The best free advice you will ever get about appraising or getting antique appraisals from antique appraisers!
Take Your Time -- the second best free advice you will ever get about getting antique appraisals! Consult with multiple sources over a period of time. You will be absolutely astounded at the variance in antique appraisals you find at different sources.
As a silly example, I personally had two antique appraisals performed on a bayonet (sword) -- with the difference between the lowest and highest appraisal being seven fold! The highest appraisal was 7 times that of the lowest antique appraisal!
Treasure or trash? 10 ways to find out.
(This is just a small excerpt from a wonderful article in CNN/Money on antique appraisal - the full article can be found at money.cnn.com)
New York (CNN/Money) - That old vase you found in your father's attic could be a fine item for your garage sale. Maybe you could get a six or seven dollars for it. Or it could be a rare specimen worth thousands at an auction.
Thanks to the popularity of programs like Public Television's "Antiques Roadshow" Americans are looking more closely than ever at stuff that, a few years ago, they might have unthinkingly taken to the local charity thrift shop or just tossed into a recycling bin.
It takes qualified antique appraisers to know whether you've got a one-in-a-million treasure or a run-of-the-mill trinket. But finding such a pro can be daunting for the uninitiated. There is no licensing for antique appraisers, so anyone can take out a Yellow Pages ad calling themselves an "antique appraiser." Here are some ways to track down the genuine article and avoid the fakes.
Hire an appraiser to appraise
-- nothing more. Never, ever sell your antiques to the person who's performing the antique appraisals.
Skip Internet appraisals
Antique appraisers agree that the Internet is generally not a good place to obtain accurate valuations. A good antique appraiser will need to see and handle a piece to determine its true value. There are also several websites where you can do research on your own. A true antique appraisal is a legal document! Antique appraisal is an art and generally performed by an appraiser using "experience" and a "trained eye". So, to be fair, don't expect an appraiser (blinded in an electronic world) to be able to provide you with anything more than an estimate. Crawford Direct Appraising is a good place to start.
Why Are You Looking for an Appraiser?
If you need the appraisal for insurance purposes, ask your insurance agent to cover the TOA (Terms of Agreement) on property valuation prior to making your decision. If you are only seeking an appraisal to satisfy your own curiosity as to the value of an item you have come across, then by all means consider finding a place online to provide you with such an appraisal. But, no matter how cheap the appraisal -- get something in writing.
Ask managers at a bank or estate attorneys -- they are a good source for finding a professional, reliable antique appraiser. Another option is the American Society of Appraisers, where members must pass an exam on valuing property and on ethical standards. Senior members must have at least five years of experience and take four classes covering various aspects of appraising.
Interview several candidates
Once you get some names, search for appraisers who fits your needs. And, again -- take the time.