About Your Stuff: Fact or Belief

Sometimes a client believes they know all about their item before they reach out to me for an appraisal.

Sometimes this information is the product of a generation or more of family members repeating – and sometimes adding to – the romantic lore around an item. Many times, though, they only have part of the story.

One of the hardest tasks I face as an appraiser and historian is telling someone their beloved story is only partially true or that the current market doesn’t support their assumption of value. The worst is when I have to contradict some deeply held or sentimental belief.

While there are many wonderful things about being an appraiser, one of the best moments for me is when I suspect that reality is even more interesting and windswept than family lore. Admittedly, such moments are rare. However, it’s always wonderful when I am able to tell them straight away and illustrate the point with physical evidence provided by the item itself.

Yet no matter what the news, there’s an art to informing a client gracefully.

Long before I deliver a report, though, comes the research phase. It is in this magical period, my favorite in fact, that I may discover a previously obscure historical aspect or component of the item about which my client had no clue.

It is in this ability to sniff out historical detail that I take especial pride.

It might be as simple as translating an obscure phrase, deciphering an unknown symbol or logo, tracing a signature or maker’s mark. Yet because such historiographical detail may add significant support or additional value to their item, it is vital to a complete and accurate appraisal.

As I always say, be certain of identity and value – call your appraiser!