Whether you are a traditional quilter, an art quilter, or either an antique or contemporary quilt collector, you must know for what purpose you need the appraisal. Are you entering your quilt in a show or contest? Are you an art quilter selling a piece to a corporation? Are you a quilt collector donating a single quilt or a collection of quilts to a museum and want to take a tax deduction? Do you want to give family treasures to your children? What should you do? Whom should you contact to do your appraisal and why? How can you be an informed consumer in the appraisal process? This article will attempt to answer these questions.

Appraising Your Quilts, Part I

Originally published in the IQA Journal, International Quilt Association, Houston, Texas, Summer 1997



In recent years, numerous articles have appeared in quilt magazines about appraising your quilts. Many of you have read these articles and have had a variety of experiences with appraisers and their organizations. Whether you are a traditional quilter, an art quilter, or either an antique or contemporary quilt collector, you must know for what purpose you need the appraisal. Are you entering your quilt in a show or contest? Are you an art quilter selling a piece to a corporation? Are you a quilt collector donating a single quilt or a collection of quilts to a museum and want to take a tax deduction? Do you want to give family treasures to your children? What should you do? Whom should you contact to do your appraisal and why? How can you be an informed consumer in the appraisal process? This article will attempt to answer these questions.

What is an appraisal?

In the discussions I have had with people in the quilt world, apparently many do not have a clear understanding of "what is an appraisal?". Victor Wiener, Executive Director of the American Appraisers Association, wrote in Antiques and The Arts Weekly, December 9, 1994:

Although one can find many different definitions when consulting the dictionary, most professional appraisers will agree that an appraisal is a statement of value that is arrived at through a thorough analysis of the market in which an object is normally sold. Most appraisers will also agree that an appraisal is a written document and as such will assume legal significance and may ultimately be called upon to be defended in a court of law.

The appraisal is a valuation in which a diverse number of factors are considered by the appraiser and analyzed in written form. These factors include the purpose of the appraisal, the market in which the object (quilt) is being valued, the market in which the object (quilt) was purchased, the market in which you may want to sell the object (quilt), the type of valuation applied and the valuation approach used by the appraiser.

An appraisal of a quilt is no different from the appraisal of any other object. The same standards and techniques apply. Within each organization, the standards and techniques of the appraisal process should be the same.

What are the most common types of appraisals?

What kind of appraisal are you seeking? Do you know the difference? Are you aware that most appraisals do not state resale value? You must ask for a resale appraisal if you want to know the resale value of your quilt.

Among the many purposes requiring appraisals for quilts and other objects are insurance, charitable donation for which a tax deduction can be claimed, estate tax, gift tax, equitable distribution in divorce, or liquidation.

Each of these purposes may require a different type of value such as replacement value, fair market value, marketable cash value, or liquidation value. Legal requirements vary about what each type of appraisal should contain. Every object in the world has a large array of different values for different purposes.

The three most common types of appraisals for personal property and household contents are:

1. Insurance/Replacement Value: According to Terry King, Chairman of the International Personal Property Committee of the American Society of Appraisers, "[a]n insurance appraisal should actually describe what the appraiser found in the marketplace that would satisfy the loss of your [quilt], for example. It does not reflect what you could get for that particular [quilt], but rather what you would pay to acquire another one. In other words, what would it take to pry an equally satisfying [quilt] from someone else’s hands and put it into your hands? This amount might be considerably more than you could have received for your [quilt] on the auction block."

2. Fair Market Value: This is, according to both Wiener and King, a "legal construct." King explains that fair market value "is used in the courts to settle disputes and is an ideal, or perfect-world, value. It assures that you and the government can get a fair shake."

It is the fair market value that, according to Karen Carolan, chief of art advisory services at the Internal Revenue Service and chair of the ARS Art Advisory Panel, "is the one and only value that we use for evaluating charitable gifts and for determining estate/gift taxes." The IRS looks at the value in the specific marketplace where the item is most commonly sold, at retail. The tax code states: "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 any compulsion to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts."

Wiener deciphers this with numbers: An appraiser would look at all the "comparables" that have sold (ideally) recently. If that [quilt] sold at auction for $100,000 (hammer price), you would have actually paid $110,000 including a 10% (for argument’s sake) buyer’s premium. Hence, in order to acquire the [quilt], you would have had to part with $110,000.

3. Equitable Distribution Value: This dollar evaluation is the type of appraisal that you would need if you were looking to divide up assets -- perhaps during the dissolution of a marriage. Wiener continues to interpret what the numbers used in the above example mean in this context: "The number used here depends on the actual cash--the net amount--you would put in your pocket if you sold that [quilt], assuming that you had the time to advertise and sell it in the best of all possible markets." If you were the seller of the [quilt] that had a hammer price of $100,000, your proceeds might be, at best, $90,000, which would reflect the deduction of a 10% (again, for argument’s sake) seller’s commission; however, there might be more reductions for insurance, shipping, photography, or advertising. It is that final number that would be closest to the figure used for this category. (article by Ruth Katz, Colonial Homes, April 1996, p. 29)

How do you find an appraiser?

Appraising is a complicated field practiced by trained professionals. In "How to Find an Appraiser" (Antiques & The Arts Weekly, January 13, 1995), Wiener writes: "...finding an appraiser may be problematic. Unlike real estate appraisers, personal-property appraisers are not required to be licensed or certified by any state or federal governmental agency. At the moment personal property appraisers belong to what is euphemistically known as a ‘self-regulated profession.’"

With so few guidelines, where does one turn? Just as in finding other professionals, recommendations from friends and from those who use the professional services of appraisers on a regular basis, such as lawyers, accountants, trust officers and museum officials, are most important.

Today, many appraisers are choosing to belong to professional, not-for-profit appraisal societies that provide them with educational opportunities to expand their expertise and to learn about the many changes that are taking place within their profession.

Membership requirements vary greatly, as do the number of personal property appraisers in each organization. One should check with the societies themselves about what professional skills the appraiser has to demonstrate before being accepted as a member.

When evaluating the requirements of the professional organizations, one should verify that it is a tax-exempt non-profit entity. Although appraisers are not regulated, tax-exempt organizations are. They must guarantee to the government that, if they apply strict membership requirements to appraiser candidates, these requirements are applied equitably to all prospective members. In other words, favoritism, within a tax-exempt association, is against the law.

"For profit" organizations are not subject to the same governmental regulation. Consequently, when examining the credentials of an appraiser one may wish to employ, or when seeking a referral from an association, it is also prudent to check the credentials of the association as well, ascertaining such facts as the year in which the organization was chartered and its status as a tax exempt non-profit.

In this way, one can feel reassured that the credibility of the appraiser and the appraiser’s credentials have been scrutinized carefully before contracting with the appraiser to examine your personal possessions.

Several appraisal associations belong to an independent organization, the Appraisal Foundation, which receives federal funds and is empowered by Congress to establish standards for all aspects of the appraisal profession. The Foundation formed an Appraisal Standards Board "that develops, publishes, interprets and amends the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) on behalf of appraisers and federal regulatory authorities and others."

It is important to know whether the appraisal organization you are considering follows the USPAP Standards and belongs to the Appraisal Foundation. Three organizations are members of the Appraisal Foundation:

  • The American Society of Appraisers (ASA) in Washington, D.C.
  • The Appraisers Association of America (AAA) in New York City
  • International Society of Appraisers (ISA) in Seattle, Washington

What are the elements of a correctly prepared appraisal?

Hazel Carter, member of the ASA, suggests:

The appraisal itself should be a typewritten document. It should include the purpose (insurance, donation, etc.), present ownership of property, a complete description of property, the condition report, . . . appraised value, and the appropriate marketplace where the value given could be realized.

There are legal matters that will be addressed in a professional appraisal. Members of the ASA (ISA and AAA) must take an ethics test and abide by the Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice as promulgated by the Appraisal Foundation. That will be noted in the appraisal. Additional pages will be for photographs, possibly a bibliography and definitions, and the appraiser’s credentials.

The document must be dated. The signature of the appraiser is essential; some appraisers will affix a seal.

The professional appraiser’s fee schedule will be either a set amount or a charge by the hour. Never engage the services of an appraiser whose fee is determined by the appraised value. (This is illegal.)

An appraisal is a personal, legal document between you, the owner of the property being appraised, and your appraiser. It may be necessary to share your document with an insurance company, exhibit organizers, the Internal Revenue Service, or with a judge (in a court of law) (parentheses added). ("What is the Correct Price for a Quilt?" by Hazel Carter, Patchwork Quilts, October 1994, p. 21.)

What are the needs of the studio art quilter?

For the studio art quilter, the needs are somewhat different. A variety of options are available for a quiltmaker working today, none of which are perfect. "There are no simple answers (for the quiltmaker) unless your work has a marketable cash value," says Penny McMorris.

Marilyn Henrion, a well-known quilt artist, working and exhibiting primarily in galleries and museums, has never had a quilt appraised but her work has an extensive sales record.

In the art world, a prize at a quilt show means nothing. What matters is a sales and exhibition record. Values are determined by the marketplace. The appraiser for your art quilt must have a fairly extensive background in art and textile history to determine where the piece fits in the larger art world, past and present.

The good news is that the first pricing survey of art quilts is currently underway. Marilyn Henrion sent a questionnaire out to mid-career artists who are Professional Artist Members of the Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA). She will report her findings at the SAQA Meeting at Quilt National in May 1997, and the findings will appear in the SAQA newsletter. A five year survey of almost 1,000 quilts will provide a reality check on what is selling, sizes, and prices. This profile will hopefully lead to a broader survey that will also include quiltmakers at the top of the scale for prices achieved for their work. All of these results will be crucial to the appraisals of studio art quilts.

Henrion reports that it is clear that no one surveyed to date is making a living at selling quilts. This is not new news. Quilt artists are like other kinds of artists in this regard. They have to keep their "day jobs" for now.

Important Points to Remember

Appraisals are done to establish real value. If a person has paid too much for a quilt, a piece of real estate, a painting, a car, or anything else, and an appraiser is asked to evaluate the property, he/she is ethically bound to give its fair market value regardless of what the client paid for it and whether it is worth less or more than the purchase price. When a prize winning quilt is appraised, it must be ranked against all similar quilts whether or not they have won prizes. It has simply earned its maker or owner a money prize, and its value thereafter might very likely be considerably less. Fair market value is not what you paid for your quilt nor what prize it has. Fair market value is determined by how it compares to other quilts of similar types in places it is normally sold by willing sellers to willing buyers not under pressure to sell.

The appraiser must be aware of the market (public and private sale) on a daily basis. Therefore, often, dealers who are appraisers are good choices, because their livelihood depends on being able to assess accurately the current value of objects every day. Current values cannot be learned from price guides. The appraiser’s knowledge of the laws is gained through both serious study and practical experience.

Insurance appraisals of quilts "you have made" are particularly difficult if you have no sales or exhibition history. If you have made a quilt and you have no sales and exhibition history, the appraisal is handled in the same way as that of any other piece of art created by a living artist with no sales and exhibition history. You can only insure it for the cost of the materials used in its creation. For donation purposes, the same rules apply -- material costs only.

Never forget that an insurer will sell you all the insurance you want up to market value. If your quilt is damaged or lost, and you do not have a good visual documentation, as well as a well written complete appraisal, you lose. This protection is for you, the owner, not the insurance company.

When you need to have your quilts appraised

When you need to have your quilts appraised, use the guidelines presented in this article to discuss your appraisals.

For the antique quilt collector, in my opinion, one should look to knowledgeable dealers who have spent many years in the field -- people who have a broad group of resources upon which to draw at the highest level and who are committed to continuing high standards of professional development. I have participated in programs for AAA at New York University and also have participated in their annual meeting discussing quilts as art in volatile markets.

Hazel Carter, a well known figure in the quilt world, received her designation as an Accredited Senior Appraiser from the American Society of Appraisers, the nation’s oldest multi-disciplinary, testing, and accrediting appraisal society with headquarters in Herndon, Virginia. Carter was awarded her designation as a result of successfully passing the Society’s intensive written and oral examinations, submission of appraisal data, and other qualifying criteria demanded by the Society’s International Board of Examiners. The International Board of Examiners of ASA created the specialty of Textiles, within the Personal Property discipline. Carter is the second in the field of quilt appraisers to receive this accreditation.

Approximately 50 quilt appraisers have been certified through a program offered by the American Quilter’s Society (AQS) in Paducah, Kentucky. AQS has recently become interested in learning more about USPAP and the Appraisal Foundation. At the May 1996 AQS Appraisers Meeting in Paducah, Bernard Ewell, a member of ASA, presented the USPAP Standards, and discussions were held. In 1997, Sally Ambrose from the State of Washington spent 15 minutes presenting a discussion about AQS adopting USPAP Standards. It was agreed that, at the 1998 Meeting in Paducah, a panel will discuss USPAP and AQS. Ambrose is a certified personal property appraiser with ISA and is a candidate member for Senior Appraiser in personal property with ASA. She is also an AQS appraiser and a member of the Professional Association of Appraisers - Quilted Textiles (PAAQT), an organization established five years ago by a group of AQS appraisers. This separate professional organization offers continuing education, active networking, a newsletter, and annual and regional meetings. Pam Pampe of Florida is President of PAAQT.

Barbara Brackman and Terry Clothier Thompson conduct weekend programs in appraising antique quilts at their studio in Lawrence, Kansas, designed for people interested in any aspect of appraisals--from quilt lovers who are thinking about learning the business to professional appraisers who want to know more about the specifics of quilts. They do not certify appraisers; rather, they teach how to date, value, and price quilts. They give an introduction to the basics of the appraisal business while teaching you how to identify and date quilts.

About the Author

Shelly Zegart has her B.A. in Education from the University of Michigan and was a founding director in 1981 of The Kentucky Quilt Project, the first state documentation project. Her initial interest in collecting quilts expanded with the Kentucky state survey to a full-time involvement in the field. Zegart lectures on all aspects of quilt history and aesthetics. She has curated many exhibitions here and abroad, including an exhibition of Kentucky quilts in Australia.

Her background includes a study of art history and 15 years as a board member and chairperson of the oldest visual arts organization in Louisville, Kentucky.

She continues to act as an advisor to other groups conducting quilt surveys. In 1991-92, with fellow quilt project directors Jonathan Holstein and Eleanor Bingham Miller, she organized and produced "Louisville Celebrates the American Quilt," a group of events planned to illustrate and further the developments in the field over the past 20 years. In 1993 she co-founded The Alliance for American Quilts with Karey Bresenhan, Nancy O’Bryant, and Eunice Ray, for the purpose of developing The Center for The Quilt and, in cooperation with the Library of Congress American Folklife Center, The International Quilt Index.

Her most recent book, American Quilt Collections, Antique Quilt Masterpieces (published by Nihon Vogue in both Japanese and English in Spring of 1997), introduces 74 of the great public and private collections across the United States. The importance of each collection, its history and thoughts about its future are included in each two-page spread. Also featured is a stunning example of an antique quilt masterpiece from each collection.

American Quilt Collections is a thought-provoking, information-filled guide to the types of quilts and services that are available. It integrates new information about how, when and why some of the great public and private collections were formed and also explores curatorial concerns about displaying a quilt collection, giving access to scholars, and caring for these fragile textiles. It will "fill in the blanks" for collectors, quiltmakers, dealers, curators, scholars, and anyone interested in antique American quilts.

Zegart has built private and corporate quilt collections around the world. A member of the International Quilt Association and the Appraisers Association of America, Zegart appraises antique and contemporary art quilts.

Note: Article excerpts are reprinted with generous permission from publisher. All unauthorized use is illegal.

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