Notes From An Appraiser June 2018

I returned from Memorial Day weekend with three shipped boxes of Asian Art property waiting for me to examine. The three boxes included 22 metal and wood objects from India and Nepal being donated to a university art museum. The owner, a former World Health Organization employee, wanted IRS form 8389 for charitable contributions, and I needed to write the appraisal report. More than ten years earlier, we had met and I wrote appraisal reports for them. They had lived primarily in Egypt and India for thirty years, had a good eye, and a curiosity of the common. To jump to the end of this column, I worked more than a total of 72 hours on this appraisal, presenting my invoice for ten hours.

My assistant, Susie DeCigaran and I, spent 4 to 5 hours unpacking, examining, measuring, identifying, photographing and then repacking all three boxes. For each property we needed to a identify origin, title, date, material and condition, size of the property and a brief description. Also included was where and when the property was purchased, and how much the owner paid.

After writing out a first draft for the appraisal report, I started searching for comparable property offered in the open marketplace. By entering the title and material into a search engine, frequently I could go to images of similar property. I also made a trip to Berkeley to a store that I remembered having similar property. Susie and I ran into a street fair just outside the business, a perk of this inspection of a retail gallery. Into the store we went with my photos and description in hand on my tablet.

We sat in the retail store for about an hour, me showing him photos of the property, and recording his assessment. I feel very lucky to have the trust, and time, from the retail dealers I speak with. The age and rarity were the value characteristics for most of the Indian statues and age/ detail were value characteristics of the wood Nepalese material. Mr Tensing has been in business for over 20 years. He has sold similar material and the prices he quoted me were fair market value.

Mr Tensing spoke about the market for ethnographic material such as the wood property from Nepal, and the business of trading in statues from India and Tibet. There is less traditional ethnographic material at the source and not too much of a demand. In general, what you can find today at the source is modern or not quality. There is a very large supply of antique statues from India and Nepal, and a steady even demand. Some deities or figures are more popular than others, but the age of the property, and then size, effects value.

The rest of my research for comparable material was on the internet. In making my format for the appraisal, I chose a new style. Although it took me more time initially to set up my template, I think the overall appearance was more client user friendly. This appraisal took many hours, but the next one with this template will be faster. Naturally this is my learning curve, not one to charge my client.