H. Peter Curran LLC   Appraisals

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the value of my important pieces?

Many objects are not correctly identified and therefore assigned a mistaken value.  I have often been asked to inspect a piece that was simply not recognized by other “experts”.

Value is based on a combination of elements including rarity, condition and demand in the marketplace.  Assigning a value requires knowing what something is in the first place.

Is my piece authentic? Is it a reproduction or overly restored?

Understanding how an object is made is central to determining if it is authentic.  If the materials did not exist, or there are signs of tools being used in its construction that weren’t invented yet, it is probably a reproduction or a fake.  Containing design elements from various periods can also indicate it is not “right”. Provenance can also be very helpful.

What's the difference between an auction estimate and an appraisal?

An auction estimate is the anticipated range that a piece might sell for in open bidding on an upcoming date and predetermined location. It is not a fixed price and is non-binding.  Estimates can be manipulated to encourage buyer participation.

An appraisal is a formal opinion of value of an object for a specific purpose in a particular marketplace at a specified point-in-time. Different values are used depending on the purpose of the appraisal such as retail replacement for insurance coverage and fair market value for estate taxes.

I'm being forced to sell. At what price?

Times are tough and lots of folks are looking to the contents of their attics to refill their coffers.  You could list things on eBay and take your chances. Or call a local dealer and take a couple hundred bucks for everything. 

Knowledge is important to making an informed decision. A professional appraiser can quickly size up a situation and help you decide whether to call Sotheby’s  or  haul stuff to the dump.

Could I be over or under insured?

The values of art and antiques change over time. Popular tastes and demand influence how much something is worth.  There may be new areas of collecting and things that were hot in the past can fall out of favor. 

In general, it is recommended that your collection be appraised (or updated) about every 5 years.  If your material is in a dynamic market with increasing demand you might consider having the appraisal revisited more often, perhaps even once a year

I'm having trouble collecting an insurance claim. What do I do?

Without a recent appraisal or sales receipt it can be hard to collect from an insurance company. It is sometimes possible to work from photographs and other documentation but expect to be challenged on condition and authenticity issues. 

Insurance companies have their own hired guns to dispute any large claims. Having your paperwork in order and prepared by a qualified appraiser is the best way to protect your art and antiques.

When is a formal appraisal required?

There are times when a simple ballpark quote of value can be useful.....depending on the source. That is not an appraisal, however.

In many legal and financial situations important decisions are made based on a formal appraisal. If dealing with the IRS for estate or donation purposes, and the fair market value is over $5,000, an appraisal is required. During a divorce an appraisal can be needed for equitable distribution of assets. Most insurance companies ask for current appraisals for coverage of more valuable items.

I'm thinking about a making a donation. Can I receive a tax deduction?

Generous people donate things all the time. Many charities depend on it.

Each person's tax situation varies so it best to dicuss it with your tax advisor.

The IRS also publishes guidelines on donating material and how to complete Form 8283. If the donated material has a fair market value is over $5,000 an appraisal is required and Form 8283 must be signed by the appraiser.

What does the IRS expect to see in a properly prepared appraisal?

The appraisal must be prepared by a "qualified" appraiser. This is someone who has the education and experience to be well informed about the material being appraised. This usually means at least 5 or more years of experience in the field.

Often, this includes course work and testing in the Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and membership in a professional appraisers group.

In addition, the appraiser cannot be "disqualified" due to any conflicts of interest or past complaints

The appraisal must also include all the required information found in the U.S. Department of Treasury regulations.

Ask Peter

More than 30 years of experience appraising art, antiques and other personal property for all purposes including:

  • insurance
  • estates and probate
  • donation
  • divorce
  • buy and sell advice
  • litigation support
  • expert witness
  • bankruptcy
  • damage and loss
  • blockage discount
  • collateral loans
  • restoration
  • appraisal review



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