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Evaluating your valuables

An antiques expert on today's market

Created date

March 1st, 2016

Antiques appraiser Carolyn Remmey

Most people have at least one item of value tucked away somewhere. Whether by avid collection or inheritance, antiques such as rare books, documents, photographs, coins, jewelry, and silverware number amongst Americans’ personal possessions, and there will always be a market for them.

But how do we find out what they’re worth? Where do we go to get a fair price for them? Who can help us turn them into tax write-offs? The Tribune spoke with antiques appraiser and auctioneer Carolyn Remmey about all of these questions and more.

Tribune: What exactly is an appraiser?

Remmey: Generally, when you hear the terms “appraiser” or “appraisal,” people use them rather loosely. I do not. In the most accurate sense of the word, an appraiser is someone who is qualified to put forth a documented price evaluation that will stand up to IRS and insurance company standards. 

Now, for people who are looking to sell, appraisers also evaluate antiques and collectibles for their sale prices. That’s different from an appraisal in the technical sense of the term. 

A sale price is a fair market value, which we apply to sales and museum donations—in other words, if you want to donate an item to a museum to get a tax write-off.

Tribune: How did you get started in this field?

Remmey: Antiquing was my fun thing to do. Some people play golf, others travel. I liked looking for antiques. When my husband and I got married, we bought much of our furniture (which happened to be antique) from auctions. 

In the mid 1980s, we decided that we wanted to invest in something. We looked into a lot of different franchises, but ultimately, we chose to open up an antiques shop.

Originally, I was a business teacher, and I never lost that side of me. So in addition to running an antiques shop, I would hold small seminars on antiques appraisal. I invited representatives from the Chubb Insurance Group to speak to my clients.

Well, this went on for quite a while, and I developed a relationship with the company. One day, someone from Chubb called me and asked if I would be interested in appearing on an episode of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.

Of course, I said yes. For ten years, I ran my shop and occasionally did appraisals for the show.

Over time, I began thinking about doing auctions and that eventually led to the appraisal business that I have now. You just keep reinventing the wheel in different ways as you move forward and the economy changes.

Today, we do it all: appraisals, auctions, and consultation.

Tribune: What is the largest sale you’ve ever worked with?

Remmey: It runs the gamut. I’ve done estate sales in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I’ve handled several that were well into the millions. With rare book collectors, for instance, a sale can involve entire libraries.

Tribune: Walk us through the process of selling. What should people do?

Remmey: It depends on what a person wants to do. If they are downsizing, I tell people to decide what they want to take with them. They’re usually moving, and they know where they want to go. So what I have to work with is what they can’t bring along; that’s what we sell.

I typically recommend that they do a tag sale in their home, which is better for a number of reasons. For one, they don’t have to spend money moving a piece into an auction house. Second, it looks best in its proper setting—in this case, that’s the home. People will see an item as it is meant to be used and displayed.

Tribune: And what if they’re selling a collection?

Remmey: If it’s a collection, I would recommend an auction. That’s where you’re going to find other collectors. 

Now, I should note that the auction setting is best for high-end collections that consist of rare items. The rarer things generally go first in an auction.

Even with a rare collection, however, only the scarcest pieces are going to sell for a lot of money. In fact, you could even lose a little on the more common items.

Tribune: If our readers have a question about their items or your services, how can they contact you?

Remmey: Email is the preferred means. My address is And if they have a question about a particular item, it’s best that they include a photograph of it.