The appraisal process should be a pleasant experience for everyone. It starts with the first communication whether by email, phone or in person. The appraiser should be a member of one of the major appraisal associations that is nationally recognized. Certified Members of these associations are well known for their extensive knowledge in their area of expertise. It is always easy to find an appraiser that you can trust and like by working with a Certified Member of one of the national associations such as theAppraisers Association of America, Inc.
After an initial conversation to establish what type of appraisal is required (insurance replacement value, fair market value for estate planning or donation to a museum, etc.) an appointment will be made to inspect the painting in your home or place of business. Appraisals can be done long distance by photographs but must note this departure from the rules. Such qualifications may affect an appraisal from being used in the future in certain circumstances such as when submitting the appraisal to the I.R.S. which requires a physical inspection for tax deduction and/or estate evaluation. A personal inspection also gives the appraiser more pertinent information in order to establish the right value for your art.
1. An appraisal is not a five minute inspection. To properly assess the value in the current market can require hours of research for inclusion in the appraisal document. It is typical for an appraiser to spend a minimum of 3-4 hours on each and every item being appraised.
2. Many "on-line" appraisal services offer "appraisals" by email for a small fee. However, this is not the generally accepted standard for appraisals and may not be accepted by insurance companies or the I.R.S. Remember....a quickly rendered opinion is not a complete appraisal.
3. A physical inspection of condition may be essential to verify important criteria that goes into writing an appraisal. Sometimes condition is not what you can see, but rather what you can't see with the naked eye. A visual inspection with special tools by an appraiser who has experience evaluating condition may reveal hidden information or issues. This first-hand knowledge is indispensable to an appraiser when researching your work(s) of art.
4. General knowledge is not expertise. A qualified appraiser should contract for appraisal work only within the areas of their professional experience and competence, which is why I only provide appraisals in the field of American Art from 1800 - 1950. No appraiser can be an expert in every area of the art world.
5. Auction houses may give you their idea of value based upon past auctions. These values are generally given in a range (i.e. $50,000 - $75,000) which is an "estimate" of what they hope they can sell it for at public auction. Appraisers use a wide variety of sources besides auction records to determine current value.
Ellery H. Kurtz, AAA - American Art Appraisal