Frequently Asked Questions About Antique Appraisals.

What does an antique appraiser do?

An antique appraiser gives clients the fair market or replacement value of their property, in this case antiques or collectibles. Value can be based on demand, condition, materials, provenance, comparable sales and other factors.

Can’t I just look up my antique’s value in a price guide?

Yes, but those prices will likely over-value your antiques. Most antique price guides are unrealistically high – they were written months or years ago, making their values unreliable. Additionally, it’s human nature to assign the highest value to our beloved antiques and heirlooms. We tend to overlook flaws or lack the trained eye to spot variations in our own antiques. That’s why objectivity is vital in determining an accurate value for any property, especially those with emotional attachments like antiques. A certified antique appraiser will view your collection objectively and provide you with the most accurate and current value.

What about eBay?

There’s little doubt eBay has changed how antique appraisers and collectors do business. It provides a clearinghouse of auctions and sales on every imaginable trinket and do-dad. But eBay values typically are the bargain bin variety. Shoppers flock to eBay looking for the lowest price possible. While that’s great for buyers, it’s lousy for sellers. If you think your antiques are worth something, you’ll want an objective, certified antique appraiser to provide a detailed report with an accurate and realistic value.

Beanie Babies. Do you appraise them?

I can. I have. But I try to avoid doing so as it’s not in a client’s best interest to hire me to appraise items with limited value.

But I saw a Beanie Baby going for $2,000 on eBay! I have the same one with tags!!!!

Trust me. Beanie Babies don’t sell for that amount. Ever. Asking prices on eBay can be wildly unrealistic and optimistic (see below).

An antique dealer offered me $20 for everything in my grandmother’s China cabinet. Should I take it?

No. I love antique storess, I love antique dealers. I come from a long line of antique dealers. But I would not sell my antiques to an antique dealer. Here’s why – antique dealers are looking to turn a profit. So if a dealer offers you $20 for your antiques it’s because he knows it’s worth $100. How do I know this? Because I’ve worked in antique stores most my life – my parents did it and my grandparents did it. It’s the nature of the business. An accurate appraisal report provides information a dealer doesn’t want you to know – the real value of your antiques.

An antique appraiser looked at my antiques and valued them at $200. Then he offered to buy them for that amount. Should I do it?

An antique appraiser did not evaluate your antiques – an antique dealer disguised as an appraiser evaluated your antiques. Any certified antique appraiser will not offer to buy your antiques – doing so violates the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices (USPAP). An appraiser who wants to buy your antiques cannot simultaneously offer an unbiased and objective valuation. Only hire appraisers who are USPAP-certified. I often tell clients I do not appraise anything I want to buy and do not buy anything I have appraised – I’m an objective third party, an advocate for my client. Buying something I’ve appraised would ruin that objectivity.

Someone on eBay is selling the very same antique I have for $10,000. So that means mine is worth $10,000, right?

Maybe, but you’d be surprised. There’s an item on eBay I’ve been watching for more than a year now – it’s a 1970s era ceramic owl light fixture. To be honest it’s the gaudiest thing I’ve ever seen. It was mass produced by an East Coast company and I’ve seen a few here and there over the years, never for more than $40. But the one I’m watching is special – at least the seller thinks so because he’s asking $89,000 for it. I nearly died of laughter when I first saw it and evidently he’s serious because he’s not accepting offers. So, just because one seller is delusional doesn’t mean you should be. A certified appraiser will evaluate your item rationally and objectively compare it to similar items to get the most accurate value. And a certified antique appraiser doesn’t just rely upon eBay – there are real life auction houses, antique stores, collectors markets and other online resources that can fetch higher sales than eBay. Unless you want to sit on an $89,000 ceramic owl for a year or more, it’s wise to get a certified fair market value appraisal before you sell.

When would I need an antique appraiser?

In some cases an antique appraiser is required – divorce settlements, estate planning, insurance procedures, liquidation of assets and charitable donations often require a certified antique appraiser. In other cases, a collector simply wants to know more about her antiques or get an idea of what her collection is worth before selling. I’ve evaluated million-dollar, one-of-a-kind collections to garage sale odds and ends. Either way, I provide the most honest and accurate valuations for my clients.

Is getting an antique appraisal anything like what they do on “Antiques Roadshow?”

Yes and no. Appraisers on “Antiques Roadshow” offer objective, accurate valuations for the antiques they review. But they do so through the miracle of television – a true appraisal requires a degree of research that typically cannot be offered in a two minute installment.

Can you just give me an idea of what it’s worth, I don’t need a report. Just a ballpark?

I wish it was that easy. But as a certified antique appraiser I don’t hand out ballpark estimates willy nilly to clients. I want my clients to have the same rock solid information I have (or an antique dealer will have) before they sell and that often requires studying the antique, researching the market and presenting an unbiased and accurate report. No one is benefitted by a stab-in-the-dark, ballpark estimate.

No. Seriously, just give me an idea?

Sir, I believe I answered this question above.

Does an appraiser actually have to see an antique to appraise it?

Not necessarily, but it helps. I think most appraisers agree seeing an antique in person always generates the most accurate valuation. It allows them to inspect the antique more closely and see things that might be missed otherwise. Not to mention touching or holding an antique can reveal information that is difficult to observe from a photo. But personal inspections are not always possible. In most cases, an antique appraiser can rely on detailed photos and item specifics to form a valuation. In some legal or insurance cases personal inspections or detailed photos may not be available. In these cases an appraiser may still provide a valuation but must clearly explain his or her method in reaching a particular valuation or opinion. Generally speaking, I feel obligated to at least see photos of the specific antique before forming an appraisal.

Is it real?

Can you touch it? Can you see it? Then my assumption is it exists in the physical world and is, therefore, real. Is it a rare Chippendale secretary or a reproduction? A Tiffany lamp or a well made copy? These are the questions I try to answer in my reports.

If it’s a reproduction it’s worthless, right?

Some well-made reproductions can be very pricey, actually. It really depends on the piece.  A violin made by Antoni Stradivari can sell for $2 million. Chances are your grandfather’s violin that’s marked “Stradivarius” is a reproduction. But some well-made Stradivarius reproductions can sell for $1,000 or more, sometimes much more. The same can be said for some Tiffany reproductions. Or Herman Miller knockoffs. Or Salvador Dali prints. The list goes on. Reproductions aren’t always cheap.

What kind of appraisals are there?

Antique appraisals typically are split into two groups – fair market and replacement value. Fair market appraisals provide the resale value of your antiques – what you can reasonably expect to fetch on the collector market (auctions, consignments, flea markets, estate and garage sales etc.) The IRS defines fair market value as the price an educated seller would get from an equally educated buyer for a piece. This is why you want to be an educated seller – there are many educated buyers out there looking for deals from uneducated sellers. Fair market antique appraisals constitute the majority of the appraisals I perform. Replacement value appraisals are self explanatory – they provide what it would cost out-of-pocket to replace an antique either new or from brick-and-mortar antique store. Replacement value appraisals are used for insurance purposes and typically reach higher values (sometimes much higher) than fair market antique appraisals.

You told me my tea set was worth $200 but I saw the same tea set at an antique store for $500. What gives?

Fair market value is the price a knowledgeable buyer would pay an equally knowledgable seller for a particular item, as in one collector selling a tea set to another collector. Unless you own an antique store, this is how most secondary market transactions take place. The reason why an antique store can price a tea set higher is because it has an inherent overhead that a casual seller does not. Even still, just because a store has an item priced at a certain amount does not mean it will sell for that amount. My job as your appraiser is to find what your item will sell for and it takes a certain amount of experience and expertise to find that sweet spot consistently. Once you have my reports, you’ll know what that real value is when you go to sell.

What if I have something I think is valuable but you tell me it’s not? Are you still going to charge me?

No. I don’t appraise items that are valued well below my fees except in cases where one is required for legal or insurance purposes.

How do you work? Do you charge by the hour? Do you take a percentage of the appraised value?

There is a per item flat fee for fair market antique appraisals of less than 10 pieces or an hourly fee for more than that. Antique appraisals for insurance, legal or tax purposes are billed hourly. I also am available on a monthly retainer basis with a three month minimum. Retainer rates are best for those working in storage locker recovery or similar businesses. My fees are not tied to the final appraised value – that way you know the values I present can be trusted and not inflated. My fees are agreed to in advance and do not change based on an antique’s value.

My grandmother had a 72-piece china set. Are you going to charge me to evaluate every single piece???

No. Matching sets are counted as one piece, not 72. The same rule applies to dining room sets, living room sets, bedroom sets and so on.

When is payment due? How can I pay?

Payment is due prior to completion of the appraisal report. Grant Miller Appraisals accepts cash, check and credit cards.

Can I schedule a consultation with Grant Miller today?

Of course you can! And since you’ve been so nice and patient reading this entire FAQ, I’ll even offer a special deal: You can call or email me for free!

Phone: 813.240.4586


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