Appraising Valuable Items

Whether you own fine art, jewelry, antiques or even classic cars, having a current appraisal is an important component of collection care.


No one wants to consider the unthinkable — like theft, damage or loss — happening to a prized possession. But the reality is these things can happen — so be prepared with the proper insurance coverage and an up-to-date-appraisal of your high-value posessions.

What Is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is an opinion or statement of value. It provides the necessary documentation to substantiate the existence, condition and value of your collection. An appraisal can serve to inform a sale or a donation of a collectible item or help settle an estate. It will also help ensure that a valuable item is insured to its current replacement value, thereby providing protection against market fluctuations and value loss.

It is important to keep in mind that one item can have five different values and that the valuation used will depend on the purpose of the appraisal. The two most common values are:

  • Fair market value – the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller.
  • Retail replacement value – most often used for insurance, it is the highest amount that would be required to replace a property with another of similar age, quality, origin, appearance, provenance and condition within a reasonable length of time in an appropriate and relevant market.

If you own fine art, jewelry, antiques or classic cars, having a current appraisal is important.


Elements of an Appraisal

Typically, an appraisal should include:

  • Client name and address
  • Appraiser’s contact information and qualifications
  • Purpose of the appraisal (insurance, estate, etc.)
  • Method of valuation (market comparison, cost approach, etc.) and the market in which valuation is applied
  • Type of valuation and its definition
  • Relevant dates including date of inspection, appraisal and report issuance
  • Assumptions, disclaimers and limiting conditions
  • Thorough description of objects including artist, origin, style, media, marks, signatures, measurements, age, condition and provenance
  • Firm statement of value (not a valuation range)
  • Valuation support including comparable examples, market analysis and sources

A qualified appraiser has a formal education in appraisal theory, methodology, principles and ethics. The appraiser should also have specialized expertise in the material being appraised. For example, an appraiser who specializes in contemporary art may not be the best choice to appraise an Impressionist painting.

Tema McMillon is a Fine Art & Collection Specialist and Senior Risk Consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services.

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