How did the idea of What’s It Worth come about?
I have been a professional fine art appraiser for over ten years. With this, I noticed a consistent “gap” in the market with clients who had inherited a vase, stumbled across a painting, or had been sitting on an antique lamp who had no idea where to go to explore the value. Most of these clients do not need formal art appraisals (AKA appraisals for insurance purposes, estate planning, etc.). They simply need some expertise to identify the object and subsequently have it professionally appraised so that they can then decide on the next steps. I founded What’s It Worth to fill that gap in the market so that these clients don’t have to pay unnecessary premiums for appraisals in the exploratory phase.
How did you gather your team of experts for What’s It Worth?
When founding the company, I ensured that our clients would be serviced by top industry experts. I am very proud of our team of specialists here at What’s It Worth. When I founded the firm, I had fortunately amassed solid relationships with some of the top art and antique experts in the field. In the appraisal of rare objects, having an intimate knowledge of a particular area of specialty (Asian art, rare books, etc) is one of, if not the most important skill one can have. You can’t properly identify Tiffany lamps if you don’t have years of experience training your eyes, learning the details of authentication, and being familiar with the historical context in which they were created. Beware of a specialist who claims to be an expert in all genres! It is impossible. I gathered our experts through years of building relationships with the best specialists in the field.
What would you say are the best qualities that an art appraiser can have?
A high-quality art appraiser is almost always:
- Ethical – our number one job is to present an unbiased opinion on what an item may be worth.
- An ever-evolving connoisseur – you can never learn too much about being an expert on objects.
- Professional – most top appraisers are accredited by either the AAA, ASA or ISA.
- Very in-tune to the markets in which they are involved (fine arts, antiques, etc.).
- A good detective.
- Detail oriented.
- Educated or exceptionally experienced in their fields – although not a requirement, many have advanced degrees in Art History or History.
How do clients receive the news if your team discovers their art is worth (a) a lot! or (b) not very much?
Truthfully, clients are almost always appreciative of the news on what their art is worth, no matter what the news. Because the art and antique appraisal process can be so opaque, clients are usually happy that they have simply gotten answers to their questions so that they can decide what to do next with their objects.
What is the strangest “artwork” or collectible you’ve been asked to appraise?
We have appraised some really unique objects indeed, however, the strangest was no doubt vintage preserved dog hearts in an agricultural collection down south. You can’t beat that!
Have you had the chance to appraise a “long-lost” masterpiece that a client discovered?
Yes! There have been several really good finds in my art appraisal career. One discovery, in particular, was a lost painting by the American artist Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth was a Realist painter from Pennsylvania who was well known for painting scenes of everyday American life. In addition, he painted striking images of American Indians. One painting was listed in the artist’s catalogue raisonne (a compendium of all known works by an artist) and was marked as “location unknown.” We discovered the lost painting in an American private collection in perfect condition!