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Estate Planning Tips for Personal Property

1. Collect and assemble as much background information as possible on each piece of property, including sales receipts, details of how you acquired each piece and the provenance or history of the piece.

2. Make sure you include an appraisal consultation with an accredited appraiser like those belonging to the American Society of Appraisers in your estate planning process.

3. Question whether the appraiser will provide a report that gives a fair market value of your collection that complies with the latest Internal Revenue Service requirements. (Replacement value for insurance is not appropriate for estate planning purposes and can yield a considerably different value.) Hiring an accredited appraiser will ensure that you get the correct value for your properties.

4. Review your property with the appraiser. Together you can decide what property should be included in the appraisal report.

5. Keep your appraisal report with your other legal, estate planning documents. Appraisal reports are recognized by courts as reliable testimony to the worth of your possessions. They combine in one place the documentation, identification (including photographs) and fair market value of your possessions that can be invaluable to you and your heirs.

6. A rule of thumb is to have your appraisal updated about every five years. An appraisal is an unbiased opinion of value at the time the report is done. Because market conditions change, an accredited appraiser cannot determine what your possessions might be worth at some point in the future or at the time of your death. An appraisal update, which usually costs less than the original report, will verify the condition of your collection and keep values current.

7. Monitor market conditions that might affect the value of your collection. A sudden surge in popularity of a particular period (e.g., Victoriana) or the death of the artist who painted items in your collection could cause certain values to increase rapidly and might merit appraisal updates at more frequent intervals.

8. Discuss with the appraiser appropriate care of your collection to maintain maximum value. Accredited appraisers are personal property experts who can provide you with advice on ways to protect your collections.

9. Hire only accredited appraisers like those from the American Society of Appraisers who abide by a code of ethics and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

10. Make sure you deal only with an appraiser who charges an hourly rate or a flat fee. Reputable professional appraisers will not offer to sell your items for you or base fees on a percentage of an item’s worth.



Tips for Buying and Appraising Jewelry

Before the purchase

Research—If you have an idea of the type of jewelry you are looking for, you will find an enormous amount of information available on the internet or at the local library, regarding quality, origin and style. Research the retail outlet as well; it’s reputation, and policies on returns, servicing, etc.
Comparison Shopping—Most salespeople in fine jewelry stores are well trained about the jewelry they sell and how to present it in its best light. To avoid buyer’s remorse, it is best to shop around and compare, but remember to compare apples with apples. There are many elements of quality that affect the price.
Making a purchase

Inspect the item carefully—Jewelry is an emotionally motivated purchase and it is easy to see the piece through rose-colored glasses. Look for markings stamped on the metal that are appropriate to the item, and for unique characteristics in the gemstone or diamond. Be sure to ask the salesperson to verify that what you are seeing is natural and not damage sustained in the manufacturing process.
Understand the item’s origins—In our technologically advancing society, it is ever more important to ask questions about the origin of the gemstones and the level of treatment they have received. For example, are the beautiful pearls you are considering natural, cultured saltwater, Chinese freshwater or South Sea? Have they been irradiated or dyed? Has the diamond been fracture filled or in any way enhanced? Is the process permanent? Does it require special care?
Know the Return Policy—Get it in writing on the sales receipt along with a complete description of the newly purchased jewelry item, including the answers to questions pertaining to origin and treatment, quality, size, etc.
Get a Diamond or Gemstone “Certification”—Many significant diamonds and gemstones are accompanied by independent laboratory reports, often referred to as “certificates.” Gemstone and diamond identification, grading and origin verification require scientific processes, and involve subjective conclusions. Therefore, an independent laboratory report, prepared by an industry respected laboratory, i.e. GIA, EGL, AGS, performed while the diamond or gemstone is out of its mounting, is imperative on any major purchase. These reports consist of quality analysis only and do not (or should not) include value information. A laboratory report is not the same as an appraisal. You should receive the original laboratory report (certificate) with your item, or very shortly thereafter.
After the Purchase

Many people get jewelry appraised to document and verify the quality and value of the piece. Appraisals are used for insurance purposes, for estate planning, dispute resolution, etc. Be sure to tell the appraiser what the appraisal will be used for as the intended purpose dictates the type of value used in the appraisal.

Choose an independent and well qualified appraiser—A qualified appraiser is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization such as the American Society of Appraisers, as well as a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. These organizations require re-certification and continuing education to maintain accreditation. It is important to review the appraiser’s credentials to ensure that they are still active.
Get jewelry appraised quickly—Getting jewelry appraised while the item can still be returned under the store’s return policy is a great way to insure that the piece is as it was represented. Many reputable jewelers will allow potential buyers to have the jewelry item appraised by a qualified appraiser as a condition of the sale.
Provide pertinent information —By providing the appraiser with all known information about the jewelry you wish to have appraised, including special documentation and certificates, laboratory reports, and receipts, you will be sure to receive a complete and accurate appraisal report.
Jewelry Disputes

If there is a problem with a jewelry purchase, there are a few options. First, try to resolve the issue with the jewelry store. In most cases, a reasonable settlement can be reached by negotiation. If that doesn’t work, contact the local Better Business Bureau. Consumers can also try the Jewelers Vigilance Committee Alternative Dispute Resolution Service which was set up to assist consumers in settling disputes with members of the jewelry industry.


Tips for Selling Gold

When the price of gold goes up, gold fever often ensues and people jump to sell their gold jewelry or coins. However they may not always be getting the best deal. The American Society of Appraisers offers advice to consumers who want to know how and when to sell their gold jewelry.

The first step is to look for an appraiser or dealer who advertises that they buy gold.
Then make sure they are licensed. States have licensing boards that regulate the industry.
Shop around. Go to a few places and let them assess your gold; then ask them how much they’ll pay per gram. Twenty-four carat gold is worth the most and the price goes down from there as the carats do.
Make sure that selling the gold by weight is the best option for the items you have. The safest bet is to sell gold jewelry that is broken or is an unmatched set. Then you can be sure that the pieces don’t have much value as jewelry. Be careful about selling antique pieces, pieces with gems embedded or pieces from a well-known designer. If you have a piece of Tiffany jewelry, for instance, it is probably worth more as is than it would be if it were melted down. Also, if you have pieces with gems or antique pieces and you are unsure of the value, it is best to go to an independent appraiser skilled in period jewelry and have them look it over first and advise you.
People who have gold coins should also be wary of selling them by the gram. They may be worth more when sold as is to a collector.
Beware of cold-call solicitations when you are considering selling your gold, and of mobile offices set up in temporary locations. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable outfit.
“It is easy to check the current retail value of gold at,” said Martin Fuller, an Accredited Senior Appraiser and Master Gemologist AppraiserÒ based in McLean, Va. “But it is also important to know that no one will pay the current top dollar for gold, because that would leave no room for profitable resale,” Fuller added. “Expect to receive a percentage less than the current top price.”

Choose an accredited appraiser with professional credentials. If you are looking for a jewelry appraiser, choose an appraiser who is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization, such as the American Society of Appraisers, as well as a Graduate Gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA). Ask about an appraiser’s credentials and make sure they are still active. The appraisal should be done for a set fee, not for a percentage of the value of the property—that’s unethical.

To learn more about caring for valuables or to find an appraiser near you, log on to


Tips for Selling Art, Antiques, and Collectibles

For people who find themselves cleaning out their attics or dealing with selling items in an estate and are wondering what the items are worth and how they should go about selling them, the American Society of Appraisers offers advice.

Many people own or have inherited things that they don’t want or need, but they don’t know what the items are worth, so they don’t know how they should go about selling them and what they should expect to receive for them. There are a range of places to sell items from auction houses to yard sales, consignment shops, to on-line sites.  However, the fear that people have is that they will sell something cheaply that was actually much more valuable.

Many people have items in their home with values they are unsure of, or they are responsible for dealing with the contents of a relative’s home after that person dies. One way to get an idea if any of any items are valuable is to hire an appraiser to act as a consultant.  Many appraisers will do a walk-through at a client’s home, and for a consulting fee will advise people about which things might be valuable, do research to learn more about the items or their values,  and offer suggestions as to the best place to sell the items. This service is not the same as an appraisal of the items.

People who are ready to sell antiques, collectibles or artwork have a number of options including:

  • High end regional and national auction houses.  This is for very valuable collectible items, antiques, or art work. The auction house will charge a percentage of the sale price plus the costs associated with the auction and auction catalogue (i.e. insurance, photography).
  • Antiques dealers.  Antiques dealers will either buy the property from you outright and then resell it, or they will sell it for you in their shop and take a percentage of the sale price.  When selling to an antiques dealer, it is a good idea to have an appraisal of the item, or have a good idea of its value so you ensure that you are being properly compensated.  Be sure to get a consignment agreement that protects your ownership and sets up the date by which you must be paid after the sale.
  • Local auctions.  Local auction houses will include your item in scheduled auctions that include items of similar type which are grouped together for sale.  These items are often offered in a catalogue often posted on-line.  The auction house will charge a percentage of the fetched sale value price.  Be sure and check to see if they may have other fees as well.
  • Local weekly auctions.  Local auction houses also hold regular catch-all auctions that sell a variety of items which are normally less valuable than items included in the catalogue and on-line auctions.
  • Consignment shop.  Consignment shops will sell your items, but usually for a relatively high percentage of the sale price and if things don’t sell quickly they normally lower the price of the item to help it sell.  Again, be sure to get a consignment agreement that protects your ownership and sets up the date by which you must be paid after the sale.

Other options for selling items are include on-line sites like EBay and Craig’s List, and at yard sales and at flea market stands.  These methods may include lower fees and overhead, but you are doing most of the work yourself.

If consumers feel they have items that might be valuable, they should consult an appraiser.  When hiring an appraiser, hire only accredited appraisers from an established national organization like the American Society of Appraisers. Those appraisers abide by a code of ethics and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). The independence, expertise and experience of the appraiser are critical to establishing a credible value in an appraisal.

Keep the appraisal report with your other legal and estate planning documents. Appraisal reports are recognized by courts as reliable testimony to the value of your possessions. They combine in one place the documentation, identification (including photographs) and a value for your property.

To find an appraiser or to learn more about appraisals, consumers can log on to