Let us assume, for a few minutes, that you have obtained a collection of Indian arrowheads. Perhaps you inherited them from a relative or friend, or you found them yourself while walking along fields and riverbeds over a number of years. Perhaps you received them as a gift. For whatever reason, you have them now. But you don't have any interest in keeping them, and would just as soon pass them along to someone who does. What to do?
The first option is to donate the arrowheads to a regional museum of native American artifacts. If you choose this option, you are certain to get an expert's free assessment of their authenticity, and a ballpark estimate of their worth as a charitable contribution for tax deduction purposes. Certainly this is an altruistic and viable option, and, if you are in need of a tax deduction, could be an excellent financial decision as well.
The second option is to seek out an expert opinion of authenticity, for therein lies an arrowhead's value in today's collectors' market. If you have no idea where to start, try the recommendations of the Authentic Artifact Collectors' Association (AACA) at www.theaaca.com. Be careful, though: if you have more than a few arrowheads, you should begin by seeking an overall opinion of the authenticity of the collection. You should be able to get such an opinion for $50-100 per hour from an expert of the AACA, who will probably want to examine the arrowheads personally with a magnifying glass and quiz you on how you came to own the collection. Be certain to ask him or her to point out the most valuable arrowheads within the collection (possibly worth over $100 apiece), because you will want a second authenticator to appraise those artifacts and, if possible, issue a certificate of authenticity for each of them. Any authenticator from the AACA will be able to recommend several reputable appraisers to you. This service may cost anywhere from $10-25 per arrowhead, but will result in a higher final sale value to you, if you find the right buyer(s).
Of course, if the authenticator examines your collection and tells you that they are all reproductions, not authentic native American artifacts, your choices have narrowed considerably. A second opinion may not help, because there are millions of arrowhead reproductions in circulation in the United States, and most of them are worthless, or worth only a few dollars. In fact, a quick perusal of ebay will reveal an amazing quantity of Indian arrowheads, many of them for sale for next to nothing. Some are downright gorgeous, with fantastic colors and dramatic flaking, and others are nondescript, and almost look as though someone chipped them in a backyard. And many of them were, even though the seller might be willing to swear to their authenticity, so it's "buyer beware" when it comes to Indian arrowheads. You will probably notice that most of those low-priced items never actually sell on ebay, and there's a good reason. Collectors learn where fakes are found, and they frequently share that information with their friends.
If, on the other hand, your authenticator tells you that you do have an authentic collection, and you have received certificates of authenticity (COAs) for the most valuable specimens, then you are ready to find a buyer. Sometimes, the authenticator will recommend a buyer to you. However, a cynical individual might wonder about conflict of interest at this point. Some arrowheads, believe it or not, are worth thousands of dollars. Apiece. If you don't take the time to educate yourself on the difference between an authentic $20 arrowhead and another arrowhead that is worth $2000, you can expect to learn the difference the hard way.
The most widely used resource for collectors who are determining valuation is the "Official Overstreet Identification and Price Guide to Indian Arrowheads," by Robert M. Overstreet. This useful book is a very educational guide to identifying arrowheads by region of the country, and helps to get a ballpark valuation on arrowheads (be warned, however, valuations in this book can be somewhat inflated at the higher end). Once you have identified an arrowhead, you can also do an online search through ebay or even google for that type, and you will no doubt return a number of examples, including their asking and/or selling price, from reputable dealers. This will also give you a fair idea of value.
Selling the Collection
It is a lot of work to sell arrowheads on ebay. Many collectors will only accept COAs from a particular authenticator that they respect, and discount others' COAs. So having a COA doesn't necessarily mean that your artifact will be accepted by a collector. According to guidelines set forth by AACA, reputable AACA dealers must offer a 30-day period for evaluation with full refund available if an expert does not authenticate the artifact. Selling a questionable arrowhead can result in many headaches on ebay, including poor feedback and ostracism by important collectors. So one needs to have the courage of one's convictions to succeed with this venue.
Sometimes, a collector who has purchased a few of the arrowheads will contact you and offer to inspect and purchase the entire collection outright. While this will save you fees and possible shipping/return headaches down the road, you may not receive maximum value for your collection. Again, you must determine how much time you are willing to spend identifying, authenticating, describing, packaging, shipping, etc. Sometimes, a quick offer can yield a higher value for a collection, especially if a few reproductions may spoil your overall seller reputation. If you are considering such an offer, be sure to get at least two bids from potential buyers/collectors before you make a decision.
However, that said, I must admit that my husband and I have recently successfully sold the majority of my father-in-law's extensive arrowhead collection on ebay. We followed all the steps that I laid out above (including a significant donation of some pieces to a museum), and though we received many offers to "buy the whole collection outright," we turned them all down and listed artifacts individually. It was a very time consuming process, and we learned a great deal about arrowheads over the nine months or so that we sold several hundred pieces. Fortunately, we had the time to invest in the project, and we believe we actually netted thousands of dollars more than we might have received had we taken one of those early wholesale offers. With integrity and fairness, you can sell your collection, too.
Good luck, and don't be discouraged!