Whether you already own antiques or are just now starting your collection, at some point you will probably need the services of an appraiser. An expert appraisal by a qualified professional can help you make a more informed decision when you wish to buy, sell or insure an antique. If you are buying or insuring, a formal written appraisal will provide you with complete documentation of your antique, including its provenance (history of ownership), and serve as a permanent record of its condition and value at the time of the report. If you are selling, an informal, non-binding verbal appraisal can help you determine an appropriate asking price for your antique in the current marketplace.
Whenever you buy an antique, ask the seller for an itemized sales receipt and any records he/she has concerning its provenance. Store those items along with your other important papers in a secure place. If you have your antique appraised, make sure you give your appraiser a copy of all pertinent documentation. Such records could be crucial to an ccurate evaluation. They can also be an invaluable resource in the future should your treasure become lost, stolen or damaged.
Read your insurance policy carefully to make sure it adequately covers the damage or loss of your antiques. If you have especially valuable or irreplaceable antiques, give serious consideration to having them separately insured at replacement cost values. Ask a professional appraiser for a formal written report that contains a detailed description, photograph and evaluated replacement cost of each item. You will receive a copy of the report for yourself and another to give to your insurance company. To avoid disputes, it is important to have your appraisal done before you actually experience a loss. Antique owners who live in areas that are at high-risk for natural disasters or who are moving from one location to another should be particularly cautious and have their possessions properly appraised and insured.
For an accurate evaluation, hire a professional appraiser who has been tested and accredited by an organization such as the International Society of Appraisers. These groups are dedicated to promoting professionalism, honesty and integrity in the industry. Whenever possible, select an appraiser who has xpertise or experience in evaluating your particular type of antique (i.e., furniture, china, silver, glass, Orientalia, etc.). In most cases, the appraiser will want to physically see and inspect your antique in person. Be wary of unaccredited internet appraisers who offer cheap antique evaluations based on e-mailed photographs. There are currently no regulations that prevent unqualified “experts” from dispensing inaccurate appraisal information.
In addition to having your antiques evaluated, you may wish to have an appraisal for your other possessions as well. In legal terms, your antiques, furniture, china, silver, jewelry, fine art, vehicles and other household items are considered to be your tangible personal property. Appraisals on tangible personal property may be necessary or useful for a wide range of purposes—divorce settlements, insurance, trusts, bankruptcy, probate and charitable donations.
Fees for most appraisals are charged at an hourly. It is unethical for an appraiser to charge you a fee based on a percentage of the evaluation or the financial outcome from the use of the appraisal.