There may come a time when you will want, or need to know, how much your – or someone else’s – personal possessions are worth. It might be because you plan to move to a different location and you don’t want to take everything with you. Or, it could be that you are helping an older relative to move into a smaller place and they would like to either sell their items or pass them on to family members. At times like these an appraiser’s keen eye and knowledge will aid you in making better and faster decisions.
So, where do you start? Here are a few tips:
Ask yourself: what is the purpose of the appraisal? If you simply want to get an idea of the items’ values then most appraisers may be able to help you. A word of caution here: some appraisers are also dealers so the values they give might be lower – especially if they think they might be able to buy the objects at that price. What to do? Ask them “Do you buy antiques?” If the answer is yes, then move on to someone who has no vested interest in buying your items. You want an objective opinion.
If the purpose of the appraisal is to determine insurance value then the appraiser should be a member of an association such as the International Society of Appraisers(to name only one). Check with your insurance company. Keep in mind that you never want to get an appraisal value for an object you plan on selling – the values are vastly different between an insurance value and a market value.
Ask them lots of questions such as : how long they have been involved in the field of antiques and/or appraising? It is possible to become a member of a recognized appraisal society after just a weekend of study! They should be able to share with you whether they have ever owned an antique store, what items they specialize in, costs involved in doing an appraisal and whether they travel to the location where the items are kept. Find out what they charge for traveling outside the city limits if that’s your situation. Negotiate these costs ahead of time.
Decide if you need a written report. These will cost extra so unless it is necessary, forgo the report and take copious notes during the appraisal. Try to get an extra person to help you because you may miss valuable advice or information while you are busy taking notes.
An appraiser should be able to give you ideas on the best way of selling your goods. Antique dealers specialize in different items so you don’t want to offer your Limoges china to a dealer who specializes in rustic tools and pottery.
A final tip: Be kind to yourself and take the proper amount of time you need to do this work. The things we own are ‘saturated’ with our values, our hopes and our dreams and seeing them disappear from our lives can cause us to grieve. Take pictures of these objects to remind you then move on. A good apprasier will help you inject some reality into the process.