Collector's Notebook: The Art of Appraisal

Brad S. Lomazzi gets a little frustrated whenever he watches Antiques Roadshow on PBS and an “expert” says something like, “If you were to put this in my gallery, I would price it at $8,000 to $10,000.”

“That’s not an appraisal,” Lomazzi says. “That’s an estimate. An appraisal has to be researched and evaluated. [It] is not an appraisal, by any organizational standards, nor is it under the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, unless the items are researched.”

Lomazzi, of Roseville, California, should know. An accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, he has been appraising art for 30 years.

Certified art appraisers are generally hired to appraise individual art pieces, but more commonly art collections, for insurance coverage, estate or divorce settlements, before a possible sale or a charitable donation. Appraisal types include fair market value, replacement value, market value and liquidation value. Most appraisers specialize in the types of appraisals and types of art.

“Every time I do an appraisal I learn something,” says Victoria Addison, a member of the American Society of Appraisers. “I broaden my knowledge of the market. I try to stay really focused and work with artists and the type of art that I’m comfortable with and that I know.”

Addison is more than an appraiser. She also owns an art gallery, Addison Rowe Fine Art, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Some organizations object to letting a gallery owner appraise art, but Addison says it makes sense.

“You can’t negate the value that a dealer brings,” she says, “plus the fact that they sell paintings constantly behind the scenes that are not listed in your auction records or on your computers. So the appraisers are completely in need of information the dealers have.”

Still, Addison is careful to avoid any potential conflict of interest. She even has separate business cards for her appraisal services and gallery.

“You wear two hats,” she says. “You just make sure it’s clear what hat you’re wearing at what time. I haven’t even put a link on my (gallery) Web site for my appraisal work.”

Most professional appraiser organizations require their members to keep current through continuing education programs — much the same as realtor organizations. And like real estate, art values fluctuate.

“(An appraisal) really is only valid the effective date of the evaluation,” says Goodyear, Arizona-based Allison D. Gee, an accredited appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers. “But for insurance, you’re good for a couple of years, and if you’re selling something, you’re probably good for a couple of months in most occasions.”

Adds Addison: “You’re dealing with a market value, and the way they look at fair market value is what a willing buyer and a willing seller agree to in terms of a purchase price, and that changes constantly. It’s also a little nebulous. That’s why you look at all the auction records, you talk to your colleagues about what’s sold. You shouldn’t let your personal liking of an image or painting affect your pricing at all, which [can be] pretty hard to do.”

Charitable contributions are another matter. The Internal Revenue Service requires a “qualified” appraisal for any donation over $5,000. The appraiser must be certified by a recognized appraisal organization.

“It’s getting much tighter,” Addison says.

When’s the right time to have an appraisal done?

Says Addison: “Obviously for estate planning you want to keep it up all the time.”

“If you’ve never had it appraised, you should definitely have one done,” Gee says, “and if you’re going to be gone for any extended period of time, make sure it is appraised and that your insurance company has a copy.”

Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, frequent art writer Johnny D. Boggs is also an award-winning novelist whose Montana-set Hard Winter won the Spur Award this year from Western Writers of America for Best Western Juvenile Novel. His Web site is

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