There comes a point in every collectors’ collecting life when getting a professional appraisal will make sense—determining an item’s value for a sale, for insurance coverage, charitable donations, and estate-planning; or just simply satisfying one’s curiosity of what something is and how much it’s worth.
No matter what you collect, you can find someone to appraise it. The key however, is to find someone who’s qualified. By no means are we appraisal aficionados, but here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
- Do not use an appraiser who might have an interest in buying your collection! This seems like a no-brainer, but it happens more often than not. For example, having a private dealer appraise an item that they may have an interest in purchasing, may lead to an undervalued appraisal. There are many trustworthy dealers in every genre of collecting; but as a rule of thumb, start with a professional appraiser first, then visit the private dealer!
- Before you seek an appraisal, you first need to determine why you’re getting one. For instance, a value assigned to an item for the purpose of a sale may be very different than the value assigned for insurance purposes. Based on the purpose, the appropriate appraisal methods can be applied to ensure the most accurate appraisal.
- Strongly consider choosing an appraiser who belongs to a professional organization. Search for appraisers by area of specialty and location. Get references from the collectors and dealers they’ve appraised for. There are numerous organizations to choose from, such as the International Society of Appraisers. To see a comprehensive listing of appraisal organizations, check out the Smithsonian’s appraisals webpage here.
- Agree upon fees in advance and avoid appraisers who base fees on a percentage of an item’s value. Appraisers typically charge a flat fee or an hourly fee that’s based on their level of expertise and where they’re located geographically. If you agree to pay an appraiser a percentage of an item’s appraised value, you run the risk of having that appraisal challenged and possibly invalidated in the future.
- Do your prep work and provide your appraiser with as much information as possible. When possible, give them full access to your collection; information on purchase price, provenance, and any restoration work that has been done. The more information and clues they have, the more accurate the appraisal will be.
- Get a complete appraisal report in writing. The finished appraisal should be itemized with detailed documentation attached to each item. The components to a thorough appraisal report include the following elements:
- A detailed explanation of what type of value is being sought and how the appraisal is to be used.
- The methodology and resources used to conduct the appraisal.
- A complete and itemized description of the items written with such detail that they can be identified without the use of photos if necessary.
- When and where the appraisal was conducted and the effective date of the assigned value.
- A written statement in which the appraiser cites they have no financial interest in the property appraised within the report.
- The appraiser’s signature, qualifications, and professional organizations they are affiliated with.
- Keep records of the appraisal in a secure place. Store paper and digital copies in a secure, offsite location such as a bank lockbox. You can also utilize cloud-based services such as RelicRecord.com to securely store your appraisal records; as well as the images and details associated with the items in your collection. To register for RelicRecord.com, sign up here.