Monday, October 25, 2010

The things ya learn...

I know that in our appraisal class last April in Paducah they said to be prepared for some unusual experiences...I think I may have a good teaching point for them next year.

A few days ago I got a call from a woman who does estate clear-outs. In the past I have looked at a few things for her customers but so far nothing has really warranted an appraisal (value less than $200.) She had a customer who had a "lot" of textiles and quilts and wanted a specialist to evaluate them. She told me two things that I later appreciated - consider charging by the hour and remember that the executor is the decision maker.

I will not go into specifics but picture this: a large two story house full of stuff, a sister and two brothers who barely speak to one another, and quilts and textiles in every corner of every-room. When I arrived I asked the sister/executor what she wanted appraised and why she wanted an appraisal. She wanted all of the textiles "looked at" to see if they were "worth anything" because her brother was convinced they were valuable and didn't trust the folks handling the estate sale. "So let me get this straight," I asked, "you want me to go through the entire house, find textiles and provide a valuation on each of them?" "Yes," she said, "and if you could fold them and put them into one of the bedrooms that would help us when we make out decisions this afternoon on what each of us is going to keep."

This was not an appraisal situation this was more like a textile version of the TV show "Picker." Just then the two brothers arrived. I knew I was in trouble when the first one through the door asked, "don't women pay lots of money just to look at quilts? So why would we have to pay you?"

My proposal to them was that I would charge a flat hourly fee to locate the quilts and quilt related items. I would tag the items and put a suggested sell price on the items. If I found an item worth more than $200. then I would put them in a separate area and we could discuss them before I left. The sister/executor agreed...the brothers grumbled and rolled their eyes a bit.

It only took the brothers a minute to realize that if I had to do the digging then it would take longer and be more expensive...that lit a fire under them! I ended up standing in one room while these guys ran around the house dragging anything made of fabric or related to sewing back to me. Total insanity!
All I can say is they got their money's worth...In three hours I must have valued almost two-hundred items....If I saw one wedding ring quilt I saw 10 (I began to wonder if maybe they were bringing the same quilts back to me as a test?! And with every quilt Brother #1 would say "I think this is from the Civil War.") At the end of the day there was one small singer child's sewing machine still in the box, two Featherweight's in good condition, a pineapple applique quilt circa 1850, and a large box of early printed feedsack in perfect condition in the "valuable" stack.

My brain feels like mush, my legs are exhausted, and I am covered in dust. So what did I learn (this blog is supposed to be both adventures and learning after all....)

1. Be confident about putting a value on what you know. I'm fine with helping out a friend or fellow quilter if they have a question on buying a quilt at a show or if they want help dating a quilt they inherited. However when people call with the express purpose of hiring me to do an appraisal and then try to get my knowledge for free...that isn't cool.

I briefly considered walking away from the whole thing. What kept me? There is that curiosity factor. Maybe there would be something interesting. Also, it was 0630 in the morning (did I leave that out of the story...they wanted to start at sunrise! I gave up sunrises when I got out of the army.) I already lost a good morning sleep to be at this house so darn it I wanted to get something out of it!

2. Taking the time to be very specific with the client up front on what they expect and what I can provide is crucial. Do not assume that everyone understands what an appraiser does. These folks saw the clear-out crew and an appraiser in the same light! In the end they walked away happy - there were some items "worth" money and the brother got a "civil war era" quilt (even if it wasn't the red, white and blue polyester one that he really loved....)

ps...they did give me permission to use this story as a teaching point however they did not allow me to take photos. The photo at the top of this post is a quilt in my own collection and the sewing machine is a similar one to the one in the story.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Six month countdown....

After a couple of suggestions from other bloggers I am going to try and keep this blog going again. It also came to my attention that the AQS test is just 6 months away (yikes!) and that I could use this blog to help keep me organized.(Wool and cotton log cabin on point, Penn. circa 1880)

Back in July I got the letter telling me I was "accepted for testing in 2011." I have to admit that written application had kept me at bay for several years. I love quilts and love to write so the first draft of my application was around 15 pages...I don't think that is what they were looking for! After taking the class at Paducha last year I was able to focus my answers a bit still ended up around 10 pages but better...
(Blue and white strippy quilt circa 1920)

Overall I think I do pretty well on antique and vintage quilts. I've spent a lot of time in antique malls the past few years and my valuation is generally within 10-20%. (I have been collecting quilts since 1990 so I better have a handle on this!)

So for the next month or so I want to focus on reproduction and art quilts. Reproduction would be how much it would cost to have a similar quilt made to replace the one being valued. This method is only used on quilts made in the past 10 or even 20 years. A good example of this would be a quilt I am appraising now for a quilter because she is mailing the quilt to a show on the West Coast. It is her own design and uses multiple techniques so it would be impossible to purchase a replacement.Art Quilts are a real challenge for me. I have been reading several books on modern quilts and attended several lectures to develop the vocabulary. Also I have been on many websites to get a feel for valuations. This is the area I think I still need the most work. But I have six months...lots of time, right?!

Now, just for fun, a photo of a redwork quilttop I picked up years ago in Pennsylvania. The workmanship on the embroidery is wonderful - even more so when you realize she was stitching on this very loose sugar-sack fabric.