Appraisal Story: When Your Life Drives Away

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

I had a client years ago, let’s call her Molly. Molly received a great job offer in Texas. Taking a deep breath and a chance, she packed up all her belongings, put them in a hired moving van, and watched her life’s possessions disappear into the distance.

The truck was never seen again.

Almost overnight, Molly lost everything. Her favorite artwork, the expensive handbag she bought herself when she got this job, her spare reading glasses: everything gone. Vanished. Taken from her. Yes, she had moving insurance, but how do you quantify a lifetime worth of memories?

The moving company would reimburse her according to the weight of her truckload.  Pennies.  So, she hired an attorney to help her recover the true value of her loss.  He knew an expert valuer would be required.  He referred me to conduct a hypothetical appraisal.  I had never seen the items, so after meeting Molly, I spent hours talking to her about herself and her items in order to determine all the characteristics of value. Where did she shop? Bonwit’s or Kohl’s? Did she have a twin sized bed or a queen? Did she have paintings or prints?  Did she own a real Hermes bag or a knock-off?  As mundane as these questions may seem, they painted a picture of Molly’s life.

 I eventually determined what items were inside the truck when it left her house.  She testified to the existence of the items and their characteristics, including age and condition.  I assigned the appropriate replacement values and off to court she and her attorney went.

Her life turned inside out, I asked Molly what she missed the most.

record“My music,” Molly said despairingly, “I can’t believe it’s all gone…”

Molly had collected physical music, in the form of LPs, cassettes, and CDs. There were boxes and boxes of music in that van, along with turntables, amps and speakers. We shared similar musical tastes: old school R&B, blues, Motown, Muscle Shoals.   Although a CD collection may not seem like a significant loss, those tangible items gave her a sense of history and home. What happened to Molly could have just as easily have happened to me. What would I miss most if all of my possessions were taken away? What would you miss?

After completing my appraisal, I downloaded everything I owned and gave Molly my physical music collection.

We never know when the items we love will be taken from us, whether it be through theft, damage, age, fire, mudslide, tornado or some other unfortunate act.

If you would like an inventory of your precious and prized collections, contact me, Lynn Magnusson, ASA AAA.

Call (973) 425-1550 today. 

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Jack Daly, Administrator

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