08 Feb 2014
February 8, 2014

The Appraiser’s Notebook February 2014

February 8, 2014

Last week I examined a painting for a client whose interest was more in selling it than keeping it and having it appraised. If it is what she and I think it is, it might net her a hefty chunk of change.

In making inquiries of the better auction houses, I came across the consignment criteria for Brunk’s, a once-regional, now internationally respected house.

What they won’t handle is as interesting as what they will and speaks to the integrity of this firm. They will not sell “items derived from endangered species like rhinoceros, spotted song birds, endangered cats, ivory…” In cases where small amounts of endangered or now-prohibited items are in another item that they sell (ivory finials in tea services or rosewood inlay in a table), they donate a portion of their proceeds to agencies and authorities working to preserve and protect those species.

Brunk will not sell items that they suspect have been looted and may be subject to claims of patrimony from either groups in this country or elsewhere in the world.

Did you know that most antique barometers contain enough toxic mercury to pollute a two-acre lake? I didn’t either. Brunk Auctions, before selling important examples of those barometers, will have the mercury harvested and replaced by an EPA approved firm.

They will not offer Nazi and KKK related items because some of their clients find these things offensive.

Stained glass, statuary, and other items that they suspect may have been plundered from cemeteries will not be offered for sale, either.

And more on the ethics of appraising….

Twice this week alone I have had inquiries from people who were interested in having me appraise and then buy their items. I have said this before but it bears repeating: no appraiser worth his or her salt will offer to buy anything they appraise.

That brought to mind the recent “Appraisal Fair” held by an out of town firm where people could bring in their valuables, have them appraised, then have them purchased by this group.

Periodically these and other firms come through town to offer this “service.” I have three words for those of you who are thinking about going to these fairs – don’t do it.

And a quick word on whether or not you need an appraisal…. 

If you are planning to sell your item and want an idea of whether or not it’s even worth anything, rather than an appraisal, go for the auction estimate. It’s a lot cheaper and makes more sense than a full-blown appraisal.

If you are just curious about what you have, you don’t need a full appraisal either. You can attempt to value it yourself or opt for the impartiality of an appraiser who can offer you a verbal estimate or consultation, usually for considerably less than a full appraisal will cost.

If you want to be fair to your heirs and plan to gift your unneeded valuables before you pass away, you may not need an appraisal (notice that I wrote “may”).

As in many situations, it all depends on a host of variables. Your appraiser should always ask several questions before recommending either a verbal estimate of value or a full appraisal report. If she or he doesn’t, find someone else.

About the Author


Beth A. Kinstler, ISA-CAPP is a certified member of the International Society of Appraisers and the president of Avalon Appraisals and Estate Sales. She may be reached at 912-238-1211 or 912-659-2900.