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The Appraiser-Dealer Relationship

Posted Oct 30, 2013
Written by Abigail Athanasopoulos
Category General

In order to arrive at a credible value conclusion, appraisers must collect data across multiple levels of trade, regardless of the intended use of the report. This would include collecting data at auction for insurance-related appraisals and collecting data at retail for IRS-related matters (such as estate tax and charitable contribution appraisals), even though one or the other might not typically be the most relevant level of trade. The professional appraiser’s job is to carefully analyze and reconcile this data, arriving at a well-supported conclusion of value (which is then reported in the written appraisal document). Since auction sales are public, it is fairly straightforward for an appraiser to collect data at this level of trade, keeping in mind that no single source should be relied upon for the reporting of all auction sales and that it can be important to be aware of other factors concerning the sale. Collecting data in the retail level of trade, in which private offerings and/or sales transactions are commonplace, is a bit trickier.

One of the problems is that many dealers are reluctant to work with appraisers, operating under the misconception that they are doing the appraiser’s job by providing any sort of price information, whether it be for artworks that they are currently advertising as available, or in the specific context of the artwork being appraised. This is not so, as there are many additional considerations and steps that an appraiser must take in order to conclude value and, if you’ve hired a qualified and experienced appraiser, he/she will never rely entirely on a “number” quoted by a dealer (or any other single piece of market data, for that matter). Before contacting a knowledgeable dealer, the appraiser will have already conducted extensive research, and would hope to exchange opinions about the art and artist. Contacting a dealer with expertise in a particular field is a necessary part of an appraiser’s due-diligence. It is also important for dealers to realize that forming a working partnership with appraisers can be mutually beneficial; while dealers can provide crucial information that help appraisers to provide a superior work product with credible value conclusions, appraisers can help to support an artist’s market and there is also the potential to connect dealers with collectors who wish to sell their properties later-on. Getting the property to the best market source serves the client, the dealer and the artist/artist’s estate. It is a winning situation. A dealer colleague of mine (with whom I recently consulted regarding an important painting by Frank Stella) put it well when he said: “we all work together toward the advancement of knowledge and respect for the Art.”