When to use an appraiser: Your options

RESTON, Va. – Many people will find themselves cleaning out an attic or garage this spring and looking at things that were inherited, or bought at yard sales, flea markets or antique stores and wondering, “what is this worth and how do I sell it?”

The American Society of Appraisers offers advice to people who want to sell their antiques and collectibles.

“Many people own or have inherited things that they don’t want or need, but they don’t know what the items are worth, so they don’t know how they should go about selling them and what they should expect to receive,” says Vivian Riegelman, accredited senior appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers.  “There are a range of places to sell items from auction houses to yard sales, consignment shops, to on-line sites. However, the fear is that you’ll sell something cheaply that is actually worth much more.”

Many appraisers will do a walk-through at a client’s home, and for a consulting fee will advise people about which things might be valuable and offer suggestions as to the best place to sell the items. This is different than getting an appraisal of the items. An appraisal will assign a value to an item and will give a description and background about the piece. An appraisal cannot be done on the spot.

Some outlets for selling collectibles and antiques include: high-end regional and national auction houses, for very valuable collectible items, antiques, or artwork. These auction houses charge a percentage of the sale price as well as fees for insurance, catalogue photographs,  etc.

Antiques dealers are another good option. Antiques dealers will either buy the piece from you outright and re-sell it, or they will sell it for you and take a percentage of the sale price. When selling to an antiques dealer, it is a good idea to have an appraisal by an independent appraiser of the item, or have a good idea of its value. Be sure to get a consignment agreement that protects your ownership and sets up the date by which you must be paid after the sale.

Local auction houses will include your item in scheduled auctions that include similar types of property that is grouped together for sale. These items are offered in a catalogue, which is often posted online as well. The auction house will charge a percentage of the sale price and for additional costs such as insurance and photography.

Local auction houses also hold regular catch-all auctions that sell a variety of items which are normally less valuable than items included in the catalogue auctions  

Consignment shops will sell your items for you, but usually for a relatively high percentage of the sale price and if things don’t sell quickly they normally lower the price of the item to help it sell. Be sure to get a consignment agreement that protects your ownership and sets up the date by which you must be paid after the sale.

Do-it-yourself options for selling items include on-line sites like eBay and Craigslist, and at yard sales and at flea market stands.

If consumers feel they have items that might be valuable, they should consult an appraiser. When hiring an appraiser, hire only accredited appraisers from an established national organization like the American Society of Appraisers. Don’t use an appraiser who offers to buy the items or charges you based on a percentage of the item’s value. That is a conflict of interest.

Keep the appraisal report with your other legal, estate planning documents. Appraisal reports are recognized by courts as reliable testimony to the value of your possessions. They combine in one place the documentation, identification (including photographs) and a value for your property.

To find an appraiser or to learn more about appraisals, consumers can log on to www.appraisers.org.