& Personal Property Appraiser

"Value in Doubt? Find Out!"

Phone: (626) 292-2224

Personal Property Appraiser

Books: State title, author, publisher, publication date and location, illustrator, editor, bindings, hard or soft bound, cloth or leather? What color? Dust jacket? Condition? Anything written? Any notations? When/where purchased, What date? Cost? Which edition and printing? 

Stamps: Novotny will not appraise stamps. If stamps are in an assignment with other objects, and the objects cannot be inspected, Novotny can probably value the stamps with the assistance of a stamp expert if the following information is provided. What are the Scott Catalog numbers? Mint stamp or mint sheet? What is quantity of each? Identify any rare or important examples.

Demand Credibility and avoid appraiser incompetency.

Read an article published by Novotny that discusses in depth the USPAP competency and scope of work requirements that apply to general personal property appraisers who value many different types of antiques  and fine and decorative art and collectible objects as well as ordinary household goods. Competency and scope of work considerations particularly apply when the subject property cannot be inspected.

Expert Personal Property Appraisals When Objects Cannot Be Inspected

Online Appraisals

In some appraisal assignments an inspection is possible, but not necessary.

An on-site inspection is not always necessary for some types of properties. Some appraisal assignments can be conducted using digital photographs and careful communication between the appraiser and the client. Some types of personal property and antiques are appropriate for distance appraisals in this manner. However, only some appraisal problems or intended uses are appropriate for distance appraisal.

Mechanical Iron Banks

On February 13, 2012 Novotny inspected a collection of antique iron mechanical banks and vintage toys with an expert. The surface paint on banks is a critical value factor. A bank must have 90% or better of the painted surface, and be rare, to qualify for acceptance into the specialized auction collector's market. Otherwise the bank may need to compete on eBay or local general auction market to find a buyer, especially if there are other problems. A few percentage points (on a 1-100 scale), or the location of a paint chip, can make a significant difference to a collector. Missing traps, replaced parts, over-paint and stress cracks can profoundly impact value. Variant colors or alternate features can make a make a bank rare. Condition is critical factor. Various properties have rating scales that are specific to the property type and commonly used by market participants. Good quality digital photos from all relevant perspectives can reveal the information needed.

Similar types of value characteristics would also apply to other collectible object types such as antique toys and other types of objects such as firearms, instruments, dolls, etc. for which original surface and parts play an important role. 

To find out more about the types of antiques and personal property appraised visit PROPERTY TYPES 
To find out more about Novotny's Appraisal Services visit his HOME PAGE now.
To find you how Novotny acquired 30+ years of appraisal experience see ABOUT US
If you need a generalist antiques and personal property appraiser CONTACT NOVOTNY
If it is not required, and you do not need a formally written report  find out about an ORAL REPORT.

Copyright 2009-2017 - all rights reserved - William M. Novotny 

Specific Property Types Each Have Important Specific Characteristics

Collectibles: In the above mechanical banks example the important characteristics were stated. There are many types of collector categories such as dolls, military, music, sporting, ephemera, textiles, etc., and within each category are different objects: Barbie dolls, bisque dolls, firearms, swords, knives, rare records, music boxes, sports cards, comic books, autographs, posters, samplers, quilts and lace etc. 

Each collectible object type has unique quality and value characteristics that informed buyers seek.  Knowledgeable sellers consider and evaluate these same characteristics during negotiations with potential buyers. These characteristics are important to identify. When describing a property: 

identify the name of the property type, quantity, condition, age, cost and important characteristics 

Furniture: What is the typical name or the form it is called (type: e.g. table, chest, wing-back chair, tall case clock, etc)?  Is there a style that describes it, What is the age, What wood or material used? What finish or surface? In what country and what date was it created? Are there maker or manufacturer marks? What style? What special features (inlay, carvings etc.). Describe the parts. the condition and dimensions. Need Help?

Fine art: Describe medium (e.g. oil on canvas or type of print on paper), subject, artist, title, note exact signature, date, inscriptions, image size, labels or marks on the back of the work. Prints: type of print and edition size. Describe frames and overall size. Bronzes: height, artist, editions size, foundry marks, subject.

Clocks: type (mantle, wall, tall case, carriage, bracket, skeleton, etc.), maker, materials used, date created,  [figural clock, banjo clocks, iron clock,] dimensions, condition,  special characteristics (ormolu, movement, escapement type, dial features, winding holes, chimes, actions, apertures, decorations).

Silver: Type (e.g. flatware service, tea and coffee service), object name, marks (e.g. hallmarks, sterling, .925, .800, electroplate), decoration (e.g. monogram, repousse, chased, hammered), date, maker, country of origin, Troy oz. weight, condition.

Novotny will decline assignments that are inappropriate for distant or online appraisals. Novotny will also decline any assignment, and to appraise any property type, for which he lacks the necessary knowledge and experience.

  • Some high value antiques, fine or decorative art objects are not appropriate for appraisal without an on-site inspection such as objects
  • with quality characteristics that do not reveal well in a photograph, and 
  • that require the touch, feel and personal examination of appraisers 
  • that may require specialized tools or technical analysis

  • Some appraisal assignment types are not appropriate for distant or online appraisals such as
  • IRS tax appraisals (thought the IRS routinely uses photographs for valuation review)
  • litigation support appraisal assignments when the property is available for inspection
  • most insurance assignments to obtain coverage (Novotny did this once working with agent)
  • when the subject property has geographical competency requirements, or
  • when there are local jurisdictional laws or regulations that apply to the assignment.

A brief, no cost, email or telephone consultation with Novotny can determine whether or not a distant appraisal would be appropriate or to arrange for an onsite appraisal. During such a consult the costs and procedures can be discussed. Contact Novotny now by Email 

In some appraisal assignments personal property cannot be inspected. Novotny specializes in this type of appraisal assignment. In 2008 he published an article in the Journal of Advanced Appraisal Studies entitled "Equivalent Samples" which explores the significant issues regarding appraisals without an inspection. He explores the relevant theory, methods, assignment conditions and the USPAP requirements that apply when property is destroyed, stolen, lost or converted and cannot be inspected. 

In rare circumstances he will embrace a distant appraisal when property can be inspected but he chooses to conduct the appraisal without an inspection. When an inspection is necessary Novotny will not accept a distant or online appraisal assignment. For instance the vintage toy cars shown above would benefit from an inspection to determine if the paint and iron or steel body is original and to detect replacement parts and condition problems. The Icart print just below to the right should also be inspected to determine if it is authentic or a reproduction. Novotny performs:

  • on-site antique and personal property appraisals and appraisals without an inspection 
  • local or nationwide
  • for attorneys, private clients and insurance adjusters
  • for many different types of valuation problems and intended uses
  • offers oral or formally written reports as appropriate    

Novotny will inspect and value your personal property throughout Southern California. He will fly to any state for a personal property and antiques appraisal if requested and necessary. 

Distant appraisals, based only on photographs, require a minimum retainer in advance and payment in full prior providing a final report. Following the necessary opinion development Novotny will provide either a formal report, if appropriate and necessary, or an oral report (which provides a significant cost savings)!

Expert Witness Appraisals

Novotny is frequently retained to provide litigation support valuation services when objects are not available for inspection. He provided his expert testimony at trial once in 2013. In 2012 he was deposed twice and in 2011 once. Most cases involved the total loss or damage of personal property or antiques in California. His first trial was in 1996. For more information visit the Expert Witness section of this website. In some of these appraisal assignments there were multiple plaintiffs, with each suffering a complete loss of their antiques, personal property and residential contents.

Extent of Description Needed for an Appraisal without an Inspection

The appraiser seeks to identify the property name or type, quantity, age, condition and significant property attributes such as color, size, material etc.. This is not always possible since such characteristics may be unknown when property cannot be inspected.  A simple written description (what another person has called it) is sometimes the only basis for a property identification. The appraiser must, however, be able to sufficiently identify the object (its common name(s)), it's quantity and some indication of it's quality (perhaps it's cost new).The appraiser may need to employ assumptions that are consistent with the information that is provided. If no special characteristics are claimed, the appraiser may assume that the property is of a common type that is typically found in the marketplace. For instance:

"A collection of 38 Barbie dolls purchased  between 1988 and 1994 stored in their unopened boxes and including four Bob Mackies MIB." 

The Bob Mackies were not named but a value range or central measure of fair market value can still be developed. For instance using the search term "Bob Mackies MIB" over time we find that in:

  • 8/29/14 there were 109 search results: highest sale was $201 (lowest $10) with a strong mode indicated in $20-$60 range
  • 5/27/14 there were 283 search results: highest sale was $180 with a strong mode indicated in $25-$50 range
  • 11/9/13 there were 285 search results; range $261-$13 with a strong mode in the $30-$60 range
  • 5/11/13 there were 232 search results; highest sale was $265 and a very strong mode existed from $20-$60.00 
  • 12/8/12 there were 518 results, range $295-$20 on the first 9 pages 
  • 7/18/12 there were 122 search results, range $225-$25

This type of analyses produces fairly consistent results suggesting validity and reliability. The highest sale over the course of the six searches ranged from $180-$295. A review of available eBay sales on Priceminer.com since 2007 produced 765 search results. Only 13 were over over $300 and the highest was $499 on a search conducted on 8/29/14. 


  • On eBay determine a relevant and appropriate search term then 
  • go to the left side under "show only"  and mark the box for "completed listings" or "sold", then 
  • on the upper right the upper right of the page go to the drop down list under "Sort" and choose "Price: highest first" or "Sold". 

The search results will then be ordered by the most desirable (rarest?) to the least (most common?) for all actual sales. I normally analyze only completed sales with multiple bids. The ratio of completed sales in the search results (amounts reported in green) to objects that failed to sell or received no bids (reported in red), informs us of the strength of demand, but only when you select "completed sales" under "show only" on the left side. 
See Equivalent Samples, Novotny's 2008 published journal article, to explore other methodologies, assignment conditions and applicable standards relevant to valuing properties that cannot be inspected.

Important General Property Descriptive Information in General​

Clients are generally advised, to the best of their knowledge, to identify the term that will best identify what the property is typically called (e.g. the term most commonly used by market participants when buying and selling comparable properties). 

State the maker; estimate of the quantity and the material from which it was created. Describe important quality characteristics and condition. Provide your opinion of the date or period in which the object was created, state the date and cost of acquisition, the country or culture of origin, any special decorative or quality features, design characteristics and unusual materials  and techniques of construction.

The description should include the size (weight if relevant) and any marks such as the manufacturer, maker, author, notations, signatures, inscriptions and model/serial numbers, labels, brand names, logos,  pattern names, title, or edition size and dates.

A good object description should also provide an opinion of when the object was created: 18th century, early 19th century, circa 1920, mid 20th century, late 20th century, nearly new, contemporary, etc., but only if it is true or there is a reasonable basis for an assumption of age. 

Gather and provide copies of purchase receipts, canceled checks, prior appraisal reports, inventories or family photographs that show all or part of lost objects.

Provenance, celebrity ownership, signatures, labels, citations in related literature and history of exhibition should be noted. 

 Condition factors are very important. Describe any restorations, alterations, additions, part replacements, missing parts or damage(breaks, fading, surface losses, cracks, chips, dents, rubbings, scratches, abrasions or discoloration. Note factors such as obsolescence, mileage or hours of use. 

Some properties have standard rating scales that profoundly impacts value. For instance:

Expert Personal Property Appraisals Without an Inspection

Call Novotny now: (626) 292-2224

(sorry, but no free appraisals)

Geographic competency: Novotny is generally experienced with the Southern California competing market levels and will identify when a regional market must be analyzed in order to develop a credible value opinion for a specific property or assignment. Appraisers have an obligation to be competent regarding geographic location differences that could effect value, and to disclose such issues if it could preclude the appraiser from completing the report credibly.  

If you seek an on-site inspection as part of your appraisal needs, please visit the home page for general information regarding the types of appraisal assignments and service area of Novotny, and to find out about the many types of property that he has valued.