by Anne Copeland

Why should you have a fiber arts piece, antique quilt, quilt collections, wearables, or art dolls appraised? You may never have a loss of one of your pieces, but when you do, without an appraisal, an insurance company will generally require an after-the-fact appraisal, which means that unless you can somehow substantiate the value of your quilt (i.e. sales record, name and fame, bill of sale, etc.), you will receive only the cost of materials. Your certified appraiser will retain a copy of your appraisal(s) as your backup in event that your appraisal is lost or destroyed. Appraisals generally need to be updated when there are major changes that might affect the value. Your appraiser will give you a reasonable timeframe based on your needs. If your fiberarts piece changes hands, the appraisal will need to be changed to reflect the new owner and the new owner will receive the appraisal. Written appraisals are confidential between the appraiser and the client.

Why do you need a certified appraiser? The appraiser doing the work should have appraisal credentials and should have been tested by an organization whose purpose is to accredit and to educate personal property appraisers. Members of such organizations are trained to understand and to employ the highest standards and ethics of the profession. AQS certified appraisers and other certified appraisers adhere to USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice). USPAP was developed by the Appraisal Standards Board of The Appraisal Foundation, which was authorized by Congress as the source of appraisal standards and qualifications. With a certified appraiser, if there is any conflict or concern over the appraisal that is not settled directly with the appraiser, you can contact the certifying organization to assist with conflict resolution. Certified appraisers are required to be recertified every 3 - 5 years depending on the certifying organization, and they also must keep up with their professional education on an ongoing basis.

Even if you are using a certified appraiser, make sure you check to get references on the appraiser. Every appraiser has a specialty, and some have more than one, but you want to use someone who can provide good references from other clients or from other appraisers.
If your work or collection has been appraised for insurance purposes by a non-certified appraiser, and there is a loss, the value may be questioned and you may have to have the piece(s) reappraised by a certified appraiser. Even though it might seem very nice to get those high dollar values on what you have, they absolutely need to be backed up with solid and documentable research.

You also need to check your homeowner's policy carefully and make sure you have in writing the coverage for any of your creations or your collection of quilts. All of your pieces should be photographed in the context of your home, and this is true of your entire household goods. Whether you have regular photos, or digital images on a CD, etc., they should be kept at a location separate from your home, such as a safe deposit box at a bank. Some homeowners' policies do not cover the quilt when it is in shows or otherwise traveling, so you need to be sure you thoroughly understand this issue. You can handle this by contacting a company that insures fiber arts pieces such as the agency listed below. Also, if you are shipping your quilt to a show, some carriers will not reimburse you if you do not have a written appraisal PRIOR to a loss. It is always better to be on the safe side.

Something you should also consider when getting your appraisals is having your studio insured if you have one outside your home. Even if your studio is inside your home, you should take a thorough inventory and photos of everything to make sure you are properly covered in case of a loss. You have a lot of money tied up in fabric and embellishments, things that are not perhaps easy to remember for their values in an after-the-fact appraisal.


Types of Appraisals

  • Insurance - This type of appraisal is for replacement value of like and kind. As a fiber artist, it would take into account your name and fame, sales record, awards, publications, teaching, etc.
  • Fair Market - This is what you would pay in the open market for fiber arts pieces with similar overall quality, condition, workmanship, name and fame, etc.. It is the value that is set by a seller and accepted by a buyer. A fair market appraisal is an educated opinion and no guarantee that the article will sell. Fair Market appraisals cannot be used to directly advertise your quilt (that is, it cannot be published in any media, but you can certainly let a potential buyer know that the article has been appraised by a certified appraiser). Fair market appraisals are not transferable to the buyer. It can be a value to have a fair market appraisal if you are going to sell the article below the fair market value, and to assure the potential buyer that the value is as represented in the sale.
  • Donation - This type of appraisal is for a donation to an organization, or to a cause. Donation appraisals must be done within 60 days of the donation.
  • Estate Settlement - This type of appraisal is used to help settle the distribution of material goods for an estate or divorce situation. Estate settlement appraisals must also be done within 60 days of the settlement.


What to Expect from an "After the Fact" Appraisal

If you have a loss and you have not had your fiber art pieces appraised, if you have a good sales record, it is possible that it can be used to establish value for your pieces, but an appraiser still may need to get involved. If your art is damaged but not totally destroyed or lost, an appraiser can be called in to establish the value even after the fact. If your pieces have recently been exhibited or published, that will also help establish the fact that the pieces were in good condition at the time the damage occurred.

Different insurance companies may have different means to determine what they will pay in the event of a loss. It is possible that if you live in a large, expensive home with a full studio and you have your studio insured, that might help with establishing that you are a professional and that your quilts would have decent values even if you don't sell your quilts. There are certainly many master quilters who never sell their quilts, not because they can't but because they don't want to sell.

The best overall thing you can do outside an appraisal is to be sure that you have carefully inventoried and photographed all of your fiber art and that you are keeping those records somewhere other than inside your home.

If you do suffer a major loss, you can contact an appraiser to work with your insurance company to help establish the values and write a report according to the insurance company's requirements.