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Thread: ID'ing, evaluating and looking for bargains.

  1. ID'ing, evaluating and looking for bargains.

    Today, I visited a farmer who owns several swords and sabres. It was his share of a collection inherited from his maternal grandfather. His brother came over to have his stuff ID'd and evaluated, too, together with the swords still owned by their mother. I spent several hours checking my literature and some of the latest auction prices, and it turned out that between them, they own about $8,000 - 10,000 worth of white arms. Apart from the inevitable Swedish stuff, there was a LC P1796 and some other interesting stuff, like a late 18th C Russian boarding cutlass taken as war booty, etc. They didn't want to sell anything, but here's a question: when asked what an antique is worth, and you want to buy it, what are your best haggling tips? Anything that helps to reduce the price below that of auction prices without cheating is welcome.

  2. #2

    Hmmm

    Björn,

    Thats one of the toughest elements to collecting/dealing/appraising. As a collector you want to get the best price you can but be fair (at least for most), as a dealer you want to buy low and sell high (dealers rarely work in the concepts of fair), as an appraiser you want to tell the customer what the real value of their piece is.

    These are all at crosspurposes. Throw into that what the auction prices were and it gets complicated. Thats why the majority of appraisers charge for the service. Thus the time and effort as well as the knowledge they bring to the customer is rewarded and supposedly they will not being trying to "work" a deal.

    Auctions are a fickle base to set prices on as they are emotional spur of the moment buys by design, thus driving the price to the maximum. But the seller and the buyer pay a commission based on the sale price usually 15 to 18%. So is that included in the value of the item or is that just a "service" fee.

    Also buy prices are what is needed to be looked at from auctions not expected ranges. These are invariably low to induce bids. But they maybe a tool to say that is a market value outside the heat of the auction house. Also unless one sets a minimum in the auction they can live with, it can go for less depending on who is in the room and were the auction happens. A freak storm has been a blessing to many a buyer at auction. Also if it sells for X the seller is paying the auction house 15 to 18% of X so that could reasonably be deducted from the sell price.

    It maybe time to start charging a fee for appraisal services, identifying the pieces can be done for pay or not. Then if they want to sell you can buy it at fair market value or if they decide not to sell you can let them know what its worth but get some recompence for your efforts.

    Its tough, I run into it alot and there is no easy answer.

    Craig

  3. #3
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    Offering prices all depend on what you intend to do with the swords. If you intend to re-sell, then you want to get as far below gun-show (fair market retail) as possible. If you want to keep the swords, then you have more latitude with the offering prices - while still trying to obtain as good a deal as possible. So, when it comes to swords I want to keep, I offer 25% below what the retail should be (which gives me at least 25% more negotiating leverage if my offer is turned down). I always find that honesty is the best policy when it comes to swords I intend to re-sell. I calculate what the sword(s) will sell for and I offer half. If the offer is not accepted, I explain my intentions to re-sell the swords and how the dynamic of mark-up and overhead works. The seller feels more comfortable knowing what your motives are and that it's not your intention to rip him or her off. More often than not, I come away with the swords (sometimes after a little further negotiations). Much of the rest of the time, I leave without them, but I get a phone call later resulting in successful outcome. I think I loose out on perhaps 30%. With regard to fees for appraisal services - I've noticed this approach is never very successful. In fact, I no longer even say the word "fee" in these situations.

    Mark

  4. #4
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    Let me attack this from a different angle. I see the delimma from from an ethical position. Let's say a person comes to you knowing you to be a person with knowledge of he subject and has sword to sell. The person asks you for the value and asks you to either broker a sale for them or if you want to purchase. If the seller later feels that the piece is undervalued, allegations of intentional or negligent misrepresentation or, worse, fraud may arise. Even if there is no merit to the accusation, its still an issue that has to be dealt with that may cause problems for the dealer in the collecting community.

    To me there is a difference in "what would you pay for this sword" and "what is this sword worth". I may not pay what the market bears. On the other hand, I may pay more than what the market is currently bearing (perhaps I think that the value will go up in the future). If asked "what is it worth", why is the question being asked -- sale, insurance/estate value, etc.

    With the internet, the market truly has become global. However, its amazing how different items will fetch different prices depending upon the region. For example, I have found it generally less expensive to purchase a British sword directly from England (even with the cost of shipping) than to go through a U.S. dealer. Therefore, it would seem that the U.S. market will sustain a higher price for a British sword. However, when I have attempted to sell a British sword in the southern U.S., I have had limited success in achieving the price sought. The interest isn't the same. Further, there are outside influences to the market. For example, monitoring ebay sales after 9/11 I find that the bidding is not as robust as before.

    I'm a lawyer by trade, a sword collector at heart, but a lawyer by trade. Lawyers have a universal answer when asked a question which is "it depends". I think that this is a good tactic to use and, IMO, an ethical tactic. When asked to value a sword, why not advise -- "it depends" and expound. For a perfect transaction (a highly interested buyer pool in a market where there is much interest in the item), the sword could sell for X. However, with a moderately interested pool in a market with some interest, the sword might only garner Y. I think that the key is to explain that it is not simply a matter of price. To obtain the highest price, the seller may have to wait months or years (or never) for that right buyer to come along, where a sale could be obtained sooner with the sacrifice of not obtaining a top price. This method gives the seller an option, sell now and take less or wait and maybe get more.

    A seller/owner needs to understand that appraised worth is not the same thing as actual sale price. Just my thoughts.

  5. #5
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    ... not to oversimplify things, but a sword is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it. Of course, that statement is open to broad interpretation

    Mark

  6. Thanks for the input, gentlemen! Ethics is a personal thing, but it doesn't help the collector market if prices become inflated. I'll run an ad in the local paper this weekend; hopefully I'll be able to test the advice

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