Appraisal Story: The Painting Behind the Piano

This story is based on a true appraisal experience by Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA.  Names & specifics have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

I’ve learned an important fact in my years as an appraiser: Expect the Unexpected!

A few years ago, I found myself in the home of a new client. She had booked a consultation for help managing her personal property.  After speaking with her on the phone, and based upon her descriptions, I determined that her collection was modest and suggested that she NOT book the appointment; I didn’t want her to pay me to disappoint her.  She insisted, saying that her attorney and financial planner had both recommended The Magnusson Group to review her home contents in preparation for a future move that would require either insurance, distribution to family members, gifting, or sale of her objects.

When I entered the home, she guided me through every room, including the garage, attic, basement and closets.  I identified the furnishings, decorations, and collections. In addition, I gave her some thoughts about values and marketplaces for her objects.   Her contents were lovely, but had only modest value.  When we entered the last room of the house, I saw something tucked behind the piano. When I asked my client if it was something I should examine, she responded: “Oh, I forgot about that. There’s a painting I keep behind there because I don’t like it. You can look at it if you want.”

My gut told me the painting was something special, so I called one of my specialist friends who presents on the Antiques Roadshow and texted him a photograph of the painting. Within seconds, he confirmed my suspicion that this oil was of significant value.  He also informed me that the perfect auction at the appropriate distributor was going to take place the following month; the deadline for submission was that evening.

Ironically, it was the painting that my client didn’t like and had forgotten about that turned out to be the most valuable.  I informed my client of this serendipitous circumstance and voilà!  She ended up with a six-figure payout for the painting hidden behind the piano.

You never know what sleepers are hidden within your home.

Book a Verbal Consultation to find the Hidden Treasures you own! Call 973-425-1550

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Kollin Handler, Communications Director

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Showing 9 comments
  • denise lipsius


  • Sharon Desfor

    Awesome story, Lynn! I love serendipitous little finds like that.

  • LayDeeTee

    **sigh** Too bad I have no one to leave ME an old ugly painting I don’t like.

  • Stephanie McGarity

    Thank you!

  • Lisa Ruffe

    The great part of your story is “she didn’t like it” . Ugly sells high. Thank you for sharing.

  • Magnusson

    Yes, the “ugly” pieces are sometimes the most profitable. Thank you!

  • Magnusson

    You’re welcome, Stephanie!

  • Magnusson

    Ha ha, wouldn’t that be nice? Although, sometimes secondhand buyers can just get lucky: How To Turn A $3 Garage Sale Find Into $2 Million

  • Magnusson

    Thanks, Sharon! Me too. Here’s what happens when you have to appraise a particularly rare find: Appraisal Story: Evaluating a ‘One in a Million’

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