If the time has come for you to be parted from your antiques then bear a number of things in mind.
Several opinions are better than just one. So that you have a feel for the range of values first take the item or a photograph of it to your local dealers or auction house. If it becomes apparent that the item is really rather uncommon you might then want it looked at by specialists. Most CINOA affiliated dealers specialise, whether it be in Regency furniture or 18th-century silver.
The list of members provides an excellent list of specialists and a good starting point for finding one.
When asking how much someone will give for your item or what it would sell for at auction, ask the dealer or auctioneer to describe it. This is helpful because assessors' opinions may vary and this could provide you with an explanation for any variations in the price you are offered.
For example, if one dealer describes an item as "19th century in the Sheraton style" and offers you £1,000 and another as "Sheraton" worth £2,000 then you need to ask both dealers more questions. Do not assume that a difference in value means that you are being intentionally diddled, when the simple explanation could well be that one dealer is more experienced in 18th-century furniture than another. After all, it is unrealistic to expect a general antique dealer to know everything about western Europe's entire output of cultural goods for the past five hundred years! If the dealer is a member of a well-respected trade association which recognises 18th-century furniture as his speciality then clearly you are more likely to get an informed opinion about your piece than if he sells ‘bric-a-brac’ from a local flea market.
As regards the price offered also remember the following; whichever route you use to sell your goods, either the dealer or the auction room needs to make a profit. Selling to a dealer means you usually get paid immediately and there are no extra hidden costs. If you sell at auction you have to pay for both vendors’ commission and catalogue photographs and it is surprising the hole these make in the hammer price.
Never sell to ‘knockers’, the term commonly used for so-called dealers who call at your door on the off-chance you have something to sell. It is most unlikely that you will receive a good deal.
Finally whether buying or selling always deal with a dealer who belongs to a reputable trade association.
[This information comes from the British Antique Dealers' Association website with their permission.]