Friday, April 8, 2011

I Can Has Reference Question? Antiques

I promised a few posts back to post some of the reference questions I get in my daily life.  I get people asking me for resources or other bits of information on a regular basis.  I’m kind of like a reference librarian, except I’m not employed and I don’t get paid, and I don’t have an office, and…yah…I’m having a wonderful fantasy, aren’t I?  That’s ok.  One day soon the dream will be a reality.  I will be a fully employed librarian.  Until that day, I will have to settle for blogging and dealing with reference questions in a non-job like capacity.

My dear and wonderful Mother has a friend, we’ll call him J, with a really neat antique fish tank.  It’s cast iron, has eagles carved on top of the four corners, and he thinks was made in the eighteenth century.  It’s a pretty piece.  He wants to sell it but has been having difficulty with the local “antique” dealers.  He asked if I could find out more information about how he could identify, value, and sell the piece.  Here's the response I gave him:

            22 March 2011


I’m not qualified to appraise the antique aquarium.  It would be inappropriate attempting to try.  It is a lovely piece, and I do think you were right to not sell it off just yet.  I did some research and think your best bet is to find an actual appraiser qualified in antiques.  Most people can just advertise as appraisers without any training, so you have to be careful. 

With that in mind, I found the American Society of Appraisers.  They require their members pass a test in appraisal, so these are legitimate professionals.  I found the three closest appraisers with this group.  They may be able to help you with the value of the aquarium.  At the very least, they should be able to point you in the right direction. 

A word of advice:  Do not sell your item to the person appraising it.  They will usually undervalue it so they can later sell it at a higher price.  Let me know if you need any other information.  I’m a research junkie.  J


American Society of Appraisers-Local Members

Marshall L Fallwell Jr.
Nashville, TN

Jerry L Sampson
Harrodsburg, KY

Patricia H Atwood
Rockford, IL

This is the letter I sent J minus the list of appraisers.  He was happy with what I found out and will soon start the process of appraisal and selling.  And he’s offered me 33% of the sale price.  That’s not bad for one reference question.  Does this count as a job?  Should I put this on my resume?  Probably not.  I should make note that I did not ask for payment. 

With the resources available to me, I conducted a simple internet search about cast iron antiques and relevant appraisers.  It wasn’t a complicated task but did take a few minutes to track down the appropriate people for the job.  I refused to use the internet to conduct an appraisal.  Even with a bunch of antique resources, I’m not a qualified appraiser.  It would kind of be like a librarian giving out medical advice, a big no-no.


  1. I hope you took the money.
    I was too insecure to do so long ago, and now I am too old and too sick to do more than type a comment every few days.
    But I regret that I never learned to negotiate my ability to find info for pay, so please do not make the same mistake.

  2. Oh, I'll take the money if and when he sells the antique. I kind of consider this freelance work. And J would insist on paying regardless.

    I'm glad for the comment. I hope you get to feeling better.