How to Mail Photographs for Evaluation

If you are unable to submit photos using the online auction evaluation form, you may send photographs and a description of your property through the mail. A Skinner auction evaluation is free of charge.

7 Tips for your Auction Evaluation

Download a Printable Auction Evaluation Form
Please send in one form per item. Read about getting an evaluation for a large collection or estate.

1.    Take a good picture

Pictures really are worth a thousand words – when they’re in focus, that is! Look  at your photographs before sending them – are they blurry? Dark? Washed out? You might want to try again. The better your image, the more an expert appraiser will be able to tell you about the item.

For the best results, take the item outside in daylight, and set it on a flat, uncluttered area such as a table or deck. If you’re taking a photo inside, try placing the item in front of a light-colored backdrop such as a bedsheet or wall and make sure the area is well lit. Use your camera’s automatic focus, and take a color photograph of the entire item.

2.    Take pictures of important details or condition issues

Once you’ve taken a picture of the whole item, well lit and in focus, don’t stop there! Look over the item for any identifying marks, interesting details, or condition issues. Maybe your silver tea set has a maker’s mark stamped on the bottom, or perhaps your antique chest of drawers has a broken foot. The appraiser needs to see these details in order to provide you with an accurate assessment of value.

Take close-up photographs of any important details you notice. Use your camera’s macro settings to ensure a focused close-up image.

3.    Get out your measuring tape

The more information you include with your auction evaluation form, the better. We ask you for a detailed description of your item including as much of the information below as possible. If you don’t know, don’t worry. It’s our job to research the answers.

  • Artist or maker
  • Medium or material
  • Dimensions in inches
  • Identifying marks or signatures
  • Country of origin
  • Period and style
  • Number of items in a set or service

 4.    Photocopy any paperwork or other important information

Do you have identifying documents? A receipt of purchase? A previous written appraisal? Photocopy these documents to send with your auction evaluation form. Please do not send original documents.

We also want to know everything that you know about the item. The following information is often helpful:

  • How long has the item been in your family or your possession?
  • Who has owned it?
  • Where did it come from and when was it purchased or gifted?

On occasion, we find that these stories are little more than family lore, but most times they can provide clues to an item’s provenance and authenticity.

5.    Mail in the Form

Download and print the Auction Evaluation Form. Fill it out completely, including all of the information you gathered about your item. Attach your photos and any additional documents.

Mail everything to:

Attn: Auction Evaluations
274 Cedar Hill Street
Marlborough, MA 01752

6.    Don’t worry if you missed a consignment deadline

Skinner’s twenty specialty departments hold auctions on a rotating schedule. Even if you’ve missed one consignment deadline, another auction will be coming soon.

In fact, one secret to auction success is consigning your property early. Consigning well in advance of an auction date gives the auction house the necessary time it takes to research, catalog, photograph, advertise, market, and promote your pieces to buyers, often resulting in higher prices for your property.

7.    Keep an open mind

Antiques reality TV shows make it seem like there’s a priceless treasure lurking in everyone’s home. You hear about it all the time – the missing Aubrey Beardsley print found hanging in a bathroom, or the antique moon shawl pulled out of a box in the basement. The truth is, stories like this are few and far between. Rare objects are rare for a reason – not very many people own them.

Skinner expert appraisers receive hundreds of auction evaluation requests every week, and unfortunately we are unable to respond personally to every request. We do read every message, and will respond within three to four weeks if your property is a good fit for a Skinner auction and the value exceeds our minimum lot level.

In a follow-up phone call, email, or letter, the Skinner appraiser will provide a professional opinion of the value of your item. This auction estimate is based on expert knowledge of the current market and comparisons to similar items that have sold recently.

Trust the appraiser’s opinion, and remember that an auction estimate is not a price tag. Markets fluctuate – an antique dresser that was worth $10,000 ten years ago may be worth $5,000 today, while a Chinese vase that used to be worth just $300 thirty years ago could be worth $3,000 now.

If you are asked to consign with Skinner, congratulations! We take it on good faith that you mailed in an evaluation form because you are considering selling your item at auction.

Read more about selling at Skinner