… for yourself or some elder member of the family

Let’s talk about why to hire an appraiser. Moving is not the only reason. It is a good reason and likely the only way you will be able to recoup your loss when placing a claim against your employer or the shipper or Uncle Sam. It feels like an incredibly good reason, at that point after you have stood a loss. **{see next paragraph} But, what are the other reasons for having an appraisal done? Sadly, the majority of the phone calls I get are either for a divorce action or after the death of the owner of all these fine Pieces of Art, Artifacts and Sculpture. It is a real toughie for me, when the owner has already passed away because in a correct appraisal, as done by my company… there are 19 questions to be answered on every single Piece… Many of these questions can be easily answered by the owner, and generally no one else. The other individuals in the family usually do not know. What a shame. All of a sudden, the Fine Arts may plummet in value because we cannot prove out direct line. That means ownership of the Piece since it left the hands of the Artist: Direct line. This, also, goes a long way to prove out authenticity. It is quite difficult to prove, if the Pieces are truly done by XYZ artist, if someone is not present to discuss the purchase and sound believable to the appraiser. Obviously, that is not a difficulty when the Artist is quite well known. But, believe me, there are a great many extremely fine Artists out there who are not well known at all.

.….. being a well known Artist has a great deal to do with the right agent and almost nothing to do with the right talent.

**Before you move any of your Fine Art, first you should contact a Certified Appraiser to have everything valuated. If you are military personnel, or you are employed by a major corporation, isn’t that great, someone else is going to pay for your move? Movers do not know how to pack fine arts. They always think placing your Pieces in a ‘picture pack’ is good enough. Sometimes it is, but all too often, it is not. Let’s not find this out later; after the Piece has been damaged during shipment. It is always preferable to have your friendly Gallery owner package your Fine Arts for you. She/he may feel even better about arranging the shipping for you, as well. {Please note two paragraphs below, why the Gallery should also ship for you.} Or, possibly, you will decide to bring everything home and add it to the Shipping Van.

(Budget): At the barest minimum if you are going to allow the packers to take care of your Fine Arts Pieces: First, get yourself a roll of blue painter’s tape and tape up the glass. Go from corner to corner and several times across each dimension on the glass only. Bear in mind, you do not want that adhesive residue on your lovely molding. Secondly, cut the exact size of Styrofoam and place it inside the frame next to the glass, on the outside. Then tape the whole thing, one more time. Now, you can allow the packers to place each framed item in their ‘picture packs’.

You would be better off having the Gallery owner take care of this routine for you, especially on the Pieces that are highly valued, even if only highly valued by you?? There you are holding to your chest the last Piece you’d ever want to be damaged, and as luck will have it; it’s the first one that is. Like your little girl’s finger painting, or the very last photo you have of your now deceased great grandfather, or the cool art project you made in high school, and then realized, maybe you are an artist after all. Lay a hand in the process, and get an appraisal. A good appraiser will take into account sentimental value, and the insurance companies will pay an extra 10% over the listed value for that. They will not do this without an accurate valuation that notates which Pieces are sentimentally valuable to the family and why. Insurance companies have to be forced to add sentimental value. A certified appraiser is one way to force that issue.


There is this definite theory among those of us who ship fine arts several times a week, that we send it UPS, or FED EX, only (you need that tracking number)… and we do not ship after Wednesday morning. You may be asking why that is? The longer something is in the freighting process, the more likely it is to be damaged. If you ship coming into a weekend, it will be warehoused somewhere over that two or often three day off time. You see it, don’t you? One more place where it can be handled…poorly sometimes? For Sure, those guys who make minimum wage are not overly impressed by the word FRAGILE. “Hey, Mac maybe this guy is from Italy, you know Fra-gi-le, that must be a family name. Here I’ll throw it down to you.”

Learn from the professionals and do not ship your fine arts coming into a weekend.


…what if you have apparently valuable Pieces by an “unknown” Artist? How do they become properly valued?

If these Pieces are not listed with some of the better known Professional Organizations that cater to appraisers and Gallery owners, one can be in a real quandary to find another Piece by this Artist to prove out a signature. Originals, which are undoubtedly the most valuable Pieces, are by far the most difficult to prove authenticity… because there are no other Prints of this image to compare with. For instance, the appraiser says to you, “Okay, yes, this is that particular Print by such & such Artist.” Bingo, you have it all in one fell swoop. Also, we have history of recent sales and that determines the value. Additionally, it is usually the Prints which are easily traced and therefore followed by the professional organizations which list every single Artist and every single Print edition made by that artist. What if grandma had purchased… wisely, I might add, an Original by this particular Artist, who, during her lifetime becomes a household name. Wow, her Original is like… incredibly valuable! But, it is not listed anywhere and no one has made note of this Piece by the title, because it is never sold again. It has not made an appearance in the limelight and is NEVER LISTED ANYWHERE. Guess what? It doesn’t exist. How, does the appraiser prove out this Piece to his or your satisfaction? He and you will both THINK that this outrageously beautiful and seemingly consistent pallet (usual color choices by the Artist) and composition, which looks like a …pick a name: Monet, DaVinci, a Russian Faberge egg, a Grandma Moses Piece… or something a little more prosaic, like a Remington knock-off by some local Montana Artist……. is what you say it is. But you can’t prove it. You have no one left in the family who can swear to it. If this Original being valuated by the Appraiser is not listed in any book or organization…. anywhere, even if we suspect it is a Piece by so & so, we cannot list it and valuate it appropriately if it cannot be substantiated by receipts of purchase or something legal, of that sort.

Grandma is dead: She is no longer present to say, “Yes, Son, I bought that from the ‘Yeaney Yahney’ (any ole name will do) Gallery back in “02” and… like… ‘Isn’t it wonderful, that I was sensible enough to purchase it? Now, guess how much it is worth?’ If Grandma is still alive to convince us, this is a Piece by somebody: Hey, you have it!! Bingo, you’re there!!! But, many many Artist and even those with Agents do not ever list every single Piece they have ever produced. Sometimes they have forgotten that little piece sold to someone {think, your Grandma, here} just to cover the rent… way back in ’02… before they were famous. Or, how does he/she run around and get photos of every single piece that he ever painted? Oh my gosh, what a difficulty that would be.

Artists are not the most organized people, anyway. They do not think as you and I do. They think about painting or sculpting or chasing rainbows on the side. They are the ones who forget to pay their phone bill in a timely manner. So, what? This is a surprise that they would not make a concerted effort on record keeping? No… it’s the non-artist… the non-talent guys or ladies who are good at record keeping. I assume you are getting my drift: Have Grandmother’s property valuated before she passes away. Go ahead and have all the Pieces in the home reviewed initially. You will doubtless end up being quite surprised by which ones are valuable. Plus, in the event of death, you will have a ton of taxes and legalities with which to deal. Some fancy footed “feller” representing the State or the Feds invariably shows up at probate: his job is to collect taxes. Wouldn’t it be nice to prove him wrong when he’s trying to valuate something too high? It is your inheritance that will be paying those taxes. Let’s get a handle on this before you are caught with a nasty surprise.

True… you might think, “Damn… I do not want to know how blessedly valuable this little tiny Original picked up in Italy before WWII, assuredly is.” But, what if that fast talking dude, representing the tax collector is taking much more? It has been known to happen. There is also time, pre-death, to do some serious Estate Planning, once the appraisal is completed. You might think about getting the whole family together and suggest to your older relative that certain Pieces be gifted early. It is a superb idea to gift out some Pieces to family members before the party in question “walks out of the picture”. You could also plan on gifting an astronomically pricey Piece to the local Museum. Ah ha, there’s a plan: A wonderful Tax Credit can generally be realized. That gift does not have to go down until after death. The paperwork needs to be completed in every detail, notarized, etc. previous to death in order to qualify Tax Wise. These are all general statements. You MUST run all these ideas by your Tax Professional, for sure.

 ..four reasons come to mind instantly why you MUST seek the advice of your Tax advisor.

1.) Tax laws change almost every year, in almost every category. The Tax code is 116 times the size of the King James version of the Bible. Daunting thought, isn’t it?

2.) Tax laws, especially where Death Tax, Federal Inheritance Tax, and Probate Laws are concerned, differ by the State. Tax penalties will be doubled for the deceased’s State of residence and the State where property is retained, if different. Be astute if all property {real or otherwise: as in real estate or any other kind of property… like Fine Arts, owned by the deceased} is not domiciled in the State of residence.

3.) You can most definitely save Tax dollars by planning ahead for an elder relative’s demise.

4.) There is that nasty loop hole which the Feds call: “Contemplation of Death”, if gifts or tax benefits take place within three years prior to death. Get with it.

List here older relatives that have Great Art purchases in their estates

The first step, however, is still the Art appraiser. Get with a good one… not someone who looks vaguely at the Pieces all grouped together, writes a number in pencil on the back of an envelope and says in almost the same breath… “Don’t quote me on this!” Don’t laugh, I have seen this often enough. That’s one end of the spectrum when hiring an appraiser. I know you are much too informed to do that especially after reading this handbook.

(Budget) You can walk through all the belongings… yours or an elder relatives and set aside a few, or quite a few, Pieces that you are certain have no real value. But, if you are that informed on this subject, someone should be paying you to appraise… but, just for ‘grins’; let’s say you feel adequate to set aside a number of the Pieces as not worth appraising. Your certified valuator is working for you and will adhere to your instructions. The appraiser will add one more page stating a number of items not included in the page by page perusal, showing an all purpose value for each. As, for instance, 75 additional Pieces all valued under $150.00 each. This is important, because in the event of Fire, Theft, Water damage, Smoke Damage, or Death… someone is counting up and looking through the binder, which you wisely gave (a copy of) to your Insurance Representative long ago at the time of appraisal. This claims officer is coming up with way too many items. That is one superb excuse for the Insurance Company to hold up your claims payment, which is sometimes a lengthy delay. Those individuals HATE CONFUSION in settling claims. You need that last page which delineates all the additional ‘lightly valued’ Pieces not otherwise listed.

Additionally, do not forget to have several loose leafs added at the end of your appraisal report, which you can fill out for new acquisitions. The easiest way, is to staple the receipt of purchase and possibly the Certificate of Authenticity right to those loose leafs which have been wisely placed in your Binder.

The photos of your fine arts are a problem all of themselves and should be produced by a professional. Someone brought along by the appraiser is trained for this. The photos have to be an extreme close-up view: Close enough to allow authentication of the signature. These photos may wind up in Court, as seen by someone who is endeavoring to rule the signature non-authentic. Nice state of affairs, right? But, it could happen if you have valuable Pieces. These photos need to be done, laying the article on an over-large piece of black felt (like fabric or cardboard), to minimize reflected light. Reflections can totally ruin the intended view. There needs to be an exceptionally strong light source directed on the object itself, to clear away shadows. Shadows invariably end up exactly where you don’t want them to be. By the time you have done all this and purchased the best Kodak paper…. Are you getting the idea? Clearly, this is the time to allow the professional to do his best, and you stand back and watch. This is not a good use of your time over your money. It is too complicated to purchase everything you will conceivably need and also do it perfectly.

(Budget) Is there a photographer in the house? With your newly acquired Art after appraisal time, get your digital camera and take a really sharp photo using quite expensive paper and the best lighting achievable for the production. When adding new acquisitions, you need to do this ASAP, before the thought slips your mind.

Do not keep your Binder in the house… obvious reason for that. What if you do have fire, water damage, flooding, or even smoke damage? Keep it anywhere else: A safety deposit box, your office, your brother’s house ~~if he’s Mr. Reliable. How about your Lawyer’s office? That profession prides themselves on having storage facility for things of this nature.

Contact Ninya at 619/929-6192 (no text) TODAY for your fine arts appraisal.