selling items in the home

Cash in the attic: A guide to selling items in the home

Monday 27th Jul 2020 |

If you’ve recently had a loft declutter or inherited a home, you may find yourself in possession of some valuable vintage or antique items.

Whether it’s retro toys, classic albums or one-off antiques and ornaments, your discovered treasures could command big fees from the right buyer. Here’s what to do if you think you’ve found something valuable in your home.

Selling items in the home – Assessing antiques

While you may think only Picassos go for significant money in the art world, plenty of pieces can fetch big prices.

Use a magnifying glass to check paintings for signs it’s an original rather than a print – originals will have defined brushstrokes and build-up of colours, while prints, like lighthouse prints, are more likely to have a flatter appearance.

Look for signatures or initials which you can compare online to identify the artist. Don’t remove a painting from its frame as this can instantly devalue it.

A UK homeowner recently took a painting from their attic to auction hoping to pick up £300 and landed £120,000 after a bidding war between collectors, who believed it to be an artist’s original. While you may not reel in a six-digit sum, there is certainly value to be found in antique art.

Antique jewellery, ornaments and furniture should have a marking or signatures which identify the maker. Check the piece with a magnifying glass, as markings may have faded or chipped over time. There are websites aimed at helping people identify antique from their markings.

Scratches, bumps or raised surfaces can be a sign of a genuine antique, as replicas produced on modern machines are often perfectly smooth. With crockery and china, markings will often be underneath the glazed level, as they were marked before firing.

If you believe you have an item that may be of value, consider taking it to an appraiser or using a free online valuation service. Last year, a UK resident took a chess piece to a local auctioneer for a free valuation, to find it was a missing antique collection piece worth over £1 million.

selling items in the home – Next steps

To get a rough idea of your items’ values, search online on marketplaces like eBay or Gumtree. If you find someone selling a similar item, it may give you an idea of how much it’s worth.

Search in as much detail as possible. If it’s a vinyl record, search the catalogue number, and for antique items, include the colour and shape in your search, as these can have an impact on value. Unusually-shaped or rare-coloured items can be especially valuable to collectors.

Check for any labels or markings which may include dates or patent numbers, too.

If you have an attic full of valuable items, consider hiring a professional appraiser. Experts can often be booked by the hour, which could save you money compared with paying per item online.

selling items in the home – The online marketplace

While general online marketplaces are ideal for listing lower-value items like clothing, record collections and toys, it’s recommended to use dedicated antique websites for selling verified and highly-valuable pieces, as they can attract keen antique collectors.

Plus, selling online opens you up to worldwide buyers. This larger audience can help drive up your asking price, with collectors keen to outbid their competitors. 

Overseas buyers may even be tempted to over-pay in some instances, as UK antiques can hold greater value in countries with fewer historical antiques available themselves.

Online is the safest way to sell fragile or delicate items. You can keep them in your home until they sell, then work with a shipping specialist to pack them safely and ship them to the buyer, so they arrive in perfect condition, anywhere in the world.

selling items in the home – Cash in hand

If you’re selling smaller, less expensive items, car boot sales may be the way to go. However, for items with a significant price tag, selling through an auction house can help you earn the highest price.

Contact local auction houses. They’ll give you a rough valuation and let you know the next steps for selling at auction. While auction houses will charge a fee for their role in the sale, they help connect you with buyers you may not otherwise find.

If you have a collection of related items, it may be worth contacting an antique wholesaler, who may purchase the job lot in one go, saving you on the time and effort of selling individually.

selling items in the home – Insurance

If you’ve got expensive items in your home that you either want to keep or at least store in your home until you find the right buyer, you may find your current home contents insurance doesn’t cut it anymore.

Contact your insurance provider and ask about increasing your contents insurance cover. This will protect you against losses if the worst happens. You can even get specialist antique insurance which covers you against theft, damage, depreciation and more.

Words by By Mike Ryan, Chief Executive, PACK & SEND

Craving more?