Do your research before buying antiques

DEAR DESIGNER: I've inherited a few pieces of antique furniture from my great aunt. I don't need the furniture and want to sell it. What is my first step? -- Laura

DEAR LAURA: Things that are cherished by one generation can mean very little to the next, and for valid reasons. Preferences for different styles or sizes simply might not work.

Antique collectors cherish the quality, exclusivity and memories that come with purchasing furniture from the past. When someone tells me they have decorated their home with antiques, I think of a valued home decorated with love and care.

Is your old furniture really antique? Antique refers to items that are 100 years old or older and are limited in supply. Younger items are sometimes called "collectible" but, equal to antiques, can carry a high market value. In both cases, the better condition your item is in, the more it will be worth.

In a situation such as yours, an antique appraiser can help determine the market value of your inherited treasures. An appraiser has a wealth of information that will help educate you on your particular piece(s) along with its current marketability.

In order to be certain you are getting a fair appraisal, it's good to call more than one appraiser. Because antique appraisers don't need a license, do your due diligence and get references as prices and competency can range greatly.

Also, don't sell your items to the person doing the appraising. It's best to pay for the appraisal and sell your furniture to someone else once your research shows the price of fair market value.

The Internet is a great resource for many things. It's fun to type things into Google and see what pops up. If you know the designer or manufacturer of your furniture, you might find it on the Web and see what others are selling it for. This also can be an indicator of how readily available your pieces are. Also, there are Web sites to help you value your treasures. But to get a legitimate estimate of the value, an appraiser will need to view and touch your item.

Antique furniture can be purchased as an investment but, like art, should be purchased for the shear pleasure of the piece. Although most pieces will appreciate over time, it can appraise for one price while its real worth is determined when you sell it. A piece is only worth what someone is willing to pay.

Antiques are great purchases because of their fine craftsmanship, the quality of woods used, the potential for appreciation and their sentimental value. Selling your inherited antiques creates a win-win situation. The lucky new owner will be delighted to add these cherished gems to their collection while you enjoy the financial rewards of your inheritance.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesign