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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Becoming an Appraiser (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Jillian Van Volkenburgh
I must preface, I am not an appraiser… yet. I just completed Module 16 of the Online ISA Core Course in Appraisal Studies. I am officially past the halfway point!

Are you thinking about becoming a personal property appraiser? That was me a few months ago – I’m relocating to the East Coast and wanted to begin a career I could take with me. I would like to share my recent entrĂ©e into this new chapter of my life with ISA.

Education is an Investment 

I am currently the Director of Education for a large art nonprofit in Northwest Indiana. I am often asked to speak to students about creative careers. The one thing that I stress is that education, regardless of your area of study, is an investment. To invest in your “future you,” you also must invest two incredibly valuable things: time and money. (I know I am not an appraiser yet, so this is not a formal valuation on time or money).

When I made my first steps into researching ISA, I called their headquarters in Chicago. I wanted to know two things: how long the course would be and how much it would cost.

As I mentioned, I work for a nonprofit, so cost was a determining factor for me. And as an adult with full-time adult responsibilities, making a new commitment can be harrowing. Luckily, I found that ISA’s courses and education materials are not unreasonably priced, and that the time I have to complete the coursework is absolutely manageable. But I was definitely nervous about that time commitment before I started!

Those That Appraise Together, Stay Together: Commitment 

Two of the best decisions my husband and I made jointly were getting gym memberships and joining ISA. You thought I was going to say getting married, right? As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, commitment, eh… scares me a little bit. Well, he convinced the girl who vowed never to marry, well, to marry. That was the very best decision that I reluctantly agreed to - now we are on this journey of life, love and appraising together! And I’m glad I have committed to ISA as well.

Joining ISA as a team has many advantages. My husband and I have different strengths and areas of interest. We can discuss the coursework and bounce ideas back and forth. We have ultimately become study buddies. (Yes, I just typed that and he will be mortified for calling him that.) We can challenge each other and celebrate our successes. It even has upped our texting game beyond “Want to get dinner after work?” or “Did you feed the cat?” to “I passed my assignment!”

One important thing to remember, even though I just spent two paragraphs explaining the benefits of joining ISA with my spouse… 

You May Be Unattached, But You Are Not Alone

Even if you haven’t joined ISA with your spouse, that does not mean that you will be alone in your journey toward becoming a professional personal property appraiser. One of the many amazing benefits of joining ISA is that they are setting you up for success. Failure is not their goal. Unlike a certain sadistic college professor that we all have had, they don’t want you to fail. ISA has a number of resources put in place to ensure that you succeed.

First of all, for the online course, you work directly with an instructor via email. The instructor is there not only to evaluate your assessments, but also to answer any questions. Also, you can work with an ISA Ambassador when you first join. Ambassadors are seasoned ISA appraiser that will offer guidance for the year following your completion of the Core Course. There is also a great toolkit - the ISA Means Business! Toolbox - on the ISA website with valuable resources on how to build your business.

As we all know, the Internet is also a social network. Take advantage of it. One site that I have found useful is LinkedIn. I already used LinkedIn for my professional position, but I have extended my network to include ISA appraisers throughout the country. I sent out short messages saying, “Hey, I just wanted to introduce myself. I am becoming an appraiser through the ISA and I wanted to connect with you.” This has opened up dialogue with a number of appraisers who have specialty areas outside of my purview, so they could potentially become great resources in the future.

I Am a Student Again at 40

They say a lady never tells her age, but I will be ethical and truthful in this blog post. I am a few months shy of my 40th birthday. When I was in undergrad, we did not have the option for online learning. I enjoyed academia and being in the classroom and I was not sure if online coursework was for me. I was wrong. I LOVE IT! With a full professional and social schedule, I can dictate when and where I learn. I might be in the comfort of my office or at my local coffee shop. It is fantastic option.

The online lectures are very straightforward and thorough. The instructor gives great examples to illustrate the discussed topics to make them relatable and easy to understand. As a side note, the online proctor is unintentionally funny. His dry humor comes through ever so slightly and unexpectedly.

Read the Chapters First!

The instructor states that at the beginning of each module, you should read the chapter first and then listen to the online lecture before taking the assessment. For the first module, I was like…. oh, I will just listen to the lecture and take the test. When I reached the point to take the assessment, it took me three attempts!

No matter how confident of a person you are, when you see "Failed" in red on your screen, you squirm a bit. Reading the chapters prior to the assessments is critical because the online lectures may not cover everything in the chapter. Always take your instructor’s advice!

A Highlighter is Your Friend 

One study tip I might suggest is making a review packet. Most chapters have a page of review at the end. I made copies of each review sheet and then compiled a quick study packet. Spoiler alert! There is no review for one of the longest chapters in the Core Course Manual, Chapter 12. So l recommend taking notes as you go along and highlight key points through the entirety of the manual.

Find Some “Me Time” 

I recently read a study on the brain and memory retention in Forbes about how multitasking can cause diminished long-term memory and decrease productivity. Even though society commands your attention in every direction with 24-hour ticker tapes on the screen and constant weather/coupon/news updates on your phones, we have to relearn to focus.

Make time to study, especially when you are doing distance learning or the online course. You should set aside time that works around your child/dog/work/Roomba chasing schedule. Give yourself quiet time to absorb the information. Listen, take notes and find a study pattern that works best for you.

Wish Me Luck!

This is is my first of hopefully many blog posts of my adventures in the world of personal property appraising for the ISA website. I will now minimize this screen and begin Module 17. Wish me luck! To be continued…

 - Jillian Van Volkenburgh

Jillian Van Volkenburgh is an aspiring ISA appraiser, currently enrolled in ISA's Core Course in Appraisal Studies. The ISA Core Course is the “original” complete appraisal methodology course for personal property appraising. Its thorough scope includes appraisal objectives, intended uses, market identification and analysis, research methods and skills, ethics and professional conduct, and a detailed presentation of report formats and checklists. Students enrolled in ISA’s Online Core Course program use the same text materials as the onsite course offerings coupled with a series of interactive learning exercises and open book quizzes that must be completed as the course progresses. Learn more about the Online Core Course, our Onsite Core Course, and about becoming an ISA member.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In Praise of ISA's Job Board

Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP
I knew that the ISA Job Board was a great idea, but didn’t realize I would be able to utilize it so quickly. Like many of you, I am the sole proprietor of an appraisal practice. I consider my practice successful, but yet, there are always moments of feast or famine throughout the year.

This year has been unusual for my business in that every large collection and important client I have ever appraised for has come back with another need. If I did insurance for them several years ago, they now need an estate appraisal, they're donating a work of art, or they need another insurance update. As appraisers, no matter how busy you become, you never want to say "no" to a great returning customer and risk losing them in the future.

When a past client and now a trustee called early this March with a need for an estate appraisal for his father’s very large Western art collection (over 300 works), I panicked. In addition to Assets, a planned surgery right after Assets, my youngest daughter’s destination wedding in Charleston, and several other appraisals in the works, I really didn’t have the time to take on this new assignment….but how could I say no?

I decided to try the ISA Job Board and see what kind of help I could get. After posting for temporary research help, I received applications from six candidates. Out of those six, I found three appraisers who were familiar with Western art and working towards ISA accreditation and therefore needed qualifying hours of experience. None of this help came from the Dallas area and all work was completed remotely online. I have a template I use for appraisal report work descriptions with sections for comparables which I sent to each appraiser. They researched 10 works at a time, completed the template and included appropriate comparables for me to review and determine the final fair market value for the report.

With the help I received through the Job Board, I was able to complete the appraisal project under deadline while relieving my workload and stress. I also got to assist three appraisers who needed work experience in the field. For the next large job that comes my way, I plan on using the Job Board again. It is great to finally have qualified help on a temporary contract basis and the process could not have gone more smoothly.

Don’t just take my word for it. Your colleagues have had similar great experiences:

Wendy Gerdau, ISA CAPP, of Treasures Estate Concierge Services, California:

"The ISA Job Board has been a fabulous tool for my company. The researchers that applied for part time jobs have turned into full time valued members of the Treasures Estate Concierge Services family. I am looking forward to hiring many more individuals from the ISA Job Board. There is nothing better than ISA members supporting each other, a win-win." 

Linda Matthews, ISA, of Matthews Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico:

"The job board provided me a great opportunity to be a part of a massive art appraisal project, learn a great deal from a CAPP appraiser, get paid for what I love to do AND add a 130 hours towards my AM pathway. A veteran ISA appraiser posted the job, I replied to the ad and was hired. It was that easy! It was a fast way to find work, make money and most importantly learn from others so I can become a better appraiser. It was my first experience getting appraisal work from the job board posting but it won’t be my last!"

Suzanne Houck, ISA CAPP, Houck Asset Verification, Virginia:

"I wish there had been a job board targeted to the appraisal industry when I began my appraisal practice years ago. I love having the opportunity to scan for job opportunities in slow times and to have confidence when looking for help during times of appraisal overload. Even if I’m not looking to post or pick up work, I have enjoyed reading the job posts because I can often connect good candidates who might not have seen the board yet with positions. When looking for help, just knowing my fellow ISA members are reading the board gives me added confidence that I am targeting appraisers well- trained in appraisal methodology and ethics. This job board might be my favorite member benefit!"

Richard J. Meliska, ISA AM, Essex Estate Services, Evanston, IL:

"The ISA job board is a snap to use and postings couldn't be easier to enter. This is my second time using the board and I am looking forward to posting positions as I need additional help. Not only does the ISA have a great pool of talent, but the networking opportunities to find great talent is wonderful." 

If you are temporarily overwhelmed with assignments you couldn’t say no to or are currently underwhelmed with assignments and want to pick up a few extra hours, check out ISA’s new Job Board. You can advertise for ISA qualified help or promote special services you can provide to other appraisers in need. One of the great features of this online benefit is the ability to sign up for alerts when a new position or request is posted.

This is a great new member benefit exclusively created for our ISA members. I urge you all to try the Job Board. It will help you all to accept more assignments and provide further opportunity to meet and work with other qualified ISA appraisers.

- Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Design Patent in a Nutshell

Valerie Hale, ISA CAPP
When working with 20th-century design items, it's important to know how design patents and trademarks work and to use the correct terminology when describing these items.

Designers hold a bundle of rights to their designs, including intellectual property rights and the right to sell. Typically, production licenses are sold to large manufacturers, though the designer will still be able to control who produces the item and at what cost. Designers also hold trademark rights to their designs, which typically are renewable every ten years for an indefinite period of time. Most collectors of original modern design honor the creative process and want to own a quality item in its true form - these items are known as the "antiques of tomorrow."

When researching or reading a description for a 20th-century design item, you may encounter various terms categorizing the item. This article seeks to provide a quick reference guide for the meaning of these terms. When comparing items you also need to ascertain that you are comparing correct "vintage" or design type.

Original Issue

A design item that was manufactured during the initial period of production in the first conceived state.

Later Issue

An original design by the original manufacturer or currently licensed manufacturer, with minor modifications.

Example: The Eames molded chair has undergone some alterations over the years: the removal of rope edge, the curve of the back has become more inclined, upholstery is now glued to plastic shell. Also, since people are generally larger than they were in the 1950s, the Eames Lounge Chair is now available in the “big & tall” version, which is two and a half inches taller overall with an added seat depth of 1.75 inches. It's important to capture these design details to determine whether you are appraising an original issue item or one manufactured after a certain date.


An item issued after the original production period, typically for a specific reason or period of time. There are a few different categories of reissues:
  • Special edition: A reissue by a specific authorized entity of a design when the original edition is not longer in production or when there has been a slight change to the design or manufacturing process, for example, in the color of materials used. Special editions are usually marked in a way that denotes the reissue, depending on the manufacturer. They are known in the market as a unique entity, and hold value as a reissue or special edition.

    : The Isamu Noguchi Cyclone Rocking Stool produced by Vitra Design Museum, ca. 2001. In the original conceived form, very few of these items were produced. The design was subsequently altered to make a small table with a circular vs. rocking base point.

  • Retired design: A design that was previously retired, but is now being produced and issued again.
  • Emerge from retirement: A return to an original trait of an original design, now a reissue, or to be more technically correct, a later issue.

    Example: The Eames molded chair stopped production due to hazardous materials (fiberglass straws) and disposal issues in the late 1980s. The chair has recently been reintroduced, due to improved manufacturing and material safety. In between, Modernica as well as others produced unauthorized replicas or knockoffs.


An item that apperas, especially at first glance, to be the original item. Retail cost is often substantially less due to cheaper materials, cutting corners in construction, and design variations. Due to differences in construction from the original, knock-offs typically do not violate design patents.


In the general world of furniture and decorative arts, a reproduction is an exact duplicate executed with the intent to deceive. Sometimes, the term is more loosely defined to fit the user’s purpose. Sometimes used interchangeably with "copy" or "replica."


The same concept as a reproduction minus the intent to deceive. However, retailers may use the terms "replica" and "reproduction" more loosely or interchangeably. A good replica is made with the same instructions, material, and care as the original. Also known as a "copy."

Style of

Denotes an item that is made or appears to be like the work of a specific maker or designer. It can also apply when the item produced is close to a stylistic period or region. In 20th-century design, some replicas will be denoted as “Style of Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair.”

Manner of

An item that appears similar to a specific designer or school of designers, that reminds the viewer of that designer or school.


An item that is made or manufactured in honor of a designer or design. For instance, Knoll issued an 18k gold plated Bertoia Diamond Chair (ca. 1952) to honor the designer’s 100th birthday in 2015. The chair was developed in conjunction with the 50th (golden) anniversary of the Platner Collection. Tribute pieces are generally only available for a limited time. See also: Special edition.

- Valerie Hale, ISA CAPP

Appraisers Qualification Board Update

Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP
ISA TAFAC Representative
Based on updated criteria established by the Appraisal Foundation's Appraisals Qualification Board (AQB) and to ensure that ISA remains the leader in personal property education, ISA will be updating its membership education and experience requirements effective January 1, 2018.

These new requirements were created in response to increased demand and standards for professional appraisers. With these updates, potential clients will be certain that the ISA appraiser they're working with is credible, trustworthy and up-to-date on all appraising standards.

Read on for more details on how the updated criteria will affect the requirements for different levels of ISA membership.


If you currently have ISA’s Accredited Member (AM) or Certified Appraiser of Personal Property (CAPP) designation, you are already in compliance with the 2018 AQB requirements. You will also be considered a “qualified appraiser” under the AQB criteria. You will need to continue taking the 7-hour USPAP update every two years, as well as documenting your continuing education hours during requalification.

ISA Member

If you currently have ISA’s Member designation you will need to continue taking the 7-hour USPAP update every two years, as well as documenting your continuing education hours during requalification. You are encouraged to continue along ISA’s education pathway to achieve your Accredited Member (AM) designation in order to be fully compliant with the 2018 criteria.

If you do not advance to the AM level, you will still be required to complete ISA’s Requalification requirements every five years. At the ISA Member level, you are not considered an AQB Qualified Appraiser until you fulfill the requirements for the ISA Accredited Member (AM) designation.

If you earn your ISA Member designation after January 1, 2018, then you will be required to abide by the updated criteria. In addition to meeting ISA’s existing membership requirements, the following new requirements will be in effect:
  1. You will have three years to advance to the ISA Accredited Member (AM) level. If you have not earned your AM designation after three years, you will revert back to the Candidate level of membership.
  2. In order to advance to the Accredited Member (AM) level, you will need to complete 30 semester hours from an accredited college, junior college, community college, or university.

ISA’s education and experience criteria have been developed to encompass and include all of the AQB requirements. The new criteria will make your designations more credible and trustworthy to potential clients and users of appraisals.

Read more about ISA membership level requirements

Read the full AQB Personal Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria

- Todd W. Sigety, ISA CAPP
ISA TAFAC Representative