More people than ever are selling valuables that they no longer want in order to make money for more practical purposes. With a shaky economy, it often does not make sense to hang onto heirlooms that may or may not increase in value in the future. There are many ways to assess the value of your unwanted treasures before selling them. With the increasing popularity of online sales sites, you can advertise your goods to the entire world. Here are several popular categories of heirlooms:

Gold and Jewelry
Most American jewelry boxes contain pieces that the owner no longer wears or have gone out of style. As the price of gold increases and the economy softens, more people are cleaning out their jewelry boxes and making some quick cash. Today, gold remains just over $1,700 an ounce, and there are more ways than ever to sell your unwanted gold and other jewelry. Television commercials for gold buyers are abound, and many of them set up temporary shop in a public location to assess the value of your jewelry.

These gold dealers are after one thing only - quality gold that they can either melt down themselves or sell to a company that does. Gold chains and bands are a good fit for these dealers if the pieces have no antique or other style value. Before you go, know the value of your gold. Dealers will pay a fraction of the spot price of gold and each dealer is different. You can estimate your gold's worth with several online calculators.

If you have high-end rings, brooches or other similar jewelry, you will likely get a higher price at an estate jeweler. These jewelers sell previously owned pieces intact to buyers looking for unique jewelry. Have a qualified appraiser do an appraisal of your piece so that you know how much it is worth before you put a sale price on it, but make sure this is done by a licensed jeweler who does not buy estate jewelry. Any appraisal done by a jeweler who then makes you an offer on the piece is suspect. The National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) maintains a list of member jewelers, who are required to maintain a code of ethics.

Antiques
The word "antique" is used liberally to apply to anything that is old, but properly refers to items 100 years or older. Antiques can be anything from postcards to cars. The value of antiques is often related to their sentimental value to a collector, rather than to an inherent value. Monetizing your antiques depends on many factors, including the overall state of the economy and the market for the pieces. In a down economy, fewer collectors have disposable income and the price of many antiques is depressed. Antiques that are easily identifiable, such as glass pieces from a particular maker or coins, often have active collecting communities, making it easier to establish a market price. If you are selling large or rare pieces, have them appraised before putting them on the market. Online sites, such as eBay, are often used as venues to sell antiques to a worldwide audience.

Collectibles
Collectibles represent anything that people collect that are not antique. Popular categories of collectibles include vintage baseball cards, depression-era glassware, comic books and vintage toys. As with antiques, some types of collectibles have vibrant collector communities that help define the worth of the items. The worth is partly determined by the rarity of the piece and its condition.

However, collectibles are also affected by the whims and changing preferences of their fans. When Hummel figurines were at the peak of their popularity in the '70s, their resale value rose. Production also rose, flooding the market with the ceramic pieces and they eventually went out of style. Today, Hummels can be picked up on eBay for a few dollars each. The value of sports cards also depends on the popularity and value of the player. For example, a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card can be worth upwards of $60,000, but a George Stirnweiss card from the same year goes for less than a dollar.

Collectibles, such as antiques, are bought and sold daily on online sites. Many cities host collectibles expositions where you can buy, sell and trade, bringing together serious enthusiasts and another potential market for your piece.

The Bottom Line
The Internet has made it easier to find a market for most resale goods, including older pieces that have inherent or collectible value. Researching the value of your heirlooms ahead of time will help you get the most money for your treasures.

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