Do You Have C.R.U.D.?

By Lori Nelson

As an appraiser and instructor of a college antiques course, I am constantly hearing that phrase, "But it's old!" Certainly age does matter, but only when many other criteria have been met.

As an example, look at treadle sewing machines. Every family used to have one. Many are true antiques, but the values are low as a result of supply and demand.

I remember when arm-oires experienced the same value vs. demand problem. Then someone thought to make armoires into television cabinets, and presto, everyone wanted an armoire again. It isn't age, but demand that created value in this instance.

In my classes, students bring in a plethora of items. Many times, the stories told by ancient relatives who passed it down bring hope of significance and added value. I hate to disappoint, but I find myself explaining my C. R. U. D. theory over and over again.

So, what is CRUD?

First, there is Condition. Original or mint condition is the most desirable. At least not broken, chipped or repaired. Always look for the best condition available.

Rarity is next. When you type your "rare" collectible into Ebay and find 13,120 others just like yours, what you have is not so rare. This is why we are amazed at the exorbitant prices some rather mundane articles bring. It is rarity that drive the prices so high.

Following rarity is Usability. If an item is useful, such as flatware or a vase, it is something people need. Many little collectibles, such as statues, knickknacks, ephemera, etc., are cute and sought after, but an item that one will actually use is an item that will recoup more money. The rest collect dust and have the "ooh, aah" factor, but what do you DO with a Hummel? (No offense to Hummel collectors!)

Last, there is Demand. Perhaps the most important component in this theory, demand drives all business in every aspect. If an item is high demand, and especially if there are few to be had, you will see value. Significant value. Usually more than you paid for an item; certainly more than you expect if many people are searching for it. Of course, demand is often sensitive and regional. A Coca-Cola item will not bring many inquiries from Seattle, Washington; but try that item in the Atlanta metro area, and you should see a difference. Green jadeite ware was all the rage before Martha Stewart went to jail, and it was used as a backdrop on her show. Later, it took a plunge, as she took one, too. Things pop in and out of popularity. Still, some items remain in high demand year after year.

Do you have C.R.U.D.? That is the question you must ask, if you want to pursue antiques or collectibles from a money-making point of view. For now, search for CRUD amongst your belongings, and please stop telling me what you have is old. That is old news!


Lori Nelson is a media personality, antiques appraiser and gemologist. She teaches appraisal courses at Kennesaw University, Georgia. Lori can be reached at 770-421-8368.

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