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MICROSCOPE-ANTIQUES.COM     2013-16.



APPRAISALS, VALUATION, AND APPRAISING MICROSCOPES


Since I started this website some years ago, I have been contacted more and more about valuation of antique microscopes. Before I explain what I am willing to do to help those in need of such services, I want to explain some things of great importance to those who want to sell old microscopes or are interested in their value.

What is an antique worth? This is a complicated question. The short answer is, it is worth what someone is willing to pay for it at the time you are asking!   Many factors are involved. Supply and Demand are paramount. If something is rare, but few people would want one, no matter how uncommon, that rare item has little or no value. Another related fact is directly related to supply. Some microscope models were literally made in the tens of thousands. Therefore, because there is a relatively small number of people who collect microscopes, a model which was made in large numbers is simply not worth very much. It may even be worthless if in less than perfect condition. An example would be the Bausch & Lomb 'BB' model microscope. This was the most popular model B & L made at the time, far outselling any other model. It is a beautiful and well made scope, but because so many were made, unless it is in near-perfect condition, it is almost worthless, and even in great condition will have a relatively low value. So even though they are over 100 years old, and may appear unusual or rare to the unfamiliar person, they have a relatively low value. One look at a search for 'antique microscope' on Ebay will usually illustrate this point-Typical Results: many very overpriced and common old microscopes in poor condition, that will never sell. The collectors have seen hundreds or even thousands of examples, and they can afford to both wait, and also be quite picky about the condition of the one they might want to actually bid on. Furthermore, most collectors who might have wanted one, already have one.

On the other hand, very rare and highly collectible 17th and 18th century instruments may demand a price more than a house. Also important, the economy also has something to do with current value, as moderate value will turn to low value in times of economic uncertainty, or recession. Only the wealthy will be aggressive in buying things during such times, and few microscope collectors (including myself) are wealthy.

Another factor is perceived rarity. Before the Internet, certain microscopes appeared to be rare and often fetched high prices but once it became obvious that there were more of those models out there than previously assumed, the prices for these plummeted. An example is the Bausch & Lomb 'Model' microscope. I recently sold mine for one third of what I had paid some 15 years ago.

PRICES IN 2016:
As of 2016 prices of most antique microscopes have really dropped. This trend seems to continue. A Busch Pocket microscope in good condition sold for $23 on Ebay recently. This microscope has sold for as much as $800 in the past. The Heath 'Counterfeit Detector' has also dropped tremendously in value. Even the Nachet Grand Modele is selling for 25% of its former price; again this year one sold for $1050 on Ebay; I paid $3700 for mine just a few years ago.

So how do you tell what its worth? Well it takes a lot of experience. You cannot simply look at Ebay and see what people are asking for one-they usually have no idea of what they are worth. You cannot even look just at prices realized, because the first example offered often sells for much more than the next ten examples, as the number of offerings usually rises (and the prices drop) quickly after the first one is sold.

But there is hope; as a service I will often give my honest estimate of the value of a single instrument or two, provided I am supplied with good enough images and details. I do not charge for this service for one or two instruments, provided I am allowed to use any images I am provided on my site. If on the other hand, if you have many microscopes, and want an appraisal, especially a detailed or written valuation, I am forced to charge you for my time which will be based on how much time I need, to give you a fair and honest opinion. I can often give you a rough idea of the value of an entire collection quickly if the images are good, but the more detail that is required in the appraisal, the more time it involves. My appraisals will not guarantee the value nor what it might bring at auction, only my best estimate based on my more than twenty five years of collecting, buying and selling microscopes. Please note that if the collection includes only instruments of relatively low value, I will tell you that up front and not charge you for my advice.

Lastly, I am sometimes offered microscopes for sale and I will offer a fair price for those that might interest me, taking into account the market, what I already have, and the costs involved. I will even accept selected consignments (for a small percentage of sale price plus costs of the sale) to sell for those who wish to make use of this service, provided the instrument(s) is/are worth this effort. Be aware that any estimate applies at the time of valuation, and its value may be lower or higher at another time. Sometimes people wait for the price to go back up; this could be successful (unlikely except for extreme rarities) or backfire, as it has for those that waited until 2016 to sell their instruments.