9th Circuit Rules That Auction House Appraisal is “Not Adequate” for I.R.S.

Just in from Appraising Association of America: “The Appraisal Foundation, the nation’s authority on valuation services, applauds the recent 9th Circuit Court ruling that agreed with a U.S. Tax Court opinion that found an appraisal from an esteemed auction house is not adequate assurance of appraisal expertise or competency. With this ruling, the professionalism of personal property appraisers has been confirmed for the second time by the judicial system in the United States. This is game-changer for the primacy of the personal property appraisal profession, and protecting consumers from biased and uninformed appraisals that can result in significant financial repercussions……”

“Consumers are the biggest beneficiaries of this ruling. Personal property assets will be better protected when a qualified and independent appraiser is retained to value one’s personal property assets, said John Brenan, vice president of appraisal services of The Appraisal Foundation. “This also means wealth managers and estate attorneys now have a greater fiduciary duty to their clients to fully understand appraiser qualification criteria and appraisal standards when vetting personal property appraisal experts.

“The ruling arises from the case of Estate of Kollsman vs. Commissioner. The Estate hired a premiere auction house to conduct an appraisal of the estate’s art collection. The U.S. Tax Court rejected the valuation of the auction house expert because of bias and a lack of objective evidence. The IRS appraisal expert found two of the paintings were significantly undervalued. The court also found that the auction house expert had a conflict of interest as the appraiser in question also sought to represent the paintings at auction. The 9th Circuit Court took the case up on appeal and agreed with U.S. Tax Court opinion.”

5 Natural Ways to Clean Your Antiques

Reducing the use of chemicals AND the plastic bottles they come in can make a big impact on our health and environment.  Appraisley tested several natural techniques for sprucing up some of your antiques, and these are our favs:

  1. Beer can be used to clean Gilt frames.  We tried this with a nice IPA and a gentle toothbrush. It actually worked and seemed to take off some of the tarnish after gently wiping off the beer with a soft cloth.
  2. Toothpaste can be used to clean ceramic doll faces.  A soft toothbrush makes a good small scrubber. Be careful not to scrub too hard, and be sure to wipe off the minty smell with a damp clean cloth.
  3. Ketchup is a great copper cleaner.  As it turns out, ketchup is not only good for getting the skunky smell out of your dog. We were amazed at how well this worked on copper. Using a soft cloth and a few squirts our copper pots brightened right up.
  4. Walnut oil and lemon juice make a great furniture polish.  Use 1/4 cup of walnut oil and about 4 drops of lemon juice.  Wipe on furniture with a clean soft cloth and buff to a shine.
  5. Coffee Grounds can remove the musty smell from a drawer.  As anyone who has gone to a wine tasting or smelled the various perfumes at Sephora knows, coffee grounds are known as a good smell neutralizer. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of fresh coffee grounds inside the drawer. Leave them for 24 hours and vacuum out (and we don’t recommend reusing the grounds for your coffee break.)

Want Your Kids To Care? Get Out The Good China

Too often I hear clients complain that their adult kids don’t care about all of their antiques collecting dust in the cabinet.  They have worked so hard to preserve great grandma’s tea cups, or sterling coffee service and now––no one cares (and Ikea is just down the road).  There is a real fear of losing family history associated with these things that sat like museum pieces, only to be looked at, dusted occasionally,  and rarely used.

On a recent trip to Toronto I stumbled upon THE most amazing antique store in North America:  Cynthia Findlay Antiques I spoke with some of the staff about how people need to let their kids (yes kids) use the fine things in the house.  Things will get broken, but what good are they if no one uses them?  And you risk losing touch with the traditions of the past.

Also, a generation who doesn’t know how to use delicate things will, according to the New York Times, be less capable with their fine motor skills In other words, you can’t teach this with an iPad.

I inherited some fine tea cups and saucers from my grandmother and I remember as a child that she would finish each meal with dessert and tea.  These memories create value for me.  You will find tea served at our office at least once a week in these fine vessels and our team members in their 30’s, who didn’t grow up around this tradition, are suddenly interested in the history and craftsmanship of Aynsley, Paragon, and Limoges.  So next time you have the grandkids over get out the good china, and tell them the story of their family.

–Annie Fox

Sometimes Appraising Is Like Archeology

Digging through an estate can be like archeology. Layers and layers of a person’s life are evident and sometimes we find the unexpected.  It’s great when we stumble upon an interesting object during our appraisal assignments.  Even though we are sometimes met with unexpected challenges and conditions, it’s never boring!

Sifting through a Denver home earlier this month felt like we were going back in time.  Layer by layer.  The 80 degree heat and poor lighting made it tough for our team. We shared the exhilaration Kacey discovered something interesting and of value in the rubble. After getting past magazines and newspapers from the 1950’s and 1940’s, she discovered several original, boxed 1930 Lionel toy trains (never played with).  And Annie found a mint-condition accordion with the 1957 with the price tag still attached. All buried beneath years of accumulated dust bunnies.

Like archeologists, we are witnesses to time and history.  The material remnants of the lives before us being broken down and pulled apart item by item.  If these things survive the landfill they will be given a new life of their own. And hopefully the toys will be played with and the instruments will be danced to.

Primary v. Secondary Art Market

What is the difference between the primary and the secondary market? These terms are important to understand when purchasing art or when getting an appraisal. 

The first sale of an artwork (from the artist to the first owner, or from the gallery to the first owner) is considered the primary market. If art is bought from an artist directly or from an art gallery representing the artists’ work for the first time, it is a primary sale. The majority of art galleries and art fairs fall under this primary market category.

The secondary market refers to any artworks that are being re-sold.  This could be any number of times AFTER the first sale.  Auction houses are the where most of these transactions would take place. There are also some galleries and fairs that specialize in secondary market pieces such like Mega Galleries that also represent very famous artists or their estates after they have passed away. These works are not coming to market for the first time.  The secondary market can include work from any time period including older works and contemporary works.

The main reasons that works would sell in the secondary market are famously referred to in the art world as “death, debt and divorce.” Estates can be liquidated for various reasons including these.  Actor Russell Crowe held a very successful auction in 2017 with Sotheby’s called “The Art of Divorce”. These celebrity auctions draw collectors who may wish to diversify their art collection or flip it for greater return.

Of course we recommend buying art because you love it, for an investment.  But if you are considering a big investment, we recommend consulting with an art advisor.

Estate Sales and The Landfill Pipeline

First Stop: Goodwill Retail Stores

There are over 3,000 Goodwill stores nationwide.  When you drop off your donated items, workers will go through everything and make sure they’re usable, clean and non-toxic.  Things that make the cut are sorted and priced. If things don’t sell after about four weeks, they’re taken off the shelf and go into a big container and shipped to the next phase….

Goodwill Auctions

Containers full of unsold Goodwill items are shipped to national auction sites.  This is where online bidding occurs.   Anyone can bid on huge bins of misc. items going for as little as $35. Sometimes you don’t know what’s inside—it’s kind of like the television show “Storage Wars” but for donated clothes. Then, if things still don’t sell at auction they’re sent further down stream….

Textile Recycling Centers

There are recycling centers that specialize in clothing and secondary materials.  They will take your clothes where they will be resold.  Lots of fibers will be processed.  Soft fibers are used for furniture filling and home insulation.  Some is sent overseas to salvage dealers.  And as the last resort, if things don’t get reprocessed here or overseas, they are sent to…


Evidence suggests that used home goods and furniture are taking up more and more room in our landfills.  Plastic especially is no longer welcome in recycling centers overseas.  Thankfully, only 5 percent of donated clothes are sent to landfills, but they contribute to the 12 million tons of U.S. textile waste that end up in landfills annually.

Picasso’s Stolen “Sugar Lift” Aquatint

Sweet Reward Could be Next–But What IS a Sugar Lift Aquatint?

Today’s Fox News has a story about a rare Picasso print that was stolen from the office of a Milwaukee art appraiser on Feb. 16th, 2018.  (This is why we have an alarm system, dogs, and locked doors, by the way!) Here is a link to the story “FBI working with police to recover stolen Picasso; reward could soon be offered”

But what caught my eye, is the method that Picasso used for this print of 30 editions.  I looked it up and found a great video by (African born) France-based artist Cedric Green, who’s work is not only beautiful, but he is also a leading figure in environmental ethics in print-making 

Sugar lift aquatint is a process in which the india ink is suspended in sugar (Caro syrup usually) which is then dissolved in warm water, leaving only the ink.  Print making techniques are easier to explain by watching (or doing) so here is a link to a YouTube video Green produced showing exactly what sugar lift is.

In the meantime, we will keep our eyes open for any signs of that Picasso!


Reasons to Hire a Professional Appraiser

What is an Appraisal?  Why should I get one?

Document your Valuables Prior to Loss:

Documenting your items with a certified appraisal prior to loss is essential to settle a claim. Most insurance companies will limit coverage without it, even if you have photographs of your items! Appraisal reports are written to the exacting specifications of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which is governed by the Appraisers Association of America.

Division of property (AKA Divorce):

For equitable division of personal property between heirs, separating couples, etc.

Maximize Financial Return to Your Estate:

Trustees and heirs receive peace of mind and exercise due diligence when they have estate personal property reviewed by an expert.  This way you will know what your items are really worth and you can make an informed decision.


What are your items worth today? What are your options to sell them?  We offer many options including specialty and major auction houses, to obtain the best placement and terms for your more valuable art, antiques, and collectibles.

Benefiting Charities–Marie- Kondo Style!

It can be very joyful and satisfying to have a tidy space.  Even if it’s just a closet of set of drawers.  But don’t just throw things out or put them in storage. Donate them for someone else to find joy.  And don’t forget to keep track of your donations.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese-downsizing-celebrity makes it clear that it isn’t just about washing and re-organizing, letting go of things that no longer “Spark Joy” for you.  Your things can spark joy for someone else through a donation to The Goodwill or any number of charities that accept household goods and clothing.

If you are having trouble deciding on where to donate the results of your clean out, try contacting Donation Town and they will come and pick up your items and let you pick from a list of excellent local charities!

You can use Appraisley’s handy (and free) DONATION CALCULATOR that you can use to find the estimated values for some of your household donations.

Just Make Sure You Look INSIDE The Piano!

Finding Hidden Treasures Where You Least Expect them

Here is a great story out of Britain where about $90,000 in gold coins were discovered by a piano tuner inside a donated piano months later: Washington Post . Even though the piano had been in their home for three decades, the donors were not entitled to any of the money found according to the courts.

I don’t suppose there are very many appraisers who would have thought to open up the piano, but it is amazing how often we find things stashed in unusual places! On a personal note, just as we finished packing up everything from the historic house of my late great aunt in Jonesborough, TN, my mom glanced under the rug on the stairs and found $3,000.00 in cash stashed there.

I suppose this should be a reminder to us all to be thorough when inspecting art and antiques, and also once it is given away, it is GIVEN AWAY!