because of many reasons but most commonly it's due to a famous former owner or a connection with an event in history or an institution.


When conducting research into the value of an item it's a good idea to consult price guides to determine current sale and auction prices. There are usually published annually and there are a number of free resources available online. There are several sites that provide this information such as:

Professional valuation

If you want to know the true value of your item, it's best to check with a professional. Many auction houses offer free valuations for items that can give you an indication of value, for the most accurate valuation look for an auction house that specialises in your item. You can also consider having item appraised by a specialist to determine its value. Although they work for a fee, appraisers will provide you with a written statement of your items value and should include the following information:

  • Type of object
  • Measurements
  • Inscriptions and markings
  • Materials and techniques
  • Distinguishing features
  • Subject
  • Title
  • Date
  • Artist

Whether or not you are looking to sell your valuables, it's a good idea to have them valued to ensure you have the right level of insurance cover. A professional valuation can also help with an insurance claim when provided with photographs and clear descriptions of your items.

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