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Friday, April 22, 2016

Why You Should Attend ISA’s Antiques & Residential Contents Course

By Michael Logan, ISA CAPP

The Antiques and Residential Contents (ARC) Course is an essential course for the generalist appraiser. While intended as one of the major courses for ISA members, it is also open to members of other organizations, as well as those who just want to learn more about antiques and those interesting things found around the home which may have value. If you are like many of us, you live and practice in an area where you may be the only appraiser for miles and you get called on to appraise everything in the home. Or maybe you have a specialty area for which there is currently a lower demand and you’re taking on other assignments as well.

The completion of the Core Course in Appraisal Studies is just the first step in your ISA education. It covers the fundamentals you need to know before taking on an appraisal assignment. The next step is to decide what path you want to take in your appraisal career. The two primary paths are Fine Art and Antiques & Residential Contents. Each of these has its own specialty course which is required to reach the ISA AM designation (Accredited Member) in that specialty. You will discover that more and more insurance companies, attorneys and courts are requiring “accredited” or “certified” appraisers.

While most of those clients likely don’t understand what those distinctions mean – or are working under the assumption that there is some type of state credentialing – as an ISA Accredited Member, you are in a position to explain that you took a particular path in your professional career to belong to a society that requires education and keeps its members well-informed and up-to-date. This is a strong advantage you have over those without the training and credentialing.

Let’s look more closely at what the ARC course offers:
  • The ARC manual has just undergone a major revision. In addition to clarifying and expanding the existing topics, a number of new topics have been added which the generalist appraiser may frequently encounter. The addition of color photographs pair nicely with the text to give the student a more efficient understanding of the items being discussed. You will find that this manual will become one of the most useful references in your appraisal career.

  • Areas covered include French, English and American furniture with a stronger emphasis on American, going through all the major design periods and styles from 1600 to the present. You will see the parallels between furniture and all other decorative arts fields.

  • You will learn about ceramics: pottery and porcelain, glass and silver, dolls and toys, textiles, musical instruments, books, prints and much more.

  • This course is not intended to make you an expert in any of these fields but is instead geared towards giving you a comprehensive general knowledge that will assist you in performing valuations on future assignment. In that vein, two new topics were added to the course. The first is research methods. This is to assist both the new and more experienced appraisers to more quickly find information and comparables for the items they are researching. The second is connoisseurship for the generalist appraiser. How do the attributes of the item you are appraising compare to other similar items you might find. Is it better? Is it worse? What do the differences mean as far as value?

  • Another new topic that has been added: report writing. You will learn how to create clearer, more understandable reports while ensuring that they also meet all the requirements of the ISA Report Writing Standard and USPAP. The ARC class also includes a field trip to a local antiques shop, where you will see firsthand examples of some of the items we have discussed.

So why should you attend the ARC course?
  • If you are an ISA Member, it is – along with the Fine Arts course – one of the two paths to Accredited Member designation.

  • You will gain a familiarity with many of the types of property you will come in contact with while performing appraisals.

  • You will learn to describe many types of property properly in your reports.

  • You will improve your report writing skills.

  • You will come in contact with colleagues and create friendships, some of which may last a lifetime.
Want more information regarding how to register for the ARC Course in Toronto, June 6 – June 12? Learn more and sign up here. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Benefits of Cloud-based Collection Management and Appraisal Software

By Collector Systems, ISA Affinity Business Partner

It is 2016, and technology is a key tool in how we all conduct and streamline our businesses. However, that doesn’t mean that you are actually taking advantage of the best technology that is available to you. Why not use technology to help you work smarter rather than harder? We believe that there is great potential for making cloud-based collection management and appraiser software truly work for appraisers.

In the software industry, many companies get so caught up in the constant release of new features and the use of jargon that they fail to successfully communicate to their client base – the very people who their products are designed for – what it actually is that they are doing and why. It is our responsibility, as software developers in the appraiser and collection management sphere, to communicate openly with our clients, to listen and respond to feedback, as well as to provide a first-class service.

When it comes to using technology to make our lives easier, there are two approaches: the immediate fix and the long-term solution. You can use it like a fly swatter and take care of each problem as it pops up, or you can use it to overhaul your current process and sidestep those annoying little problems altogether.

Most appraisers store information in a series of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, and however many papers can fill a manila folder. When it comes to writing USPAP reports, the particulars of each case must be transferred into a pre-made template from these various sources, and the data has to be manually copied and pasted each and every time. This process is inefficient, repetitive, and subject to human error… not to mention frustration.

Take a step back, and reset the perspective.

One way to use technology to make an appraiser’s life easier is to maintain all appraisals within a single repository, ensuring that the breadth of information is organized and readily available. Of course, it helps to work in a system that is intuitively designed to suit the specific needs of an appraiser. Your appraiser software should be focused on enabling you to best manage your data and run your business to its true potential, complete with features that are useful rather than extraneous.

This is where a cloud-based collection management and appraiser system can offer a solution. Instead of segregating out the data and investing your hard work in separate resources, why not combine those resources and create the foundations of your USPAP report? Enter the object information, images, values, comparables, and all other documentation into a single program. Manage and edit all of the information as you work through your appraisal. By keeping all of your data in a single repository, you will be building your USPAP report as you go.

The ultimate aim of a good cloud-based collection management and appraiser system is to help facilitate your work. A cloud-based collection management program is operating at its best when it allows you to perform at your best. You can benefit from the many advantages of working on a cloud-based platform, which allows you to access your information from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. Not only does this type of software offer an array of features to simplify, organize, and support your work, it also provide you with the opportunity to fundamentally restructure and improve workflow.

A good collection management and appraiser software program eliminates the need for the re-gathering and re-entering of information to create a USPAP report. Sit back while the software program extracts the relevant data and formats it all in a USPAP compliant report structured to your specifications – a truly customized document with personalized cover sheets, addenda, and everything in between, ready in less time than it takes to check “Create Appraisal Report” off your to-do list. The software pulls from the information you entered over the course of the appraisal and quickly performs a task you used to spend hours on.

We all understand how hard it is to reconfigure your work process in an effort to become more efficient.  However, in the long term, cloud-based collection management and appraiser software makes that transition far easier. Cloud-based collection management and appraiser software provides a platform that will help refine your business and optimize the work you put into appraising and – as we like to think of it – work smarter, not harder.

About Collector Systems: Collector Systems is the leading cloud-based software solution for appraisers, providing you with the tools you need to efficiently manage your appraisals. Upload all object information with an unlimited number of photographs and documents. Add comparables, condition reports, and more to create USPAP compliant reports for your clients. T: 212-431-0897

Friday, April 8, 2016

ASK AN INSTRUCTOR: Is my expert witness report of an appraisal USPAP compliant?

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon, or one of ISA's other instructors, will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

I'm being considered for an expert witness assignment. My expert report in this case would not be an appraisal. A small part of the project would be to confirm the data and approach contained in an existing appraisal report on the subject.

Since my report will not be an appraisal, I do not want to perform a formal USPAP appraisal review of the existing report. I would like to speak to the data contained in the report and the approach. I feel the approach was solid. I reviewed the data and found it credible.

Would I be violating USPAP by referencing the report without performing a formal USPAP compliant review? My intention would be to disclose that referencing the data contained in the report is not, and should not be considered to be a review.

Answer: If you are reviewing someone else’s appraisal report, it is an appraisal review and must conform to USPAP. This could include a review of partial parts of the report, the methodology, the principles, the “approach,” and/or the valuation itself. It doesn’t have to include the entire report and may not even cover the valuation section, but it is still an appraisal review. According to FAQ #294 (page 353), an appraisal review is:
The act or process of developing and communicating an opinion about the quality of another appraiser’s work that was performed as part of an appraisal or appraisal assignment. 
The keys to understanding whether this is an appraisal review rather than a consultation or something else is:
  • Was the work under review an appraisal? 
  • Was the work performed as an appraisal or appraisal review? 

If you were asked to review a market data summary or any document that did not include any opinion(s) of value, it would not be called an appraisal review. You could do that without conforming to USPAP 3, 7, or 8, but you would still be under certain portions of USPAP, i.e. Definitions, Preamble, Ethics, Competency, and Jurisdictional Exception rules.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Inside the New Modernism Design, Furniture, and Decorative Arts Course

By Valerie Hall, ISA CAPP

One concept that we learn from the beginning of our appraisal career is that nuances matter. In modern design, they are even critical. Discerning small differences is KEY to proper identification and assessment of items and, consequently, to valuation. Study of small details is a lifetime path for those interested in 20th c. Design and Decorative Arts. The upcoming Modernism: Design, Furniture, and Decorative Arts course will delve into details important in the study of 20th c. design from geographical differences, decade traits, and originality.

To demonstrate the concept of nuances, let us undertake a case study of an iconic piece of 20th c. furniture designthe Eames molded armchair.

History: The chair was designed in 1948 for the International Low-Cost Furniture Design Competition in stamped metal. To create a truly cost-effective design, the Eameses worked with Zenith Plastics who produced reinforced fiberglass for wartime aircraft radar domes. The armchair was hand produced and shown in the 1950 exhibition for the competition. After three years of close work with Zenith, mass production of the armchairs for Herman Miller commenced in 1953. This was the first one-piece plastic chair produced whose surface was left uncovered.

With a historical synopsis behind us, let us sort through some of the minor changes and differences for a chair in production from 1950-1989 and 2000-2016. Early differences center on production and design refinement. The Eameses, partly due to their training at Cranbrook, believed a design should evolve to produce the best product for the consumer. The chair was originally manufactured in three colors with actual rope embedded in the edge of the molded shell. Collectors refer to these early iterations with rope as the "rope edge." Eventually, the chair was produced in a variety of bases, but the standard aluminum base was originally attached to the shell in an "X" configuration. The aluminum base later became an "H" base for increased stability. Due to cost, the rope edge was abandoned. Seafoam green, yellow, and red colors were added to the original three-color lineup of griege, elephant-hide gray, and parchment.

For ecological reasons related to fiberglass production and end of useful life product disposal, Ray agreed with Herman Miller to cease production of the chair in 1989. In 1993, Vitra also discontinued the chair in Europe. Collectors seek the earlier versions of the chair with striated fiberglass pieces called "jakestraw." Herman Miller and Vitra resumed production in 2000 with a more eco-conscious polypropylene formulation. In 2013, Herman Miller found a way to introduce the much-preferred striations.

And this is only one example. The lifetime path of the molded armchair illustrates how nuances can prove to be to critical in Design and Decorative Arts.

Interested in further exploring this concept? Please join me in Naperville, June 15-17, for three days chock-full of case studies just like this one. You should also keep an eye out for information regarding an upcoming free webinar that Meredith Meuwly and I are creating to whet your Modernism appetite.  Feel free to contact me at with any questions.  I hope to see you this summer!