In a Nutshell: Those trying to pay down debt or save up to make a big purchase may want to look in their attic. Old furniture, art, and collectibles may be worth something. Mearto helps people appraise and authenticate items, so they sell for top dollar. Its appraisals are based on fair market values established by experts and hard sales data. Mearto also offers an online marketplace where sellers can list their items after they’ve been appraised by an expert, and for very special, high-value items, Mearto provides a complimentary service to connect sellers with auction houses, where they are likely to get the best price for their items.
People acquire items during their lives that pile up in attics, closets, and stacks of boxes — and they may forget about them for years or decades. At one point they had value. Now, their worth is a bit of a mystery. Is that old painting worth anything? How about a binder full of baseball cards or a box of vintage comic books? Would anyone buy a collection of 1980s VHS tapes — and for how much?
Many consumers turn to Mearto for the answers to those questions. The online appraisal and authentication platform specializes in rare goods and collectibles.
“It’s similar to an ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ but from the comfort of your home,” said Lindsey Bourret, Managing Director at Mearto. “We can provide online appraisals of just about anything. Fine art, antiques, and collectibles — pretty much anything that you might find in your attic, or that you could potentially sell at auction, we can value it.”
Unlike traditional services in the field, Mearto primarily operates online. Sellers only have to send a few good images of their item and some background information and wait a couple of days to hear back from a qualified specialist. Once the value has been established, Mearto also offers a few opportunities to sell the item – on its online marketplace, or through one of the company’s many auction house partners – depending on the value of the item.
Those who have been putting off cleaning out a storage room or closet can visit Mearto to identify hidden treasures. And the proceeds can help them pay off debt or save for something bigger down the road.
Research and Secure Transactions Ensure Fair Prices
“Most of our customers just need a quick and affordable fair market valuation,” Bourret said.
Fair market valuations are based on hard data — the prices particular items currently sell for or have recently sold for at auction. Mearto provides an estimated range with a minimum and maximum value. That means that if a customer were to take an item to auction tomorrow, they could reasonably expect it to bring a price within that range.
In some cases, an item’s value can be subjective. That can be especially true of artwork from notable or even famous artists.
“It takes an experienced human eye to spot particularly fine examples and to make the difference between a mediocre and an extraordinary piece,” Bourret said. “You find that across a lot of different categories.”
To be sold at auction, works of art by notable artists (Picasso, Monet, etc.) must be authenticated. Mearto offers resources for this too, in the form of comparative analysis reports, provenance research and scientific testing.
Appraisals Put Sellers in Touch with Human Experts
In some cases, only an expert eye can appraise and authenticate an item. In other cases, machine analysis can provide a general idea of an item’s value. But human evaluation coupled with sales data is Mearto’s go-to method of valuing antiques, collectibles, and other items.
“The best combination is the data from the auction houses but also the human eye,” Bourret said. “Not every single comparable is a good match, and for certain items, you may not have as many auction house comparables. Maybe there are only two similar items that have sold in the last 10 years, so then you have to extrapolate.”
Appraisal through Mearto isn’t a one-way street. Owners don’t simply submit photos of an item, then get an estimate in return. They are able to chat back and forth with their assigned specialist, ask questions about the valuaution given, and get advice about the next steps, potential selling venues, and similar topics.
Consignment Concierge Service Helps Reach Buyers
Mearto offers a consignment concierge service for items appraised at $5,000 or more to connect the seller to one or more auction houses that could consign and sell the item on their behalf.
But it isn’t a matter of finding any auction house to sell it. Auction houses specialize in different markets and cater to specific audiences. Choosing the wrong venue can result in an item selling well below the price it may have fetched at another.
“We have the specialists determine the best auction houses to contact for an item, and then we reach out to those auction houses and negotiate on behalf of the customer to get the best consignment terms,” Bourret said.
Mearto offers this service free to sellers. If the item is sold at auction, the auction house pays Mearto a commission, incentivizing the specialists to find the right venue to realize the highest price.
The owner is not obligated to use the service; once they have an appraisal or authentication, they’re free to keep their item or sell it on their own. They may even approach auction houses independently for a valuation, but Bourret recommends against this.
“That valuation is biased because the auction house is telling you what that particular auction house will get for that item,” Bourret said. “We look at all of the auction houses all over the world for this kind of item to provide a really fair market value.”
An Online Marketplace Connects Buyers and Sellers
Of course, not every item will qualify for Mearto’s consignment concierge service. However, even those valued for less than $5,000, it can still be worth a significant amount of money, and selling it to the right buyer could put a hefty sum in the seller’s pocket.
Unfortunately, finding that buyer may involve listing the item on a digital marketplace or auction site. But sellers on these platforms may find it challenging to cut through the noise and reach buyers searching for what they’re offering.
Mearto continues to develop its online marketplace. It provides sellers a place to list items without leaving the Mearto ecosystem, making them easily discoverable by the collectors who seek them.
“We help the customers who want to sell their items on the marketplace through this process by giving them a suggested asking price,” Bourret said. “For the buyers, there’s some sense of security knowing that an expert has reviewed this item and that it has been valued by specialists.”
Sellers are not required to accept Mearto’s suggested asking price, but it is encouraged. Mearto also serves as a third-party intermediary between buyers and sellers. It accepts payment from the buyer and holds the money in escrow until the item is shipped and received.
“We do provide a little bit more security there,” Bourret said. “We take a few steps to make sure that everybody feels more secure about the transaction, especially because we’re dealing with things that may have high value or high sentimental value.”