Collectors.Org: Appraisals & Appraising


It would be difficult in this day and age to be actively involved in the antiques and collectibles industry -- either as a dealer or a collector -- without being aware of the growing significance of having valuables appraised. Sooner or later most every dealer or collector has a need for an appraisal of something they own, maybe their entire collection or inventory. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, most do not have the slightest idea of how to go about getting least for a "formal" appraisal or soliciting an "accredited" appraiser. Also, there is a growing fascination with the whole idea of doing appraisals...becoming an appraiser.

This section of the Collectors.Org site will hopefully provide some guidance and answer some of your questions relating to the whole field of appraisals as it relates to antiques and collectibles. We are pleased to have the cooperation and assistance of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) in developing this segment, particularly the help of Christian A. Coleman, ISA CAPP, Executive Director of ISA.

The mission of the International Society of Appraisers, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, is to provide education and organizational support to its members, and to serve the public by producing highly qualified and ethical appraisers who are the recognized authorities in professional personal property appraising. ISA is the largest nonprofit association of personal property appraisers in North America.

When do I Need an Appraiser?

An appraiser is needed whenever the value of an item needs to be documented. Appraisers do not establish value, they document it from various sources of information. Some examples of situations in which value must be documented are: insurance coverage or claim; estate settlement; equitable distributions of property (between heirs or in a marriage dissolution); legal proceedings (civil or criminal); bankruptcy; to establish collateral; and for tax purposes.

Whenever there's a question about the value of your personal property, there's also a risk involved. It may be the risk of selling too low, or of paying too much; the risk of being under or over insured; the risk of not getting your fair share in a division of property or when calculating estate taxes.

A professional appraiser helps you manage these and other such risks by providing a written opinion of value upon which you can base your financial decisions. Rather than being just an "educated guess", the professional appraiser's value conclusions are based on prescribed methods of evaluation, research, and report writing.

Bankers, financiers, investors, insurers, adjusters, estate managers, trustees, executors, attorneys, judges, federal and state tax agencies -- ALL are dependent upon the knowledge and expertise of the appraiser, and so are you. Too often and too late, people find out that the appraisals they have are inaccurate or misleading, resulting not only in greater risk to themselves, but also in an annual waste of millions of consumer dollars.

Things to Know When You are in Need of an Appraiser

First, you should ask yourself, "What information do I expect to receive from the appraisal? What do I plan to do with the information?"

If you have a clear understanding of what you expect and what you want to do with the information, the appraiser will be better able to advise you on what he or she needs to provide.

Personal property appraisers are not regulated by any government entity. Consumers need to establish an appraiser's qualifications and areas of expertise before retaining their services.

An appraiser should be knowledgeable in appraisal theory; be knowledgeable in the specialty area from which items are to be appraised; be prepared to consult experts in that specialty area, if necessary; be knowledgeable in applicable state and federal laws and regulations; submit a written report; and be prepared to serve as an expert witness if necessary.

The International Society of Appraisers strongly recommends that there be a written agreement between the parties. Most friction occurs because of verbal misunderstandings.

What qualifies someone to appraise my property?

The International Society of Appraisers suggests seven questions to start the interview.   (From the ISA's consumer's guide to hiring a competent personal property appraiser, "Be Certain of its Value".)

What qualifies you to appraise my property?
A qualified appraiser has formal education in appraisal theory, principles, procedures, ethics, and law. The appraiser should be up to date on the latest appraisal standards. Continuing education and testing are the only ways to ensure this competence.

The appraiser you hire should be familiar with the type of property you want appraised and know how to value it correctly.

Expertise on a particular type of property is not enough if the "expert" does not know how to evaluate an item for its appropriate worth. Without appraisal training, these "experts" have no way of understanding the complicated variety of marketplace definitions that are used to determine appropriate values for appropriate uses.

For example, a museum curator may be able to authenticate a work of art, or a jeweler may be able to determine the identity of a gemstone, but neither may be able to value those items correctly unless they follow appropriate appraisal principles and procedures.
Do all appraisers have similar qualifications?
No! In most states anyone can claim to be a personal property appraiser, whether they have had formal training or not. Until legislation is passed to protect the public from the unqualified appraiser, the burden is on the consumer to evaluate an appraiser's credentials.

It is important to ask the prospective appraiser what type of formal appraisal education training he or she has received. Obtaining a copy of the appraiser's professional profile or resume can help you evaluate the appraiser's credentials.
Do you belong to an appraisal society that tests its members?
There are many appraisal organizations, but only a few require members to take courses and pass tests before being admitted as "accredited" members. (ISA is such an organization.)

Membership in an appraisal association is important because it shows that the appraiser is involved with the profession, has peer recognition, has access to updated information, and is subject to a code of ethics and conduct.
Have you been tested? Do you take continuing education classes?
If the appraiser claims membership in a group that trains and tests its members, be sure to ask if this appraiser has personally gone through the training and testing.

Some organizations have grandfathered members into higher member status without testing them. `Grandfathering' means allowing members to retain their titles and status if they joined before new rules or testing standards were required.

Continuing education is also important for appraisers. Procedures and regulations are always changing. Because of this, courses appraisers take are constantly being updated, expanded and re- written to ensure those taking the courses will perform the work you need with knowledge of all the latest professional standards.
How will you handle items which may be outside your specialty area?
No appraiser should claim expertise in everything. For example, ISA recognizes over 135 areas of specialty knowledge. A good appraiser knows his or her limits, and is expected to consult with other experts when necessary.
What is your fee and on what basis do you charge?
DO NOT hire an appraiser who charges a percentage of the appraised value, or charges a "contingency" fee. These practices are clear conflicts of interests, and may result in biased values. Hourly fees, flat rates, or per item charges are acceptable.
What will the appraisal report be like?
You should receive a formal, typewritten report that gives you the information you need in a complete and organized way.

Some appraisal societies only teach appraisal theory, with no `real life' experiences. (ISA trains its members in how to write standardized, comprehensive appraisal reports. Each accredited member has been tested on these standards.)

A competent appraisal report has:
  • A cover document explaining in detail what type of value is being sought ("purpose") and how the appraisal is to be used ("function" or "assigned use".)
  • The methodology and resources relied upon, including market analysis and market(s) selected.
  • A complete and accurate description of the property written in such a manner that it can be identified without photos.
  • The date(s) and location of inspection, and the effective date of value.
  • A statement by the appraiser that he or she has no financial interest in the property, or that such interest is disclosed in the report.
  • The appraiser's qualifications and signature.

DO NOT accept an appraisal if:
  • It is handwritten or unsigned.
  • The fee is based on a contingency or upon the value of the property.
  • The appropriate "purpose" and "assigned use" are not stated.
  • The item is beyond the appraiser's expertise.
  • The appraiser is not willing and able to defend it in court (subject to the appraiser's availability, and separate fee arrangement.)

How to Get Help in Selecting an Appraiser

Probably one of the best ways to get the "right" appraiser for your specific needs is to call an appraisal association which requires that their members receive training and testing to qualify for full membership. The International Society of Appraisers (ISA) is one association that can help. They require formal training, testing and experience for members to achieve the Accredited and Certified levels. Details are available at ISA offers a free referral service to the public in identifying appraisers in your locale through their web site or by calling 888.ISA.5468 or E-Mail:

Should I Consider Becoming an Appraiser?

Many auctioneers become appraisers as a natural tie-in to their auctioneering business. Today, a number of dealers in antiques and collectibles also at least entertain the thought of "getting into" appraising as a form of supplemental income (and, perhaps, a way to gain access to items or collections to add to their sales inventory). This is undoubtedly also true with some collectors, particularly in this day of specialization where a person may be a dealer in, or collector in, Weller or Rookwood pottery and perhaps nothing else, or iron banks, or dolls, or die-cast toys, or political memorabilia, ...or on and on. "I'm a specialist, I'm an authority, I've written a book, why not become an appraiser?" is perhaps the way the thought pattern goes. Sounds simple enough.

Here are a few considerations. Do you really have an indepth knowledge in a personal property specialty area? (Antiques, collectibles, residential contents, gems, jewelry, fine art, machinery & equipment, etc.) Do you have a broad knowledge of markets (local, regional, national, and possibly international)? Do you ENJOY research?

If the answers to these questions are a strong "yes", perhaps you should investigate the appraisal profession more thoroughly. You will need to develop an extensive private research library and have access to other research facilities, and become "connected" with specialists in a wide area of specialties upon whom you can call for assistance when needed. Living in a rural area is not a deterrent to establishing an appraisal practice, as perhaps it was at one time, particularly with today's advantages of the Internet, E-Mail, Fax and other aids to help the appraiser do their job.

Can I become an Appraiser WITHOUT becoming certified?

Because personal property appraisers are not currently regulated by governments, anyone may promote themselves as an appraiser. Is it wise to do so without training? The answer is a big NO!

If you think you might want to become an appraiser, or do appraising in areas in which you feel comfortable in working, the best thing to do is to first talk with an appraisal association, or perhaps two or three, and get their help and advice before you make your decision.

The ISA receives calls every week from consumers and lawyers checking appraisers qualifications, and the trend for consumers and professionals who use appraisers is moving toward more public awareness of the need for credentialed, professional appraisers. ISA believes that formal training in appraisology and extensive experience in the specialty area are equally important factors in establishing professional qualifications as an appraiser.

The ISA has two levels of membership for professional appraisers, Accredited and Certified. An Accredited Member has completed the three courses in appraisal theory, principles and practice. A Certified Member has completed additional formal training in their specialty area, submitted two appraisals for peer review, has documented the completion of qualified additional professional development study and has successfully completed a 5-hour comprehensive examination. ISA schedules four core course offerings at diverse locations each year, and at least one offering in Antiques and Residential Contents, Antique and Period Jewelry, Fine Art, Machinery and Equipment, and Expert Witness each year. Students do not have to be members of ISA to register for the courses which are affiliated with the University of Maryland University College to assure the education programs adhere to the highest standards of academia.

Some appraisal associations do not require formal appraisal education but have other professional standards by which their membership must abide.

Appraiser's Liability

By Chris Coleman, ISA CAPP
ISA Executive Director

I have been asked what liability a dealer or appraiser assumes if they appraise something for a friend and make a mistake. Anyone who provides and estimate of value has assumed liability.

The International Society of Appraisers advises its members not to appraise as a favor or for no fee. Professionals always charge for their services; remember the old saying, it is worth what you paid for it. When an appraiser issues a report, that report must be well research and documented. A professional appraiser must be willing to defend their conclusion, even to the court house. This is a huge responsibility to assume as a favor to a friend or for no compensation.

Back in the early 80's, I received a call for an ISA member looking for errors and omissions insurance. It seems she had a friend who had appraised an eighteenth century highboy in the Philadelphia area. She identified it as an English piece primarily because it had oak secondary wood. Some years later the owner was moving to England and sold the piece to a neighbor at the appraised value. Several more years later, the new owner decided to sell the piece and contacted the New York auction galleries. The auction house identified the highboy as being made in Philadelphia and attributed it to a prominent cabinetmaker. It was knocked down for a handsome six figure hammer price. The seller was so happy she sent a case of champagne to the original owner, who promptly sued the appraiser. The ISA member who called me was upset because her appraiser friend had lost everything she had, including her home, because she had mis-identified the highboy.

Appraisers represent themselves as having special knowledge, therefore they are held to a higher standard than the general public.

This is an extreme case, but it does illustrate the liability that an appraiser assumes. What can an appraiser do to reduce this liability?
  • Obtain professional appraisal training similar to that offered by the International Society of Appraisers.
  • Maintain detailed records of their research.
  • Investigate errors and omissions insurance and evaluate the cost against the risk.
  • Always, thoroughly research items and use consultants if there is any doubt in identifying or valuing an item. One cannot value something if they don't know what it is!



The following is a selective list of resources that should be of value to anyone interested in further information about appraisals or appraising:

Appraisal Associations

The professional appraisal associations listed below can help you locate an appraiser from their membership base who best fits your needs either from a specific expertise or knowledge base, or geographically, i.e. an appraiser near where you live.

American Society of Appraisers

555 Hendon Parkway Suite 125
Herndon, VA 20170
Phone: 800.272.8258 or 703.478.2228
FAX: 703.742.8471

The American Society of Appraisers is an organization of appraisal professionals and others interested in the appraisal profession. The only major appraisal organization representing all of the disciplines of appraisal specialists, the society originated in 1936 and incorporated in 1952. The society is dedicated to the benefit of the appraisal profession.

When you hire an ASA-accredited appraiser, you are assured the best valuation expertise on the market. Each accredited member of the ASA has earned a professional designation in one or more specialized areas of appraisal. To receive the accreditation, the appraiser must pass intensive written examinations, submit representative appraisal reports for peer review and be screened for his or her ethical behavior.

To find an ASA appraisal expert visit their database at:

Appraisal Institute of Canada

203-150 Isabella Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1V 1S7
Phone: 613.234.6533
FAX: 613.234.7197

The Appraisal Institute of Canada grants professional designations in real estate appraisal. The AIC is a self-regulating body and, maintains the highest standards, practices and professional conduct in real estate appraisal to protect the public interest. Although the AIC is primarily involved with real estate appraisers rather than personal property appraisers, they are a good appraisal resource.

Appraisers Association of America

386 Park Avenue S. #2000
New York, NY 10016-8804
Phone: 212.889.5404
FAX: 212.889.5503

This is the oldest nonprofit association of personal property appraisers with approximately 1,000 members in more than 600 subspecialities in all areas of fine art, antiques, and insurance appraisals.

It is important for the appraiser, on behalf of the client, to be aware of what legal and ethical issues may affect the legitimacy of the client's insurance claim, estate settlement or tax return. The Appraisers Association of America offers its members continuing educational opportunities, informing them of important valuation developments and providing an extensive network of experienced colleagues who can offer advice on common legal questions as well as insight into groundbreaking developments in significant court cases. The Association's officers, members of the Board of Directors and executive director work closely with government-related agencies such as the IRS and the Appraisal Foundation.

Access the online searchable database of members of the Appraisers Association of America.

Appraisers National Association

25602 Alicia Parkway, PMB 245
La Guina Hills, CA 92653
Phone: 949.349.9179

ANA is a nonprofit professional association dedicated to personal property appraising. The association conducts educational seminars for appraisers, dealers, and collectors. Free referrals to an Accredited Appraiser for art, antiques, collectibles and residential contents.

Through continued education of its membership, the development of professional fellowship, the oversight and development of appraisal standards, and the ongoing exchange of information among its professional and associate members, the ANA continues to foster the professional development of its membership and expand the standards and requirements of its practicing members.

Association of Online Appraisers, Inc

P O Box 2049
Frederick, MD 21702-1049
Phone: 301.228.2779
FAX: 301.695.6491

AOA is a not-for-profit international association for personal property appraisers who are involved in offering online written appraisal reports (either as individuals or via an appraisal management company) through the use of digital images and Internet online reporting. With the advent of the Internet comes new technology and new methods of conducting personal property appraisals. The traditional societies focus primarily on the traditional, offline appraisals - thus the need for a new association, the AOA, that provides standards and guidance in preparing personal property appraisals online.

Only a relatively small number of appraisers belong to the traditional professional appraisal societies. Many appraisers have no societal affiliation at all. With the anticipated growth in popularity of online apprisal services, a significant number of aligned as well as non-aligned appraisers will be participating in providing online appraisal services. The AOA provides all appraisers, whether or not they belong to a traditional appraisal society, with a method and opportunity to become proficient in online appraisals.

The AOA is taking the leading role in providing the basic knowledge, standards of practice and a Code of Ethics to ensure that the public is served in the most professional manner possible by the online appraiser.

Canadian Association of Personal Property Appraisers

2 Briar Place
Nova Scotia B3M 2X2
Phone: 902.443.5698

Membership consists of appraisers covering most areas of personal property appraising.

International Society of Appraisers

16040 Christensen Road, Ste. 102
Seattle, WA 98188
Phone: 888.ISA.5468 or 206.241.0359
FAX: 206.241.0436

ISA is the largest professional association of appraisers whose members specialize solely in personal property, with over 1,400 members specializing in all areas of antiques & residential contents, gems & jewelry, fine art, machinery and equipment.

Referrals to professional appraisers may be found directly through the ISA website:

The Appraisal Foundation

1029 Vermont Avenue, N.W. Ste. 900
Washington, DC 20005-3517
Phone: 202.347.7722
FAX: 202.347.7727

The Appraisal Foundation is a non-profit education organization dedicated to the advancement of the appraisal profession. The Foundation is charged with the development and promulgation of professional appraisal standards and appraiser qualifications. The Foundation accomplishes this mission by serving as the parent organization for the Appraisal Standards Board and the Appraiser Qualifications Board. In addition, the Foundation has affiliations with over 80 organizations, companies and government agencies through Sponsoring Organizations and various Advisory Councils.

The National Association of Jewelry Appraisers

P.O. Box 18
Rego Park, NY 11374-0018
Phone: 718.896.1536
Fax: 718.997.9057

National Association of Jewelry Appraisers (NAJA) was founded in 1981 on the premise that the specialized field of gem and jewelry appraising was an area that was long overdue for representation on a professional basis. Also, there was a need for an appraisal organization specializing in only gems and jewelry, one which would not be subject to the confusion of diverse appaisal disciplines such as real estate, machinery & equipment, art, household contents, etc. The NAJA was formed as a response to this need.

The Association's primary purpose is to recognize and make available, the services of highly qualified, informed, experienced, independent, and professional appraisers of gems and jewelry to those members of the public requiring such expertise. NAJA promotes professionalism among our members as well as the industry as a whole.

Miscellaneous Resources

The following websites provide information which may be helpful to collectors in appraisal-related needs.

Internal Revenue Service


The United States Internal Revenue Service's website contains a wealth of information relating to income tax questions & situations and provides the latest news on changes in tax laws.

International Valuation Standards Committee


The IVSC is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) member of the United Nations and works cooperatively with member States, organizations such as the World Bank, OECE, International Federation of Accountants, International Accounting Standards Board, and others including valuation societies throughout the world to harmonize and promote agreement and uinderstanding of valuation standards.

Object ID


Object ID(TM) is an international standard for describing cultural objects. It has been developed through the collaboration of the museum community, police and customs agencies, the art trade, insurance industry, and valuers of art and antiques. The Object ID(TM) project was initiated by the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1993 and the standard was launched in 1997. It is being promoted by major law inforcement agencies, including the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol; museum, cultural heritage, art trade and art appraisal organizations; and insurance companies.

Values & Appraisals Resources

The following resources offer both price values and appraisal information on antiques and collectibles. Some of the appraisal services utilize certified appraisers while others make use of highly knowledgable collectors or dealers in specific collecting areas. The sites offering price values have gathered their information in a variety of ways including auctions, dealer sales and specialists or collecting authorities.

Please visit the websites and read the information over carefully. Some "systems" are more complicated than others. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most of these services are very happy to assist in any way they can to make a visitor or potential customer feel at ease.



An online appraisal service, the value of your item is determined by a professional online appraiser and is based on the information that is submitted. Your appraisal will indicate Current Fair Market Value and Replacement Value. The appraisal cost at WhatsItWorthToYou is $9.95. WhatsItWorthToYou is an NAC Partner and offers NAC members a special discount rate of $8.95 when appraisal is submitted through the NAC website link.


This is an extensive database search of artwork by artist name, offering values of their works.

Maine Antique Digest


The website of the monthly publication, Maine Antique Digest, includes a database of 7,500 prices with pictures distilled from articles in the publication. You must register before using the database, however it is free to all site visitors that are current MAD subscribers.


Determining the value of an antique or collectible is one of the most difficult aspects of collecting. Choosing the correct online appraiser isn't an easy task; was the first company to offer appraisals on the Internet and their base of satisfied customers continues to grow. Price for an appraisal is $17.95

Hummel Collector's Club


The "Hummel" Collector's Club, Dorothy Dous, President, offers certified appraisals of M.I. Hummel collectibles. The certified appraisers form and information is available on the website.



Search the world's auction catalogues from this website. The database includes current auction catalog items from the top 1,000 auction houses in the world including a fully integrated auction calendar and directory. This is a subscription service, however i-Find+ offers a one-month trial use free of charge.



Kovels Online has a database of more than 450,000 actual prices of antiques and collectibles. You have to sign-up including a password, but it a good resource to use over and over.

Ask the Appraiser


This Internet appraisal service is operated by, a subsidiary of Sales Online Direct. The services has a network of experts covering more than 170 different categories, including movie memorabilia, vintage toys, art glass, Steiff bears, Asian art and baseball cards, among others. "Ask the Appraiser provides novice and experienced collectors with a valuation and history of items they own or are considering buying or selling," said company spokeswoman Julie Shepherd. She said online auction sellers can integrate an ATA appraisal into their own online auction listings. The ATA is available on or through the co-branded site at The company charges $19.95 for each appraisal. For more information call Dave Maloney, vice president of publications and appraisal services at 301.228.2279.



Searching the completed auctions on eBay can usually turn up dozens of items in any given category. eBay retains the prices realized on items sold for one month on the site. This is not only a good way to check out values but to see firsthand the wide range in prices realized on the very same item, a phenomenon which happens on a regular basis.



One of the easiest databases to use, Overture provides values on a large selection of antiques and collectibles.

Copyright © 2017  Americana Resources, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
This page was last modified on: Monday, November 12, 2012

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