If you want to increase the value of your antiques, know the story behind your antiques. In the antiques business this is known as the provenance of the antique. People looking at things in our store always wanted to know the story behind the antiques before they bought it. Sometimes it seemed they were more buying the story than the antique itself. If you are a dealer you can learn many other helpful tips on selling antiques in our section “Selling Antiques.”
Provenance Will Increase the Value of your Antiques
A great example can be seen in this story. About twenty years ago, I bought out nearly the entire contents of an old school in England. It was the first all girls’ school in England, but late became co-ed. I was able to get a wonderful photograph of the front of the school. We made several copies of that photograph and attached it to the front of several of the most expensive pieces. We had large bookcases solid mahogany lab tables, tons of desks, just to name a few. We found that the customers loved these photographs and the story behind the photograph. Eventually we furnished photographs for every piece we sold from that school. It was a wonderful photograph of a large late 19th century building and was a great addition to the story behind the antique.
I got the idea for this article from an article in the “Antique Trader“, you can find the link here. It talked about how a cap worn by Neil Armstrong after the splashdown of Apollo 11 brought $14,000 at auction. The author related that it sure wasn’t the value of the cap itself, which was probably just a $20 cap, but the story behind the cap. The new owner of the cap almost surely was not going to wear the cap around. It probably was prominently displayed somewhere in his home or office where he could brag about the hat and the story about it. It was definitely the story behind the cap that increased the value of the cap.
Add More Detail to Increase the Value of Your Antiques
People love to show off their new things. If there is a story to go along with the piece, it makes it even more fun to show off the piece. Let me give you a couple of price tags for the same antique piece and tell me which one you would be more likely to buy, and probably be willing to pay a higher price.
Tag #1: Wonderful Art Deco Console with matching stools from the 1920’s
Tag#2 Fabulous Art Deco console and two matching stools found on the well known Lillie Road in London, England. Lillie Road was named after the famous actress Lillie Langtree. Lillie Road is well know among the antique and design trade for the unique antiques that can be found in the two block stretch of antique stores. You don’t have to worry about your neighbor or anyone you know having this set, it is truly unique.
It has classic Art Deco styling down to the mirrored glass top and the “fab” green color with gold accents. It is a true Art Deco classic.
Too many of us get in a hurry when we are making out price tags and don’t bother telling the story behind the piece, and we are as guilty as anyone. I am changing the tag in the above example, because our tag is much closer to the first example than the last one. When we were always in the store we could always relate the story, but now that our inventory is in malls, the tags have to relate the story.
Now I must give a waning to members of the antiques and design trade. Please don’t abuse this and make up stories. I know it is tempting to do this, but it only makes our trade look bad in the long run. We used to have a customer who would ask when something was made. And with our best judgment, we would say it was late Victorian, around 1880. The she would ask, ”Don’t you think it could be 1840?” That would make it more valuable, and it was tempting to say, “I guess it could be from 1840.” But we knew better, even though we knew she really wanted us to say that.
So if you want to add value to your antiques, learn as much as you possibly can about the provenance of each piece. If you are not able to find anything you can research the piece and find out how you can date the piece. What about the construction and material enabled you to date the piece the way you did. It might be the wood, the construction of the dovetails on the drawers, the feet, etc. Give the customer as much information as you can so they can be more proud of the piece that they are buying and feel more comfortable with the price they are paying. All of this additional information can increase the value of your antiques.