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How valuable are your antiques?

If you and your spouse are a high-asset couple headed for a California divorce, your property settlement agreement may become one of your biggest bones of contention. At the very least, you will need to determine the value of your various marital assets before you can establish the value of each spouse’s 50 percent ownership interest as required by California’s community property laws.

Should you own many antiques, however, establishing their value can become quite tricky. Per the Huffington Post, just because something is old does not necessarily mean it is worth a lot of money. In fact, you may discover that many things you thought were antiques are not. The collecting world makes the following three distinctions among old objects:

  1. A true antique is an object manufactured at least 100 years ago.
  2. A vintage object is one manufactured between 75 and 100 years ago.
  3. A retro object is one manufactured during the 1950s or 1960s.

Value considerations

Many factors other than age also go into determining the value of any given object you own. Some of the most common include the following:

  • The condition of the object, i.e., whether or not and to what extent it shows damage or wear
  • Whether or not the object can be attributed to a specific artist, artisan or manufacturer by means of a signature, insignia, logo, etc.
  • The rarity of your object in comparison to others of the same approximate age or classification
  • The current market demand for, and therefore value of, your object, especially in California and surrounding states

Unfortunately, notwithstanding TV programs like PBS’s enormously popular Antiques Roadshow, many antiques and other authentically old objects have little or no real value when it comes to selling them. Nor does your sentimental attachment to your antiques have any bearing on their actual value. Bottom line, the value of any of your antiques depends on what a willing buyer will pay you for them.

Professional appraisals

Given all of the above, your best strategy in determining the value of your antiques for property settlement purposes is to hire a professional appraiser to take a careful look at them. Appraisers certified by the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America and the International Society of Appraisers generally provide the most reliable appraisals.

Bear in mind, however, that no appraiser, however well trained and experienced, is an expert in all classifications of objects. For instance, while a vintage jewelry expert can properly evaluate your great-grandmother’s diamond ring, (s)he cannot reliably appraise your Louis XVI sideboard or your Andy Warhol original. Consequently, you likely will require the services of several appraisers.

This is educational information only and does not represent legal advice.



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