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Choosing the Right Appraiser depends on many factors. Since you are seeking the most accurate appraisal possible, it is important to find the most qualified appraiser for the kind of art or antique that you own. There are so many types of art and antiques that no one can be an expert in all of them. It is also essential that an appraiser should be free of any conflict of interest. Those in the business of selling an item are inherently conflicted and should not be appraising them. It is just common sense; to receive an accurate appraisal, hire someone who is both knowledgeable and free of any conflict of interest.

Choosing an appraiser for charitable donation purposes deserves special attention, especially if the value of the donation is over $5000. The Internal Revenue guidelines outline appraiser requirements, requiring what they call a "qualified" appraisal. The most significant IRS requirement is that the appraiser must be certified by a recognized appraisal organization. The IRS also requires the appraiser to certify the authenticity of the work. Thus, if an appraised value is expected to exceed $5000, not only must the appraiser be certified but they must also be qualified to certify the authenticity of the piece.

There are four primary reasons for seeking an art appraisal. The most common reason is to obtain or renew insurance coverage. Divorce and estate settlements are the second reason. The third reason is that someone is considering selling their painting and wants to know its value before negotiations begin. The fourth reason is that the IRS requires an appraisal for any charitable donation in excess of $5,000. Each of the four reasons requires a different type of appraisal.

Obtaining a current and accurate appraisal is the most important tool in protecting a collection. Without an appraisal on art and antiques, most homeowner’s insurance policies will only reimburse a combined loss of $1,000. Even a small collection can easily have a value in excess of $1,000. Odds are that in the event of fire, theft, flood or other loss, unappraised or under-appraised artwork would not be covered under a basic homeowner’s policy. Additionally, a quality appraiser will retain a copy of your appraisal to serve as a backup in the event of loss or the filing of an insurance claim. In fact, appraisers are often called to testify in court in the event of a lawsuit. Having a solid appraisal in your records is like money in the bank.



Fees vary widely among appraisers. Some charge by the hour, with fees ranging from $25 - $300 per hour. Other appraisers, especially those working within a limited range of expertise, may offer a flat rate for a single appraisal. Do not hesitate to ask for a discount if multiple pieces of similar origin, style or period are being appraised. For those appraisers charging by the hour, a written estimate should be provided to the owner prior to the appraisal process beginning. No one wants to end up paying $500 for the appraisal of a $400 painting.

In Person or Online Appraisals

Ideally all appraisals would be done by first hand inspection and evaluation. However, sometimes it is impractical if not impossible for a qualified appraiser to perform an onsite appraisal. Fortunately, with the advent of the internet and digital technology, more appraisers are offering online appraisals. This is a great cost and time saver for the owner. A qualified expert can often accurately determine the value and or authenticity of an item without a personal inspection. In the case of doubt as to authenticity, condition or value of an item, a live evaluation and appraisal would become necessary.

Old Moore's Creek by A.E. Backus, Circa
Replacement Value
River Road by Harold Newton.jpg
Market Value

Replacement Value Appraisals are used primarily for insurance purposes. It assumes that the artwork would have to be replaced in a short amount of time and that the replacement would be of comparable appearance, quality and condition. Replacement values typically offer the highest valuation on an appraisal. Since replacing a piece of artwork to specific requirements in a short amount of time is difficult, having a recent appraisal is the best way to ensure an accurate assessment of value.  

South Indian River Drive by A.E. Backus,
Fair Market Value

Fair Market Value Appraisals are most often used in estate settlements and with charitable donations. They state the price a piece of art would sell for on the open market with a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act and both parties having full knowledge of the facts relating to the sale. Commissions and fees are not deducted from this value.

Market Value Appraisals reflect the value realized, after accounting for all expenses, commissions and fees, by a willing seller disposing of property in a competitive and open market to a willing buyer, both being reasonably knowledgeable of all relevant facts, and neither being under any constraint to buy or sell. This type of appraisal gives an owner an idea of their net return on the sale of their asset.

Royal Poinciana by James Gibson, based u
Liquidation Value

Liquidation Value Appraisals reflect the value realized in a sale conducted under forced or limiting conditions and with some time constraints. Estate sales and auctions would represent this type of sale. As would be expected, this would often be the lowest valuation.

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