An appraisal is an estimate of value of an item by an expert in the field. A formal appraisal is written and can serve as a legal document in the event of damage, loss, or in a legal dispute. It may include provenance (history of ownership), specific features of an item (such as cut, color, and clarity for diamonds), and an estimate of replacement value. Appraisals can be done on anything from art and jewelry to coins and comic books. So when is a formal appraisal necessary and when can it be skipped?
Formal appraisals should be performed on any rare or valuable personal property that the owner wishes to insure. In the event of loss or damage, an appraisal provides proof of ownership and value to the insurance company, which will work with the owner to either provide a replacement or compensation for the item.
If you have an item that is inexpensive or you’re simply curious about what it may be worth, there are several steps to perform an informal appraisal of an item.
Step 1: Is the item authentic? Depending on the item, this step can either be very easy or very hard. Certain items such as art or autographs require specialized training to authenticate, so if you suspect it may be quite valuable, it may be wise to have professional look at the item. If the item has any markings or special features, be sure to compare them to other items that have previously been authenticated.
If you are the original owner and purchased the item from a reputable source (such as buying a luxury handbag directly from the manufacturer), then it’s reasonable to assume that your item is authentic.
Step 2: What is the condition / completeness of the item? Items that are as close to new condition as possible will usually bring the highest value (with exceptions being if the item was owned / used by someone famous or in a historical context.) A small chip in a porcelain figurine might lower the value as much as 25%, while a significant repair can affect the value by 50% or more. If an item has multiple pieces, such as a vintage board game, are all of the pieces included and in good condition?
Step 3: What have comparable items sold for recently? Sales information on the same / similar items that have sold in the last 3-5 years can provide a good estimate as to what your item would be worth if you were to sell it. Good sources for this information include eBay, Live Auctioneers, individual auction house websites, and subscription websites such as Worthpoint.com and Askart.com .
The original article can be found in the October 2014 issue of Southern Neighbor available here: www.southernneighbor.com.