So You Want to be a Personal Property Appraiser
by Susan Golashovsky, ASA, Judith Lepow, ASA and Nelson Clayton, ASA
Anyone who has ever watched the Antiques Roadshow has been fascinated by the person who knows just what that special item is and how much it is worth. But what exactly is an appraiser and what type of education is needed?
An appraiser is a valuation expert. There are all types of appraisers: real estate, business valuation and personal property. Personal property consists not only of antiques and the fine and decorative arts but also gems and jewelry and even machinery and equipment- in other words, tangible property. As self-motivated individuals, most personal property appraisers start up and manage their own business. Within the broader range of personal property valuers, many qualified appraisers develop a specialty area and pass exams designating their area of expertise, such as antique cars, coins, sports memorabilia, folk art, painting, prints.
How does one gain this expertise?
As in any other profession, you need time and money to develop the skill. Unlike most other professions, you need to possess knowledge of many different objects. Pretend you are asked to appraise a gold colored bladder pen stamped Tiffany. Is it gold, vermeil or electro-plated? Is it 19th century, early 20th century or a modern reproduction? Are the nib and bladder original to the body? Is the mark real? If so, is it part of a larger set and does the client know the whereabouts of the rest of the set? There can be many more questions about that one pen, and the knowledge of knowing the questions and the ability to arrive at correct answers is known as connoisseurship. Attendance at seminars and visits to museums and collections will help develop your eye, but you need a basic knowledge of the items you appraise. There is no classroom that can teach you instant connoisseurship. This knowledge is acquired only through time and field study. That is why you will find that most personal property appraisers come from Fine and/or Decorative Arts backgrounds (or already have knowledge of machinery and equipment or gems/jewelry).
The American Society of Appraisers requires education in appraisal principles, theory, and practice methods. The ASA also requires connoisseurship, knowledge of various markets, and effective report writing skills. While continually striving to develop the connoisseurs "eye," the appraiser must interrelate with clients and develop excellent verbal and written communication skills. Concurrently, appraisers must know how to manage time, be able to develop and write a defensible report, and be able to "read" the various market levels of their chosen profession.
How to begin
You may submit your application to the American Society of Appraisers with references, a resume, the application fee, and the first year's dues. Within ten months of your approval date you must pass the Principals of Appraisal Practice and Code of Ethics open-book exam as well as take the 15-hour Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) class and pass its exam. The USPAP course and examination are available on-line as well as in a classroom setting.
Associates of ASA have passed both the Ethics and USPAP exams and may be working towards completing the four Principle of Valuation (POV) courses. After completion of the POV courses, your status will change to that of Candidate. In other words, Associates are those in the process of completing their four POV courses with the goal of achieving a designation but who are not in a position to pursue a professional designation at the current time. Associates have many of the member benefits, including voting privileges at the local chapter level. Associates are not permitted to advertise themselves as members of ASA. That benefit is reserved for full membership.
Candidates have two years from the anniversary date of completing their fourth Principals of Valuation (POV) course or from April 7, 2006 (whichever is longest) to advance to Accredited Member (AM) and four years to advance to Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA). All advancements or specialty designations require testing, peer review of appraisal reports, and submission of an experience log.
A Candidate is one who is actively working toward a professional designation and has successfully completed or challenged the four ASA Principles of Valuation (POV) courses. Candidates are allowed to vote for national, regional, discipline and affiliated chapter officers. They may also hold office in their affiliated chapters. Candidates are not permitted to advertise themselves as ASA members. That benefit is reserved for full membership with an AM or ASA designation.
The American Society of Appraisers requires the POV courses to ensure development of sound and current appraisal procedure, practice, theory, law, and report writing. Candidates are encouraged to become involved with their chapters in order to build professional relationships both within their discipline and with other discipline membership.
The American Society of Appraisers mandates that 2000 hours are needed in the experience log to become an Accredited Member (AM) appraiser. The American Society of Appraisers mandates that these hours can come from any of three sources:
- One year is given for completion of the four core courses taught in an ASA approved program or 1000 hours in the experience log
- One year is given for five-years of collateral experience from a related business or 1000 hours in the experience log. Please be aware that "collateral experience" needs to be reviewed and approved by the Personal Property Committee.
- One year of appraisal experience (currently defined as 1000 hours of appraisal work which includes inspection, research, development of comparables and analysis, and the value conclusion).
To advance from AM status to Senior Appraiser status requires a further three years of experience as recorded in an experience log and submission of two more reports for peer review. If you choose to add a specialty designation you will be required to take and pass a specialty examination. Personal Property specialties include among other topics: African Sculpture, Antique & Collectible Glass, Antique Firearms, Armor & Militaria, Antique Furniture, Antique & Decorative Arts, Asian Art, Automotive Specialties, Audiovisual Media Recordings, Books, Fine Arts, Fine Arts Photography, Native American Art, Numismatics, Oriental Rugs, Pre-Columbian art, Residential Contents-General, Silver & Metalwork, and Violins.
The Personal Property Committee of the American Society of Appraisers has a Mentor Program. There are also programs available within most local chapters. This program is put into place to help and encourage Candidates and Associates to navigate through the system and obtain either their AM (Accredited Member) or ASA (Accredited Senior Appraiser) designation.
It is unrealistic to expect well-established senior personal property appraisers to offer mentoring in connoisseurship and the business development process. This is, after all, your business and most appraisers have their hands full running businesses of their own. Established appraisers generally receive referrals from appraisal organizations (this is a key benefit to full membership with the ASA), lawyers, accountants, insurance companies and local insurance agents. All of these parties have their own lists of appraisers. It takes time and effort to establish a rapport with the individual who will be able to refer new clients to an appraiser.
So now you have an idea of the time and commitment required to become an appraiser. Are you up to the challenge? If the answer is yes, let us be the first to welcome you into the fold.
The authors are ASA-accredited Personal Property appraisers. Ms. Golashovsky has qualified in the specialties of American Folk Art, Antique Furniture, and Residential Contents - General. Ms. Lepow has qualified in Fine Arts. Mr. Clayton, a Connecticut Chapter member, has qualified in Residential Contents - General.