The fanfare, emotion and sports competition of the 2012 Olympics has passed. Many collectors have found a way to extend the excitement year round by collecting Olympic memorabilia.
You can start out inexpensively by collecting pins, coins, stamps and mascots from recent years. Some collectors progress to a higher, more expensive level including medals and torches. There’s something for every interest and budget. To narrow down the choices begin collecting by category, year, country or sport.
I have a modest Olympic collection of my own, and display many items in my office. It started off when I worked at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. I was stationed at the USC Olympic Village where I was able to trade pins with the athletes and collect small souvenirs. Over the years, I have added items from other olympics to my collection. However, I realized that the pins I collected directly from the athletes in Los Angeles mean the most to me because of their personal connection.
As an appraiser, one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve had was to appraise a silver award medal owned by an olympic athlete. It was an insurance appraisal and it gave me the opportunity to examine the sales comparison approach (what similar items have sold for) versus the cost to reproduce the medal.
If you still want a unique souvenir from the London Olympics, you can purchase something at the Official London 2012 Auction website. They are auctioning off everything from game used equipment, to ceremony props and torches to help defer the cost of putting on the games.
There are many situations when an appraisal of personal property is needed for estates. If someone calls and says “I need an estate appraisal”, a few additional questions should be answered so the proper service can be provided. Depending on the circumstances, they may need an appraisal of the entire residential contents or just a specific list of items. The intended use of the appraisal will guide us in the right direction:
ESTATE TAX: Required by the Internal Revenue Service and many states. If the total estate is over a certain value threshold (currently at $5 million), then everything needs to be appraised and valued as of the date of death (or alternate date). The IRS requires a room by room inventory of the complete residential contents. Items of low value under $100 Fair Market Value can be grouped together with similar items. Many states follow the Federal level, however several states have a much lower threshold requiring an appraisal.
EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION: To divide up items from the estate equally among the heirs. This may require an appraisal of the total contents or a specific list of items, depending on the needs of the estate and the heirs.
ESTABLISH A BASIS: Valuing assets or a collection at a specific point in time can provide a benchmark so that the basis can be stepped up to the current value as of the date of death. It can provide a comparison at a later time to illustrate growth or decline in value.
PROBATE: The probate court will require an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets.
TRUST INVENTORY: In California, the majority of estates are part of an established trust. An inventory and appraisal establishes the value of the property at the time it became subject to the trust.
ESTATE PLANNING: Planning for the future of an estate or collection is also important. An appraisal can provide a valuable tool so that owners can plan in advance for tax, distribution or donation. It can provide peace of mind for collectors to know how their treasured objects will be handled after they are gone.
In California, the appropriate level of value for each of these situations is Fair Market Value:
Fair Market Valueis set forth in IRS Treasury Regulation 20.2031-1 which states that, “The Fair Market Value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under compulsion to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.
The Fair Market Value of a particular item of property includible in a decedent’s gross estate is not to be determined by a forced sale price. Nor is the Fair Market Value of an item of property to be determined by the sale price of an item in a market other than that in which such an item is most commonly sold to the public, taking into account the location of the item wherever appropriate.”
As an appraiser I cannot give legal or tax advice, so a consultation with the appropriate professional is recommended.
Choosing an appraiser that is impartial (not interested in buying or selling the estate), credentialed, USPAP compliant and IRS qualified is very important. It’s also recommended to hire an appraiser who is knowledgable about regional values and state laws including the correct wording for the document.
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the American studio glass movement. To celebrate this occasion, over 165 museums, universities and arts organizations throughout the U.S. are presenting exhibitions or programs relating to contemporary glass. The movement began at the Toledo Museum of Art:
In 1962, the Studio Glass Movement was born in a garage on the Museum grounds. Harvey Littleton, a pottery instructor, received the support of then-director Otto Wittmann to conduct a workshop to explore ways artists might create works from molten glass in their own studios, rather than in factories. A prototype “studio” furnace was built in the TMA garage, but for the first three days of the workshop all attempts to fuse molten glass failed. Finally, Dominick Labino, then vice president and director of research at Johns Manville Fiber Glass, showed up with advice on furnace construction, and with glass marbles that melted. Harvey Leafgreen, a retired glassblower from Libbey Glass, was then able to demonstrate his craft. Later that summer, many participants returned for a second workshop.
As an appraiser specializing in art glass, I am always looking for opportunities to view art glass and gain education. Last Fall I attended the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) Show in Chicago. I enjoyed the opportunity to view contemporary art glass and meet many artists, including Lino Tagliapietra.
The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass (of which I am a member) has a calendar of events and celebrations for 2012 at http://contempglass.org/2012-celebration/events. While you’re at the website, check out “A Visual History of Glass” and “Featured Glass Art Videos”.
The Glass Art Society is having their annual conference from June 13-16, 2012 in Toledo, Ohio, the birthplace of studio glass.
The Corning Museum of Glass is having their annual seminar on glass October 18-20 titled “Celebrating 50 Years of American Studio Glass” in conjunction with exhibits featuring Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino, founders of the studio glass movement.
If you have a chance, I encourage you to attend some of the programs and special exhibits celebrating the studio glass movement this year. It is a rare opportunity to view such a large amount and wide variety of contemporary art glass.
When it comes to art and cultural property crime, we’re used to hearing about high profile thefts at museums. According to the Art Loss Register, over 50% of thefts occur from private collections. There are hundreds of thousands of reported art crimes each year, not to mention those unreported. This includes theft, fraud and looting as well as trafficking across state lines and international borders. The category of art crime is rather broad and can include fine art, antiquities, collectibles, musical instruments, antiques, pottery, glass, silver, books, documents, textiles and much more.
In the March issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, there is an excellent article discussing many of the issues relating to worldwide art crime: Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theftby Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kleberg. It discusses how art crime on local and international levels potentially funds organized crime and terrorist activities. It also discusses what law enforcement agencies around the world are doing to combat this problem.
The FBI has an Art Crime Teamwith 14 special agents. They conduct investigations and manage the National Stolen Art File, a search-able database of stolen art and cultural property objects. An FBI Agent spoke to an appraisers meeting I attended a few years ago, and stated that 80% of the signatures on celebrity and sports memorabilia were fake. Buyer beware!
Personal property appraisers need to be aware of these issues, and exercise due diligence on appraisal assignments. Owners may be unaware they have been given or purchased a suspicious object with an unclear title. Items with questionable provenance or title may have a lower value, and ownership rights are subject to challenges and claims.
Artfixdaily published an article this week titled “Feds Investigate Possible Forgeries of Modern Art“. It describes how modernist paintings from a supposed anonymous private collection were sold to prominent New York galleries, and are now being investigated by the FBI as possible forgeries. Some of the works being questioned include paintings by Pollack, Rothko, Motherwell and Diebenkorn. A more extensive article on the subject was in the New York Times titled “Possible Forging of Modern Art is Investigated”.
Fakes and forgeries have been fooling people for centuries. Here are some things to do prior to buying an expensive work of art. Many of these points can be applied to antiques, collectibles and other high-end purchases.
1) Consider contacting an art consultant or appraiser to evaluate the piece.
2) Check the provenance. Pieces with no history of ownership or from anonymous collections should raise a red flag.
3) Check the catalog raisonne’ to see if the piece is listed.
4) Contact a known expert on the artist or an authentication board.
5) Check art loss registers for clear title.
6) Have scientific testing done if necessary.
7) Buy from respected dealers who provide complete documentation and a money back guarantee.
Don’t forget, if it seems too good to be true…… it probably is.
The New York Times recently published an article titled “The Specialized Art of the Appraisal”. It stresses the importance of keeping tabs on your collection, knowing what you have and the values.
“Whether it is fine wines, vintage movie posters or abstract paintings, some people spend a great deal of time and money compiling collections of valuables. Even if they’re collecting out of personal passion, rather than as an investment, it makes sense to keep tabs on how much the collection is worth.”
An appraisal is an essential tool to accomplish this goal. The article goes on to explain the importance of selecting the correct appraiser for the job, checking the appraiser’s qualifications and additional helpful tips.
“Personal-property appraisers aren’t licensed, but reputable professionals are affiliated with at least one of the three major appraisal organizations: the Appraisers Association of America, which focuses on personal property; the American Society of Appraisers, which includes specialists in real estate and other areas; and the International Society of Appraisers. ”
Credentialed members of these three associations have been tested in their specialty area and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), abide by a Code of Ethics and have to requalify every five years.
You might be surprised to hear that there are no Federal or state licenses for personal property appraisers in the United States. When it comes to placing a value on your antiques, art and household contents, anybody can say they are a appraiser. If a personal property appraiser claims to be licensed, it is for some other aspect of their business, e.g. auctioneering, real property appraising, private investigation or even a city business license.
How are personal property appraisers credentialed and what standards do they follow?
The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) is a set of guidelines published by The Appraisal Standards Board at The Appraisal Foundation. It is the source of generally accepted standards and ethics for appraisers in the United States. Appraisers must take USPAP courses and keep current with the updates every 2 years. In addition, the Appraisers Qualifications Board has developed voluntary minimum qualifications for personal property appraisers.
The IRS has established the following requirements:
A Qualified Appraiser has earned a professional designation from a recognized professional appraiser organization for demonstrated competency in valuing the type of property being appraised, or has met certain minimum education and experience requirements.
The individual regularly prepares appraisals for which he or she is paid.
The individual demonstrates verifiable education and experience in valuing the type of property being appraised.
The individual has not been prohibited from practicing before the IRS under section 330(c) of title 31 of the United States Code at any time during the 3-year period ending on the date of the appraisal.
The individual is not an excluded individual.
What should you do to make sure you are getting a qualified and ethical appraiser?
Choose an appraiser from a major appraisal society and check to see if they are current. Certified and Accredited are the highest levels of designation.
Ask them about their experience, areas of designation and expertise.
The appraiser should provide a 3rd-party independent opinion of value, and not have a potential conflict of interest.
Choose an appraiser who is USPAP compliant and IRS qualified.
Perhaps personal property appraisers will be regulated and licensed at some future date. In the meantime, the user of appraisal services should carefully consider their selection.