A “learn today profit tomorrow” guide to selling antiquities on eBay

Antiquities” traditionally describes artefacts from ancient times and in many cases existing in relic or remaindered condition.

For most collectors, antiquities are items from the Middle and Far East and some Mediterranean countries.

“Traditionally” and “For most collectors” express the fact that no universally acceptable definition exists for the term, although most experts and online dictionaries suggest “antiquity” describes any of the following:

“Ancient times, especially the times preceding the Middle Ages” (www.thefreedictionary.com)

“The far distance past, esp. the time preceding the Middle Ages in Europe”

“Ancient times, especially the period of time before he end of the Roman Empire in AD476”

“An object or building that existed in ancient times and still exists” (Source: www.macmillandictionary.com)

Those four different definitions from just two online dictionaries demonstrate why no definite period of history can be claimed to represent antiquity, and the fact that items sold under the banner of “antiquity” on eBay are sometimes too modern to warrant the description.

Definitely not for the faint-hearted, most sellers quickly discover that trading in items from ancient times is infinitely more difficult and costly with a much longer learning curve than dealing in antiques and modern day collectibles. That’s because trading in antiquities demands specialist knowledge and careful attention to constantly changing rules and regulations surrounding the buying, selling and movement of items from ancient times.

However, one major reason why antiquities are worth considering by sellers today is that collectors and dealers all over the world are paying incredibly high prices to repatriate items from ancient times. Out of all the artefacts sold and looted in ancient times, a good many found their way into private hands and museums overseas. Experts suggest the market for antiquities, notably from China, Egypt and Italy, shows no signs of slowing in the short or longer term. Experts from major international auc- tion houses specialising in antiquities say that prices show no indication of stabilising any time soon.

Witness the sale of Chinese artefacts from ancient times which are fetching hundreds of thousands of pounds more than their estimated value at auction today.

Visit any antiques or collectors’ fair and you’ll hear the often-asked question: “Anything Chinese?” That’s because:

» A few years back an 18th century Qianlong por- celain vase estimated to sell between £800,000 and just over £1m, sold for £53m.

» In 2011, a Chinese Ming vase sold for £14,000,000, having been estimated to fetch up to £1m.

But it’s not just porcelain and other decorative and usually heavy antiques or antiquities that are attracting extreme prices from Chinese bidders and buyers wanting to reclaim their country’s heritage. As an example, a rare Chinese stamp fetched $12.6m at an auction in Hong Kong recently, the same event a number of other Chinese stamps fetched way above expectations.

The director of the auction company concerned, Dr. Jeffrey Schneider, said: “The sale demonstrated the enormous price increases over the past few years for Classic China and People’s Republic Stamps. Price increases of 300% over the past few years are not uncommon.” What the good doctor says applies to most other collectibles, antiques and antiquities, especially from China.

Dr. Schneider’s advice might tempt people to purchase items now with a view to selling in a few years’ time when prices increase and buyers can resell their items at fantastic profits, on eBay, as much as elsewhere. But as a major advisor on buying and selling antiquities points out, the market for antiquities is far more volatile than for antiques and more recent collectibles, including those record price-breaking stamps that do not qualify as antiques or antiquities. This expert advises collectors and dealers buy antiquities with a view to profiting from those items over the long term, preferably after three years or more.

With promises of profits like that on the horizon, it’s time to learn more about buying artefacts today and selling them for much higher prices a few years from now. Or how about buying artefacts currently selling way below value because they’re poorly described or are offered in big bundles when they could generate much higher profits if listed individually.

These tips will help you get a foothold in the profitable business of selling antiquities on and outside of eBay:

Popular products within the overall category of antiquities on eBay include coins, amulets, jewellery, weapons and flints. Focus on these product types and you should be able to find Google images to help you identify the age and origin of your relics. More unusual items might be difficult to research without contacting specialist experts in antiquities.

It’s not just items from ancient China that can fetch incredibly high prices on and outside of eBay. Other current hot markets include antiquities from ancient Rome, Egypt and other coun- tries having their own individual product sub-category on eBay. See the next tip for details.

Antiquities on eBay sell under “Antiques > Antiquities”, then under one of the following sub-categories:

  • Americas
  • British
  • Chinese Egyptian European
  • Greek
  • Irish
  • Near Eastern
  • Prehistoric
  • Roman
  • Russian
  • Scandinavian
  • Other Antiquities

Some artefacts sell for pennies on eBay, some- times in bulk and still priced in pennies or low pounds, making this a business anyone can start and profit from even with only a few pounds to invest.

For example:

» A collection of Roman coins has no bidders and a starting price of just £39.00 on eBay today. (More than 30 coins in the bundle suggests this would present a good arbitrage deal for buying while just over a £1 apiece and either listing coins separately for closer to £5 each, or hanging on to them for a couple of years and expecting much higher prices.)

» A collection of 10 Roman artefacts (rings, coins, weights, keys) currently has six hours to run on auction and so far has no bidders on eBay UK. The same seller has several multiple product lots listed with a 99p starting price and no bidders. Idea: Place a maximum £5 bid on those bundles and list the items separately in your eBay Shop, priced £20 each Buy It Now or Best Offer. That will set you back just 10p per month in listing fees and I’m pretty certain most items will sell close to or at the £20 mark.

» Six medieval bronze thimbles are selling on eBay with just one bid of 61p.

» Five ancient Roman finger rings have attracted one bidder offering £1 for the lot (20p for a Roman ring!!).

» A massive collection of antiquities found by a metal detector in Norfolk has a starting price of just £3 and so far no bidders.

» Two very large collections of Saxon and mediaeval bronze buckles have no bidders and a starting price of just 99p.

* Buying low price items for low to medium profits on eBay will help you learn more about antiquities in expectation of prices like these a few years from now:

» Rare Ancient Roman Intaglio Seal Ring Large 24K Gold – £2,944.60

» Aphrodite: Ancient Roman Marble Portrait Male Bust – £1,735.04

» Memento Mori or Mourning Ring – 17th Century, Gold – £1,709.00

» Roman Gold Wedding Ring – 2nd C. AD – £1,668.00

In an extremely informative guide, eBayer “heliosantiquities” gives advice for people wanting to collect antiquities, which by implication, also benefits people selling those items.

The author, Rolf von Kiazr, is a partner in Helios Gallery Antiquities and a member of the board of the Antiquities Dealers Association. I recommend you read guides written by heliosantiquities. Another report writer focussing on antiquities is Australian eBayer: bruiser007.

Discover and share their obvious expertise by clicking on “Advanced” top right of eBay’s home page. On the next page choose “By Seller” left of the screen, then on the following page key in the seller’s ID – heliosantiquities and/or bruiser 007. Once you access one of their listings pages, click on “View Reviews & Guides”. You’ll be taken to view two guides by heliosantiquities and several by bruiser007. I read them all and heartily recommend you do the same.

» Some countries have strict rules governing the movement of antiquities with severe punishments for people breaking laws relating mainly to whether an item can be sold on the private market and/or exported overseas. Most rules and regulations can be learned from professional bodies:

The Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA): 41 Dover Street, London, W1X 3RB http://www.theada.co.uk

The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA): 20 Brook Street, London, W1R 5DE http://www.iadaa.org

» For easy-to-follow starter guides to understanding the market for antiquities, visit:


(Note: the suffix says “antiques” but the article is in fact about antiquities.)

» A wonderfully informative guide to collecting antiquities, and by implication useful for sellers also, is available from the eBay seller mentioned earlier – heliosantiquities – but this time from his own website at: www.heliosgallery.com/noframes/collecting.php

Helios Gallery provides advice about recognising and dating a range of antiquities and spotting forgeries.

Also look at:



» Fakes abound on the antiquities market and many are good enough to fool even the experts. One of the best ways to avoid buying fakes is to work with internationally-renowned auction houses and members of the Antiquities Deal- ers Association (ADA). Top dealer members of ADA have the ability and tools to test and authenticate the date and origins of most types of antiquities.

» Learn the business by purchasing cheap items such as broken and heavily-decayed pieces. Study those items and make notes about their potential value by having the pieces identified by online experts and by researching their potential resale value on eBay. For expert advice try:



» Be content to keep your early acquisitions and wait for them to grow in value over several years, or turn them over fast for a small profit per item. This will help you learn more about antiquities and develop buying and selling contacts before moving on to purchasing more expensive items with a view to reselling them for massive profits on eBay.

There’s so much to know about buying and selling various items of antiquity, making it a good idea to specialise in a narrow field of artefacts, or in one particular country or period. Knowing a lot about a narrow range of artefacts will help you identify antiquities selling below value by inexperienced auctioneers and antiques dealers. That’s because all but the biggest auction salerooms lack specialist valuers, and without knowledgeable bidders on the auction day, an extremely valuable item can easily sell way below market value, to an expert in antiquities. Which you will soon be!


This has been a start-up article to help whet your appetite for learning more about buying and selling really old items (without buying fakes or overspending on items that fail to reward your investment). Learn from the sources mentioned in this article to grow your knowledge. Then look forward to buying items for a couple of pounds, which really could fetch many thousands of pounds pure profit on eBay.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here