My parents dabbled in antiques. Dad had a particular interest in old farm implements and Mom enjoyed antique dishes and toys. Since they acquired much of their collection by going to sales, most of their pieces didn't really speak to me, so I kept a few that were the most meaningful and sold the rest at our auction. Over the years, my parents taught me a little bit about antiques, but last summer I realized I hadn't paid nearly enough attention.
As I tried to figure out what to keep and what to sell, I quickly learned that I needed to know the value. If a particular piece had significant value, I could set a "reserve" (minimum) value for the auction so that it didn't sell for far under what it was worth. So as I prepared for my estate sale last summer, I spent a lot of time talking to the auction staff about the value of particular items, as well as doing my own research on eBay.
Through that process, I gained some knowledge about what's collectible these days, and I've built on it a bit as I've priced items for my case at our local antique store. I've only learned a fraction of what I need to know, but I do know that with practice, my instincts are getting a little bit better!
I'm very glad I trusted my instincts on this wire mesh waste basket! I found it last summer in the top of my dad's garage, filled with old Christmas lights. I have no idea where it came from, but given the age and style I think it may have belonged to my maternal grandmother. I brought it home (as well as the lights) mostly because I loved it, but I also suspected it might be collectible. The fact that it was up in the top of the garage was also a clue that Dad knew its value and tucked it up there for safe-keeping.
Yesterday I finally cleaned it up and turned it over to see if there was any identifying information on the bottom. (In looking at any old item, the first step is to turn it over! If you can identify a maker and/or a year, you can easily research the value online.)
The bottom is slightly rusty but the manufacturer information is still visible.
A quick check of "sold" listings on eBay confirmed that my instincts were right on this one, as I found several that have sold recently for between $65 and $99! (You must always check the "sold" rather than active listings to see what items are actually worth. Just because a seller sets a particular price for an item doesn't mean it will bring that much when it actually sells.)
So I gave the inside bottom of the waste basket a very light sanding to remove loose rust, but I won't be spray painting it as that could affect the value. It'll make a fun addition to my craft room...until I'm ready to sell it.
I think Mom and Dad would be pleased that I'm finally learning a little about antiques. :)