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Friday, July 8, 2016

ASK AN INSTRUCTOR: How do you respond to an inquiry that assumes that appraisers don’t charge for their work and that we can easily answer questions about their treasures without having to do any work?

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

The ISA website is a very good source of potential work, although many of the inquiries I receive still assume that appraisers don’t charge for their work and that we can easily answer questions about their treasures without having to do any work. This is a typical letter I received just a week ago about appraising a clock or, as the note said, they would “like to know how much it is worth.” Note my answer, which is probably a version of what you say as well. If not, I would suggest making a template to answer these types of inquiries in order to save time and to spare any possible embarrassment or inability to ask for a reasonable fee to compensate you for an answer you have already provided.

I found you on the ISA web page and wanted to ask you for some orientation. I have an LFS huge Grandfather Clock I would like to know how much it is worth. On its back it is marked 81 A together with the LFS logo. Do you think you could give me some hint on how to know its value?

(This is a version of almost every forward I get from the website.)

Answer: Thank you for your inquiry. I am more than happy to assist you in the valuation of your item, however as an ISA qualified appraiser I first need to determine the scope of work necessary to answer your question meaningfully. To give you an appropriate appraisal, I will need a little more information from you. First, can you tell me the intended use of the appraisal? Is it for insurance coverage, to decide whether to give to a family member, part of a divorce settlement, to sell, or just out of curiosity?

The reason this is important is because items may have different values or costs depending on the markets selected for your intended use. I would also need some good quality photos, measurements, and any provenance (history) you have. Once I have this information, I can begin to determine the appropriate value or cost of the item, as well an estimate of the fee to provide your appraisal. My reporting back to you can be in a formally written document, phone call, or email, so long as it adheres to ISA standards. On certain occasions, my reporting may require a full documented appraisal report, such as if there is a third party involved.

I would be extremely wary of someone calling themselves a professional appraiser if they don’t ask for the same information. We must conform to our own ISA standards and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). I would like the answer to your question to be accurate, clear, and worthy of trust.

Feel free to visit my website at XXXXXXXXX for contact information, as well as some examples of my previous work. I look forward to hearing back from you.

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