If you've got antiques and vintage valuables you think are worth more than $500 to $1,000 per piece, it's advisable to have them professionally appraised. The appraisal can then be submitted to your insurance company in case of an emergency or when an estate is in probate.
"Oftentimes you have to have a list for your more valuable items to be insured," explains Steve Wall, a professional appraiser, auctioneer and antiques broker who owns and operates Wall Auctioneers in Jacksonville. "Otherwise, if your house burned down or got burglarized, how is the insurance company going to believe you when you tell them what you had and what it is worth?"
To have your goods appraised, find an appraiser you trust and set up an appointment to view have your items inspected. He or she will be able to tell right away whether the goods are worth appraising. If they are, expect to receive a written document that states what each item is, along with a thorough and well-researched description of its physical characteristics, such as size, material composition, manufacturer and any notable markings. An approximation of value will be included.
"Remember that for insurance purposes, it'll have a different value than fair market value," Wall points out.
Homeowners and collectors may also want to have their antiques appraised simply to keep up on market value. But be warned — appraising during a down market (like now) can be both depressing and a detriment to your worth on paper. Updating an appraisal once every five years should be sufficient.
To do your own research on market values, track online auction houses, attend estate auctions and snoop around high-end antique shops, scouting out items that share the same characteristics as yours.
For a local appraiser, expect to pay around $50 an hour, with a $100 minimum; prices may be higher for a big-city professional.