TV Shows

This article was published in the October/November 1999 issue of AntiquePrime Magazine & Journal.

For What It's Worth ...

Q. What do you think of the TV shows about antiques and collectibles?

A. I am amazed at how often I am asked this question! I have mixed feelings about these shows. On one hand, I am pleased that after watching, so many people are questioning the value of the items that they possess. On the other hand, the shows make it look as though an appraisal can be completed in a matter of minutes and at no cost. It is important to keep in mind that the primary purpose of these shows is entertainment, not education.

The appraisers that you see on most shows are unpaid and not reimbursed for their expenses to get to wherever the show is being taped. Why would they volunteer under those conditions? For the publicity.

Not every "appraiser" you see on a show is one. Some are employees of auction houses, some are dealers, but there are some appraisers with credentials, too.

Many of these experts who participate never appear on TV. You probably have noticed that the segments which air usually involve someone who has something of value and didn't know what they had, or someone who thinks they have a treasure, but it turns out to be a fake or reproduction. This is because of the entertainment aspect. The producers won't bore you with a simple this-is-what-you-have-and-it's-worth-this-much, because that doesn't make for good TV.

I would not categorize as "appraisals" any of the exchanges between the experts and those who bring in the items. A "verbal opinion of value" is a more accurate description. Keep in mind that an appraisal is a researched written report, and both these elements are lacking on TV: thorough research and a typewritten or word processed report.

Recently I've noticed some of these shows have subtly begun educating the public about the different type of values. Often the auctioneer, dealer or appraiser now qualifies a value by stating whether it is an auction price (market value) or a retail price (replacement cost for insurance). Listen carefully when the value is being given and see if you can detect which value is stated.

These shows leave viewers with some incorrect impressions that are not addressed.

  • Outside of the show environment, appraisals are not free. Appraisers are professionals who charge for their services. These fees are based on an hourly rate, per item rate, or contracted flat fee, never a percentage of the stated value.
  • If you have an item similar to one shown on TV, yours is not necessarily valued the same as the one in the broadcast. It must be inspected by a qualified appraiser to determine its condition and value characteristics.
  • Know why you want your items appraised. The appraiser determines the type of value given based on your reason for the appraisal (i.e., Fair Market Value for estate taxes, replacement cost for insurance coverage, market value for resale, etc).
  • Much behind-the-scenes research is necessary to arrive at a stated value. The opinions you see being given on TV make it look easy, but appraisers must stand ready to defend in a court of law the values they arrive at. Guesses are not good enough.

Should you bring your treasures to one of these shows if they film in Dallas? In return for a free consultation, you may have to spend hours standing in line for a few minutes with an expert. I'd rather sit back and watch on TV. I have appraiser friends and colleagues across the country that I get to watch from the comfort of my living room. The shows are entertaining, and sometimes even educational.

Tools of the Trade

This article was published in the April/May  2000 issue of AntiquePrime Magazine & Journal.

For What It's Worth ...

Q. What are the tools of your trade?

A. Appraisers use four different sets of tools: (1) for inspection of the property; (2) for researching values; (3) for report preparation and generation; and (4) for other general office functions. The onsite tools vary, depending on the type of property that the appraiser is inspecting. I'll tell you about the tools of the antiques and residential contents appraisers. Equipment used by gems & jewelry appraisers and fine art appraisers will differ.

For on-site inspections, I take a halogen light with extension cord. A dark home is not conducive to a thorough examination of property. A 35 mm or digital camera is required to photograph and document the items, and I carry a drop cloth to use as a solid background. For measurements, I carry a tape measure, calipers, and a silver scale. A lighted magnifier and a jeweler's loupe are in my bag for reading the fine print on signed or stamped items. To detect fakes, reproductions, damages and repairs on glass, porcelain and pottery, a black light is essential. I also carry a magnet to test for brass. Implements to take notes, such as paper and pen, cassette recorder, or laptop round out the tools for inspection. If I know beforehand the types of items I'll be inspecting, I sometimes bring along reference books and materials.

Once the onsite inspection is complete, the appraiser begins the process of researching value. It might surprise many people that an appraiser doesn't "know" the value immediately. Even if the appraiser is very familiar with the type of item being appraised, the value assigned must be supportable in a court of law. Therefore, for each item in the appraisal report, due diligence is required. One of the tools required at this stage is shoe leather: going out to shops and malls to locate comparable items. This is most commonly done for insurance coverage or damage claim appraisals. In charitable contribution, estate tax, or divorce situations, the appraiser uses past sales as comparables. Tools to research completed sales include auction catalogs with results realized and CD-ROMs of auction prices realized (the library at the Dallas Museum of Art has one such program, called Artfact). The Internet is increasingly becoming a vital research tool, as well. An extensive personal library, and access to public libraries is important.

After the value is established through research, the appraisal report is prepared. Since hand written reports are unacceptable, a typewriter, or computer with word processing software and printer is required. I use a copier to make duplicates of the reports and invoices for my files. If the appraisal is for an individual, rather than for an insurance company, moving company, or attorney, I use a thermal binding machine to bind the report.

General office equipment tools include voice-mail; fax machine; calculator; and e-mail. Because appraisers are required by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) to keep records for five years, I also have lots of file cabinets.

Those are the major tools of the profession.

Selling Antiques

This article was published in the January 1999  issue of AntiquePrime Magazine & Journal.

For What It's Worth ...

Q. I have some antique furniture from the '50s. What's the best way to sell it and how much should I ask for it?

A. Yikes! I'm from the '50s. Does that make me an antique?

To some, an antique is a work of art, piece of furniture, or a decorative item made before the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Others assume that items over 100 years old are antiques. This "100-year-old" rule applies to items being imported into the US. If the objects are older than 100 years, no tariffs are due. The Customs laws do not actually mention or define "antique". Many, like you, take a broader view of "antique" and define it as something "belonging to an earlier period of time". An alternative approach is to divide items into the following categories: appreciable (growing in value) and depreciable (decreasing in value).

Your furniture could be appreciating in value. Was it designed by a famous designer, such as Charles Eames or George Nelson? Made by Herman Miller, Knoll International, or another classic manufacturer? Was it owned by someone famous and can you prove it?

Or your things could just be good used furniture. What condition is it in? Are there "Hoover bruises", dents and dings from the vacuum cleaner? Did the cat claw the upholstery? Has the finish been removed, reapplied, or painted over?

The value of your furniture depends on many factors. After collecting a complete description from you, an appraiser might need to see the furniture, or at the very least, photographs of the items, to determine if a more comprehensive evaluation will be necessary.

The best way to sell your furniture? You have some options. You can sell it yourself. Place an ad in the newspaper, post flyers in the local supermarket, make an announcement at a church supper. If you have Internet access, another option is listing it on the Internet on sites such as,, or a newsgroup such as Or let others sell it for you. Place your furniture on consignment in a consignment shop. Send it to an auction company. Call an estate sale agent. If your items are appreciable, you just might decide to keep them, antique or not.


This article was originally published in the August/September 1999 issue of AntiquePrime Magazine & Journal.

For What It's Worth ...

Q. Are there any standards to which appraisers can be held?

A. Appraisers, whether they appraise real estate, businesses, or personal property, are governed by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). In addition, each professional appraisal organization has its own Code of Ethics and report writing standards. I'll focus on USPAP, since that is common to all appraisers, regardless of their affiliation with a professional appraisal organization.

horseeUSPAP has its roots in the real estate appraisal arena. Although real estate appraisal organizations date back to the 1930s, in the 1980s several national real estate appraisal organizations joined together to form the North American Council of Appraisal Organizations (NACAO) to develop national standards and regulations. About the same time, the Savings & Loan industry came under scrutiny by the U.S. Congress for its use of faulty and/or fraudulent real estate appraisals and the resulting financial lending crisis. This led to the funding of The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) by the members of NACAO in 1987. Two years later, TAF approved and adopted USPAP. I hope you can tolerate just a little more history and a few more acronyms. In 1989 the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) was passed in the wake of the S&L crisis. Title XI of this act deals with requirements for licensing, certification, and professional conduct of real estate appraisers, and officially recognized TAF and USPAP as the standards for real estate appraisal activity.

Powershot-S3is-iconWhat does this have to do with personal property appraising? Over the last decade, USPAP has been expanded to include business valuators and personal property appraisers. TAF's Board of Trustees appoints members to two independent operating boards: the Appraiser Qualification Board (AQB) and the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB). The AQB recently adopted voluntary minimum qualification criteria for personal property appraisers. There is no regulatory compliance mandated, unlike real estate appraisers. The ASB's primary task is the establishment, promulgation, dissemination and interpretation of USPAP, but the ASB does not enforce USPAP.

So what is USPAP? It's ten Standards Rules dealing with the process of developing and reporting an appraisal. Only two rules apply directly to personal property: Standards Rule 7, Personal Property Appraisal Development, and Standards Rule 8, Personal Property Appraisal Reporting. The remaining standards cover real property, ad valorem taxation appraisals (mass appraisals), and business appraisals. In addition to the Standards, USPAP is comprised of Comments, Statements, and Advisory Opinions. USPAP is important not only to appraisers, but to those who hire us to do appraisal and consulting work. For more information on this very important topic, visit the TAF web site,

Finding a Qualified Appraiser

This article was published in the Claims Prevention and Procedure Council newsletter and in the October 1998 issue of the AntiquePrime Magazine & Journal.

Finding a Qualified Appraiser

Last month we covered what to look for in a qualified appraiser. This month we'll tackle how to locate one.

There are three major appraisal organizations: the International Society of Appraisers (ISA); the American Society of Appraisers (ASA); and the Appraisers Association of America (AAA). While membership in a professional organization does not insure quality, it serves to define those who take their occupation seriously. Likewise, if appraisers have chosen not to join, it doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of quality in their appraisal reports. It does make it more difficult to locate them if you aren't in their geographic area. Let's take a brief look at each of the three appraisal associations.

The International Society of Appraisers is a not-for-profit society comprised solely of appraisers of personal property. There are three levels of active membership:

  • Associate - an appraiser who has joined ISA but has not yet completed the Core Courses required for full member status.
  • Accredited Member - an appraiser with at least three years of experience who has taken and successfully completed the Core Courses offered by ISA. These courses and tests cover the principles and procedures of appraisal science. Upon successful completion of these courses, the appraiser earns the right to use the "ISA" designation after his or her name.
  • Certified Member - one who has earned the "Certified Appraiser of Personal Property" (CAPP) designation by completing a comprehensive program above and beyond the Accredited Member level, with emphasis on the legal, ethical, and theoretical aspects of appraising, as well as the fine points of an appraisal specialty, and who has submitted representative appraisal reports to peer review.

International Society of Appraisers (ISA)
16040 Christensen Road #102
Seattle, WA 98188
Toll Free - (888) ISA-5587
Fax - (206) 241-0436
E-Mail - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site -

The American Society of Appraisers has members, all of whom are college educated or the equivalent, who appraise personal property, or real estate or businesses. The levels of membership for the personal property appraisers that you are likely to encounter are:

  • Candidate - appraisers and persons engaged in the appraisal profession who wish to become designated members.
  • Accredited Member - an appraiser who has passed written examinations, submitted representative appraisal reports, and undergone screening of appraisal practice and ethics. Upon completion and with two to five years of experience, the appraiser earns the right to use the "AM" designation after his or her name.
  • Accredited Senior Member - one who has earned the right to use the "ASA" designation by fulfilling the requirements of Accredited Member, and having five or more years of experience.

American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
555 Herndon Parkway #125
Herndon, VA 20170
Toll Free - (800) ASA-VALU
Fax - (703) 742-8471
E-Mail - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site -

The Appraisers Association of America (AAA) is a non-profit society comprised primarily of appraisers of personal property. There are three levels of active membership:
  • Associate - an appraiser with a minimum of 3 years of experience.
  • Member - an appraiser with a minimum of 5 years of experience.
  • Certified Member - an appraiser who has passed a certifying exam and has earned the right to use the "AAA" designation.

Appraisers Association of America
60 East 42nd Street, #2505
New York, NY 10165
Phone - (212) 867-9775
Fax - (212) 599-1128
E-Mail - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site - None at this time

There are other professional organizations for appraisers, but the three above are the most widely recognized and each will give nationwide referrals if you contact their offices. Another way to find an appraiser is to check the Yellow Pages under "appraisers" or "estates". Or search the Internet. Once you have located an appraiser, ask the right questions to determine if the appraiser is qualified, and be sure to ask about their level of membership in their professional organizations.