The basic steps are Identify, History, Research, Condition, Rarity and Comparable.
I start my evaluation of an object by simply asking myself what it it?
You do not need to be an expert to do this. Consider the size, material, style and condition. Look for evidence of attribution, such as a signature, stamp, copyright or maker markings. Once you know any of these, it can help you IDENTIFY the piece, which is the first step of appraising.
Once you think you have identified the piece, try to learn the HISTORY.
How old is it? What is/was it used for? What is it’s historical connection? How important was this object at the time? Is is connected to a historical event, person or place?
Now we know a bit about the object and the history, but we need more. Time to research.
The best place to start this RESEARCH is the internet. You can get quick facts and good leads. Usually to get the best information you will need to turn to primary sources. Go to the library, historical society or an archive to help you research.
After I now know what I have and it’s history, I look at the next important component. CONDITION.
When appraising an item, this is key, as if the condition is terrible, it can literally deem the piece worthless. Pay attention to everything, tears, wear, rust, dirt, dents, chips and even restoration. Each of these can decrease the value of an object by 50%.
RARTIY, can add to the value of the piece.
Start searching on line auctions to see if you piece is readily available. You will be able to determine quickly how rare it actually is.
You now need to see what other similar items are selling for.
Look for COMPARABLES at on line auctions, which will help you see what your piece its worth. It is important to remember to only look at the selling price. The asking price means nothing. Only when an object sells to a willing buyer from a willing seller, can we use that price as an appraisal comparable. If you can not find a comparable in an online auction, turn to auction catalogues and look through their price list. Lastly, go to flea markets, galleries or stores to see what they are asking for similar objects.
Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy the hunt, the search for information and the final result! No matter what, you will have gain tons of knowledge!