Mar 8, 2013

How to Use eBay for a Price Check

To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website.

Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, click on the page where it says “sold listings”. These are items that have actually sold, so the prices can be considered “market value”. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

Just as useful is the check-box that reads "Completed Listings". These are auctions that have expired. Expired listings will show you the prices at which items failed to sell; in other words, the prices were too high and no one bought. The prices in RED failed to sell; the prices in GREEN sold successfully.

Don't forget to add shipping & handling to your final value.

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Arcade Games

It wasn't too long ago that every shopping mall, bar, and beach boardwalk had a gaming arcade filled with adolescents (and sometimes, adults) pumping quarters into their favorite machines. Traditional pinball machines, Skee-Ball, Whack-A-Mole and others sat side-by-side with newer video game consoles. The arcades were filled with flashing lights, ringing bells, and sirens.

Then, along came Playstation and X-Box in the 90s and the crowds at the arcades tapered off; gamers preferred to stay at home and play. Eventually, video arcades were no longer a viable business (at least at the malls; they're still popular at the beaches). These days, it's hard to find some of the old arcade games; they have been relegated to suburban rec rooms, "man caves" and county landfills.

Like any collectible, arcade games are subject to wide swings in value depending on the current demand and what the existing supply is for the game.

Executors, if your estate has a collection (or even one) of these old arcade games, and it is in working order and good cosmetic condition, it can be worth anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 at retail, and about a third to half of that to a dealer or at auction.

Machines that don't work are worth between $25 and $100. Fixing them is expensive; parts are hard to find and schematics are even harder to find.

If you have any kind of old arcade game, Google the name of the game to see who buys and sells them; sometimes dealers will buy non-working games and fix them up for resale. Also check collectors websites and forums; they often have a classified ad section or "buy, sell, trade listings".

Check eBay as well; see my post How to Use eBay for a Price Check.

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Mar 3, 2013

Estate Artwork

The best clue for determining if your estate contains valuable artwork is the way in which the art work is framed.  No one puts expensive artwork into a cheap frame (at least no one who knows what they have). Of course, it's possible to find cheap art in a nice frame, but it's unlikely.

If you don't know anything at all about a particular work of art, take a photo of it and go to Then, drag the photo file to the search bar and Google will search for the image. Your search results will bring back information on your particular image.

If you don't know anything about art in general, you can learn a few basics in this article that I wrote for antiques dealers a few years ago in Antique Trader Magazine.

Here are some highlights of that article. Remember, this was written for antique dealers:


Often, people refer to any framed artwork as a “painting”. We know that that’s not the case. Too many times, I’ve been baited into surveying an estate by the promise of a great collection of “paintings”, only to find a collection of worthless, poorly framed poster prints. Here’s how you can identify a painting: it has paint on it. Duh. If it doesn’t have paint, it’s not a painting. The public perception is that paintings are more valuable than prints. As we shall see, that’s not always the case but all things being equal unsigned estate paintings can be priced higher than similar prints.

4 Types of Prints

The ready availability of four-color offset lithography has given art prints a bad name. I have often admired a nice artwork only to have my host apologize and say “it’s just a print”. Really? I would love to have a thousand-year-old Japanese woodcut, a Rembrandt etching, a Chagall lithograph, or a Warhol serigraph; all are prints. Prints can be a real moneymaker if you know how to correctly identify them.

Dealers should be able to know the difference between and correctly identify the following: woodcuts, etchings, lithographs, and serigraphs (I’m counting giclees as a type of serigraph). Trust me, this isn’t hard to do. A detailed explanation of each technique is beyond the scope of this article but detailed explanations and demonstrations can be found by searching Google and/or YouTube for each technique. You will be rewarded for your effort.

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