At Chicago Appraisers Association our motto "It's You We Value Most" is not just talk but a solemn vow. As hard as we try to make clients happy, we just aren't successful all the time. About 1 or 2% go away mad. They just don't seem to understand we don't put values on things, but interpret sales data to reflect what their item would sell for. We don't decide if something is authentic or not, but tell how modern scholarship would recognize and treat it.
Here are some letters we've received. May God bless each of their crazy little heads!
Dear Chicago Appraiser:
You intended in your letter that you believe our drawing could be a Rembrandt, and you stated that you need a check for $895.00 to perform the research. What are you trying to pull??? Everyone knows Rembrandt is a toothpaste!
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Your ads say no charge if an item is valueless. We asked you to authenticate and put a value on our shattered Tiffany glass vase the cleaning lady broke. You told us it is now valueless. We want our $595.00 back!
Sutton Bay, MI
You asked us to tell you what it was worth before it was broken so you could make an insurance claim. We did so and guaranteed the appraisal to be accepted by them. After working with your insurance adjuster, you did receive our full appraisal value. We believe we've fulfilled our research obligation.
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The marketing research you gave us on how to sell our items was worthless. You didn't even tell us where to sell the black rhino head. Just telling us to stick the bronze on e-Bay is not good enough. We knew that.
You came to our office with a van filled with art and antiques. We examined over 60 items in it. We did not charge you to give verbal values on these. You pulled out the two most valuable ones and asked us to research them. We're sorry but it is illegal to sell Black Rhino game mounts. They are endangered and not only illegal to sell, but you must have a permit just to own it! We offered to help you find a natural history museum to accept it as a donation. You wanted us to tell you how to sell the horns on the black market. We don't get involved in black market sales and don't have a clue what the horns are worth as an aphrodisiac. Your bronze turned out to be a fake. We recommended you put it on e-Bay as a fake and maybe some restaurant will buy it as a decoration. E-Bay is filled with such fakes. We regret we cannot give you a list of clients that buy forgeries. Our clients all want authentic items.
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You researched our old master painting and found it was by Matteo di Pacino of the late 14th century. We paid you $895.00 for your research and only received this information along with its value. How can you charge us $895.00 to come up with an artist nothing is known about?
We regret that we cannot guarantee there is a lot of biographical information about any artist. The fact we identified any artist from the 1300's, where records are almost non-existence is a miracle in itself. We cannot guarantee what we find, only its accuracy and appraisal value.
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We paid you $1,250 to research two Italian old master paintings. You said they would be of considerable value. They turned out to be only worth $15,500.00 each. This is not valuable. You also have given us no help in selling them. We want our money back!
We mentioned that we spend the summer in Italy researching such paintings. If you want we would be glad to give photos of the paintings to several galleries in Rome and Florence once they are professionally cleaned. We are still waiting word if they have been professionally cleaned. Italian dealers would not be able to see the quality of these two fine paintings through the dirt. There are prohibitions against exporting old master oils once they are brought into the country. Thus, it is foolish to show them anything to purchase without being cleaned. There is a gallery show in July in Northern Italy of similar heads of saints.
We regret we are not able to tell the dealer about these two works. We assisted cataloging his show, and these are better than anything he has at present. If you had listened to us, you would have had several healthy offers for your paintings. If you had them cleaned, the offers could have even been double the $15,500.00. Of course maybe you would still consider $31,000.00 "not valuable".
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Enclosed is my check for $895.00 to research and authenticate my Picasso drawing.
Please hold the check until the research is completed. If it is a fake, send the check back. If it is authentic, please tell me where to sell it. After I get paid for the drawing you can then cash it.
Dear Chicago Appraisers,
I want my money back! You said there would be no charge if the item is valueless. You appraised my painting for only $3,500.00. This is no money. You did this purposefully so you wouldn’t have to refund my $195.00. I expect my refund check immediately.
I have contacted a lawyer and told him to start legal action against you.
You researched my Degas drawing and said it was a fake. When I contacted Sotheby’s they also said it was a fake. I wrote a historian who wrote a book on Degas drawings and he said it was fake, too.
Obviously you three all conspired against me to cheat me out of my Degas drawing. You are a crook and I’ll see you in court.
Dear Chicago Appraisers,
We decided not to use your services. You want $1,295.00 to authenticate our Renoir pastel painting. All the other experts want over $2,000.00. We believe you can’t possibly do a thorough research job for $1,295.00. We decided to go with someone else that charges more and will spend more time on it.
We have been authenticating Renoir paintings for over 40 years. Our computer files are so organized that we can do the research extremely efficiently. Appraisers with less extensive libraries have to “schlep” down to their local museum and “wade” through hundreds of books to come to their conclusion. We try to give our clients fair value for their hard earned dollar. We don’t charge more to research expensive paintings compared to cheap ones like other appraisers do. We estimate the amount of time to do a thorough study of the work of art and quote that fee to our clients. We don’t charge more because the artist is valuable or the client has a lot of bucks. $1,295.00 is a fair price for our time. Ask us to authenticate a Jackson Pollack “drip” painting. Then we’ll show you what a large appraisal fee looks like.
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