Choosing a qualified appraiser is the first step to establish and document the value of your collection.
Ideally, the appraiser should have specific expertise in the type of object you are seeking to value.They should belong to one of several professional appraiser associations who frequently test, educate and certify the competence of their members.
All Members of the Appraisers Association of America are required to adhere to a strict “Code of Ethics” which ensures unparalleled standards of ethics, conduct and professionalism. The code requires the appraiser to serve the public interest as follows:
• provide independent valuation outside of third party influences
• retain no outside interest in the subject property other than an accurate and professional value
• contract for appraisal work only within the areas of their professional expertise
• reach objective value conclusions by considering all factors in appraisal standards
• use the highest standards of connoisseurship in examining and documenting property
• professional remuneration is independent of the value of the subject property
Personal property appraisers are not licensed by the state or federal government. In theory anyone can claim to be an appraiser. Therefore it is of critical importance to review the appraisers' curriculum vitae. Determine how many years the appraiser has been practicing and if possible obtain referrals from friends, colleagues, museum staff, auction companies or attorneys in your geographic area. While it is certainly possible to prepare an appraisal based on photographs and supporting documentation, nothing can replace an expert appraiser's personal inspection of an item. This is particularly true of higher value items where determining the authenticity and physical condition is essential to arrive at an accurate valuation.
Before you contact the appraiser, gather all available documentation you may have on the object including: artist, title, medium (oil on canvas, lithograph, pastel etc.) size and date of execution. Prior appraisals, invoices and a brief history of how you came to own the work are also very helpful. From a practical point of view, the more information you can provide the appraiser in advance, the less he will charge you. Cataloging an item from scratch is time consuming. If possible, have good quality digital photos of the item ready to send the appraiser in advance.