What’s it Worth?

Photograph by Hulya Kolobas

Cynthia Herbert

Downsizing is a process many of us are contemplating, and yet because we don’t always have a handle on the value of our possessions, we’re not sure what to save, sell or give away. An option is to hire an appraiser, as this professional can value collectibles, art, antiques and tangible personal property such as jewelry. For tips on working with an appraiser, we talked with CYNTHIA HERBERT, THE PRINCIPAL AT APPRETIUM APPRAISAL SERVICES in New Canaan and president of the Appraisers Association of America.

When is an appraiser most helpful? Downsizing is a major reason for personal property appraisals so you can determine what should be saved, sold, gifted to family members or charity. Appraisals are also helpful if you’re moving (to ensure proper coverage) or changing an existing insurance policy. “It’s highly recommended that an insurance appraisal be updated every five years to allow for fluctuations in the marketplace,” says Herbert. And there are other major events that could warrant the expertise of an expert. “In the event of a divorce or death, it’s necessary to guarantee equitable division of assets. An appraisal for trust and estate planning is essential for the Internal Revenue Service probate reporting.”

Regarding market value, what are the trends? Modern and contemporary fine art continue to find buyers, while traditional furniture and artwork struggle in the marketplace, with many asking prices remaining flat. “There’s a dearth of new collectors filling the gaps, and traditional collecting categories—including American furniture, silver, rugs and ceramics— have remained stagnant in the middle-market levels,” she says. “However, luxury markets such as jewelry, couture handbags and cars are seeing a surge in interest. Fine art is being marketed as an asset class and used for collateral, so collectors are looking for outstanding pieces that are aggressively pursued as the demand outstrips the supply.”

What’s in high demand? Interest in 20th-century design and studio furniture continues to grow, while the mid-range “brown furniture” market languishes due to oversupply, says Herbert. “Overall, each category must be considered individually, but for the most part, the finest examples in excellent condition and with good provenance will find buyers.”

What factors affect the value of fine art? Trends, condition, desirability, and an understanding of where the work fits in an artist’s canon and provenance contribute to the value of a piece. Says Herbert, “A qualified appraiser can help you understand the value of your art, antiques and collectibles, what can be sold and what you might expect to net. With that information, you can determine how to proceed for yourself and your heirs.”



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