Appraisal FAQ

The Appraisal Network . . . (FAQ)

What is an appraisal? An appraisal is the opinion of an expert based on known facts. In the case of antiques and collectibles known facts includes auction records (usually more than one sale at more than one auction), the latest published price guides, and personal experience usually gained from buying and selling similar items many years. A professional written appraisal must be based on fact and able to stand challenges in Court. Written appraisals, even for one item, can take hours to prepare. Written appraisals are most often done by professionals who belong to an Appraising Society or Organization. Or, who are recognized experts in their field. The cost of this service varies depending on time spent and the expertise of the appraiser.

What is a verbal appraisal? A verbal appraisal is an informal appraisal given verbally, not in writing. Usually no time is spent researching auction records and price guides. Therefore, a verbal appraisal is an opinion based on first hand knowledge. .

Are verbal appraisals accurate? Verbal appraisals can be as accurate as a written appraisal if a little common sense is used. If you were to ask a Depression Glass collector, who wrote a book on the subject and has a collection of five thousand pieces, the value of a Depression Glass plate that you inherited from your grandmother, the collector’s opinion of value would most likely be accurate. Unless, of course, the collector tries to buy the plate for the dollar amount of the verbal appraisal.

Should I seek more than one appraisal? The answer is yes. Especially so in the case of verbal appraisals if the appraiser is a dealer, auctioneer, or interested buyer.

Why would anyone appraise free? Great Question! The answer is that free appraisals have conditions attached. Large auction houses offer free appraisals days that cost the auction house thousands of dollars. The payback comes when items they appraise are placed for sale through their auction service. Auction house commissions are around 20 percent for the seller and 10 to 15 percent for the buyer. Typically, an auction house receives 30 to 35 percent of the selling price.

Do dealers and collectors appraise free? The answer is yes, with conditions attached. Many collectors and some dealers appraise free in the hope that they will be able to buy items to add to their collection or to sell. In most cases these people are honest collectors and dealers. Most will advise you to get another opinion before you sell. Many collectors appraise hoping to find that one rare piece that has eluded them. Some collectors will pay extremely high prices for a rare piece.

Should I pay for an appraisal or save money with a free appraisal? When you pay for an appraisal from a certified appraiser, he or she works for you. The appraiser has no other interest to serve but yours. The appraised value will be documented with auction results, references to price guides, and other information. If you seek a free appraisal, that appraisal is subject to a conflict of interest, yours and the person doing the appraising. This is especially true if the person doing the appraising is in a position to sell on consignment or purchase the item being appraised.

What is the difference between insurance appraisals and selling appraisals? Insurance appraisals are replacement cost appraisals. If you own a Chippendale chest of draws that is somehow destroyed, hopefully that chest of drawers is appraised and insured at replacement price. The insurance company would not likely accept a verbal appraisal as the bases of claim settlement. They would require a written appraisal with proof of replacement cost.

Selling Appraisals are generally between 40 and 60 percent below replacement cost. Items that sell extremely slow will have a discount of 70 percent or more. Items that sell fast may bring 80 to 90 percent of replacement cost. When you sell an antique or collectible, the buyer is likely to be a dealer. The dealer must buy below market price in order to make a profit.

Can appraisals be done with photographs? The answer is yes. However, no long distance appraisal can be as accurate as a hands-on in person appraisal. For furniture and large items take several photographs showing top, bottom, back and both sides. Also take close up photos of tags, labels, and any markings.

Can appraisals be done without photographs? The answer is no with a few exceptions. If you do not have images that you can post with your appraisal request, send by e mail, or at the very least, send by postal mail, you are wasting your time and our storage space. No one can appraise something they can not see. Exception: Common collectibles and books. Most collectibles are illustrated in reference books. If you accurately describe the item including a description of bottom stamps, markers marks, size, color, and shape, anyone with a reference book should be able to identify your piece and then look up its value in a price guide. Of course, you can do this yourself. Learn how to DO- IT-YOURSELF. Most out-of-print books are listed in price guides on books. If you accurately describe your book, title, author, year of publication, edition number, condition, size, number of illustrations and so on, any book dealer will be able to look up its value.

What will the appraiser need in addition to the photographs? The appraiser will need to know size. Include measurements of height, width, depth. Include a description, perhaps a hand drawing, of any stamps, logo or markings that are too small to photograph. Include a description of chips, cracks or other damage. Include any personal knowledge you may have as to age. For example, this was a wedding present to my mother in 1931. The more information you provide, the more accurate the appraisal will be.

Can I send photocopies of paper items and small things? Photocopies work as well, and sometimes better, than photographs for sterling flatware, jewelry, watches, and small porcelain pieces that fit on a photocopier. For best results remove the cover from the photocopier or leave it open. Use a large folded sheet to cover the items on the photocopier. If light still comes through the folded sheet, place a darker cloth on top of the sheet. The resulting images will be remarkably clear and shown at actual size. Many appraisers prefer photocopies over photographs for this reason. Also you can make little notes about stamps and marks near each item. This will greatly assist the appraiser.

Common Sense

Most people who seek appraisals really do not want or need an appraisal. They want a simple answer to the question, How much is my collectible or antique worth? The cheapest and most reliable method of answering this question is to do it yourself. If you do it yourself you avoid the conflict of interest usually associated with free appraisals and the cost of a paid professional appraisal.

Step 1. Throw the word “antique” away! This word is meaningless and has no bearing on the value even if your item is an antique. Throw the words “Great Grandmother” and “old” away. Old has no relationship to value. Great Grand Mother has no relationship to value. The only thing that determines selling price is demand. If many people want what you have for sale, it is worth more. If few people want what you have for sale, it is worth less.

Step 2. Learn the difference between an antique and a collectible. The distinction between antique and collectible is blurred and confusing. This is partly the fault of the antique trade and partly the fault of collectors. It is advantages to the antique trade that you not know the difference and collectors feel more important if their collectibles are referred to as antique.

What is an antique? The legal answer to this question depends on the country in which you live. United States Custom Service laws require an item to be 100 years old in order to be imported duty free. Many collectors and dealers use the 100 years old age requirement as the separation date between antique and collectible. In the rest of the world, that age requirement ranges from 250 to 900 years.

What is a collectible? Generally speaking, a collectible is any item massed produced by machinery in a factory setting and marketed widely. It is possible for a collectible to be antique in the United States but generally not in the rest of the world. Mass production and wide distribution began in England and some parts of Europe in the late 1700’s. In the Unites States, mass production began in earnest between 1830 and 1840. Example: Common eyeglasses were hand made in small shops on order or in small batches on speculation until 1833. In 1833 American Optical Company was founded and equipped with machinery designed to stamp out unlimited numbers of identical frames. These frames were sturdy, reliable, and cheap. Within ten years, many other optical manufacturing companies were competing with American Optical. Serious eyeglass dealers and collectors consider hand made frames made before 1830 to be antique and machine made frames made after 1833 to be collectible. It is interesting to note that some collectible eyeglasses sell for much more money than some antique frames. However, selling price and value does not change basic fact.

What is wrong with calling a collectible an antique? The answer is nothing when you are trying to sell a collectible. The word “antique” in the United States is used as a marketing “hyper adjective” to enhance the perceived importance and selling price of anything old. However, when you are trying to establish a true appraised value, you must work with facts not marketing hype.

Step 3. Collectibles are much more popular than antiques. More people buy, sell, and collect collectibles. More books are written about collectibles. More collectible research material is available to scholars. Most collectibles are marked with the manufacturers name or logo. In fact, the presence of a manufacturers name or logo is a good indication that you are dealing with a collectible and not an antique. (Collectors of the pricier porcelains and pottery cringe at the above statement but, none can deny the fact that these items were massed produced in large numbers in a factory setting and distributed widely.) All of the above combine to produce a wealth of information on just about every collectible ever made. All this information is available free or at low cost. All you need to do is learn how to find the books that will identify and hopefully help set a selling price.

Step 4. Look your item over closely to determine if it is an antique or collectible. Does it have a makers name or mark? Is it a one-of -a-kind or one of many. Is it machine made or hand made? On furniture, look at the hardware and nails or screws. Are these things hand made or machine made. Uniformity is the hallmark of machines. If you believe that your item is a collectible, no matter what age, someone has written a book about it or included it in a book of similar items.

Step 5. It is time to hit the books. Books on antiques and collectibles come in two varities, reference works and price guides. Reference books are written to aid in identification, establish rarity, and to explain variations that exist in a product. A good reference book will explain why two products that look alike to the untrained eye are indeed different and why one is worth hundreds of dollars and the other is worth fifty dollars. Example: Plywood lounge chairs designed by Charles Eames and made by Herman Miller sell for $350 or $850, a five hundred dollar difference. Both chairs are the same color, size, and shape. The difference is that the more expensive chair has a unique rubber mount that holds the back in place and a unique label. This difference is explained in several good reference books on Herman Miller furniture. On the other hand, most price guides show the $850 chair and do not give any hint to the fact that it is rare and hard to find.

Step 6. It is time to visit antique shows and shops. Take several photographs of the item you are trying to identify. Take a photo of the front, back, top , bottom, and both sides. Take close ups of any logos, tags or marks. Draw a likeness of any mark or words too faint to photograph. Bring the photos and drawings when you visit antique shows and shops. If you see a similar item, ask the dealer about it. If the dealer seems friendly, show him or her your photos. Many dealers will gladly help you with identification and suggest reference books that you can buy. Some dealers may offer a free verbal appraisal. Be careful of any person that offers a free appraisal and then tries to buy.

Step 7. Visit a free appraisal fair. Most large auction services and many antique dealers hold free appraisal days. All the appraisals given at such events are verbal appraisals unless you make arrangements for a paid professional appraisal. Some of these events have become so popular that they are on television. These shows can be misleading. What they do not show is the hundreds of items that turned out to be copies, fakes, or worthless. Some of these events draw thousands of people. Plan to wait in line a while. A few of these events succeed in uncovering really rare antiques and collectibles. Most succeed in finding good salable merchandise. Please understand that these events can cost several thousand dollars to sponsor. They are run in the hope that enough merchandise can be taken on consignment or purchased outright to cover expenses and make a profit.

Step 8. Surf the web. Many popular collectibles have web pages devoted to identification, preservation and sale. Depression Glass, Old Ivory China, scientific instruments, eyeglasses, all kinds of porcelains and pottery, are just a few such sites. Many of these sites offer free or low cost appraisals. A few auction houses allow you to search their data base of sold items. This is a valuable reference source for more pricey collectibles and for antiques.

Step 9. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If you own something that you suspect is worth a lot of money, pay for a professional appraisal. A professional appraisal will add value to your item. It will increase marketability. This is especially true for antiques, paintings, and estate jewelry. Example: The difference in selling price between a poorly cut flawed diamond and a flawless diamond can be many thousands of dollars. Do you want the person doing the appraisal working for you or working for the buyer? Finally, why would anyone even consider letting the buyer set the value and selling price?

Photo storage and use problems


Help ! my photos work on some web sites but not on others. Because you can post to one site your problem is not in writing the proper URL command. Most likely, your photos are stored in a Photo Storage Bin dedicated to just one auction service or one web page. Many free or inexpensive storage bins are provided by Internet business as a service for people who use their site. You may want to consider buying FTP photo storage space from your Internet Service Provider or renting a Photo Storage Bin.

Is there more than one command used to post photos? The answer is no. The correct command always begins and ends the same. Only the middle of the command changes. Every photograph posted on the Internet must have its own URL. The correct way to begin any URL, including a photo URL, is http://www. followed by the name of the FTP site or photo bin, followed by your directory name, followed by the name of the photo. Below is an example
A photo URL always ends with .jpg
A text URL page always ends with .html

Do I have to learn how to program a URL? The answer is yes and no. The answer is yes if you choose to use a FTP storage site. The answer is no if you choose to use a Photo Storage Bin. Photo storage bins have a self contained program that automatically writes a URL for each stored photo. This is one reason photo bins are so popular. Read more about the two types of photo storage sites below. Both types can work the same but most often they are programmed to work different from one another. It all depends on who is paying for the storage.

FTP Photo Sites. This type of photo storage is most often provide by the people who connect you to the Internet. The amount of space provided varies. Some Internet Service Providers (ISP) give you enough space for ten small photographs as part of your monthly access fee. Others allow you to store up to 100 photographs. If you need more storage space than that provided with your monthly fee, call your ISP and arrange to buy more space. Not all ISPs will sell additional space. Also, additional space can be expensive. Check with your service provider for availability and cost. Finally, to use an FTP photo storage site, you must buy and learn how to use an FTP program. FTP programs are cheap but useless if you do not know how to use them. Consider buying from a local dealer who is willing to show you how to use the program. Be willing to pay for this extra service.

Photo Storage Bins. There are hundreds of Photo Storage Bins available on the Internet. Photo Storage Bins are popular because they can be cheap, sometimes free, and they are easy to use. You can start and stop storage as needed and best of all, unlike FTP sites, they are virus free.

Can I really store photos free? The answer is yes. But, if you are old enough to read these words you understand that if you are not paying for the storage, someone else is. It is a good idea to find out who is paying and why. Many times free storage is swapped for personal information that is sold to mass marketers. Other times a free photo storage site can only be used within that site or for some other limited purpose.

hat does a storage bin look like? Most photo storage bins have two pages. The first page has the buttons for uploading and a thumbnail image of all stored photos. This page is user name and password protected. If this page were open to the public, anyone could upload photos. When you click on one of the thumbnail images, the next page will display that image in full size. At the top of this page in the “Location” bar you will find the Photo URL for that photo. It will look like this
This is the Photo URL that will place that photo in a auction listing , classified ad, or on a home page.

Can I practice using a Photo Bin before I rent? The answer is yes. We have a test and practice Photo Bin created specifically for that purpose. You may try it free. If it is full, as it often is, simply delete a few photos to make room for yours. Most photo bins have three buttons, a BROWSE button to allow you to look through your hard drive or floppy disc to choose the photo you want to upload, an UPLOAD button to send the chosen photo to the storage site , and a DELETE button to delete photos you no longer need. Click here to enter our test and practice Photo

The user name for this practice bin is “test” . . . . . The password is “tina”

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