Do You Have a Hidden Treasure in Your Home?

An online evaluation by an auction house could reveal whether something in your home is trash or treasure.

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Do you have a hidden treasure in your home?
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For almost a decade, each time he walked into the garage, David Cohen passed by a forgotten item that would eventually yield him a small fortune. Technology offers an easy way to determine if you have such a hidden treasure.

Cohen's item was an original storyboard from the "Peanuts" comic strip, signed by its creator Charles Schulz. "It had been my father's, and I inherited it when he passed away," says Cohen, who lives in Irvine, California. "I stuck it in one of my garage cabinets after he died, and it just sat there for years along with the other junk we had accumulated."

One day while cleaning out the cabinets, Cohen rediscovered the piece. "I figured it had some value, but I wasn't sure how much. At one point, I almost listed it on eBay (EBAY) for 500 bucks." That would have been a big mistake.

One of Cohen's friends suggested he get an online evaluation from an auction house. The process is simple –- just answer a few questions about your piece and submit some photos. Then you wait a few days or weeks to find out if you have trash or treasure.

He snapped pictures with his smartphone and submitted them to Heritage Auctions via its website. "A few days later, I was contacted by the head of their Dallas office, who told me my piece could possibly sell for up to $10,000. He also offered to list it in one of their upcoming auctions."

On the day of the auction, Cohen sat in his living room and watched the auction live on his laptop, still not convinced that his item would sell -– and if so, certainly not for 10 grand. And he was right. It sold for $22,000, which included the buyer's premium –- the commission the buyer pays to the auction house.

Each auction house has different rules and different names for the concept, also known as an auction estimate. Skinner, for instance, responds only if the item is "a good fit for a Skinner auction and the value exceeds our minimum lot level." Christie's invites only "items that are of a type and value typically sold at Christie's." Other firms will charge for an evaluation. If you want to submit an item for an online auction evaluation, follow these guidelines:
  • Include as much information as you can. This can aid in establishing provenance –- the history of an item -- crucial to determining authenticity, quality and ultimately price.
  • Take pictures in a well-lit area. Include closeups of any signatures, markings or distinguishing features.
  • Although you don't want to bombard an auction house with too many items as once, submit each item to multiple places so you can get the best sense of its value.
  • Remember that this is just an estimate for auction. If you are trying to document a piece for insurance purposes in the case of theft or damage, you should still have it done in person, either at an auction house or in-home by a qualified appraiser.
Brian Lund's blog offers more on small business, the stock market, investing and the secret to eternal life.


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29 Comments

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susi539

Yes, have lots and lots of Treasures in home and garage...1951 Japanese Tea Set, Steif Teddies, Knopp Dolls, etc etc etc ... will unload it at Goodwill...Junk Junk Junk.

May 31 2014 at 1:06 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to susi539's comment
stvhndyman

Quit "spamming" you clown!

May 31 2014 at 2:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
stvhndyman

Quit "spamming" you clown!

May 31 2014 at 2:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
susi539

Yes hav lots and lots of Treasures in home and garage...1951 Jjapanese Tea Set, Steif Teddies, Knop Dolls, etc etc etc ... will unload it at Goodwill...Junk Junk Junk.

May 31 2014 at 1:03 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
susi539

Heck yes , have lots and lots of Treasures in my home and garage..will take it to Goodwell...Knopp Dolls and Steif Teddy's etc.Junk Junk Junk

May 31 2014 at 1:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
susi539

Heck yes , have lots and lots of Treasures in my home and garage..will take it to Goodwell...

May 31 2014 at 12:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
ronald1216

i have 2 antique desks from an old school i have the sameone i saw on this website its got a writing table and a opening under the chair for holding the school work

May 31 2014 at 12:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dxman7

When still living in Brasil (1965) I asked a friend to bring a fine set of drafting instruments 'Kern' from Switzerland. It is a 24-piece set that includes 7 different compasses and a hatcher - for drawing broken-lines. It is mint condition, no scratches, no broken points - thanks to my well trained designer's hands. The last time I used these instruments was in 1988-89 when working on preliminary drawings for one of the Delta rockets of the Space Program at McDonnel Douglas (today Boeing) in Huntington Beach, CA.
It is a real collector's item, and I wonder how much it may worth today.

May 31 2014 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dxman7's comment
stvhndyman

There is a link to ask your question of value.... not here.

May 31 2014 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lasstrainer

I'm an antique dealer who does mostly jewelry, but loads of other stuff. I had a couple, about age 65, come into my shop with about 5 HUGE boxes of jewelry. The hubby threw it in the garbage and the wife took it out. Wife said to come to my shop and see if there's any worth. Holy Guacamoly!!! I spent 5 hours with this couple and they walked away with $4300!. I know the wife will never let her hubby rest from this, but lots of gold and diamond pieces amongst the costume pieces. Please, find a reputable dealer and take everything to them and have it checked out. How to find reputable? Check their google and yelp reviews!

May 30 2014 at 11:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
out_of_hand

I just took a photo of my wrinkled up antique couch potato. I will take just about any offer.
Has been in the family over 65 years. Pretty much tired of looking at it. Will post on e-bay.
Please make an offer before Monday. I need to know how much groceries I'll be needing.
For one or for two. Thanks

May 30 2014 at 7:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Andre Paquin

I have a useless collection of those cheesy "man of Hope" Obama quarters. Found them at the local crack house.

May 30 2014 at 6:57 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
glecolli

1880' Americana Hutch. Been in family for 36 yrs. Any collectors out there?

May 30 2014 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply