Contrary to the image given appraisals by programs like Antiques Roadshow, professionally written appraisals are very serious documents. They are products of diligent research that must respond to myriad conditions and circumstances, all of which reflect the background of the appraiser.
The true professional appraiser spends considerable time and effort keeping up their credentials by constantly pursuing continuing education – on top of the time they’ve already put in that gives them expertise in a given field.
Appraisals may serve as evidence in a court case, or as documented support for an insurance claim. They may be the go-to document for a family wanting to split up an estate fairly and efficiently. I’m sure you can come up with other very serious uses for an appraisal.
‘You get what you pay for’ is the philosophy at work here.
All the same, there are ways a client can help expedite the appraisal process and save themselves money. As with most things in life, the best way is by paying special attention to the organization of the items under consideration.
Clients regularly ask how we can streamline their process to both expedite the final product and save themselves a bit of money. Because I too want the process to go as smoothly as possible, I offer the following tips:
1) Organize the items to be evaluated in a well-lit area that provides the inspecting appraiser a 360-degree view of the items, including room to tip large items to view the undersides or backs.
For fine art, it may be necessary to remove an item from its frame. Fine art appraisers like myself are knowledgeable about this process. When it comes to fine art, bear in mind that the frame rarely adds value to the work itself, so don’t worry about it being removed briefly from its frame. Appraisers are adept and removal without compromising the frame.
Having the work secured back in the frame is usually quite painless. If the back of the frame is sealed by a large sheet of paper, it may be that there is an attempt there to hide something that will significantly impact value, and appraisers must be sure of all aspects of your piece before rendering a trustworthy value conclusion. This is for your own good, as they say!
2) Talk to your appraiser about cleaning up the items before the inspection. This is an important step because there are some kinds of items whose value might be harmed by cleaning, such as things with confirmed historical importance, and your appraiser will surely tell you not to touch a thing.
Your appraiser should also be able to offer you handy tips for safely cleaning up your items in a way that will make them look their best, no matter what their condition. Even if cleaning up something means exposing a flaw, it should be done. Believe it or not, the flaw may actually add value to a piece, but in the end what you want is an accurate valuation of the item in its current state.
3) Gather any provenance beforehand, that is to say, formal documentation of an item’s journey through the past, such as its gallery or show appearances, loans or displays in museums, and any previous sale documentation whether auction or private. These documents may well save the appraiser time by helping streamline the research process.
But don’t panic if your item doesn’t have any of these things – absence of provenance is more common than you might expect!
So there you are! Three easy things you can do that can save you money and help your appraiser produce the most accurate appraisal document possible!