Frequently asked antique questions regarding antiques.

We speak with many people who are curious about items they wish to sell. Some have questions about antiques and collectibles, while others have questions about fine art and jewelry. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions we hear along with our answers.

How old does an item have to be in order for it to be considered an antique?

This is a difficult question and the answer varies depending on whom you ask. In general, for an item to be considered an antique, it needs to be at least 100 years old. Paintings, bronzes, and statues are described as antiques if they are from the 1930s or earlier. However, many items not as old are still very desirable. They would fit more in the collectible or vintage category. Collectibles are objects that people want to collect that don’t have to be very old. Items including Royal Doulton figurines, Barbies, and Cars are collectibles. Also, sports cards and comics may also be very collectible and don’t always have to be super old. Vintage items represent a time period or era. You might hear descriptions like vintage ’50s or ’60s. Clothing, furniture, and wines may all be described as vintage. Often times an item falls into more than 1 of the categories.

How do I know if my item is sterling?

Most sterling items are marked. They would either say 925 (92.5%silver) or sterling. Silver items from other countries may be marked 800/835/855 or 900 also called low-grade silver. This means that they are 80%/83.5%/85.5% silver. Countries outside the United States may also use hallmarks such as lions, panthers, anchors, and much more. Another mark is sterling weighted silver. This means that the item is filled with sand, cement, wax, or plaster. Only the outer layer is sterling. This is most common with candlesticks, salt and pepper shakers, and knives from flatware sets. The extra weight is used to give the item more strength or keep it from falling over. It also saves cost by using only small amounts of silver. Weighted silver is worth much less than silver that is not weighted. If your item has no visible marks, it will need to be tested by a professional.

Do silver-plated items have enough silver in them to be sold by weight?

Silver-plated items don’t have enough precious metal value to be sold by weight. Very often, they do not say the words “silver plated”. That would be too easy. Many marks may indicate the item is plated. They may say silver co, silver on copper, EPNS (electroplated nickel silver), EP (electroplated), Heavy Plate, Community, IS (International Silver), quadraplate, and much more. If the mark is not identified, you can contact us with pictures. We will try to help identify it. If you don’t notice any marks or the marks are too small to see, you will have to have the silver tested.

Are any silver-plated items worth anything?

In general silver plated items are not worth much. Of course if they serve a purpose for household use like a bowl or flatware they might have some value. Also, some use silver plated trays because the sterling ones are too expensive. However, the silver plated items will almost never be worth anything close to the amount of sterling.  The only exception would be if the silver plated items had a designer name on it. One example is Christofle silver. This French brand makes items in silver plate and sterling. They are known as a very high-end silver plate company.

What should I do with my costume jewelry?

DO NOT throw it away! One of the hottest things selling these days is vintage costume jewelry. Many of the old styles are becoming trendy again. The detail and craftsmanship of much of the costume jewelry from the past is incredible. Some say it is even better made than real jewelry today. Also, gold and silver prices are so high that many people can’t afford to buy the real thing.  Buying costume jewelry is becoming a better option. Older costume jewelry is more valuable, but it’s all salable.  Signed pieces also help a great deal.  Popular names include Miriam Haskell, Caro, Weiss, Sherman, Kramer, Trifari, and much more. Most jewelry and antique stores will not buy these items. You will have to do a bit of research to find the right buyer. If you live in the NYC or Long Island areas, Syl-Lee Antiques is a well-known costume jewelry buyer. Please go to the contact page for more information on how to find costume jewelry buyers in your area.

Why can’t I sell my antiques for what they were appraised for?

Most of the time appraisals are given for insurance purposes. This is used when your items get lost, broken or stolen. The value given during an appraisal is the replacement or retail value. This is not the price you will get if you want to sell the item. This is the price you would have to pay if you were to buy the item in a store or retail setting. Of course items could be appraised for other reasons as well. Sometimes for estate or donation purposes a different type of appraisal may be used. These numbers may be more realistic. However, if you are looking to liquidate quickly the offers you receive will likely be much lower. In addition, it is important to get updated appraisals. Many believe items on in appraisal done 20 years ago would be at least double now. This is seldom the case. Yes, some items may go up in value over the years. However, a good portion of art and antiques are no longer in demand. This generation does not have the same interests as before. For more information please visit our blog post What’s Going on With Kids Today?

How can I find out what my signed antique oil painting and/or bronze is worth?

Many people find it difficult to determine the value of fine art. When trying to get accurate prices you need to make sure you get current market prices. Years ago the only way to get the value was to use one of the auction price-guide books. These books were great back then, but now times have changed. The art market can be very volatile and it is important to check auction results every couple of years. If you are not sure about what the artist sells for today, please see our contact page and we can assist you. We can also put you in contact with one of the major auction houses or private galleries that specialize in the artist.

What does the term “listed artist” mean?

Listed artist is a trade term used by people in the fine arts industry. It means that the artist has a record of items being sold or displayed in the past. Most of the time this is at auction, but it may also include galleries and art shows. If you have a signed painting or bronze and you would like to see if it is by a listed artist, contact us. We can help you get information about the artist and its current market value. We can also connect you with potential buyers and/or auctions. We work with all the major auction houses.

If you have a question about antiques, collectibles, jewelry or fine art, please email us at If the same question shows up often enough, we will add it to our frequently asked questions list.