Beware, Value Can Be A Slippery Number

“What’s It Worth” Antique Minute

January 28, 2022

Sue and I have conducted more than 150 Zoom “What’s It Worth” appraisal programs in 24 states. I’ve also conducted hundreds of such programs in-person in my home area. In these programs, attendees show us their treasures, and we offer suggested values on each item. If there is one common thread that most of our attendees share, it’s that they believe their treasures are worth one specific amount rather than having a range of value.
In order to overcome this misconception, the first part of each program consists of a discussion on the concept of value. In this introduction, we explain that whereas “price” (the sticker price or asking price) and “cost” (what was actually paid, regardless of original sticker or asking price) are both “facts” or hard figures. “Value” is not a “fact” but rather a subjective number, that is constantly changing, depending upon the day and situation. We also explain that what someone has paid for something does not have a bearing on its value today. If that were true, all inherited items would be valueless, which is certainly never the case. Value actually depends upon many factors, such as economic climate, desirability, timing, selling venue, regionality, reputation of seller, among other factors.
To make our next point we ask the question, “How many of your children want your things,” and invariably fewer than 10 percent of the hands are raised, regardless of class size or city or state we’re in. If the younger generation isn’t interested in it today, most likely its value will be disappointing.
We then explain that if they want the most amount of money, they must be willing and able to do the most amount of work. If unwilling or unable to do that, they should be prepared for less money.
And finally, we explain that one single item can have many different values. Examples include insurance replacement value, fair market value, and liquidation value as three of the most common types of appraised value we’re asked to provide.
So the bottom line is this, what’s it worth? Well what value are you seeking? And how hard are you willing to work to attain it? Remember, the most amount of money usually requires the most amount of work.
What’s it worth? One example might be an antique 19th-century tall case clock. Most aren’t bringing nearly what they did a decade or more ago because the younger generation is less interested in them than my generation. So the same clock could have a $7,500 insurance replacement value (the high retail cost to replace it quickly if lost, damaged, destroyed or stolen), it could have a $2,500 fair market value (a “reasonable” price between a willing and knowledgeable buyer and seller, and it could have a $1,000 liquidation value (what might it bring at public auction).
Want $7,500 for yours?
• Then become a dealer.
• Open a shop or join the show circuit.
• Be prepared to haul it around or sit on it for a year or two.
• Keep your fingers crossed that the right buyer comes along.
Don’t want to do this? Be prepared to sell it for a wholesale amount and move on with your life.

Mike Ivankovich is an auctioneer, appraiser, home downsizing expert, and host of the "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" radio show. Now in its eighth year, “What’s It Worth” airs live in the Philadelphia area on Friday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. EST on WBCB 1490 AM and on the internet at Mike offers house and estate contents appraisals nationally through his website, and he has presented his “What’s It Worth” Zoom Appraisal Program in 24 states. Further details can also be found at


More Articles