It’s just possible that the old painting you picked up at a car boot sale could pay for your next holiday!
New research from insurance company Direct Line found that one in six of us has unwittingly given away high-value items to friends, charity shops and jumble sales, only to realise they were valuable when it was too late. These generous donations include first edition books, designer clothing, vintage toys, pop and sports memorabilia, rare vinyl records, ornaments and jewellery. All these items are currently popular with dealers and collectors, so your forgotten piece could net you hundreds – or even thousands – if you decide to sell.
Of course, not every piece of apparent junk is worth a life-changing amount, but it pays to have your special possessions professionally valued, at least. Although the ‘Hidden Value’ research found that more than two in five (43 per cent) of Brits own vintage treasures or antiques, almost half (46 per cent) of us are clueless about their worth. This is despite the fact that a fifth of us have acquired bric-a-brac which we suspect could actually be worth a small fortune, but we’ve never got around to having it valued.
Antiques expert Drew Prichard, presenter of TV’s Salvage Hunters, tells what to look out for:
Paintings and drawings
Is the artist on the Artists’ Register? You can find out more about them here and how collectable their work might be. ‘If your parents or grandparents are in their late 80s, they will have been buying things in the 1960s,’ says Drew. ‘The chance of finding an Old Master is slim – look for good quality prints from a name such as Biba.’
Garden furniture, ornaments and antique tools
Victorian and Georgian garden sets are popular, but might not have been moved in years because they are very heavy. ‘Don’t think about how it looks,’ says Drew. ‘You would be covered in lichen if you were outside for 150 years. Whatever you do, don’t clean an antique. You need to sell it as it is.’
‘Saucy’ Edwardian postcards, and cards which have not been written on have the highest value.
‘Harry Potter models will be the new Star Wars,’ believes Drew. ‘The people who collected these are in their mid-20s now. When they get into their 30s and start having children they will want them back. Anything to do with the first Big Brother is valuable, because it was a social phenomenon.’
‘Victorians created mass production,’ says Drew. ‘But in the Georgian era they made things to be one off. So these things are now rare and more desirable. ‘ Look for furniture, tableware, artwork, ornaments, even shoes and clothing such as shawls.’
Anything which is a mistake or genuinely wrong – with erroneous spelling for example – could have an added worth. ‘Mugs don’t have much value,’ explains Drew, ‘but if you had the abdicated King Edward’s Coronation mug, it might be worth a few extra pounds.’
What if you find something valuable?
If your home is hiding treasures, have them checked over by a professional valuer – this is usually free. Find a searchable online database of reputable antique dealers through the British Antique Dealers’ Association. Look out for fairs and travelling valuation events, but always check the credentials of a dealer if you decide to sell your item.
If you do find it’s valuable and opt to keep it at home, make sure you inform your insurance company. Direct Line found that a third (34 per cent) of homeowners do not know their single item limit on their policy, meaning they are at risk of being severely underinsured.
‘It is important to thoroughly inspect your antique, keeping a close eye on any manufacturer’s marks or imprints as this could make all the difference,’ says Drew. ‘And when speaking with your insurer, you must enclose every little detail to make sure your piece is correctly valued and you don’t run the risk of being underinsured.’