Tips & Guides Newsletter

Published by Semler Appraisals & Estate Liquidations
A Professional Service for the Valuation of Personal Property

Spring 2002    Vol. 4, No. 1


There are three types of acquirers: accumulators, collectors, and connoisseurs.  Some people start as unconscious accumulators, gathering possessions through various means.  They may have inherited items passed down from previous generations, or married and acquired a collection along with a spouse, or may have innocently started picking up travel souvenirs at various destinations. 

In the next stage, the accumulator becomes a conscious collector.  The desire to acquire becomes channeled in a particular area of interest.  When collectors gain particular knowledge in the field they collect and have a strategy for building their collections, they rise to the connoisseur or expert level.  Five elements describe the PRIDE of the ultimate collector: Passion, Research, Investment, Dedication, and Expertise.  What type of collector are you? Your clients? 

What Creates Value?

Two seemingly identical items can have different values.  An expert may instinctively be able to identify the more valuable of the two, but how can a non-expert tell the difference?  The factors that contribute to one item being more valuable than the other can be broken down into several components.  Not all components will apply to every item.  

Authenticity — Signatures are easy to fake.  Is that painting really by the hand of Pablo Picasso, or did Fred Picasso from down the street make a copy and sign with only his last name?  Hand-cut dovetails in furniture can still be made today, even though machine-made dovetails are possible.  Authenticity boils down to one question:  Is it real?  This must often be determined by experts.  

Condition — Of two items being otherwise equal, the one in the best condition will have a higher value.  Depending on the item, the value can fluctuate greatly due to less than perfect condition.  For instance, any deviation from mint in glass or pottery drastically reduces value.  Repairs and bruises to furniture have a smaller negative effect on value.  

Rarity — Rarity alone can create value, but if an item is so rare that it falls outside any collecting area, its value could be insignificant.  However, if rarity is combined with other qualities, a high value could result.  The ruby shoes worn in the Wizard of Oz would bring a higher price at auction than similar ruby shoes you wore to a costume party last Halloween.  

Historical Importance — “George Washington slept here.”  If there is documentation to support any historical association, the law of supply and demand helps to create a strong market.  

Provenance — The importance of a previous owner can have a significant effect on value.  A bow tie worn by Stanley Marcus can bring considerably more at auction than your Uncle Stan’s bow tie.  

Size — Sometimes size does matter. Bigger is not always better.  Consider a collectible salesman’s sample cast iron stove or Royal Crown Derby miniature ceramics.  The smaller items command higher prices than their full-size equivalents.  

Medium — The materials in which a work of art is created can have a significant effect upon value.  An original oil is likely to be more valuable than a drawing, and the drawing more valuable than a print, all things being equal.  

Subject Matter — Especially in the art world, subject matter plays an important role.  Consider an oil of dogs on a hunt and an oil of two dead chickens.  The live dogs undoubtedly have a greater appeal than the chickens.  

Fashion — Tastes change and fashion skips generations.  Remember “avocado” shag rugs and appliances?  The ’70s look is back!  Avocado is now known as “sage green.” 

Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP)

A two-day USPAP course, presented by the Appraisers Association of America (AAA), will be offered in Dallas on May 11 & 12, 2002.  This seminar is significantly different from other USPAP courses in that the major focus is on personal property appraising, rather than real estate appraising or business valuation appraising.  The examples used to illustrate the Standards will be drawn from fine arts, furniture, decorative arts, collectibles, and jewelry.  This course has been organized to conform to the criteria set forth by the Appraisal Foundation in Washington, D.C.  I will be attending this seminar.  If you would like additional information or registration materials for the course, please call us.

Our Services

  • Appraisals for probate/estate tax; equitable distribution among heirs; insurance coverage and claims; non-cash charitable contribution; distribution in marital dissolution; bankruptcy.
  • Estate Liquidations by auction or tag sale.
  • Litigation Support
  • Lorrie Semler is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers, specializing in Antiques & Residential Contents.


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