Feb 9, 2011

Knowing What That Thingamajig Is!

You're driving to an errand and spot an estate sale sign. Not one to pass up some fun, you go in. You spot some unusual looking pieces that you recall seeing once before and the price is right. Now you have to figure out what they are and what they're worth. I've included photos today of items that could be quite a challenge to properly identify. Most people would check eBay and let that be their deal maker or breaker. I suggest you use it as a rough guideline only. eBay is inconsistent. Times of day, year, location in the world, photograph quality, etc can all affect the final auction price radically. I generally use eBay for identification purposes. It can be quite helpful to find enough information to then go pop into google.

Vintage Art Object by marybethhale
If you still don't know what you have, that's not a problem. Someone else out there doesn't know either and they can help you! I find that by giving a general description of the item's physical attributes, other similar items usually turn up. I use Google for this, but Bing has been useful too. For example, this antique lamp from India puzzled me for months. At first, I couldn't even tell it was an oil lamp; I thought it was for candles. It was so far removed from the mid century modern estate that I found it in, and my brain couldn't quite comprehend it. I kept typing in variations of brass stand, birds, hollow, etc. Finally! I found a website (only one!) selling 3 of these. Then I was enlightened. (okay, bad pun)

Vintage Tie Display Stand by Birdie1
The other tool that is tremendously helpful is Google Images. It's fairly hit and miss in some cases, but it also can be Whammo! Spot on. I've found many helpful websites by linking to them from images. I find the search to be most helpful when I'm in the dark and just describing things blindly. 9 times out of 10, someone else is doing the same thing. They usually have just enough extra info to aim me in the proper direction.

Antique Victorian Needlepoint by HouseofLinens
Another site that I find helpful is Worthpoint. Not from the angle of accurate pricing-they, like eBay that they pull from, are wildly all over the map. Worthpoint helps aggregate information about the history of items by pulling descriptions. I pay for it, and I generally use it up every month-but I'm also dealing with thousands of items that I have to identify for my business. I suggest sharing a membership with another seller or two if you won't use it up. (It gives you a set number of searches each month for a flat rate.)

Vintage Scottish Rite Hat by calloohcallay
Collector websites are a treasure trove of information. So many people love to compile all the information they can about their passions and share them. I find sites where every item by a maker is catalogued with history, marks and photographs. I bookmark these sites and refer to them often. Let the homework someone elso has done help you.

Vintage Granny Shoes by kowkirlkitsch

And of course, Etsy and Google Shopping can both be informative. Since Etsy doesn't reveal sold prices, I've found it helpful to email sellers asking if they'll share that info. So far, all have. I've also helped people emailing me. Again, I just use it as a guideline since many people just price within their own personal comfort zone. Google Shopping aggregates info from a few different places, including Etsy. It's cool to accidentally run across your own items being sold!

1970's Ikebana Vase by mascarajones
I can't stress enough how vital it is to gather proper information and identification. I've learned this the hard way. Once long ago, I gave up on researching on an item just to get the cash. Found it later online for 150 times what I'd sold it for, in the high thousands. I'm more patient now!


Miss P said...

Worth uploading your pics to a few Flickr groups too and asking for help from other members. I've identified a few bits that way recently.
Great post, thank you!

Bit of Butter said...

I definitely second the recommendation to check Flickr! I've only encountered a few items that I still can't track down any information about!

PS--maybe we should have an EVT stump the team challenge where we take on an object that has been vexing us!

Ingenuity On Display said...

There are lots of places to look up items. Rubylane, Ebay, Google, Flickr It is also good to use the current items of etsy. There is even an android app Goggles that will help identify some things. And none of them cost a dime to use.