Finding a qualified person to perform an appraisal can be difficult, especially if you don’t live in a large metropolitan area. Many telephone directories do not even show the service category “art appraisers.” Because of this many individuals turn to personal property appraisers who probably do not possess the expertise to appraise art objects, and especially museum quality art objects.
     The purpose and the anticipated value of the art object are the most important factors in finding and choosing an appraiser. If the appraisal is for insurance purposes and the value of the collection is not great, then there are many options for the collectors. If the appraisal is for donation or probate purposes and the value of the collection is significant, there are fewer options.
     For the insurance purpose with a collection of medium value (under $100,000), the simplest solution is to ask your insurance agent whether they have a recommended appraiser. Also galleries, especially galleries that handle artists in your collection, may appraise the art or at least know someone who does. And if you are a good customer of the gallery, they may even appraise the work gratis.
     For more significant works that are being probated or being considered for donation, the task is more difficult. Most gallery appraisers do not possess the qualifications outlined by the Internal Revenue Service for artwork over $5000. If the donation is of museum caliber, museums that include that artist in their collection may have a recommendation of an appraiser associated with the museum. Although the IRS will not accept an appraisal from the museum to whom the art is being donated.
     A second possibility is to contact one of the major auction houses. Many of them have appraisers on staff who may be qualified to offer an appraisal.
     A third possibility is to contact universities with graduate art history departments. Many of these professors also do appraisals and possibly could authenticate the work if the collector does not have proof or provenance of the art.
     As a word of caution. Art dealers also give appraisals. Most are honest, but some dishonest ones will “lowball” an appraisal to attempt to secure the work at a low price. Secondly, since an appraiser assumes liability with their appraisals, one should question any appraiser who would offer to do an appraisal without visually inspecting the work. This includes online appraisal services.

-- By being organized, you can save a great deal on your appraisal. Set up an art file that keeps all of your receipts and information on each of the pieces. The more information you can supply the appraiser, the less time it will take to complete the appraisal. This also includes old appraisals from other appraisers. --