We often hear stories of people who have purchased things at yard sales that turn out to be worth thousands of dollars. This is great news for the new owners, but very unfortunate for the people who made the decision to sell the items in the first place.
It is always a good idea to check out the current value of items you may be considering selling, giving away, or discarding before you do so.
A few years ago, two people joined us on one of our regular free appraisal day sessions with an item concealed in a paper carrier bag. We all gasped when it was removed from the bag—a rare 18th Century Boston sampler. We preliminarily valued this piece at $50,000 to $100,000. Further research revealed that it was sewn by the daughter of the man who rowed Paul Revere across the Charles River on the night of his famous ride. This additional provenance, along with the quality and aesthetic appeal of the piece, drove up the ultimate selling price to $465,750—at the time, a world record price for a single sampler!
Your approach should start by determining the type of valuation you need.
- Verbal assessments: Most downsizing situations only require an “informal” appraisal, where no final report or document is provided. In these cases, you or a friend should take notes as the appraiser evaluates your items. Many auctioneer or dealer appraisers do not charge for this service.
- Formal appraisal: A ‘formal’ appraisal always includes a written document that provides descriptive details of each item and full disclosure of all assumptions and disclaimers associated with the valuation process. These are appropriate in attorney/court-ordered estate settlements, in cases where a valuation is needed for insurance purposes, or when market value documentation is required for IRS reporting ( such as for major donations to museums or charity).
Be sure to request a “market value” for items to be dispersed. This is an estimate of what your item(s) will sell for in today’s secondary marketplace, such as in resale or antique shops, or at auction.
With valuations in hand, you now have necessary information in hand for creating a plan to disperse your items with confidence, while achieving your desired outcomes.