Authentication and Appraisal on eBay

Authentication of an item can be very important to its sale value. Although many collectibles and antiques will sell without certification that the item is in fact as you describe, if you are able to provide evidence of an item’s history and value, interest in that item will increase dramatically as will its final sale price.

Methods of authentication that you can apply without special expertise vary from locating hidden labels, stamps or marks on antiques and designer goods to documentation of certificates of authenticity for works of art. For the vast majority of items sold online a professional appraisal is unnecessary or a ‘nice to have’ versus a requirement for listing the item for sale. However, for some types of items such as high-value and/or rare works of art, antiques or collectibles, an expert appraisal can boost the final sale price of an item by providing the information needed to describe the item and its condition, fully and accurately.

An appraisal is an assessment of the market value of an item, given its condition, age, and provenance (history), and the public demand for that item, as of a specific date. Appraisals cost anywhere from $75 to $150 or more to perform, depending on the item and location. If the item is believed to be rare or of high value (worth thousands of dollars or more), an appraisal can be well worth the cost. If not, it is best to apply alternate authentication methods and documentation.

The American Society of Appraisers is a national organization of accredited appraisers with expertise in many different areas.

1. Authenticating Art

Many in today’s art world feel the problem of forgery has only worsened with the emergence of online marketplaces such as eBay, since artworks are rarely inspected in person prior to being purchased.

If you decide to sell art via online auction, it’s best to have a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from the gallery who sold the piece or to have the piece appraised (if it hasn’t been already) by a reputable art dealer. If you have a COA for a piece, a separate appraisal isn’t necessary unless the COA is quite old or you have questions about its legitimacy. If you need to have a piece appraised, look in the Yellow Pages under “Art” or contact the American Society of Appraisers.

Be sure to include a description of the “provenance” of a piece (its history) in your listing, as this will also help determine the value of the work.

2. Authenticating Autographs

If you want to have an autograph authenticated by a professional (or would like to learn how to authenticate autographs yourself), contact the Universal Autograph Collectors Club.

PSA/DNA is one of the best-known authentication services for sports memorabilia. Fees vary depending on the item and signature in question.

Autograph World maintains an online authentication guide with pictures of thousands of autographs. This guide can help you eliminate obvious forgeries, but should not be used as a substitute for having a professional review a signature.

3. Authenticating Designer Merchandise

Some designer items come with authenticity cards bearing a serial number:

  • Chanel puts this serial number on a small white sticker inside a purse (usually inside a pocket). Some owners remove the Chanel stickers, so if you can’t find one that doesn’t necessarily mean the purse is counterfeit.
  • Gucci has a “controllato” card and stamps a different number on the back of a leather tag inside a purse.

You can also ask the seller where they acquired the item; Designer boutiques are popular in Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and New York, but so are street vendors who sell knock-offs. Beware of items purchased at an in-home “purse party”—these are almost always counterfeit!

If you are selling expensive designer shoes or high-end sports attire, include a store receipt (with personal information removed) as proof of purchase/authenticity whenever feasible.


  • An appraisal also demonstrates a level of professionalism and knowledge of an item difficult to attain without expert evaluation.

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