Each week, millions of Americans watch a television show to find out about someone’s family turkey platter.
There may be a compelling story behind the heirloom, but most viewers wait with baited breath for the clincher — the value of the platter.
The show is “Antiques Roadshow,” and the stars of that show are the appraisers — the experts revealing what the antiques are worth.
“Not all appraisals are glitzy productions,” said Nick Katzmarek, Antique Trader reporter — most, actually, are done to protect a property owner from loss.
Appraisals can be used for other things, too. They can help you determine a price for an item you are selling. An appraisal can cover you against a loss. They are also used for personal knowledge about an item.
“If you want to sell your item,” Diana Smith, a New Jersey appraiser, said, “you can get a ‘fair market appraisal’ — what you can expect to get if you sell your item, whether it is to a dealer, to the public, whatever.”
If you want to protect yourself against loss, you need a written appraisal that is then submitted to the insurance company.
What items should be appraised? “If it’s worth $500, then no, it’s probably not worth the time,” said Smith.
If, however, it goes above the general content coverage of your insurance, which usually hovers around $2,500, then go for it.
According to Phoenix, Ariz.-based appraiser Karolyn Weber, it’s important, to have your items appraised before disaster strikes. An appraiser can make an assessment of a collection’s value after it is gone, but there are some “limiting conditions” on that appraisal, Weber said.
She cites a post-disaster appraisal of a silver tea set as an example.
“The tray on many sets is typically silver plate. Nine times out of 10 it is, so I’ll appraise it based on that.”
Getting an appraisal before you lose the item, she said, can protect you against conditional appraisal. That tray, at 180 ounces of pure silver, can be worth $9,000. A silver plated tray? “Considerably less,” she said.
Appraisals aren’t limited to single pieces. A single Toulouse-Lautrec print might be worth $75,000, but a group of vintage advertisements worth just $250 to $500 individually, might be worth a “collective” appraisal.
Smith said most insurance companies, while they’ll cover your appliances and furniture, won’t cover your antiques collection without an appraisal.

Three factors determine the value of an item — age, condition and comparables.
The first two factors are self-explanatory, but that last might need a bit of clarification.
Comparables are values placed on similar items in the same region.
If you’re holding onto an Eoff silver coffee server, for example, an appraiser will look at auction reports and local antique shop prices to determine what the comparable value is.
Does that mean an Eoff in Idaho may be valued differently than an Eoff in Indiana?
“Absolutely,” said Smith. “For the most part, you go by what an item is going for in that area.”
An exception to the regional rule is in the case of truly unique items — a Monet in Michigan is the same as a Monet in Madagascar.
What are the signs of a good, experienced appraiser? Smith said to look for two things.
First, find an appraiser who is a member of a professional association, like the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) or the International Society of Appraisers (ISA). Then ask for references.
Second, Smith said, “nobody is an expert in everything.” Make sure to ask the appraiser’s area of expertise. While Smith is listed as an appraiser for many things, she won’t appraise stamps or coins.
“They should tell you what they do and do not appraise,” she said. Also make sure that your appraiser is fiscally ethical.
“The appraiser never has any financial interest in the item being appraised,” Smith said. It should definitely raise eyebrows if an appraiser asks to buy an item he or she has appraised.
Copyright 2002 by Krause Publications. For a free catalog of Krause Publications books or periodicals on collectibles, write Public Relations, Dept. IC, Krause Publications, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001, or visit www.collect.com on the worldwide web, or e-mail [email protected]

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