News You Can Use: Discover the Value of Your Stuff

by Savvy Living’s Jim Miller:

I inherited a large number of antiques and unique art from my great aunt and I would like to find out what some of these items are worth. What resources can you recommend for finding the value of these items?

There are a number of resources currently available to help you find the value of old and unique items. Here are some tips to help you proceed. Many people use local antique shops or collectables dealers to determine the value of old or unique items. While this may provide you with a general estimate, it is a good idea to find a certified appraiser to value your item. A certified appraiser acts as an independent third party in valuing the property. In fact, it is a violation of professional ethics for an appraiser to offer to buy an item he or she has appraised.

A professional appraiser will provide a written report that includes a full description of your item and the procedure used to estimate its current value. You can expect to pay either a flat fee or an hourly rate of $200 to $400 per hour depending on the appraiser’s expertise and location. Make sure to avoid an appraiser who asks for a fee based on a percentage of the item’s appraised value.

If an appraiser believes the likely value of an item does not justify a written appraisal, then he or she may recommend other resources to arrive at a value.

To locate an appraiser you may search online at one of the three professional appraising organizations: The American Society of Appraisers (800-272-8258), the International Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of America. The membership of these three organizations is about 5,000 members, 900 members and 700 members respectively. There are a number of websites that utilize the services of a professional appraiser or other expert to value property. You take photos of the property and upload those photos along with a description of each photo to the website. The photos and descriptions are reviewed by a professional appraiser or other expert and the appraiser sends you a valuation of the property. This process typically takes about one week.

Two websites that offer this service are Value My Stuff and WorthPoint. Value My Stuff charges $10 for one appraisal, $25 for three or $75 for ten appraisals. WorthPoint charges $30 for one item or $75 for three items. You may also pay $20 per month for unlimited access to their antique and collectables valuations.

Another resource is Kovels (800-829-9158), which offers a free basic membership that gives you access to its online price guide. You can purchase one of Kovels’ premium services for a price ranging from $39 to $60 per year. In addition, Kovels sells the “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2014” for $28. This guide reports recent prices paid for 35,000 items in more than 700 categories at auctions, shops, shows, flea markets and online.

Finally, you may be able to determine the value of your property by searching similar items on Ebay or Craigslist. Both of these sites are free to search. If you are interested in any of your items, you can find out the tax-deductible value at free valuation sites available year-round by tax-prep companies such as Turbo Tax. The Salvation Army also offers a valuation guide.