What an Appraisal is Not, or Just How much is my book worth?

We receive a lot of calls asking for an appraisal of a book or books, but in most of these instances, a true appraisal is neither desired, nor financially justified. So we explain just what an appraisal is, and is not. If you already know, there's no need to read further. But if you're curious about what is involved in engaging the services of a qualified appraiser, read on.

Let's say you just want to find out just how much you should expect to be paid for a book, you probably do not need an actual appraisal.  Through a little online research, you will be able to gather some general information on your own, always keeping in mind that a particular item's current selling price does not provide accurate value. Many book prices derived from popular internet sites are just the price someone is asking for a book that is not yet sold; nobody has purchased it. These asking prices often wildly differ. After doing home-based research, you can gain a general sense of the prices for which this book is being offered, but this does not mean that your book is necessarily "worth" that much. 

But sometimes the book or collection, or Seventeenth-century manuscript could possibly be of significant value, and to complicate matters, a number of parties may hold interest in it (as in settlement of an estate), so an actual appraisal may need to be done. 

What is an Appraisal and do I really need one?

An actual appraisal is a detailed undertaking, usually justified when potentially higher value books are involved, or sometimes, when required by attorneys or an insurance company, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Some of these reasons for an appraisal are:  Insurance Scheduling, Compensation for Loss, Estate Settlement, Equitable Distribution of Assets amongst Heirs, Dissolution of Marriage or Partnership, or Charitable Contribution for Income Tax Purposes. (for this last reason, it's importantr to remember that appraisers appraise; they are not tax specialists; it's best to consult your accountant for specific answers to tax-related questions. But let's say you think you might need an appraisal.

A qualified appraiser is contacted, and you set an appointment for the appraiser to inspect your book(s). You and the appraiser discuss your needs and the two important dates: 1) the effective date of the appraisal, and 2) the date by which you need the final appraisal report in your hands. Then a contract is drawn up and sent to you.  This contract, also called a “Letter of Engagement”, lays out the “what, who, when and how much” of the proposed appraisal. If terms are mutually agreed upon, the contract is signed, and if mutually agreeable, the appraiser goes to work.

 Specifically, an appraisal usually breaks down into three parts.

1) Inspection. An Appraisal generally begins with an in-person inspection, a discussion with the property owner or agent, counting, measuring, recording notes and taking photographs. In some instances, a book collection or archive is located in another city or state; appraisers frequently travel out of town for appraisals.

2) Analysis: The appraiser then makes a decision as to approach to value. This approach lays out the direction for the appraisal and research begins. This includes a thorough description of the specific property, taking into account condition, consumer demand (or literary significance), past sales, current asking prices in multiple markets, trends, etc.  The analysis segment is often particularly challenging for the appraiser because they need to discover your evidence for the conclusion of value, organize it, and analyze it in accordance with the assignment conditions.

3) Writing the Appraisal Report. The above-gathered data is synthesized, and from this the appraiser lays out the argument, citing specific evidence, making and justifying adjustments up or down to suit the specific characteristics of value of the property. All of this leads, logically to the appraiser's final conclusion of value. Finally, fees are collected, and the appraisal is handed over to the client.


Who may perform an appraisal?

Previously, anyone with some familiarity with a certain types of property could appraise that property. This has changed, specifically regarding taxpayers who wish to make charitable contributions, for purposes of gaining income tax credit.

Stemming from past widespread abuse, Federal Regulations and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) significantly strengthened requirements, setting forth minimum standards for appraisals and the appraisers who are hired to perform them. There are now specific definitions for a "Qualified Appraiser" and a "Qualified Appraisal". The IRS now requires substantial experience with the specific type of property being appraised, and/or proof of formal training in appraising, and adherence to a widely accepted set of regulations known as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). USPAP lays out specific guidelines, procedural standards and ethical rules which govern appraisal practice.

Specific education in the appraisal craft and regular refresher courses are now required of appraisers, who are expected to keep abreast of changes in regulations and requirements. The IRS looks favorably upon appraisers who have undergone a program of appraisal education and after considerable testing, have been awarded a designation from a recognized professional association of appraisers such as the ASA (American Society of Appraisers) or the ISA (International Society of Appraisers).


How much will an appraisal cost?

Appraisals are typically not inexpensive undertakings, and at the outset, the appraiser should help you assess if an appraisal is appropriate.

How long will an appraisal take to complete.

The original contract (also known as The Letter of Engagement) will clearly spell out the estimated range of hours and that an appraisal will require to complete, followed by the range of fees. As to dates of completion, many appraisers are quite busy, especially in those months approaching the end of the tax year and the April tax return filing deadline. It is best to allow plenty of time (8 to 12 weeks minimum) for an appraiser to complete the appraisal report, since they may be working on several appraisals when you first contact them. 



For most appraisal assignments, fees are $2,100 a day - if pro-rated: $350 an hour for assignments

Flat fee for alexpert witness  $600 an hour
For assignments requiring immediate due date of 16 days or less:
$600 an hour
Travel Costs - Travel and Lodging - at cost
Non-profit organizations, please inquire for special rates

Effective January 1, 2022


Ezra Tishman Book Appraisals, LLC