Being the founder and CEO of WorthPoint® makes me a bit of a target. Like doctors and auto mechanics, I’m sometimes asked to offer an opinion based on incomplete information. Just as doctors and mechanics must answer, “Come in for a checkup,” I must explain that, in most cases, I can’t offer an opinion without first examining their item and doing some research.
You see, appraisal and valuation are research-based tasks. That’s all they have in common.
For example, real estate appraisers are trained to research and write appraisal reports but don’t know what your home is worth until they inspect your house, take measurements, and study public sales records. It’s the same for personal property appraisers: items must be inspected and researched, and an industry-standard report format must be used. Appraisals are legal documents. Valuations are not.
A Matter of Degree
But maybe you don’t want a detailed legal appraisal. Perhaps your purpose would be served by having an educated guess from a knowledgeable person.
In the mortgage business, banks use a tool called a Broker’s Price Opinion, or BPO. BPOs are performed by licensed real estate agents (not appraisers). When an opinion request is received, an agent will drive to the property in question, take photographs, and perform property research on the Multiple Listing Service. This procedure is how Realtors© can offer a “market valuation” to potential listing clients. The final document cannot be claimed as an appraisal, though.
Personal property valuations work the same way. They can be performed without a personal inspection. With good photos, measurements, physical details, provenance, and sales history, value can be determined by experienced dealers, collectors, auctioneers, and subject matter experts.
A “Multiple Listing Service” for Antiques & Collectibles
Here’s where it gets tricky, though. You must have access to a comprehensive sales database to determine monetary value. Untitled personal properties (virtually everything except vehicles) have no sales history that can be researched at a courthouse. Until the advent of the internet and digital databases, researchers had to seek out paper records from individual sales sources: retail stores, auction houses, and dealers.
Because of the difficulty in tracking paper records, collectors and estate executors relied on “top of the mind” ballpark values from local dealers. Such valuations are worthless. Even the “appraisers” on Antiques Roadshow research the items they present before they step in front of a camera. They must: their reputations are on the line. But what they offer is not an appraisal. It’s a valuation.
To reach solid conclusions about the value of an antique or collectible (A&C) requires a massive database like real estate’s Multiple Listing Service. I conceived WorthPoint to fill this need. WorthPoint is the world’s largest online database for researching and valuing antiques & collectibles. Our Price Guide features over 725 million values of items and more than 1.3 billion photographs from historical records from 2007 through today. Additionally, WorthPoint offers a visual database of more than 227,000 identifiable marks, autographs, patterns, and symbols; a digital Library with more than 15,000 searchable books and catalogs; more than 8,000 informative articles with detailed descriptions in our Dictionary; and more than 6,000 Blog articles by industry experts. These tools provide those interested with a comprehensive information so that one can know how to identify and how to value an item. Users can also access a digital Vault to archive and preserve their valued possessions.
With WorthPoint, you can genuinely discern “what is it, and what’s it worth.”
Will Seippel is the CEO and founder of WorthPoint, the world’s largest provider of information about art, antiques, and collectibles. An Inc. 500 Company, WorthPoint is used by individuals and organizations seeking credible valuations on everything from cameras to coins. WorthPoint counts the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the IRS among its clients.