An insurance company asked me to do a replacement value comparable appraisal for a broken, large 2,000 year old brown ceramic Cambodian pot. The photo sent of the property was in situ, a decorative composition of the pot among other stone features. From this photo, I surmised the dimensions but could see no decoration.

I needed to learn about what I was going to inspect. What were the quality characteristics? I contacted a retired curator of SE Asian Art from the Asian Art Museum, who referred me to another scholar, who lead me to Louise Cort, curator of ceramics for the Smithsonian (Freer Sackler). “Due to the Government Shutdown, ….” was my first response. She answered me shortly after receiving this automated email, and was an example of someone working without pay to help me with my job.

Louise wrote “it appears to be a large storage jar from the Angkorian Period ,.. they were made…, and roughly 12th-15th century “. She directed me to the museum website discussion of like ceramics with photographs of examples. With this information, I felt ready to inspect the pot with idea of quality characteristics. My assistant Susie and I drove to the art storage facility to inspect the property, about one hour away.

The tall antique Cambodian jar was part of an art collection stored within this large facility that is temperature and light controlled. We were shown to a room about 300 square feet, with only one object, the pot on a protective padded surface by the wall. I was able to roll up to any part of the pot I needed, with Susie there to help. We spent an hour examining the pot, carefully noting the incised motifs on the top, middle and bottom of the jar. We measured the pot, took many photos and drove back to Belvedere.

I had researched Cambodian martaban, and wanted to go to market place to find another for the Replacement Value Comparable for the appraisal.  Simply typing into Google ‘large antique Cambodian jar for sale’ yielded results. From the images, one could follow to a retail offering. I was surprised by how difficult the jars were to find in a retail setting. I did find examples among inventory in ‘general Asian Art’, that seemed to vary in the drip glaze and amount of incised decorations. The values listed went from $1200 to $1800 per jar depending on glaze and decoration. After one hour of research, I had found the relative replacement value of the broken antique Cambodian jar.

My minimum charge for a written documentation is eight hours, or $2400; they are lengthy legal documents. At this point in the job, I realized my fee was more than the worth of property being appraised and a phone call to the insurance adjuster was made. I was told to stop work and that the appraisal was not needed.

I did submit an invoice for travel and inspection, and will be paid but this is not always the case. This work is investigative, learning quality characteristics from leading scholars and translating that information into value characteristics. This work is essential preparation for giving values, the research I enjoy so much, learning often in detail about an individual Asian property .

For the last four decades I have been attending the Society For Asian Art weekly lectures, discussing specific ideas. All that information, the reaching out to scholars, has been formed into a mental rolladisc that I dip into given my property starting point. All the history, scholars and property I have seen and studied comes into play when I begin to research one simple large brown antique martaban from Cambodia.