2010 Bookseller Resource Guide
First Person Singular
Sandie Tropper

A Tiffany diamond is most often not sold in a pawn shop. A Tiffany diamond is most often sold at Tiffany’s. If you have and I’m going to give you a painting example but it certainly would apply to books or a map. A map is even better because I do occasionally appraise maps. If you have a brown map for example, and maybe it’s blue—I don’t know—but if you have a map like that and you look at the prices, you can go to a shop on Madison Avenue and you can find that map for twenty-five thousand dollars and then you can go to one of the small book dealers who has a few maps and you might find it for two thousand dollars. But if you look and see where the market is that is most—the market where things are—where that map is selling most often, you will probably find that it is the auction market, that there is a small number of book auctioneers as well as places like Doyle and Swann and those organizations, and some of them have map auctions. That is probably where that map is trading most frequently. So the fair market values are going to be based on the prices that are fetched in that marker; not the one where you found it at the corner because your neighbor didn’t know what they had. Yes, it sold for fifteen dollars but so did the Declaration of Independence. That doesn’t make its value, its fair market value fifteen dollars. It is where the property most commonly sells. It is where it’s an open market with willing buyers and willing sellers, neither under any compulsion to buy or sell and both with a knowledge of what is going on. That knowledge thing becomes key when you start talking about the Declaration of Independence on the corner.

Those are interesting examples, but for most things, how difficult is it to show that the value is increased rapidly?

Tropper: It is not; if you are an appraiser working within an area of property, and by the way, one thing that the law says is you need to be able to prove that you know this area that you are appraising a property in but if you are, if it’s a book that is worth a couple of thousand dollars, where that book sells most commonly. That part of what your assignment is when you take on a fair market appraisal and if you don’t know, you have to find out. I mean believe me, there are so many artists in this world who I do not know. You know sometimes their most common market is a small gallery in Carmel, California. I have never heard of this person and sometimes the market is going to be Sotheby’s Auction and sometimes it’s going to be a second tier or even a local kind of auction house. One of the parts of the assignment is to figure out what is the most common market sale of this particular type of property and then find out about the property, look at it in relation, relation to the other ones that have sold with books especially and I’ve read the book catalogs. I know condition is the thing and you have to be able to also know how to make that kind of evaluation. That’s not a valuation; that is an evaluation. You have to be able to evaluate the property you have in front of you in relation to the properties and the prices they fetched and make an assessment of how to make an adjustment if one is necessary. That is the difference between the price and a value.

The IRS also makes its own determination of the value of property. How effective are they at that?

Tropper: They have a couple of ways of doing it. They have an in house staff and I have to tell you that I do have a prejudice here and the reason is because currently three of the staffers are ASA trained appraisers. One of them is on my Board of Directors, I mean my Personal Property Committee and two of them are still members, active members. I feel that they do a pretty good job at what they do. There are guide lines that were recently issued to IRS Staff of how they were to approach the appraisal problems that they were given and they very, very much follow very interestingly the USPAP, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice about how to go about what one needs to do to go about appraising a property in general terms; the kinds of things that qualify the appraisal as a due diligent appraisal in the end.

I think they do a pretty good job. They do have an art panel and when they call up the art panel it is not just art; it is any property that goes into this particular office, any kind of collections of items. It is not just art by any means. They bring in experts. They do not bring in any appraisers. They bring in primarily dealers and curators and people that fall into that category to review very, very high end items. I don’t know how qualified they are to do this kind of work. They don’t have an evaluation theory. I can’t answer that but I think that the in house staff people at IRS have been trained in valuation theory and have a pretty good handle on property. I think that when laws change the way this one did, it takes a little time for them to kind of get—I hate to use the phrase up to speed but you know, to be completely aware of how to apply all of the new criteria but I think that they do a pretty good job. I’m not critical of the in house staff at all. Again though, as I said to you I do have a prejudice to start off with.

Some appraisers I think are more conservative than others. Is there an art to choosing an appraiser or is it really more science?

Tropper: I don’t think an appraiser is conservative or not. I think we all tend to be a little more concerned and a little bit more open minded if we’re dealing for example with a replacement value for insurance coverage. We want to make sure that our client can go out and replace that if in fact something happens and so if we’re looking at a couple of different things I think we can towards the higher. The definition of replacement value is the highest price a property could sell for so that the client can go and replace it quickly. When you are dealing with fair market value I think across the board we all tend to be a little more conservative because we are dealing with a very different kind of intended use. We’re dealing with something where somebody is going to be able to take off on their taxes a certain amount of money and we want to be very clear that we’re not being—don’t have that same kind of open mindedness towards looking to the highest value because it is not the highest value. It is—and in that way I think you’re probably right. It’s a little more conservative but I don’t think that it’s—some appraisers approach it one way and some another if they’re following uniform standards, if they’re in line with one of the organizations. My suspicion is that is not the case. I think when you are choosing an appraiser you want to find out more about what their knowledge is, what their expertise is in a particular area, what their background in valuation theory is, what their education is, if they are affiliated with an organization, what their fees are. The fees vary drastically.

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