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Grandma's Antique Clock...Time To Sell?

Aug 23, 2007
So how do you get Grandma's clock appraised? Where do you find qualified appraisers? and what qualifies someone as an appraiser?

There are hundreds of sites on the internet willing to give you quotes online. If you just want to satisfy your curiosity, these places are fine provided they don't charge much or even anything at all. They may be able to give you a general idea of your antiques value based on your description but without seeing it there's really no way for them to be very accurate.

Local shops usually have someone on staff who can do an appraisal but be sure they are qualified if not accredited. Antique appraisal is not just somebody opening up the N.A.D.A. Blue Book and looking up an items value. It's a highly skilled and learned art form performed by a knowledgeable appraiser using a keen eye, sharp analytical and math skills and, because he or she spends a lot of time interacting with clients, good people skills. Usually they are good communicators and (hopefully) have tact and compassion. Not every item they appraise is worth what a client may wish to hear. Letting people down easily is a skill all good appraisers have.

Why Get An Appraisal?

As mentioned above, most people just want to satisfy their curiosity. Grandma's old clock still works and is often the topic of conversation with friends and guests and you would never part with it but it would be interesting to find out what it's worth. A free online appraisal would be fine for that. Others may need an appraisal because they plan to put their item up for sale at auction. They'll want a more accurate appraisal if they think the item has any real value. You may be planning to buy an antique and want to make an informed decision. Still others need appraisals to satisfy insurance requirements. If you're going to insure an antique that may be very valuable, get it appraised by a reputable firm, in person, and get the appraisal in writing. Donations, property settlements and estate planning are other reasons you may need an appraisal. Appraisals by qualified appraisers can become legal documents in these matters.

Who Can Do Appraisals?

Unfortunately, except for real property (land and buildings), anyone can call themselves an appraiser, since there are no licensing restrictions for the antiques industry. This makes it incumbent upon you to do your homework. Think of it as appraising the appraiser. Find out how long he or she has been doing appraisals in an official capacity. Do they belong to any organizations? Have they taken (and passed) certification tests? Do they have references (due to confidentiality issues, references require the previous client's permission)?

Essentially there are three major appraisal organizations in the U.S.:

- International Society of Appraisers (ISA)
1131 SW 7th St Suite 105,
Renton, WA 98057-1215

- American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
555 Herndon Parkway, Suite 125
Herndon, VA 20170

- Appraisers Association of America (AAA)
386 Park Avenue South Suite 2000
New York, NY 10016

These organizations have membership designations according to the level of experience of their members who must undergo certification testing while gaining this experience, usually attained by apprenticing with a mentor.

These designations range from Associate Member, an appraiser who has joined the organization but has not completed the coursework required for full membership status, to Accredited Member, someone whose passed certification exams and has 2 to 5 years experience in appraising, up to appraisers who've passed the exams and have at least 5 years experience.

An appraiser doesn't necessarily have to belong to one of these organizations to be considered skilled and qualified. There are many other organizations throughout the U.S. and local business with talented men and women who are exceptional appraisers. You can probably feel comfortable bringing them your appraisal business. However, getting a quote from an appraiser associated with any of the three major organizations will greatly improve the likelyhood of getting an educated and accurate appraisal.

So if you just want a quick "guesstimate" of Grandma's clock or an old chair that's been sitting in your attic since you moved in or you have a Louis XV French Mahogany dining set that you're planning on selling on eBay, there are resources out there to help you find its value or to find someone who can.
About the Author
Ron Berry is a freelance journalist who writes for Essay Street - http://essaystreet.com and operates Antique Stuff I Found Online http://antique.stuffifoundonline.com
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