How can I get my collection appraised?

There are many reasons to get your collection appraised—for insurance, legal, tax, charitable, or estate-planning purposes, or simply to get a third-party assessment of its value. A good and inexpensive place to start is Barnebys’ online appraisal service.

Here are some other appraisal tips:

  • Be clear why you’re getting the appraisal. For example, insurance-related appraisals are often higher than, say, tax-related appraisals.
  • Don’t use an appraiser who might also want to buy your collection, like a private dealer. This is a built-in conflict of interest, and might lead to an appraisal which undervalues your collection.
  • Decide whether you need a specialist or a generalist. If your collection is highly specialized, you should try to find an appraiser who has domain knowledge in that category rather than someone who knows antiques broadly.
  • Find someone you trust, with demonstrated experience. Talk to dealers, museum curators, and lifelong collectors who know your category well. Get references, and look at published directories from the Appraisers Association of America, the American Society of Appraisers, or the International Society of Appraisers. Some auction houses host regularly scheduled appraisal days when you can get a free preliminary verbal appraisal, depending on the items involved.
  • Agree on price and terms in advance with the appraiser. How will they charge? What documentation or itemization will they deliver? Appraisers typically charge a flat fee negotiated in advance or an hourly or daily rate. Do not pay a percentage of the value of the items—this conflict of interest may later invalidate the appraisal. Be sure to ask about potential additional charges such as research and fees for consulting other experts.
  • Provide as much information to your appraiser as possible. In addition to giving them access to your collection, provide relevant information including purchase price, receipts, provenance, and repair or restoration work that has been done.
  • Make sure you get a detailed, itemized appraisal report in writing. An appraisal should be thorough, with detailed documentation on an item-by-item basis—this will become very important if your items are ever lost or damaged. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) cites the minimum components of a proper appraisal—most professional appraisers use this format.

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