If you are considering buying something such as say, a used car, you might consult a list in a price guide to find out details of your intended purchase.
Generally these guides, often referred to as a buyer’s guide will list all the comparable specifics of the car you are interested in together with variances for model, mileage and condition. Real-estate people use prices of previous property sales as comparables in order to estimate current house values. Basically cars and real-estate prices are established by checking out the competition to check out the going rate and to compare what similar properties (or vehicles) have sold for.
Although antique dealers and auctions use similar methods, establishing the age and value of collectibles and antiques presents something more of a problem than do cars or real-estate. Guides are simply that; a guide, a sort of overview to point you in the right direction. Guides are meant for reference only and are not a definitive authority of actual market value.
Most guides will offer a range of prices intended to cover anticipated minimum and maximum values. Also, and most importantly, all price guides are well out of date before they even get to the shelves of the bookstores. Just as fashions for clothing are determined several seasons in advance, price guides are compiled anywhere from 12-18 months ahead of publication.
The TV program Canadian Antiques Roadshow is a good example of just how much given values can be out of date. By the time the show has been recorded, edited and then gone into final production, some six to nine months can have passed. From final production it can take another eight to twelve months before it is then first broadcast. So, by the time of the initial broadcast the values presented can be up to two years out of date.
Although the show is interesting and educational, the values given by the appraisers can be wildly out of step with the current market conditions. In fact, as I write this article I am also multi-tasking by watching the Canadian Antiques Roadshow – this particular episode is what they now call an encore broadcast (fancy way of saying it is a rerun!) and I also happen to know that it was recorded some four and a half years back. At the time of taping the price of gold was less than half of today’s market value and since then the bottom has fallen out of the previously lucrative market for heavy ‘dark wood’ furniture such as armoires and oak coffers.
The television roadshows, like the traditional printed price guides still have their place as points of interest and they are accurately educational. However, in terms of establishing values it is important to keep in touch with the present day markets and trends. Trade journals, collector’s newsletters and even auction house websites all have current information; but even here you must bear in mind that prices stated are those of past sales, not predictions of the future market.
Price guides are a great way to educate yourself and are a wonderful source for background information and research but remember that a price guide is not a definitive map.
Whether buying or selling it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional ahead of time. And as we all know, finding a competent professional is as easy as finding a really good doctor, dentist, lawyer or even a spouse.