Appraisal: Asian Art

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Communication can equal saved dollars

By: Cynthia Shaver | | 415.435.4764

Communication between collector and appraiser can equal saved dollars from the IRS when preparing a charitable contribution report. Most of my written appraisals are for charitable contribution, so this I know from experience. As an appraiser I need to establish value and quality characteristics of the property I am appraising. It is important to remember an appraiser’s responsibility is value, not as an art scholar or historian. Naturally art history and scholarship is discussed in the report, but the purpose of the appraisal is to establish a value. Often, I rely on the collector to point value and quality characteristics out to me. It is the appraiser’s professional responsibility to do due diligence and find the important quality and value characteristics, but what a lot of time is saved if the collector points those qualities out at the beginning. If I put a $50,000 value on an Indonesian textile- based from a comparable property sale- I need to be able to defend my position. Without the bibliography (often supplied by the collector), being alerted to what is unique, explained to why the property is important and museum worthy, I would have a difficult job doing my due diligence.

Of course condition is the number one important quality and value characteristic. Sometimes there is a significant extra added value feature too. For an charitable contribution appraisal I did for an Indonesian textile, the fact of hand spun thread was extra added value due to the fact many quality textiles were made with commercially spun thread, so this fact was added value- to the tune of $5000. For another batik textile from Java, a small monogram, among the many designs on the cloth, warranted the brother of a groom from the court, the permission to wear the cloth at an important ceremony as part of the wedding. This was $1500 extra value for this particular textile. I am not stating something unordinary or manipulative. An appraiser will do due diligence to perform your appraisal, but as a collector, you can help.

For the cloth batik from Java, the quality characteristics were condition, quality of the tulis batik, numbers of colors and design. This was true of the value characteristics also. When speaking of design in this case, I am speaking of the overall style. The design of the monogram is above and beyond the thematic design of court batik, the typical Indonesian wayang puppet figure style. But the presence of the monogram among other designs adds special value to an already important, valuable piece.

It makes common sense to talk to your appraiser performing the charitable contribution report. This will lead to a well-written report and understanding of the material by the appraiser, and it can also have the consequence of substantiating a higher value for your property than originally expected.

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