Using Google & Other Search Engines To Research Your Items
First, you need to examine your item carefully. This may seem like a no brainer, but alot of people don’t bother looking for things like maker’s marks, hallmarks, imprints, stickers etc. Also, condition is crucial, make note of any chips, cracks, crazing, discolorations, wear, damage, anything missing etc.
Searching Google & Other Search Engines
Google has one of the biggest indexes of websites, but by no means is it complete. No search engine has every website out there on the Internet. It’s great to start with Google though since they do a great job, for the most part, of ranking relevant sites near the top of searches. We’ll start with Google’s regular search, then we’ll move on to advanced searching, which should be invaluable to you no matter what subject or item you are researching.
Let’s say you found a porcelain tea cup and saucer at a garage sale and you’d like to find out more about it so you can put it on eBay. You’ve made note of the marks you have found on the bottom of the cup and saucer, now let’s Google it! The marks for this example are “Adderley FINE BONE CHINA ENGLAND” with a black crown hallmark, “1789” and hand numbering. Usually the hand numbering won’t help unless the item is a limited edition set, which is a more recent phenomenon anyway. For an older piece, the numbers would more likely be indicative of the painter, the style, the factory or it could certainly be the actual number of manufacture, where 1561 would mean the cup and saucer were the 1561st set manufactured.
Let’s start with a simple search and try “adderley tea cup saucer”. No need to type in “and” as it’s so common that search engines ignore the word unless you are using advanced search.
The first things that pop up with this simple search are eBay auctions, Yahoo auctions and stores offering Adderley tea cups and saucers. Check each link on the first page of results for something similar to your tea cup and saucer set. Didn’t find anything? Don’t be afraid to look deeper into the search results, go to the second and third pages and further. Still nothing similar? Then let’s narrow the search!
Narrowing Your Search
What is the motif of the cup and saucer? Does it have flowers on it? If so, what type of flowers and what color? There are red roses on the sides of the cup, on the saucer and even inside the saucer. That’s plenty of information to help narrow our search, so let’s try:
“adderley tea cup saucer red roses”
Yes! The first entry is an eBay auction for exactly what you have! The second entry is also a store where someone is selling this exact set. Good work! You can make note of the information the auction seller gives, but keep in mind not every auction seller knows what they are talking about. Check their feedback to make sure they are a reputable seller as well, reputable sellers are more likely collectors or dealers or have at least dealt with other dealers and collectors and serious collectors usually know what they are buying.
QUICK TIP!: When you find good information, you will want to SAVE it immediately. The best way to do that is to just print yourself out a hard copy with your printer. Do this by going to FILE and then PRINT. Not only will you get a hard copy of the information that cannot be deleted, but most browsers will print the URL where you got the information so you would also have the URL to the page saved too! If there are pictures that you want to save to your hard drive on the page, you can also save the page using the FILE menu as well. Don’t forget you can also use your bookmarks or favorites too! If you forget to save some information on a page you stumble upon and can’t remember how to get back to it, remember you can also use your browser’s HISTORY tool. Internet Explorer, FireFox and Chrome will each save the pages where you have been to a history file for up to 2 weeks usually.
For the store that is selling the set, you can usually rely a little more soundly on their information and descriptions, since they are usually a dealer and dealer’s who don’t know their stuff can’t stay in business for too long. As far as value goes, things on eBay often go for anywhere from 10% to 50% of their actual worth or retail value, more often it is 20% to 30% and due to the nature of eBay, it varies widely depending on current trends, time of the year, seller reputation, starting price, shipping costs and many other factors. For the store price, write that down, because that is much more likely to be close to the actual retail value of the item and what you would want to insure your item for, if that’s what you want to do. If your intention is to put the item on eBay though, you should price competitively with the eBay auction you found, not the store price.
Also, when you find something on eBay that is still available, don’t forget to login and put it on your watch list, you’ll want to know what it goes for. If the eBay auction is already over, you should print and save the auction for your reference before eBay deletes it.
Going A Bit Further
Now what if we didn’t find anything while searching for information about this tea cup and saucer set? We could have further refined our search including:
More keyword differentiations:
“adderley tea england”
“adderley england tea”
“adderley red roses”
“adderley england tea cups”
We would also have tried other search engines as well, see below.
QUICK TRICK!: Found a page in Google referring to your item but it no longer exists or doesn’t load? Have no fear! There’s a couple ways to get at that page again, no matter if it’s been deleted months or even years ago. First, on Google, there should be a link near the URL of the page that says “Cached”. Click that! This is Google’s last saved version of the page! Very often this will bring up the old page you want to see. If that doesn’t work or if there is no “Cached” link for the page on Google, then try searching Archive.org. Archive.org is a site that is basically archiving the web, old pages, old sites for historical and reference purposes. Go to the site and enter the URL you want to bring up, this usually works for most sites, even sites from the last century. Cool eh?
More Search Engines
Don’t forget that there are other search engines out there besides Google! They often have different sites in their indexes that don’t come up on your Google searches. Be sure to try them out after you’ve tried Google. Here are my favorite non-Google search engines to research on:
Bing! – Bing actually has a much larger amount of pages in their index than Google, so if you have no luck with Google, try Bing. Forget about Yahoo, they actually started using Bing’s results recently.
Dogpile – Dogpile is actually a meta-search engine, meaning it searches all the major search engines at once, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask. They also have an easy to use advanced search function that can be very useful.
Downloadable Search Tools
Copernic Agent – This is quite different as it is a piece of software you download and must install on your computer. The basic version lets you search 17 general search engines and 90+ total search engines and lets you filter results, sort results, remove dead and duplicate link from your searches and even save your searches and results. The paid versions which range from $29.95 to $79.95 allow you to search over 1000 search engines and also summarize, track and analyze your results. If you do alot of research on the web, the paid versions are worthwhile, otherwise the basic version should be sufficient.
Advanced Search Techniques
Bet ya didn’t know this one existed! Try Google’s own Advanced Search page to whittle down your searches if you keep getting irrelevant or too many results to make sense of. Using Advanced Search, you can narrow your results to pages that contain ALL the words you enter, that contain the EXACT phrase you enter, that contain at least one of the words you enter or that do NOT contain any of the words you enter, among other settings.
For instance, let’s say we are looking for our Adderley tea cup and saucer set, but there is also a famous author with the last name of Adderley and his books tell of elaborate tea parties. Naturally, a situation like this could mess up your searches, so you can remove all the pages that are about this author from your search.
On the Advanced Search page, you would enter:
“adderley tea cup saucer” in the “with all of the words field”
and then add the author’s name to the “without the words” field, like so:
This search would remove most pages about the author Howard Adderley from your results.
Advanced search tools and options are provided by nearly all the search engines and even eBay.
MORE QUICK TIPS:
– Vary your searches by trying both the singular and plural versions of your words, just add or remove the “s” at the end to get dramatically different search results.
– Include various specifics in your searches, like a company name, hallmark information, pattern, colors, dates etc., even the most insignificant piece of information may help to narrow your search further.
– For oft misspelled company names, go ahead and try the misspelled version of the name. For instance, when searching for Meissen, many people miss the second “s”, so try searching “meisen” as well.
– Similar to misspellings, you may also consider searching using international varations of words. While we in the United States spell it jewelry, the UK spells it jewellery. Australia also uses UK variations. Don’t forget to use the site xe.com to convert foreign prices as well.