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There are many reasons you might need an art appraisal.  For example, you might want to sell an artwork and would like to be sure you are getting a fair price.  Or you might be updating your home insurance policy and want to ensure that your antiques are adequately covered.  Or maybe you are considering donating a painting to your local art museum and need to know how much you can claim as a tax deduction.  For each of these scenarios, you need a professional appraiser.

So how do you choose the right appraiser?

Surprisingly, there are no Federal or state license requirements for personal property appraisers in the United States.  When placing a value on your grandmother’s sterling silver or the painting hanging in your living room, anybody can say that they are an appraiser.  

In a field with no degree and no licenses, membership in an appraisal organization is one of the most important credentials to look for when choosing a personal property appraiser.  Anyone that holds themselves out as an appraiser should be trained, tested, and certified through one of these three professional personal property appraisal organizations: 

International Society of Appraisers (ISA)

American Society of Appraisers (ASA)

Appraisers Association of America (AAA)

Each of these organizations holds its members to a standard of ethics.  Choosing an appraiser with membership in an appraisal organization is one step towards ensuring your appraiser is distinguished for his/her professionalism, knowledge, and expertise.

Additionally, your appraiser needs to be trained and tested in The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).  This is a set of guidelines published by the Appraisal Standards Board of the Appraisal Foundation and regulated by Congress.   These guidelines serve to promote and maintain a high level of public trust in appraisal practice by establishing requirements for all appraisers. 

You wouldn’t hire a lawyer who didn’t pass the bar exam, so why would you hire an appraiser who didn’t pass the USPAP exam?

You should also look for an appraiser with a formal arts education and experience in the art market.  An appraiser should be highly trained and have a degree in art history, appraisal studies, or connoisseurship.

Of course, it is also important to mention a few things to avoid when choosing an appraiser.  Never hire an appraiser whose fee is based on percentage of the value of the item appraised.  This is unethical.   Be sure that your appraiser does not have a personal interest in your collection.  Professional appraisers are unbiased and will never offer to buy anything they have appraised nor will they appraise anything they intend to buy. 

Spend time to find the most qualified appraiser for your collection.  The results will be worth the investment. 

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