How to Ask a Question

You have an antique and you want to know more about it. How do you know where to start and what to ask?

For many years, alright too many years to confess to, I hosted a very popular radio show that actually gave appraisals over the radio. Yes, you ask, how did you do that? Well, by educating people to look, for perhaps the first time, at the things that were in front of them. I pointed out salient, identifiable marks that would help me assess the age, maker, uniqueness and ultimately the value of the piece. I walked the caller through the process hundreds/thousands of times.

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. To all of you who have chosen Worthpoint as your source for Q&A and evaluations, I say: when writing in with a question be specific.

For example, let’s talk about dishes. Here’s the question as I’ve seen similar questions posted: “I have some Limoges china what’s it worth?”

Here is what is going through an evaluators mind when he/she reads it:

– what kind of Limoges china, are we talking a set of dishes?

– if so, what does the set consist of – plates, cups and saucers, vegetable serving dishes,

– what is the pattern name, if any,

– describe the decoration of the piece/pieces,

– does it say Haviland, does it say Limoge, or France on the bottom of the plate,

– does it say anything else that would help the evaluator give you the answer/ valuation that you are looking for?

– condition, are there any chips, dings, crazing in the glaze, knife scratches on the finish – yes, you can see them without subjecting the piece to a black light, (what’s a black light? we’ll talk about that another time).

You see what I mean.

Here is a better way to ask the question regarding Limoges porcelain. “I have a complete service of twelve Limoges dishes. They are marked on the bottom with Limoges, France and another name Lippincott and Company. There is no pattern name on the bottom but the dishes are decorated with blue forget-me-nots. In addition to the place settings that consist of dinner/lunch/bread and butter/bone dish/cup and sauce/tea cup and saucer, I have a coffee pot, creamer and sugar with lid,two vegetable dishes without lids, and three graduated serving platters, the largest being 18″ inches wide and the smallest 12″. All seem to be in excellent condition with no visible signs of wear. They belonged to my grandmother who received them as a wedding gift in 1918. Any help you can give on the value of the collection would be greatly appreciated.”

This may seem like a lot of work to you, but, boy does it make my life easier. And the benefit to you is that you will get a much better and more specific answer.

I’m looking forward to your questions, and I promise I won’t send them back to you with editorial suggestions.

Christopher Kent is a Worthologist and Director of Evaluations for WorthPoint.