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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is An Appraisal?

An appraisal is an opinion of value, made by a professional, impartial, and unbiased individual, based upon value research of comparable items, and sold in comparable and current markets. It is usually (but not always) a written document, completed by a qualified Appraiser, and should always be based on an hourly fee. It should never be based on a percentage of the appraised value.

Why Do I Need An Appraisal?

Individuals and Businesses need appraisals for many varied reasons. For example, you may need an appraisal for:

  • Insurance: When you apply for Fine Arts or All Risks Insurance coverage.
  • Insurance Claims: When you need further documentation for a claim filed with your Insurance Company.
  • Divorce Settlement: When you need personal property appraised for equitable distribution.
  • Charitable Donations: When you are seeking a tax write-off for a non-cash charitable donation.
  • Probate and Estate Settlement: When you need a personal property evaluation for settlement of an estate.
  • Estate Planning: When you are seeking the best approach to planning for your estate.
  • Fair Market Value: When you just want to know what something may be worth in today's market.
  • And for many other legal and personal reasons.

What Type of Appraiser Should You Choose?

If you are seeking a tax deduction for a non-cash charitable contribution, the IRS typically requires a written appraisal by a "Qualified Appraiser" to substantiate the validity of your deduction. The IRS further defines a "Qualified Appraiser" by using six criteria:

  • They must have earned a recognized appraisal designation, or otherwise have the minimum amount of education and experience requirements as prescribed by the Treasury Department Secretary.
  • They must demonstrate verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property they are appraising.
  • They must not have been prohibited from practicing before the IRS.
  • Their appraisal must append the required Certification Statement.
  • They must regularly prepare appraisals for which they are paid.
  • They are not an "Excluded" individual, which means they are not related to, or too closely aligned or affiliated with, the individual whose items are being appraised.

Be certain that you are dealing with a "Qualified Appraiser".

Why Can't I Just Consult a Book or Price Guide?

Price Guides can point you in the right direction, but the prices found in many published price guides are out-dated by the time they are released. When you consider that it takes approximately one year from the date a manuscript is received by a publisher to its release date…when you consider that it takes an average of one year for the typical author to complete a book…when you consider that the vast majority of prices found in many price guides were accumulated prior to the date the author started writing the book…you will then understand that most prices found in price guides may be 3-4-5 years old on the release date of the new price guide.

What About Verbal Appraisals from Friends & Family Members?

You get what you pay for. Although there may be exceptions, in our opinion the vast majority of free verbal appraisals that you may receive from well-intended friends or family members are nothing more than uneducated guesses. If their Free Appraisal (i.e., guess) is too low, you may end up giving the merchandise away for nothing. If their Free Appraisal (i.e., guess) is too high, you may never find a buyer.

What About Free Appraisals by Jewelry Stores,
Newspaper Ads, Out-of-Town Buyers in Hotels, etc.?

This is one of my pet peeves. A true appraisal is an honest opinion of value, made by an unbiased and impartial appraiser. "Free Appraisals" offered by Jewelry Stores, Pawn Shops, Transient Buyers in Hotel Rooms, and other such concerns are simply NOT appraisals. Rather, these are nothing more than "offers to buy". And usually they represent the lowest dollar amount that the evaluator thinks you will accept. Be wary of these "Free Appraisals".

Should I Sell to the Person Who Tells Me What It's Worth?

There is a very obvious and inherent danger in selling to the individual who is telling you what your items may be worth. They have a vested interested in making you a low-ball offer, while intending to maximize their potential profit. When you hire a professional appraiser, you are receiving a well-educated valuation, from someone who has no interest in purchasing your item, and you will be receiving a more accurate (and usually higher) valuation.

Can An Appraisal Be Based On Photographs?

Although it is not our preferred approach, it can be done. An appraisal will usually be more accurate and complete if the appraiser has the opportunity to hold, touch, feel, and see the item being appraised. However, when that is not possible, it may be possible for an appraisal to be completed based upon photographs, if they are accompanied by accurate, detailed, and honest descriptions and condition reports.

How Can I Keep My Appraisal Fees Down?
  • Appraise important items only.
  • Appraise only items of value in excess of $xxxx ($100, $500. $1,000…you decide the level).
  • Unpack and prepare prior to the Appraiser arriving.
  • Bring your items to the appraiser.
  • Have old receipts, letters, and important paperwork ready prior to the Appraiser arriving.


Appraisal: The act or process of developing an opinion of value.

Appraise: To set a value on personal, real or business property.

Arm's Length Transaction: A transaction which is conducted within an open market, freely, without abnormal influences, such as collusion between buyer and seller.

Effective Date of Appraisal: The specific date as to when the valuation conclusion applies.

Fair Market Value: The price at which a property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts." Estate Tax Regulation § 20.2031-1 (b) expands the definition by stating "...nor is the fair market value of an item of property to be determined by the sale price of the item in a market other than that in which such item is most commonly sold to the public, taking into account the location of the item wherever appropriate."

Online Appraisal: Electronically-transmitted personal property appraisal reports are based upon client-provided digital images, written descriptions, and condition reports. Online Appraisals are typically valid in situations where the use of photographs have traditionally been accepted.

Personal Property: All property that is not classified as real (estate) property. This can include antiques, collectibles household items, jewelry, clothing, machinery, furniture, artwork, and other items which are considered to be decorative, utilitarian, or collectible.

Replacement Value: The highest price in terms of cash or other precisely revealed terms that would be required to replace property with another of similar age, quality, origin, appearance, provenance and condition, within a reasonable length of time in an appropriate market. Since the items involved in many appraisals are either one-of-a-kind, or were produced in limited quantity, many years ago, by individuals who are no longer living, and are therefore no longer being produced, this definition assumes that an item cannot be replaced new or with an exact duplicate. Therefore, additional consideration must be made for the replacement as to artistic merit, rarity, condition, desirability, and availability in today's market.

USPAP: An acronym for the Uniform Standards, Professional Appraisal Practices, as promulgated by the Appraisal Institute.

Call us at (215)-345-6094 to discuss your personal property appraisal needs.

Michael Ivankovich, GPPA, MPPA
Personal Property Appraiser

P.O. Box 1536, Doylestown, PA 18901
Office: (215)-345-6094 Cell: (215)-264-4304
[email protected]
Web Site:

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