Everyone dreams of being the lucky devil we hear about every so often who picks up a piece of artwork or artifact at a garage sale, and it turns out to be worth a small fortune.
Of course, no one wants to be the seller who turns on Antiques Roadshow a year or so later to see their old item hauled before the show’s appraiser who then gushes over the piece and estimates a value that might have paid off the previous owner’s house.
That’s why I always say, ‘be sure of identity and value – call your appraiser!’ While I often couch this in comic terms, I’m actually very serious.
Many times have I worked for a client whose assumption was that book, those prints, those primitives, those whatever, were garage sale fodder – only to have me come in and identify them as historically significant and highly desirable to the market. In fact, there is no better feeling for an appraiser than saving a client embarrassment and finding them money where they thought there was little or none.
A large portion of the appraisals I’m asked to do are for insurance. The client knows they have nice things and want documentation to protect those items – and themselves – from risk. Very wise.
Of course, things are not always so clear-cut for everyone. Sometimes people inherit items. Sometimes the items have been in the family for years and are assumed to be this or that and have X value, but no one knows for sure.
Be sure of identity and value, call your appraiser!
Recently, in one of the many Facebook collector groups I follow, there was a story about a man who was selling a flag for $200. Happily, the prospective buyer knew it was worth far more and insisted on giving the seller far more so the buyer ‘could sleep at night’ after he resold the item for what he knew was going to be a handsome profit.
Sadly, I don’t recommend counting on finding many people whose belief in honesty and karma outweighs their pursuit of short term gain.
Reputable appraisers – that is to say those affiliated with major appraisal associations like the International Society of Appraisers, should be perfectly willing to help you with value discovery. The process is usually quick and inexpensive. The professional membership and credentialing is vital because it ensures they’re not going sell you an appraisal based on made up numbers you’ll later discover were bogus, just so they can take a few hundred dollars off you and disappear.
And remember, if an appraiser begins talking to you about buying the item directly, excuse yourself from the conversation and contact me so I can direct you to a real appraiser in your area!