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Managing Expectations

It is an unfortunate fact that part of the job of an appraiser is to sometimes deliver disappointing news. Most often, this comes when you tell your client that their items just aren't worth what they thought. This could because their value opinion is anchored in the past, either because they remember what they paid for the item, or just where similar items were trading years ago. Or they may have failed to honestly consider the condition their item is in and are finding out that collectors often insist on the highest quality and will not pay top dollar for items that have too many cracks, chips, or other damage. In a worst-case scenario, the item might actually be a fake. Whatever the reason, no one wants to hear that their belongings are worth only a fraction of what they hoped.

I have come to realize that it can be quite important to offer some cautionary statements before I start my work to determine the value of a given item or set of items. There are so many factors that contribute to an item's value. It is important to understand that any of them can have a dramatic impact. Condition, rarity, provenance, style, color, material, etc can all be important and must be considered when making comparisons. For example, some less common colors in the Fiestaware line of household pottery are far more sought after than others. Two items of the same form, age, and condition can be worth significantly different amounts based solely on the color. In antique and collectible first edition books, it's all about quality - a tattered copy is worth far less than a pristine copy. Books are an excellent example, too, of how completeness can be just as important as other factors as the presence of the dust jacket with the book can make it worth up to 10 times what a book lacking the dust jacket would be worth.

A good appraiser takes care to review these factors with their clients, seeking to manage expectations and help ensure their value determinations are received with equanimity. Values do not always come in below what the owner imagines, of course. Often they come in higher or sometimes the owner simply has no idea at all what it might be worth. Still, it can be helpful to prepare the owner for all possibilities before the results are delivered.

If you have need for an appraisal, whether for insurance, donation, or any other purpose, give me a call and I promise to deliver professional results.


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