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Personal Property Appraisal: What You Should Know

December 1, 2017

If you own antiques, collectibles, expensive jewelry, firearms or other high-value items, you may think you have a rough idea - or even a fairly informed opinion - on what they’re worth.

When looking to insure those items or obtain a value before selling/donating them, you must seek out a personal property appraisal.

What you will learn: 

Why You Need a Personal Property Appraisal.

Some people think their informed opinions or educated guesses are sufficient. We disagree with that notion.

Experienced appraisers are skilled in determining an item’s value using tools and expertise the rest of us probably don’t have access to. Plus, while your opinions may be educated, they will not hold water with an insurance company, estate attorney, gallery owner or the all-powerful IRS.

For these reasons, a professional appraiser can provide the official documentation you need to prove an item’s value for:

  • Estate settlements
  • Insurance purposes
  • Sales or donations

If you've never had an appraisal in the past, you might not know what to expect, or even how to get started.

Here’s a quick overview of the appraisal process, including how to choose an appraiser and what happens during and after the actual appraisal.

What Items Should be Appraised?

Generally, any item you believe may have significant value should be appraised. You can also do preemptive research about your item or similar items online to determine if they might be valuable.

Here are a few items that we have seen people request appraisals for:

  • Expensive jewelry
  • Designer antiques
  • Valuable collections
  • Sterling silver
  • Vintage watches
  • Porcelain
  • Paintings

What You Should Look for in an Appraiser.

Ideally, you want to select an appraiser who has experience in providing appraisals for your specific type of item. For example, someone with experience in valuing artwork, jewelry, or Civil War items.

You can get started by learning more about organizations like the American Society of Appraisers or the Appraisers Association of America. When you’ve identified a few items that you would like to seek appraisals for, visit their websites and look up appraisers' credentials and specialties.

You can also inquire about price - most appraisers charge from $100 to $400 per hour, or a flat fee for an appraisal of many items. Still, while cost is certainly a factor to consider, experience and expertise are what you really need to screen for first.

How Do Appraisers Determine the Value of an Item?

Experienced appraisers use tools to help assess an item’s value, including past sales data, condition and history (or provenance) of the item itself.

They also rely on standards and guidelines set forth in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which contains Congressionally-authorized valuation standards.

When Appraisals are Influenced by Intent.

Interestingly, the value the appraiser assesses is also determined in part by the reason for the appraisal.

For instance, a valuation for insurance purposes will be based on the item's replacement cost with one of similar value. On the other hand, an item assessed for sale or donation will be based on a fair market value - that is, how much the item would sell for at an auction, gallery or other venue

If your item has historical value, the appraiser may need to invite an expert who can authenticate your item before a value can be determined.

Tip: An appraised value doesn’t mean your item will sell for that amount. It may still sell for more or less than the appraised value, which is used more for a benchmark to establish an initial bid or a sales price. 

You Got an Appraisal. Now What?

To some degree, your next steps depend on the reason for your appraisal.

If your appraisal is serving as the basis of an insurance application, you’ll need to forward copies of the appraiser’s findings to your insurance agent so you can obtain the appropriate rider.

For a sale, the appraisal will serve as the basis for your asking price, whether you’re selling to a dealer or to a private party. If you’re using an auction service, the auctioneer will use the appraisal to determine your starting bid and also to build interest in your item among potential bidders.

In any case, your appraiser will provide you with a report highlighting a detailed identification of the item that was appraised in addition to the appraisal value. This value is what will be used to determine the amount of insurance coverage you’ll need to ensure your item is amply protected in case of loss or damage.

Insuring Your Valuable Items.

Appraisals are just the first step to protecting your valued personal belongings. The second step would be to make sure that all of your valuables are scheduled on your insurance policy.

For more insuring valuables, or to request an appointment with a preferred appraiser, speak to a SAHOURI. Private Risk adviser


As an independent insurance brokerage firm, we guide our Guests through a technology-driven, consulting-based experience that integrates corporate Risk, Health, and Benefits policies through one, centralized Advocacy Team.