While this question begs several others and requires an elaborate answer in order to cover the subject thoroughly, there are certain basic signs to look for when qualifying an appraisal as “proper.”
First and foremost, you would never want to get an appraisal that values the cost of the appraisal on the “appraised value”.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a generic appraisal that serves all possible functions. It is common for a consumer to tell the appraiser, “I just want to know how much this is worth,” or, “It’s just for my own knowledge.” The professional appraiser will insist upon knowing specifically how the appraisal will be used. Does the client wish to insure the item? Is it being offered for sale? Are family members squabbling over an estate item? Is it being considered for purchase? Are there other possible uses for the appraisal?
The appraisal must state specifically what kind of value is reported (i.e., retail replacement value, fair market value, some form of liquidation value), and an assigned use (i.e., to secure insurance, to determine estate tax liability, to inform the seller as to selling price expectations). This helps to ensure that the appraisal is not misused, and that any third party that might rely on it knows why it was prepared.
Photographs are essential, particularly in an insurance situation where the appraisal report may very well serve as the sole evidence to be employed in the settlement of a loss claim.
Posted in: Appraisals and Gemology