Ten things we learned from watching Antiques Roadshow

Anyone who has watched the immensely popular TV program Antiques Roadshow on PBS will have heard the appraisers offer advice on collecting art and antiques. While people can and will collect anything from fine art to the most humble objects, the same principles in collecting apply.

Following is a "top 10" list of collecting tips gleaned from the show, to which I've added a few twists of my own:

  1. Buy what you like, but not on impulse

The best reason to acquire any object is that you enjoy it, provided you've put thought into the purchase. The things you buy should fit your taste, background, and lifestyle, so you don't easily get tired of them. Collectibles also fluctuate in value with the market, and to think of them strictly as investments may lead to disappointment. However, you do have to consider their future worth. If nobody else likes what you like, you're probably not making the wisest decision.

  1. Buy the best you can afford

Quality pieces in the best possible condition have the greatest chance of holding their value over time. Most experts recommend spending what your budget will allow on the best-condition item you can find.

Elements of quality include who the artist or maker is, when the object was made, its history, importance, and rarity. Artists often go through stages in their careers and works from each period may bear a different significance to collectors.

  1. Be knowledgeable

Occasional false moves in buying antiques or collectibles are almost inevitable. To minimize the number and severity of mistakes requires research in your area of collecting. At the very least, you should:

It is always best to do the homework and rely on your own knowledge rather than a seller's advertisement, as even sellers acting in good faith can be misinformed. With the proliferation of online resellers who specialize in no particular type of merchandise, collectors have every reason to be wary of a seller's claims. Do verify your information before challenging someone else's assertions, for "we" can be wrong, too.

  1. To clean or not to clean

Thanks to Antiques Roadshow, everyone should know never to remove the aged look or natural patina from an old object. In other words, leave antique furniture alone, and don't overclean or polish old metals. When in doubt, seek expert advice.

  1. Repairs and restoration

Stay out of the restoration business and consult a reputable professional. Do-it-yourself repairs are often irreversible and can destroy an item's value. When selling, consider that some buyers prefer to acquire an object as is and make their own decisions related to restoration.

  1. Know your seller

Brick-and-mortar store owners and dealers are in the best position to offer you service and recourse if problems arise or an item you purchased turns out not to be as claimed. Better bargains may be found online, usually at greater risk and higher potential for hassles and frustration. If you choose to buy from an unknown online seller, you should at least review their customer feedback and ask questions first. Any request or suggestion that you pay by wire transfer means the seller plans to take your money and run.

  1. Signatures can be faked

Some makers' marks are faked more than others. The same is true with artist and celebrity autographs. As a collector, you should be able to judge an object by its characteristics and not rely on a signature alone. If the signature itself needs authentication, only a certified expert can make a definitive call.

  1. Not all condition issues are equal

It stands to reason that the smallest flaw on a commonly available item cannot and should not be overlooked, while something like a chip on a very old and rare porcelain piece may be forgiven.

  1. Valuations

A single item can have different valuations depending whether you are looking to buy or sell. An insurance valuation is typically at the high end of an object's estimated price range on the retail market. It represents the anticipated cost to replace an item in case of total loss. The estimated resale value is based on recent transactions involving same or similar items; this type of valuation should be more conservative to reflect the price an object can reasonably be expected to realize when sold at auction. This is not to say that hammer prices at auctions are always the lowest, since all it takes is two competing bidders to drive up the price.

The fair market value is an estimate of the price a buyer and seller may agree upon, assuming both are acting willingly, under no pressure, and have basic familiarity with the object in question.

  1. Certificate of authenticity (COA)

Certain types of collectibles call for a Certificate of Authenticity and others don't. If available, a COA is only as good as the source from which it came. The document has little or no validity unless issued by a recognized authority.

The above text authored by manitouj.com. Copyright © 2013

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