Here's a concept that's not often discussed: the antiques and collectible pecking order. What I mean is that there are different levels within the trade, and it's sometimes interesting to watch an item move from one level to the other and how "value" changes at each level. This is a true story and a good example of what I mean. Some years ago my friend purchased an antique country wooden bucket in original blue milk-based paint at a garage sale for $1 (level one). We met the next day at a flea market where we were both set up, and he sold it to me for $10 (level two). It was a fair price, and I had no intention of selling it. My plan was to take it home and add it to my collections. Temporarily, I placed it in my van. The next thing I knew, another dealer who happened to be shopping the flea market saw the bucket and asked its price. I said it wasn't for sale. Before long, the offer was $200, and I couldn't say no any longer. I accepted the $200 and split it with my friend. I later learned that the new owner was a high-end antiques dealer. He took it to an antiques show (level three) where he was exhibiting that weekend, and I heard through the grapevine that he sold it for $500 to an advanced collector (level four). The point of this vignette is that something purchased for $1 at a garage sale on a Saturday morning traded hands several times, subsequently selling for $10, then $200, and finally for $500, all the next day. This illustrates the way merchandise can move through the antiques and collectibles chain or pecking order, until it finally reaches the ultimate retail buyer. This type of exchange used to be common when farm and regular house sales took place every Saturday and dealers would take their purchases the following day to the various markets in Adamstown to sell. What a great business we're in. What's it worth? Eventually almost every collector reaches the point where they decide to sell their collections. Age, health, death, divorce, declining interest, a pending move or downsizing, debt or financial obligations can motivate individuals to sell. There's a lot of great merchandise coming back into the marketplace today, with even more returning in the coming years. This is great news if you're a collector because, with fluctuating prices and fresh merchandise, there probably hasn't been a better time to collect over the past generation. Mike Ivankovich is an auctioneer, appraiser, home downsizing expert, and host of the "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" radio show that airs live in the Philadelphia area on Friday mornings from 9:30-10:30 a.m. EST on WBCB 1490 AM and on the Internet at www.WBCB1490.com. You can also visit his radio show website at www.AskMikeTheAppraiser.com. Further details can also be found at www.michaelivankovichappraisals.com.