I remember when I was about ten years old, while poking around in my grandmother's a"h closet I came across my grandfather's disused tefillin, which were already several decades old. I think he had passed away by then, and she wanted me to have them. I cherished that set of tefillin, but years later, when I had someone check them, they were found to be quite low quality.
This week we received the following inquiry:
I have some religious items from my parents and grandparents. They include menorahs, kiddush cup, items purchased in Israel, prayer books, skull caps, and a set of tefillin. I want to sell all in one lot and receive an online offer. It seems the tefillin are generating the most interest and I would to find a way to get proper value.
I see there is quite a variety of quality and wonder how to tell the quality of the set. Prices can vary from $100-$500. My grandfather was a very religious man; to honor his memory I would like to get the proper value for something he would have treasured. Thanks for your help with this. - Ken
I explained to Ken that there's really no way to do any sort of meaningful value assessment. That's like writing an email to a jeweler saying, "I have a gorgeous diamond ring, how much is it worth?" He needs to at least see the quality of the stones up close, and he'll want to take out that device they have nowadays to ascertain whether all of the diamonds are real or not.
If you take a set of tefillin to a tefillin professional, he would immediately be able to tell you if it's Tefillin Peshutim or Tefillin Gassot. Then he would see whether the corners and paint and straps are still in good shape and the caliber of the finishing work to begin with (that sounds simple, but you won't be able to judge that either). So in two minutes he could give you a ballpark figure. But to really know, he'd have to open them up and take a look at the parchments, which takes a lot of time to open and sew up again, and costs you at least $30 or $40.
I suggested that Ken get in touch with a local tefillin maker, and if he can't find one, perhaps ask the local Chabad center. Another possibility would be to get in touch with a tefillin professional online and see if they can help somehow. I don't know him personally, but I was very impressed with this tefillin and mezuza website based in Monsey, New York.