Top antiques apps for your iPad or Android tablet

Pricing antiques? There’s an app for that but an overall lack of apps leaves room for innovation

We live in an age of specialists. In almost every profession, the amount of information available is too overwhelming to be mastered by one individual. Doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, and personal property appraisers – individuals in too many professions to count – are specialists, not generalists. The day of the generalist is over.

Antiques Auctioneer Wayne JordanWayne Jordan, Behind the Gavel

Even technology is trending toward specialization. Soon to be gone are big, multi-function software programs. It used to be that big, multi-function programs offered a great value. For a modest price, you could buy the Swiss Army Knife of software that included a word processor, database, spreadsheet, customer relationship management and more. But with each new version of the software came new features, and soon such software became a victim of its own size. Eventually, every big program reaches a point where there are so many features offered that access to them becomes difficult and makes the whole product impractical for the average user. How big would a Swiss Army Knife have to be before it became unusable? If the knife had 50 tools, how many would you actually use? Would you rather pay a hefty price for a knife full of tools that you didn’t use, or would you rather have a useful, practical knife at a modest – or nonexistent – price?

Useful and practical is the trend in software applications, and nowhere is that trend more apparent than in mobile applications for iPad, Android and other smart phones. In 2011, there were more than 17 billion mobile application downloads and this number is predicted to reach 100 billion downloads by 2014. Not all of these are free downloads, either: 20 percent of the downloads were purchased. Consumers prefer applications that are straightforward and purpose-oriented.

Read more: Editor’s Pick: My favorite iPad apps for antiques

Mobile apps are straightforward, single-purpose applications that move us away from a generic browser-based view of the Internet into a customized, 24/7 world of information that is obtained and organized specifically for a particular user. Plus, they have the added benefit of being “on” all the time; you don’t have to be plugged in to your DSL, cable or satellite connection to gain access.

Don’t confuse mobile applications with old-school mobile device access to a website. Using a mobile device, consumers can reach any website that has been configured for mobile access. Typically, such access is limited and difficult to manage; visualize trying to squeeze a 15-inch desktop computer screen down into the 3 or 4-inch screen of a smartphone. Get the picture? There’s a lot of scrolling involved. Mobile applications, on the other hand, are specifically designed to work on a particular device platform and are configured to provide full access to a company’s available data. How do you recognize which is which? Mobile applications must be downloaded. If the website/membership you are looking at doesn’t require that an application be downloaded, then you probably won’t have full access to their information from your mobile device.

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There are many mobile applications available for antique dealers and collectors; in fact. there are way too many to cover in one column. If you’re interested in an in-depth look at what’s available, just Google “apps for antique dealers” or “apps for collectors” and you’ll have plenty of reading.

Before you search for apps that will serve you well in your hobby or business, there are a few things you need to know:

  • Not all apps are available for all mobile platforms. If you find exactly what you’re looking for at the iPad store but you own an Android, keep looking or buy another device. In fact, as of this writing I could find no worthwhile antiques-related mobile applications for Android. Yes, there are applications available but I found them to be redundant and not much more than e-books or personal-collection databases. There is hope for Android users, though: I understand that there are several antiques applications in development by reputable companies. More on that as the situation develops.
  • Most apps have a notoriously short life. According to a recent study by Pinch Media, 30 percent of mobile users discard iPhone apps the day after buying and downloading them from Apple’s App Store. As you can imagine, the throw-away rate is even higher for free apps, with about 80 percent of users discarding them the day after download. After 30 days, fewer than 5 percent of downloaded apps are still being used. Before you click the “download” link, know the limitations of the application. Stick with applications from large, well-known companies, because the failure rate of small-time app developers is extremely high. If you’re not familiar with the company, understand that their app may not be around next week.
  • There’s a lot of duplication in available apps. For example, there are several apps on the market that will provide directions to your (or someone else’s) store. This is such a simple function that many larger apps include it as a feature. When choosing an app, ask yourself what functionality you expect, and search for a product that will give you what you want in one product. If you can get product search, geo-locator, pricing, photos and points of connoisseurship from just one application, then information will be much easier to access than if you had to open up four applications to accomplish the same end.

Here are two apps that have proven themselves useful in the antiques marketplace for price research, locating products and marketing. They are the only ones that I can recommend at this time.

Worthpoint Mobile Application: This application gives dealers and collectors the ability to access Worthpoint’s database of 120 million-plus records and images from online marketplaces and auction houses. The data available covers a wide range of items including stamps, coins, fine art, sports memorabilia and access to the latest information, articles and news in the antique/collectible industry. Also provided is a geo-locator that identifies antique stores within a specified geographic range. The app is available for iPad and iPhone and the download is free, but you must have a Worthpoint membership to access the database. The app is a standard feature for all three Worthpoint subscription plans. Worthpoint spokesperson Britni Zandbergen confirms that as of June 9, the Worthpoint application has had more than 22,300 downloads. Clearly, dealers and collectors are finding the Worthpoint application useful. You can download the app from Worthpoint’s mobile app website.

eBay Mobile Application: If you’re an active eBay seller and own an iPad or iPhone, then you should have this app . . . because it’s free. It’s also a very useful tool for eBay traders, because all the selling and listing functions that are available on your desktop computer are available to your mobile device. Plus, you have the added benefits of a barcode scanner that enables you to research items and import the details right into your listing, and you can access PayPal right from your phone. You can download the app from eBay’s mobile app website.

Antique dealers spend a lot of time on the road. Those who have an iPhone or iPad and a useful mobile application have a distinct advantage over dealers whose only online access is their desktop computer. The right app is more than a piece of software; it’s a 24/7 personal assistant. It’s a dog that always brings you your slippers. It’s a big lever that can move your business. With such an app, you can have a specialist’s knowledge right at your fingertips.

Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. Learn more at his website, at 276-730-5197 or

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