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The Appraisal Process – Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions

by Liz Holderman (04/13/11).

I have my grandmother's old lamp. Can you tell me what it's worth?

Appraisers are often asked questions about how the appraisal process works and whether or not an appraisal is even needed for their antiques and collectibles. Here are some short, informative answers to help demystify the mechanisms behind appraisals and the subsequent assignment of personal property values.

QUESTION 1: How does an appraiser know what my collection is worth?

ANSWER: Appraisers research appropriate markets to see what items similar to yours have sold for in the past (and what they are listed for now). Most of this information is available to them for various annual fees. Appraisers also know how to compare items based on condition, past ownership, age, artistry, editions, hallmarks, makers, raw materials and many other factors.

QUESTION 2: So an appraiser doesn’t know what something is worth just by looking at it?

ANSWER: No, credible appraisers must always research comparable sales and list prices because markets change based on current demand.

QUESTION 3: Why should I use an accredited or certified appraiser?

ANSWER: Appraisers with credentials have taken hundreds of hours of training in appraisal theory, property identification and market research. They are required to maintain their credentials by membership in professional appraisal organizations, attendance at conferences and continuing education. They are also required to show a long history of expertise in their field.

QUESTION 4: How do I find an accredited or certified appraiser in my area?

ANSWER: Google one of the three personal property professional appraisal organizations (the International Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers) and search for an appraiser either by specialty or location.

QUESTION 5: Why does the appraiser need to know why I want an appraisal?

ANSWER: Values vary based on the reason for the appraisal. By definition, appraisals for court-ordered liquidations, divisions of assets, charitable donations, insurance, inheritance tax and even resale can all have different values. Trained appraisers know the difference and follow the proper regulations.

Is my baseball card collection covered by my homeowner’s insurance policy?

QUESTION 6: Is my baseball card collection covered by my homeowner’s insurance policy?

ANSWER: Probably not. Most homeowner’s policies limit coverage on jewelry, stamps, fine arts, antiques, silver, guns, coins, furs and collections.

QUESTION 7: Do I have to have a professional appraisal for a charitable donation??
ANSWER: Yes, if you are donating an item worth more than $5,000. And a credentialed appraiser must sign your tax form.

QUESTION 8: I have one item and I just want to know what it is worth. I don’t want a written report and I don’t want to pay for an expensive appraisal. What should I do?

ANSWER: That’s where WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” can help. WorthPoint’s expert Worthologists can give you an inexpensive, restricted-use valuation based on a limited review of photographs. It won’t represent an official appraisal report for insurance, charitable donations or estate tax purposes, but it will give you a general idea of your item’s worth. You will also receive a little background information on the item.

QUESTION 9: As a rule of thumb, what are the top characteristics that make something valuable?

ANSWER: Quality, condition, rarity and (most importantly) demand.

QUESTION 10: Has the Internet changed the value of collectibles?

ANSWER: Absolutely. The Internet has provided a ready venue for worldwide sales. Items that were once considered rare are now found to be more common when considered across a larger market. Alternatively, items that are truly scarce can now reach through the international marketplace and find pockets of individual wealth. In general, common items have gone down in value while very rare items have increased in value.

BONUS QUESTION: I want to sell my item. Will an appraiser buy it from me?

A: No. In order to avoid a conflict of interest, professional appraisers are not allowed to purchase what they appraise.

Liz Holderman is a Worthologist who specializes in collectible books.

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