Free online appraisal: The definitive guide for 2018
Why should I pay for an online appraisal when I can get one for free?
How many online services do you know that are completely free, no strings attached? In reality, most online services that claim to be free are not. They typically make money by:
- Starting out free, then charging you money later on
- Selling your personal data to some third party
That being said, there is one way to get a truly free appraisal -- through an auction house.
Here’s what you need to know:
Auction houses offer free appraisals both in person and online. Keep in mind, auction houses provide this service to attract potential customers and encourage participation in auctions. By itself, giving these appraisals is not a source of income for auction houses.
If you plan on selling your item at an auction, it would be a good idea to contact an auction house and ask them about their free appraisal service.
What you need to know before contacting an auction house.
Auction houses earn money by charging both the buyer and seller some percentage of the item’s final bidding (or “hammer”) price. These are known as the buyer’s premium and seller’s fee, respectively. The buyer’s premium is normally around 20-25% of the hammer price, but varies by auction house. In contrast, the seller’s fee starts at around 15% of the hammer price and is negotiable according to the value of the item.
There are two ways to get a free appraisal from an auction house:
- Online, by filling in a digital form on their website
- In person, by handing in your item at their reception
Let’s explore these two methods in more detail.
What you need to know about free online appraisals through auction houses
Certain auction houses state that their free online appraisal is for private use only and not permitted for other commercial purposes, i.e. selling to a third party.
They also offer no guarantee that the appraisal will be completed, as some items may be perceived as being too low in value or difficult to sell at auction. They will only appraise the item if they are interested in selling it.
The typical waiting period for an online appraisal is 3-4 weeks. For low priority items, the response may come even later (or never!).
Generally speaking, the more valuable the item, the faster the response.
What to know when handing in your item
First, check online to see if your local auction house accepts items at their reception.
Remember that appraisals are sometimes conducted at a different location than the actual auction house. Ask them before arriving unexpectedly on their doorstep with item in hand.
Also, verify their hours of operation and whether or not they will have a relevant specialist on site when you plan on arriving.
For large or heavy items, going to the auction house is not only a hassle but also expensive. Depending on how far away the auction house is, getting an appraisal can easily take half the day. Do your research first to avoid making wasted trips.
Can I trust the estimate from an auction house?
Auction houses are generally competent at estimating the value of items. But remember, they are not trying to estimate the absolute value of the item, but rather the item’s potential selling price at their own auction.
If your local auction house does not have the right buyers for your item, it’s estimated value will be lower than it could be in some other location. It all depends on the buyers.
Similar to eBay, there is a digital auction house called CataWiki. But unlike eBay, all items posted on CataWiki receive a free appraisal. This is probably the best way to get a free online appraisal.
What is a paid online appraisal?
A paid online appraisal is an estimate provided by an online appraisal service (like Mearto.com). Their estimate is based on records of recent auction sales of similar items.
Paid online appraisals are conducted by experts who have worked in the auction industry or as independent professional appraisers for many years. They are normally members of an appraiser organisation like ASA, so they adhere to the same standards as any auction house specialist.
How much does an antique appraisal cost?
"The process is optimised to keep the price at a minimum - only $15 USD per item" - Mads CEO Mearto.com
Because we don’t sell any items on our platform, we stay in business by charging a small fee for expert appraisals.
Every aspect of our appraisal process is optimised and fine-tuned for the web. That’s how we are able to offer appraisals for as low as $15 USD per item.
Our extensive network of specialists lets us respond to appraisal requests within 48 hours. It’s more often the case that we respond within a window of just a few hours, or sometimes even minutes. Compare that to the 3-4 week waiting period typical of auction houses.
To maintain absolute transparency, we share our response time on each item’s page.
You can browse some of the publicly available items here
What are the benefits of using a service like Mearto.com?
Uhh, where to start? :)
The most obvious benefit is instant gratification. No more waiting weeks to answer that nagging question, “What is my item worth?” Now you can know within a matter of hours.
Just upload a few pictures and a brief description of your item. In no time at all, your item is submitted and on its way to an expert appraiser -- all from the comfort of your own home.
Get expert appraisals through an efficient, user-friendly interface, all for only $15 USD per item.
Don’t wait weeks for an appraisal. Upload your item and get a response from a qualified appraiser within 48 hours. We notify you by e-mail when your appraisal is ready, or if the appraiser has additional questions about your item.
Use The Appraisal However You Want. It’s Yours!
It’s none of our business what you do with your appraisal. There is no obligation to continue using our services (although we certainly hope that you do!).
Ask Follow-Up Questions:
Communication is key. Feel free to ask your appraiser questions at any stage of the process. They will do their best to answer in a timely manner.
I want to keep my item private and not share it on the web
We totally understand, and that’s fine.
When uploading an item, you can choose between making it public or private.
If private, only you and the appraisers will have access to it. On the other hand, making it public lets you easily share it with auction houses or on social media.
What do people use services like Mearto.com for?
Many of our customers want to know what an item is worth simply out of curiosity, which is easy enough to justify given how affordable and convenient our service is.
Others use our appraisals to buy and sell items on eBay. It is well known that items with good descriptions sell better. Our appraisers provide their own brief description of your item, highlighting it’s most important and saleable aspects. You can link to your item’s Mearto.com page when selling on eBay, expanding the pool of potential buyers.
Inheritance is yet another reason people request appraisals. Perhaps you inherit some family heirlooms, but don’t know how they would perform at auction. Other customers are looking for a second opinion before committing to an auction, or need information for insurance purposes.
What if I want to sell?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Previously, we said that our business is in appraisals, not sales. While that’s largely true, many of our customers still ask us for advice before selling. That’s why we offer some additional help.
If you are ready to sell after receiving an appraisal, we invite relevant auction houses to view your item and give their own estimates. This is all done in the same interface, making it a breeze to manage.
Because each auction house has its own preferences, we only invite those that we know will be interested in selling your item. There are no guarantees that a particular auction house will respond, but your chances of finding a match are greatly improved through our service.
Compared to contacting auction houses one by one on your own time, this service is a huge time-saver. While provided at no extra cost, we receive a minor commission from the auction house if you decide to sell.
What other ways are there to get an appraisal?
There are a few other methods that haven’t been mentioned yet. The most important ones are listed here:
Auction houses often host valuation days, where the local community can gather at the auction house and meet the experts. Besides being interesting in its own right, it is also an opportunity to receive an in-person appraisal. But be warned, if everyone else has the same idea, the queue can be very long.
Check auction house websites to find out when valuation days are held.
Visit local antique shops
You can find local antique dealers online that have items similar to yours. These dealers are often highly experienced and have examined thousands of antiques over the course of their careers.
Antique dealers don’t necessarily advertise it, but if you ask politely they might give you an estimate. But be careful if they want to buy your item; their estimate is most definitely more in their favor than yours.
Appraisal TV shows
There are many popular TV programs that showcase interesting items in front of experts. While this can be a longshot -- most items won’t make the cut -- having your item selected means receiving a thorough appraisal. Some programs, like the Antique Roadshow, even offer free appraisals to attendees.
Can I do my own appraisal?
Yes, but do your research. We made some handy guides to get you started for categories like:
and many more
If you are trying to value a piece of art done by a listed artist, it’s a good idea to refer to an auction result database. This can tell you the starting prices and final bids for other pieces by the same artist.
Keep in mind, recently sold lots are a better indication of value than older lots.
We have a database of 4 million auction results categorised by artist, making it easy to research the value of your particular piece. These databases are generally not free, so expect to pay between $20-$60 per month.
Can I find a professional appraiser near me?
There are many small to medium size appraiser businesses that only work with art, furniture, and antiques. They don’t offer appraisals for free, so remember to ask for a quote before handing in your item. While they will rarely buy your item, they may help you consign it. We provide a complete directory of all appraisers which you can use at no cost.
Let’s get started
Use the form below to describe your item and upload a few images. Then just sit back and wait for your appraisal.
If you have a large set of items that you want appraised, please contact [email protected] to get a special bulk quote.