Notes From An Appraiser July 2018

I have one-hour office appointments to discuss Asian Art personal property frequently, with a written contract signed before the beginning of the meeting stating there is no written documentation and that I will be quoting fair market value (in general, think retail price). Clients bring properties to show me to discuss, maybe one piece or several boxes. As most of you know, I have multiple sclerosis and in a wheelchair. My husband, a dealer of Asian Art for decades, often joins me as a courtesy to me. He answers the door (no Ms. Shaver is not alone), and will facilitate any physical arrangement that is necessary (blankets on the table, extra lights, running upstairs for a reference book). His name is not on my contract. Occasionally while discussing my scope of work before appointment witha client, I’ll mention he may be there. I don’t pay him a consultant fee, although others would. I think I charge a lot, $300/ hour, but his fee, if he had one, would certainly be four figures.

Last week my husband received an email from a close personal and professional friend and very respected dealer of Chinese Art, that quoted the owner of a property stating “Cynthia Shaver was employed by me to give opinion of value, and that Mr. and Mrs. Shaver said this was …”. The owner of the property had contacted major auction houses with this misleading sentence along with high profile dealers that I rely on for information. First, my husband and I have different last names. As he often says, he kept his maiden name.

For me, this was not alarming. I know I will be quoted and misquoted, that nomatter how I give someone an idea of fair market value for the property, it will enter into the public domain. The information that I give during an oral inspection will be lost, or misstated in a distorted way. That is why I have contract and on the back of my copy of the contract I keep notes as to type of property, condition and any monetary quotes. I have received phone calls years later from siblings who were in disagreements, legal representatives asking what I said. Specific people at the auction houses and high level dealers know me, my methodology, and know I would call if I thought something was ‘fabulous property, rare, or a definite find.’

But to my proud discerning husband, this was an affront. Oh dear, did that mean I should expect him to be invisible next week when the next client came? I’ll find out soon enough this week when I inspect a few Japanese scrolls. Will he answer door then remove himself. Not his ‘wheelhouse ‘ anyway, Chinese art is his expertise. Yet to have another set of Asian art educated eyes looking at the same property is quite valuable. The client definitely benefits as does my knowledge pool of information. Guess this story still needs an ending.