I've been buying and inheriting and coveting vintage items my whole life, but it's only over the past year that I've had to come up fair prices at which to sell them.
It started with my Barbies on e-bay--finding websites online that specialize in Barbies so I could look at their little butts and hairstyles and figure out what the model was and what year they were made. Then doing searches on e-bay and elsewhere on the Internet to get some idea of what they were going for, and how much it mattered if someone had gnawed off their fingers or drawn on a bra with red pen.
[Side note: My teenage son was helping me list these, and one of my fondest memories is of him bending down to take a close-up photograph of a Barbie butt. If only he hadn't had the camera, it would have made a priceless picture!]
Now for the past three months I've been selling vintage items on Etsy (in addition to my jewelry), and this has proved to be even more of a challenge, since I'm not a specialist and for each new item I need to find new resources. One of the first items I listed was a beautiful green dish with hydrangeas, made by Hutschenreuther Selb, Bavaria. First I had to figure out that the signature on the back said Selb, not Gelb (amazing how many e-bay sellers get this wrong). Finally after several hours of searching, I actually found a website (in German) that showed the manufacturer's marks and dates so I could tell that it was made before 1920.
Once I have a concept of the year and maker, then I need to do a search of e-bay, Etsy, and other online sellers to get an appropriate price. Seldom have I found the exact item, so a lot of it is guesswork. Fortunately, there's a great vintage community at Etsy, and they are a wonderful resource for relative newbies like me.
I can see why people end up specializing. Each new item--costume jewelry, a random leather purse, postcards, buttons--I've had to go through a similar process, and always I'm left wondering. Is this one of those Lisner necklaces that's worth $35 or $65 or $125?
You tell me.