The Appraising Eye: What’s it worth?

With the popularity of the Antique Road
show, everyone seems to be asking the question “What is it worth?” More
importantly, why is it imperative to understand the value of your personal
possessions?

At some point in our lives many homeowners
will be in a position to downsize their homes and it is important to understand
the value of your personal property for estate planning. At this point individuals will need to
decide which of their treasured possessions they should keep and which will be
passed along to family, sold or donated. In the case of a catastrophic loss,
theft or damage, understanding the value of your personal property is
essential. Establishing what
an item is actually worth after it is lost or destroyed can be a daunting task. Would you be prepared for such a
loss?

While many homeowners have a general idea
of their real estate holdings, fewer are cognizant of the value of their
personal possessions. Most people
generally place an emotional or intrinsic value on a personal possession,
particularly if the object was inherited.
In today’s market the value of art and antiques can change over the
course of a single auction or private sale.

In a household full of objects, how does
one identify an item of value, specifically an antique? In 1930, the U.S. Government ruled that
objects had to be at least 100 years old to be classified as antiques, so they
could be admitted duty free into the United States. Since then American antiques have often been defined as
objects made before 1830. In reality, antiques are products that are more than
100 years old or products that are rare enough to have some value. However, the
age of an object does not always equate to value. There are many antiques that have little value. The more limited the supply usually the
more valuable the item. Other aspects, such as the provenance, which is defined
as where the object derived, is another important factor that effects the value
of an object. If George Washington
ate from a specific plate versus Aunt Betty, the value of the object would be
greatly altered.

However, antiques are not the only
personal possessions that may have appreciating value; collectibles also fall
into this category. A collectible
is an item that has value due to its rarity and desirability. Antiques can fall into this category as
well as stamps, coins, glassware, ceramics, baseball cards, comic books or even
Star Wars memorabilia! Contemporary
objects including art work,
furniture or decorative arts object can be deemed valuable due to the
reputation of the artist, the originality of the object, or the period of
origin.

In establishing value, look for marks or
signatures on an item which can help
identify not only the maker, but also the age of an object. A signature or mark can also identify
whether an object is authentic.
Many paintings and ceramics may have fake signatures and marks that have
been passed on as original. Regarding furniture items, check the construction
techniques used for the specified time period. Are there modern construction elements on 18th century
furniture objects? Nonetheless, the best way to ascertain the value and
authenticity of an object is to have a certified appraiser or reputable dealer
establish the value of the objects in your collection. With an independent
appraisal of your personal possessions you have information necessary to make
informed financial decisions about the care and disposition of your
belongings. An appraiser will
inventory and evaluate your collection and provide you information with the
identification, description and value of each item.

If you have valuable objects they should
be insured against damage or loss.
A proper appraisal will enable you to replace or restore lost or damaged
items. Once the value of your
objects has been properly established you will be able to make an informed decision
in regards to insuring your personal possessions. Several options are available for insuring your valuables
therefore talk to an agent who is well versed in covering fine arts, antiques,
and collectibles. Choose someone
who will assist you in selecting the best policy to best meet your needs.

To better understand and identify
personal possessions of value in your home, each month Chadds Ford Live will
feature an article focused on a different object. Look for next month’s article Keep on Ticking: the history
and value of tall case clocks.

* Colleen Boyle is an
appraisal consultant for Freeman’s, America’s oldest auction and appraisal
company. She holds advanced degrees in art history and a diploma in
French fine and decorative arts from Christie’s, Paris. She has appraised art
and antiques for private collectors and corporations throughout the U.S. and
regularly publishes articles about art and antiques. 610-470-5340 (phone) cbfineart@gmail.com, www.freemansauction.com

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