Common Appraisal FAQ

“Can you do on-the-spot appraisals? Like they do on Antiques Roadshow?”

Ah, good old Antiques Roadshow! One of my favourite binges, AR is basically the very first reality show. It has been around for over 20 years now and has some unique factors going for it. Before I go into on-the-spot ‘appraisals’, here are a few little nuggets about the show.

Fun fact #1: The appraisers on AR are accredited appraisers, and they are volunteers. Being an appraiser in front of the AR cameras with a delicious item of appraisal was, and still is, the lure that brings the appraisers into the show. Camera time especially on a major network like PBS means excellent exposure, and that means work for the appraisers’ businesses.

Fun fact #2: The items you see being appraised on TV are cherry-picked from literally thousands of items. Prior to filming, the appraisers have to sell the producers on the items that they want to highlight.

Fun fact #3: The appraisers aren’t actually providing appraisals, in that they are not providing a written appraisal report.. They are indeed evaluating the item, but they place only a verbal approximation on its current value. Also keep in mind that the appraisers have time to research an item before they get in front of the camera, so they have had a chance to refresh their knowledge, consult with other appraisers and so forth.

Fun fact #4: AR appraisers very rarely provide a fixed value on an item. As most AR appraisers are connected to auction houses, they always provide a range: ‘In today’s market, at auction, I would expect this to bring between $2500 and $5000.’ Appraisers who are connected to retail may provide a more fixed value, but will specify that, ‘In a retail setting I would expect to see this stickered at $4000.’

In the case of both verbal approximations and written appraisals, the appraiser has to call upon recent comparable items that are as similar as possible to the appraisal item. That means having access to resources not generally available to the public. The number of industry-specific bookmarks and paid subscriptions to specialized sites on my computer is pretty long!

It is crucial that anyone interested in having an appraisal done in order to sell an item be aware that it may sell for more, or much less, than the range provided in the appraisal. A great deal depends on the current market. A written appraisal is NOT a guarantee that an item will sell within the price range.

Below are two examples of lots on which I did my own verbal approximation of their value before I consigned them to auction. Click each image to see the final sale value.

The lot of six Pilsner glasses in Cornflower design was a pleasant surprise, as it sold for more than double what I had anticipated. The candlewick Cornflower cream and sugar set came in exactly on the nose at the top end of my range.

As to whether I can personally perform on-the-spot approximations, it depends on how familiar I am with the item is and how recently I have seen it sell for. Keep in mind that as with any kind of verbal contract, a verbal approximation is not worth the paper it’s written on.

However, if you are in a situation where a lawyer, accountant, insurance agent or bank is asking you to provide them with an appraisal report, you need a written appraisal report and thus the services of an appraiser.

And so concludes my first blog. Hope you have learned something useful, and feel free to reach out to me via the contact form with any questions.

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