Do You Know What You Own?

Many homeowners find their spaces filled with family heirlooms they know little about.   Without previous appraisals, it’s not always easy to know what you have.  If you have the connoisseurship skills to identify what you have and know what the characteristics of value are, you’re 2/3 knowledgeable. If you want to sell, give away, or insure your heirlooms, the final 1/3 of the project is a market analysis of previously documented sales of similar items.

How good are your connoisseurship and appraisal skills?

Here are 3 Examples to Test You




Which of these lamps is worth more? What would you pay for them?


Object A: Tiffany Table Lamp with Acorn Shade. Sold at Auction: $12,000.00.

Object B: Handel Dogwood Table Lamp. Sold at Auction: $2,600.00.

Both Tiffany & Handel are respected brand names in the decorative arts world. Each lamp is from the 20th Century and is in good condition overall. Nonetheless, the Tiffany lamp had a previous auction record to indicate strong public interest.




Which of these chairs is worth more? What would you pay for them?


Object A: 20th Century Chair, Antique Reproduction. Sold at Auction: $100.00.

Object B: 18th Century Armchair. Sold at Auction: $5,000.00.

Reproductions sell for far less than originals. This original, Object B, is an important chair described in “American Furniture” as:

An Armchair, possibly made in Boston, may represent another potential prototype for Portsmouth Gaines chairs. This beautifully conceived and executed chair, with a tight, highly detailed crest, appears to be at first glance to be a Gaines chair. On sustained examination, its turnings and carving differ substantially. The toes are applied, and the arms do not have the exaggerated volutes seen in Gaines chairs. Furthermore the carving of the crest does not seem to relate to leafage executed by John Gaines III or by his possible carving subcontractor, Joseph Davis of Portsmouth. (Trent, Gronning and Anderson,”American Furniture” (edited by Luke Beckerdite)).




Which of these plate sets is worth more? What would you pay for them?


Set A: Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Service Plates. Sold at Auction: $1,200.00.

Set B: Portmeirion Rimmed Salad Plates. Sold at Auction: $39.99.

To the untrained eye, these floral plate sets may look similar. However, Set A features the coveted Flora Danica pattern, while Set B is a more common Portmeirion design.

Many of our clients discover that they are unaware of what objects in their home truly have value in the current marketplace. Normally, it is only after there is an accident or loss that homeowners realize that they are not fully covered by their insurance.

To understand the value of your home collection:

  • Schedule a verbal consultation, in which an appraiser explains everything you would want to know about the collection. We guide you through creating your own inventory. Yes, theoretically, you could do it yourself, but will you really?  And do you know what you have?  A professional’s aid can make short work of the task, while answering any questions you have about what to do with your personal property.
  • For families with higher value items, or for those who would like more help cataloging their items, the Magnussons will create an appraisal of some or all the home contents.

An inventory is catalog.
An appraisal is a catalog that formally evaluates personal property for a specific purpose, like insurance coverage.

Creating an inventory or appraisal will establish what you own now. This can act as a guide for purchasing an appropriate policy and, in the event of a claim, providing evidence of your belongings and their condition at the time you bought the policy.  Store a copy of your inventory or appraisal to store in your safety deposit box or an online cloud server.  Having this documentation will facilitate prompt and fair recovery in the event of damage or loss by eliminating disputes with your insurer.

All Auction Data from

Co-Authors: Lynn Magnusson, ASA, AAA and Becky Lipnick, Communications Coordinator

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