Means for Valuing Artifacts

rachelAll of us want to know what our stuff is worth, whether purchased, inherited or gifted. Those who have read previous columns know that I recommend using a professional appraiser in order to have the proper documentation for insuring collections and making the best decisions regarding selling certain collections. For clients who have tiny budgets and seek valuations, I previously have suggested self-directed research or attending local charity appraisal clinics. At these events, participants receive – for a small per item fee – an educated estimate of an item’s value with minimal background information and no documentation. Sometimes there is a maximum limit of items that one person may have valued as well; this is in order to allow all participants to have some time with the appraisers. Those valuing the items may or may not be certified appraisers, but they are usually knowledgeable professionals in the antiques field.

When potential customers call asking about the value of an item, I typically suggest all of the options mentioned above as well as writing professionals who write columns in newspapers or trade magazines with the primary purpose of valuing items. The valuation itself is free, but often one must subscribe to the publication in order to monitor the column and see the information about a submitted artifact. Also there is no guarantee that a submitted item will be published. Though valuation is not the purpose of this column, there are some such columns in newspapers and other publications in our region.

With the rise of internet use, other options for valuation have become available. It is now possible to receive online appraisals for artifacts. There is even a professional organization which online appraisers can join – The Association of Online Appraisers. Members who join the AOA agree to a certain code of ethics and standards of the profession. On their website, one can view sample appraisals (some for insurance purposes and some for personal use only). Finding a professional online who abides by standards such as those set forth by the AOA should result in a credible appraisal. These types of appraisals are likely to be paid. For $29.99 per item a Worthologist™ will provide a valuation at In an August 2010 article published in the Wall Street Journal evaluated the accuracy of five online appraisers; Worthpoint got the best marks and was the most expensive of those examined. You can read the article here

Several online sites offer free appraisals. I did research with an open mind, but “free” makes me a bit leery. I tend to believe that one gets what one pays for. Those who choose to use free online appraisals should submit the artifact information to more than one source and compare the results. When submitting information for an online appraisal, be sure to include several clear photos that include any damage. Describe the damage as well. Condition is a key part of value. Instappraisal,, Castles and Attics all advertise that they do some free online appraisals; their credentials for providing the service vary. Some businesses also seem to offer free appraisals through their Facebook pages.

There are many avenues available to help a person value her artifacts. She may do her own research; hire a professional in person, hire a professional online, or get a free appraisal. To determine the best route, consider the accuracy of the source verses its cost as well as the available budget.

Source: Rachel Glenn