At first glance, moving or disposing years of accumulated memories, family treasures, antiques, furniture, collections, and just “stuff” appears daunting and overwhelming. How does one know what is valuable? Should one keep, sell, or donate? Sentiment and family lore aside, what is the market bearing for these items?
In effort to answer the questions above, it is highly recommended when disposing of personal property, to get an opinion of value. This can be accomplished in several ways but starts with contacting a professional for advice. Professionals or businesses that are helpful are auction houses, independent personal property appraisers or personal property advisory services. When selecting someone or a business to provide guidance, consider their reputation, years of experience and whether that person/business has ties to a professional organization such as the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), International Society of Appraisers (ISA) or the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). Doing some homework and using an organization that affiliates itself with professional organizations, will provide one with a level of confidence when receiving answers to questions.
There are several options when receiving an “opinion of value.” One can request an appraisal which is a legal report that follows established standards and will include an object description, image, and value. An appraisal report will take some time to complete and is fee based. A more informal approach is to have an auction house representative visit at no charge (looksee) and identify items that can be sold at that house. This is a more casual process which may or may not include cataloging or images and may be conveyed via an email or letter.
Both of the processes described above will reveal current market trends, indicate property for possible sale, answer questions of what is suitable for donation, and what should just be “trashed.” For example, recently Freeman’s was contacted regarding a painted blanket chest that had previously been stored in a barn. After examination and research, it was determined to be a rare painted blanket chest by Johannes Spitler (American, 1774-1837) and sold at auction for$350,500. In another case, a Martha Walter (American, 1875-1976) painting was identified in an estate and sold at auction for $85,000.
No matter what approach one decides to use i.e., either an appraisal or “looksee,” having someone knowledgeable to guide one when making decisions about personal property is imperative to provide guidance for sale, disposal, or donation and to avoid costly mistakes.
Marta Walter (American 1875-1976) "Leaving the Beach" (Sold For $85,000)