Art Collections Management

HIRING AN APPRAISER: Five Important Things You Need To Know

These guidelines will help the collector to find the best, and the right, art appraiser for the job.


The art appraiser you hire should have the proper background. He or she needs the right training and experience to do the job. Many art appraisers have worked in auction houses and art galleries, where they had an opportunity to see the full spectrum of art, and where they learned from the experts how to analyze the market and assess value. Check the art appraiser’s web site for a detailed work background, and ask for a resume if it’s not shown.


Art appraisers are often generalists with a good understanding of many areas of collecting, and some have developed special expertise in one or more fields. Make sure they can handle the appraisal you need. How long has the art appraiser worked in his field? Continuous experience is often a good indicator that the art appraiser has made a career of appraisals and is not just hanging out a shingle to catch clients. Some art dealers offer appraisal services, but may not have the necessary experience or knowledge to evaluate your property.


Professional referrals can be secured through insurance and risk management companies, CPAs and accountants, attorneys with estate practices, business managers, and of course local museums and art galleries. Chances are that one or more of these sources will have the same names on their referral list. Referrals can also be found through friends who are collectors.


With the exception of real estate appraisers, there is no state or federal license required of an art appraiser, and appraisal societies are private and generally self-­regulated. There are several appraisal societies, which vet their members for experience and maintain certain standards of practice. Many art appraisers belong to the ASA (American Society of Appraisers), ISA (International Society of Appraisers), or AAA (Appraisers Association of America). Memberships require certification (which should be current) in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).


Art appraisers normally charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for their services. Discuss the fee arrangement and completion schedule up front. Often clients can receive help over the internet by submitting a few photographs, or they can come into the appraisal office for a verbal opinion on a few items, both of which services are often free. Most appraisers will be happy, at no charge, to do a walk­-through of a larger collection. If you take advantage of these introductory services, you may get to know the appraiser and establish a more personal bond before deciding to enlist their services.