Free antique appraisals or valuations
Many people new to Chinese porcelain or antiques in general appear to have the misconception that a collector or appraiser can look at an item and instantly knows what it is and how much it is worth.
Maybe such misconceptions come from watching TV programs like the Antiques Roadshow?
The appraisers in those TV programs are mostly specialized in a single
or a few item categories and/or periods only. If they encounter
something unfamiliar, they must consult with colleagues.
An appraisal is the process of identifying and authenticating an item, and possibly its source, age and market value. The whole process may take hours of research in some cases and, depending on the item at hand, it may require combing through many data or books to find information. With an item that may have little real value, except in the eyes of its owner. Would an appraiser do that for free? Learning about the traits of antiques takes years and years of experience and study, thus a professional appraiser will can hardly afford doing this for free.
An informal verbal appraisal done by a dealer at an antiques fair seems
more likely, but it does not have the value of a written professional
appraisal; it is more of an opinion as a dealer will be unable to consult books at such an occasion. It is really just the identification of an item
and an opinion in view to its value, from memory that is.
What is easier to get for free ...
What may be easier to get for free instead could be an antique identification, but perhaps not for estimating its value, because again, the latter may need a database or knowledge of the specific market, or books and records of past sales or auctions, etc. It is the prerogative of a proper appraisal or valuation, if you don't want to do the research yourself. If you get your item identified, then you can try to find its approximate antique value yourself online. This way you may be able to get an idea what you have or what its value could be before requesting a formal appraisal.
Be sure to get a paid appraisal, or even more than one, if you find that your item could be something of greater value.