2016 : January Notes From An Appraiser

What a year 2015. The year my services changed, from “walk-throughs” to “expert witness” work. I had more office appointments this year than the last five years combined. I worked with various insurance companies, museums, and private individuals donating property to museums for charitable contribution IRS tax deductions.

Expert witness work the last year took four months of time, two separate legal cases, never deposed nor had to testify. The first was straight forward, one property, resolved within one month. The second case, I worked with ‘layers of attorneys’, nothing resolved after three months and told to be ready in two years for a court case. Reviewed my notes, made a binder, printed emails and the folder sits on my desk.

The office appointments are fun, usually one hour and vary from one object to ten. My husband, a dealer of Chinese art for more than forty years, frequently joins me and adds another insight into the discussion. It is enjoyable to discuss Asian art with my husband, between us we have seventy years of experience in Asian Art and have seen many different styles, materials and sizes. To the best of our ability we identify the object, origin, age, technique. We discuss the details of the style, the ranking of the object compared to others we have seen. We discuss types of value and if there is a secondary market. I always have a tablet ready to search terms, collections, subjects. The people are as varied as the property and some have come from far away (Santa Fe & Oregon).

The reason people come with objects also varies. There have been generations, or the property owner moving and downsizing, or the curiosity of new collectors. It is generally a bit of a detective story, where the property came from and when. In putting the pieces together, the time frame often reveals either acquisition date or when object was made. Think of ‘Antiques Roadshow”, but instead of a three minute sound-bite, we talk and discuss for an hour. We don’t have tea, or cookies, but generally the room has laughter. Look forward to more office appointments in the New Year.

The work for insurance companies is not so satisfying, but intellectually I am still researching Asian Art properties. I have an admittedly unhealthy attitude toward insurance companies, and rarely do an appraisal for a client to insure a property. A museum needed an insurance value, consultation on acquisition or not, and a very short discussion on quality.

The charitable contribution appraisals are the majority of my business in hours billed. Since revising my format, it has been easy to go to the IRS website and follow all guidelines. I use the language right from USPAP, or the Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice. This year I wrote appraisals for contribution to The Rubin Museum and The Metropolitan Museum, both in New York City, as well as The Mingei International Museum in San Diego, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and The Berkeley Art Museum. This is a guarantee to see great art, a bonus for an Asian Art appraiser.