If you are beginning to buy antiques you will certainly know what each piece is worth, and whether you need a valuating. Remember, although a valuation will involve some expense, if you don't have your possessions valued you could find that in the event of burglary or accident, you are inadequately insured and unable to replace your property.
There are various ways of having your antiques valued. If you know a friendly local dealer, and only have a few items, he may be able to provide you with a valuation, although you should check with your insurance company that this will be acceptable. If you have a fairly extensive collection, your insurance company may prefer a valuation from the special valuer, or one of the larger auction houses, all of whom have large valuation departments.
One of the main advantages in using an auction house is that although most of the valuing will be done by "generalists" (valuers with experience in assessing many different types of antiques) if there is anything unusual in your collection, or anything they are unsure of, they can call upon specialist expert advice. Sometimes the valuer visits collectors' home, and that some extraordinary finds could come to daily light. There are known cases when a priceless Ming bowl being used for a dog's water, or a medieval bronze employed as a door stop. Both of these were later sold for several thousand pounds.
Prices for valuations vary, and can be calculated in various ways, either as a percentage of the total value of your property (usually between 1/2 % and 1 1/2%), on a daily rate, or as an agreed flat rate. As a general guide, a valuer will be able to assess between 100-300 pieces per day. You should always make sure you agree the final figure before the valuation takes place, not afterwards. Some auction houses offer an added bonus by reducing their commission rates, should you decide to sell any of the items they have valued within a reasonably short period of time.
Whoever carries out your valuation, you should make sure it includes a full description of every item, together with its dimensions and value for insurance purposes. The price an insurance valuer puts on your property will probably be at least 20% higher than what you could you decide to sell. If you feel this will make you insurance premiums prohibitively high, you can opt for "market valuation" (auction prices) instead. But bear in mind if the valuation is too low you could find yourself unable to replace lost items satisfactorily.