Looking for a Fine Art or Antique Appraiser? Here is what to do…

Image: Tiffany Studios Wisteria Table Lamp, from: Sotheby’s December 18, 2013, lot 330.

We all have heard of the story of a painting purchased at a tag sale for less than the cost of a ham and cheese sandwich and then the buyer turns around and sells it at auction for the equivalent of a college tuition.

Although this story is not very common, it is important to understand the value of any item in the right marketplace. Whether you want to know an item’s value to sell, for insurance coverage, an estate valuation, charitable donation, or just to satisfy your curiosity, it is worth spending some time and money for peace of mind. Here is what you need to know :

Professional appraisals. It is vitally important to find an appraiser who is certified, had the experience and expertise, and meets the required professional and ethical standards.

Appraisers charge for their services. Appraising is like any profession, experts charge for their knowledge, experience, education, credentialing and time. An appraisers usually charges a flat or an hourly fee – anywhere from $200 to $400 – depending on their experience and location. Many appraisers travel and often times you can use an appraiser who may charge less because of his/her location and still come out ahead after you pay for their time and travel.

Different needs call for different values. Value depends on the purpose of the appraisal. A value submitted for insurance purposes will be very different than a value given if you were to sell the item which would be very different if you were to donated it for tax purposes.

Appraisers don’t pull values from the top of their heads. Appraisers adhere to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), the Congressionally-authorized standards for appraisers. They research similar examples that have sold in the market.

Appraisers know the market. Just because something was expensive at the time of purchase does not mean it will be more expensive today because it is old. For example, Tiffany lamps, initially expensive fell so out of favor in the 1940s, many were destroyed or thrown away. As time marched on, there was a renewed appreciation for their craftsmanship and this reflected in the market.

Appraisers understand what is currently preferred in the market and what isn’t, and how quickly styles, tastes and trends can change. Appraisers also know which venues to sell your item in the most appropriate market and where to get your highest dollar in return.

Don’t try to value something yourself. Research and self-education is important to get an idea when you need a professional, but you probably will not uncover all the information you need to get an idea of value. Appraisers subscribe to databases collecting data from auction results, and often time knowledgeable of private sales. Appraisers understand the subtle differences between your item and the comparables they select to arrive at a conclusion of value.

Furthermore, how do you know if you are properly identifying the maker of an item or the identify of the artist behind a signature? Is your work of art a copy? Do you know what to look for structurally on a Barcelona chair? Is your late eighteenth-century sideboard from England or United States? Do you fully understand sterling silver date marks?

Appraisers of a particular expertise can help you with this. Appraisers subscribe to Databases which offer sales prices that you can’t see. Don’t rely on Price guides. The market changes rapidly and a value for an item five years ago can be very different than today.

Value is established based upon consummated sales as of an effective date of valuation and does not predict future value. A market analysis included in the report can help you decide why an item’s value has increased or decreased over time.

Choose the Right Appraiser. When seeking out an appraiser, make sure that the appraiser has the appropriate experience, expertise, and qualifications for the project. Don’t hesitate to ask for an appraiser’s resume to review credentials.

A reputable appraiser will never give you a value then an offer to buy your item. They are an independent, third-party and have no personal interest in your property. Therefore, they can be objective for a valuation.

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