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Whether you collect out of passion or just for investment purposes (which is somewhat rare) it is a good idea to find out the intrinsic worth of your collection. Especially before an unfortunate event such as ‘mysterious disappearance’ takes place. Without documentation, it may be near impossible to prove to your insurance agent that you really did own that rare nineteenth century 22 kt. cigarette box that was commissioned by the Tsar of Russia. Whether it had a troika engraving or not, without an appraisal it may not have even existed!
The first step is finding an appraiser you not only feel comfortable with – but one that is qualified and accredited with at least one of the three certifying appraisal organizations. These organizations, governed by the Appraisal Foundation in Washington, include the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America or the International Society of Appraisers. Unlike real estate appraisers, personal property appraisers are not required by law to be certified – therefore, consumer beware…anyone can hang their shingle out and say they are an appraiser! Also review the membership level of the appraiser you are considering hiring – an affiliated membership is not the same as one that is accredited.
Further, it is important to select an appraiser that is not a dealer or auctioneer. Working both sides of the fence all-too-often becomes a conflict of interest when it comes to appraising. An appraiser that is in the business of buying and selling, or consulting may have undisclosed interest in the property. It is in the client’s best interest to find an appraiser that can deliver an unbiased opinion of value – and a value that is substantiated and documented in a certified report that is written in conformance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Practice (USPAP). My best recommendation is to shop around – but do so with discretion – for not all appraisers are created equal!