I spent years as an antique jewelry appraiser, and I loved it. This digital edition is dedicated to the sometimes complex and expensive process of antique appraisals. Do you actually need one? With all the online price guides, it can seem like professional appraisers are a thing of the past.
But let’s be real. No amount of Googling can replace years of refined expertise—and sometimes, a written, reliable appraisal is necessary. Let’s talk about the when and why of it all.
—Lauren Thomann, Founder of Heirlooms at Home
In the digital age, uncovering the value of hidden treasures has never been easier. With the click of a button, you can dive into antique values like never before. Our cover story illuminates two distinct (and free) paths to unconventional antique appraisals, helping you navigate the process as a beginner. First, you can access free online appraisals. Second, you can learn how to “appraise” an heirloom without an expert.
An antique appraisal is like a treasure hunt led by an expert. However, while it can’t replace a professional evaluation, you can attempt a basic antique appraisal at home using price guides. Begin by identifying key details of your item—such as its age, maker, condition, and any distinguishing features. Use this information to compare your item with similar ones listed in a price guide.
Your questions answered
The cost of a professional antique appraisal can vary widely based on factors like the appraiser’s expertise, the type and number of items, and the complexity of the appraisal process. Fees can range from $50 to $300 per hour. Some appraisers may also charge a flat fee per item. It’s important to discuss and understand the fee structure before proceeding with the appraisal. Always ensure the cost aligns with the potential value of your antique.
Look for an appraiser who is accredited by a recognized professional organization like the Appraisers Association of America, American Society of Appraisers, or the International Society of Appraisers. Personal recommendations and online reviews can also guide your selection.
Bring the item to be appraised, if possible, and any related documentation you have, such as provenance records, receipts, or previous appraisal reports. High-quality photos can be used if the item is too large to transport.
While you can find free appraisal services or online price guides, they may not provide the most accurate or comprehensive evaluation of your heirloom. A professional appraisal, though it comes at a cost, can give a more precise value based on a thorough examination of your item and an expert understanding of the current market. This is particularly important if you’re considering selling the item, insuring it, or if it has significant potential value. So, while free options can give you a general idea, a professional appraisal is advisable for a detailed and reliable assessment.