It seems to be a common story among those who are cleaning out their attics to have sold an item for a cheap price, only to find out that it fetched thousands in auctions in the following years. They’re probably kicking themselves with their decision not to have their items appraised, but by then it’s too late – the item is long gone, and it now belongs to someone else.
You can avoid this regret by having your antiques and heirlooms properly appraised by professionals. This way, you are sure to get your money’s worth, without having to worry about being swindled by a clever buyer.
However, you have to remember that not every old item in your father’s attic can be worth a lot – in fact, majority of them may be junk. Yet if you examine each item closely, you might just be able to determine something of value. When that happens, here’s how you can prepare it for an appraisal:
Be careful when cleaning and never repair your items
Sure, you may dust it if you won’t risk damaging the item (as may be the case when you dust some paintings), but never attempt to repair it yourself. While it may make sense to want to repaint an antique bed, for example, you could possibly be halving the value of your item if it is no longer in its original appearance.
You can clean it as much as you can without damaging it. For example, you can dust silverware with a clean, soft cloth, without the assistance of any polishing materials. Do not try to repair old furniture, such as by driving a nail into them, or repainting them.
Rather, wait for a professional appraiser to check your item. They will be able to give you leads to reputable organizations that can restore your item, without damaging it.
Do your research
While some would argue that internet appraisals aren’t worth much, you do have to start somewhere. Determine what your item is (for example, an old set of baseball cards) and find the right online appraiser for it. You can start to compare prices with eBay.com, but keep in mind that the prices on eBay are what the merchant wants, and not what the item is actually worth.
Collector’s Marketing Resource Center offers this handy guide of online appraisers, varying from antiques, books, coins, paintings, to baseball cards, among many others. He also offers tips on how to get the most out of the websites, including which ones are free, and which ones would require nominal fees.
The purpose of this is to give you a baseline when it comes to determining your item’s worth. This means that you will have a better idea if your appraiser is giving you a low price, or if it is the actual market value of your item.
Know your purpose
Now, you have to be crystal clear about your purpose for the appraisal. Are you trying to sell the item, donate it to charity, or to insure it? All these things mean you’ll get different appraisals.
For example, if you are trying to sell the item, then the appraiser would give you the fair market value of your item, which means how much it would probably be bought by an individual. This is most probably less than what retailers would sell your item for, since they would mark up the price of your item to get more profit. Meanwhile, if you are trying to insure your item, then the appraiser would look at it from its replacement value, as if you are going to try to buy it once again from a retailer.
The rule of the thumb would therefore to be very clear about your purpose, and to say this clearly to your appraiser. This way, you would know the fair market value of your item, and you are reassured that you wouldn’t be ripped off.
Find your appraiser
Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your item, and you have a general idea of its market value based on the Internet (which may be wrong, mind you, and is just used for the point of comparison), then it is time to look for a reputable appraiser.
First, ask for recommendations. You can ask your estate attorney or trust manager to lend their expertise on this matter, as they would be well-versed when it comes to dealing with appraisers. If you don’t have either, then look for professional organizations and scour their directory to find an appraiser who might help you the most.
Your first stop can be the Appraisers Association of America Inc., which ensures its credibility by requiring members to have at least five years of professional experience on appraising. More senior members even need to pass a two-part exam which covers appraising theory ad methodology. If you don’t find the appraiser you want within this organization, then check out the American Society of Appraisers. This organization requires all members to pass exams on valuing property and ethical standards, as well as requires them to take classes that cover various aspects of the trade.
Shortlist your candidate and interview them, if you think it is applicable. Look closely at their resumes and see which ones have handled items such as yours. This way, you would be sure that you are getting a fair valuation of your item from an actual expert
It goes without saying that there is more to appraising than just what meets the eye. Whatever the case, you have to do your research and to be prepared, so that you would have a better idea of what to expect from the proceedings. You should also feel comfortable with your appraiser, and you must be able to trust them. Above all, do not pin all your hopes on a single item, as you may think that it’s worth thousands of dollars, only to find out that it is a knock-off of the real thing.
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