An appraisal is an impersonal research and opinion document that is independent of the pre-conceptions or desires of any individual party or entity.

Totally disinterested valuation experts offer appraisals accurately reflecting the market. Auction house personnel and book dealers have extensive experience with prices and are good judges of values. However, it is difficult for them to dissociate themselves from their need to support values within a market on which they depend for their income.

The profession of personal property appraising has grown and developed to reflect the strict testing and licensing required of real property (real estate) appraisers. Personal property appraisers are now tested and certified by a professional society that offers educational and examination programs as well as a procedure for handling ethics complaints. Personal property appraisers are educated in the theory, history and the law of arts valuation. Certified personal property appraisers provide valuations for private collections, institutions and public entities.

Selecting a tested and certified professional appraiser insures that the values are reliable. The opinion of certified appraisers can be relied upon to demonstrate the pursuit of due diligence in establishing the authenticity, clear title and especially the value of a property.

Although there are no national or state licensing laws applicable to personal property appraisers, there are national standards. These are embodied in The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice of Appraisal Foundation chartered by the U.S. Congress. Thorough knowledge of USPAP, as it is known in the profession, is required for certification by the American Society of Appraisers (ASA).

Appraisers are seldom held accountable for their inadequacies or mistakes because few clients are able to discern whether the appraiser has performed well. One way to learn the reliability of an appraisal report is to test it by placing the appraised property for sale, or submitting the report to the IRS.

The three major professional appraisal societies (ASA, AAA, ISA) and the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) offer a grievance procedure through which a consumer may file a complaint with the assurance that it will be fully investigated and appropriate action taken if the appraiser is found to be in violation of the society’s rules. Appraisers who are not certified by one of these can be disciplined only through a lawsuit.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set some guidelines, but the published decision has not become widely known. In the October, 1993 decision, Murphy v. Commissioner the court stated that the subject appraiser, a Senior Member of the American Society of Appraisers, met all the requirements of the law, because Senior ASA status is the highest and best certification available.