Tips for sellers

I don’t think there’s a magic trick to sell copper online. Different buyers want different things, but every buyer has to reach a decision: do I want the thing for sale enough to pay the asking price (or bid or make an offer)?

My suggestion to you as a seller is to provide enough clear information to make it as easy as possible for a buyer to make that decision. Having looked at and bought (or not bought!) quite a bit of copper online, I’ve realized that my decision process comes down to weighing five pieces of information.

In brief, here are the questions I have and how you can address them in your listing.

How big is the pan? Give the pan body’s diameter in centimeters, and consider including another object for scale in a photo.
How thick is the copper? Give the pan’s weight without its lid in grams, and take a photo of the rim of the pan against a metric ruler or caliper.
What’s the condition of the lining? Take a clear well-lit overhead photo of the pan’s entire interior, and zoomed-in photos of any discolored areas.
Is it going to need repairs? Take photos of all sides of the pan, its handle, and top-down, and test the base to see if it wobbles on a flat surface.
Is there anything special about it? Take clear photos of any words, letters, or numbers stamped on the pan or its handle; if there are no stamps at all, take a good photo of the handle baseplate.

Read on for more detail about each of these.

How big is the pan?

You’d be surprised how often sellers make this hard to figure out.

  • Measure the pan in centimeters and include it in the description. French (and European) pots and pans are sized to the metric system and it’s more precise than inches.
  • Measure the pan body. It’s helpful also to measure handle-to-handle, but that’s not the useable size of the pot.
  • Include a photo with an object for scale. Placing a pot against a plain backdrop for photos is nice for clarity but it’s hard to tell how big it is. Consider adding a wine bottle or soda can or some other object into the frame as well.

How thick is the copper?

Saying a pan is “heavy!” or “weighs about five pounds!” isn’t really helpful.

  • Weigh the pan accurately and precisely. Use a scale and provide as specific a weight as you can. Learn how to switch your scale’s units to grams and kilos, which are more precise than pounds and ounces.
  • Give the weight of the pan without its lid. Lids are great, but my primary concern is the thickness of the pan body. Better yet, weigh the pan with and without its lid (if it has one) and give me both weights.
  • Take a photo of the rim of the pan with a metric ruler (or caliper). If you don’t have a caliper handy, lay a metric ruler flat over the rim and get a close-up so I can see for myself how many millimeters thick it is.
  • Include the thickness of the pan in millimeters in the item description. If you’d like some suggestions on how to measure thickness, I did a post on it.

What’s the condition of the lining?

This is particularly important for tin-lined pans. Just one or two good clear photos can do it.

  • Take at least one well-lit, in-focus overhead photo of the entire interior of the pan.
  • Take a zoomed-in photo of areas with discoloration. You don’t need to show every square inch of the surface, but you need to capture the texture of the tin to convey what state it’s in.

Is it going to need repairs?

These are not deal-breakers for me but they are an extra expense during retinning. Here’s what will help me:

  • A top-down photo to show if the pan is out of round
  • Photo of the handle(s) to show corrosion around the base and damaged or loose rivets
  • Photos of all sides to show dents and scratches
  • Test the base by setting it on a flat surface to check if it wobbles

Is there anything special about it?

For me, it comes down to stuff like this: Was it made by a maker I like? Was it used by someone or someplace famous? How old is it?

Very simply: Please provide good in-focus photos of any words, letters, or numbers stamped into the copper or the handle. They can tell me quite a bit about the maker and era of the piece, and can make even a small lightweight piece more precious to me.

If the pan is stamped with the a maker or store stamp, include that information in the listing title and description. I search copper listings for specific makers and store names, and I know other collectors do too. If you’d like to learn about a range of makers and stores, please take a look at my Identification page.

If the pan doesn’t have any stamps at all, give a good clear photo of the handle baseplates. Sometimes the design of the baseplate and rivets can help estimate the pan’s era and maker.


Guest article: Selling copper online

VFC says: Reader Roger W. offers some suggestions to online copper sellers.

There has always been a market for good usable secondhand copper cookware, but to consider pots and pans as collectible antiques is a relatively recent development (for most, only possible because of the internet). It is very much a niche pursuit considered eccentric by most people. The majority of copper offered for sale was only made as decoration or is of too poor quality to be worth restoring and is therefore only of scrap value. The most valuable pieces will be of the heaviest construction, by a great maker at the peak of his career, in fine condition and useful in size and form. The proceeds from such a sale might be sufficient to fund a weekend for two in a modest hotel. This is my delicate way of saying that you should not expect your pan to be worth a fortune.

If the pan is relatively modern and could be used, I suggest using one of the automatic cost of tinning calculators (most tinners have one on their website) to find cost of re-tinning. Next, find the new cost of a pan similar to yours by Mauviel or Falk. As a guide expect your pan to be worth a third to half the cost of a new one, minus the cost of re-tinning.

When looking at auction listings remember that asking price is not the same as selling price. Some of those listings have been up for years! There is a phenomenon known as the “buyer’s curse” — by definition, the winning bidder pays more than anyone else thinks the object is worth. Once that buyer has their desired object, they are unlikely to buy the same thing again. Value your pan below the price you saw a similar one sell for.

Read and understand auction Terms and Conditions. There will be commission and you may be charged to take your money rather than spending it with the same site. As a buyer I will be subtracting post and packing charges from what I am prepared to bid, so you will be effectively paying these out of the value of your item.

Be aware that selling a lot of items through online auctions could lead to you being considered a business seller and taxed accordingly.

If you claim a provenance for your piece be sure it will stand scrutiny. Dubious links to famous people or places are common, without accompanying documents or unambiguous stamps on the pan they mean nothing. Pieces with coronet stamps from the kitchens of English and French nobility often come to market and only add value if the aristocrat can be identified and is famous or, better still, infamous.

In the last couple of years at least one unscrupulous seller decided to enhance some old copper cookware by adding maker stamps to unmarked pieces. The workmanship of renowned coppersmiths is as recognizable to collectors as your mother’s handwriting is to you. Check maker stamps against known correct online examples to protect your reputation as an honest seller.

An all-too-common reason for loss of value is incompetent attempts at restoration. A pan polished to a mirror finish on a buffing wheel or cleaned up with steel wool or sandpaper won’t hold much appeal to collectors, who will reduce their valuation or dismiss the piece as worthless. Limit your cleaning to a wash in soapy water with a soft cloth and then dry it.

If you sell online be prepared to package it up and post it, preferably worldwide. If it is collection (local pick up) only, then you limit your market to copper buyers with time on their hands who live within a half hour drive of your home and there may not be any of those.


VFC says: Thanks, Roger!