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purpose of an appraisal is to find an independent and competent third party that
can determine the value of personal or business property to the satisfaction of
both the interests of the owner and the appropriate agency. In the case of
books, any serious bookseller can assist the owner in discovering the value of a
book or a library. The vast majority of cases do not require a formal, written
Many collectors simply want to have an idea of what their book or collection is worth on today’s market. Since their purpose does not require submission to any tax authority, estate attorney, insurance company, or any similar party, they can obtain this information from any bookseller who has earned the respect of his or her peers.
There are times; however, when a formal, written appraisal is required. When an insurance claim is filed, the absence of a careful record along with a written appraisal places the owner at a distinct disadvantage. While various companies and their appointed adjusters will examine claims with varying degrees of strictness, the presence of records (for example, original purchase invoices) will often simplify the process. Of course, a collector may sometimes purchase an item for cash at a public sale. Often the value can be many times what was paid for the book. In this case, a record of the acquisition will help but at some point an independent appraisal is advised.
Another case that occurs is when a book collection is part of an estate. If the collection contains one truly valuable item or represents an entire library, an independent appraisal is called for.
One of the most difficult appraisal issues occurs when a library is donated to a library, museum or other non-profit institution. If the library is substantial, the appraisal must be carefully substantiated. A qualified appraiser must not only establish the value of the collection, but if challenged ought to be able to defend their evaluation with the appropriate citations, reference materials, and other levels of substantiation. Any appraiser who is not willing to defend an appraisal before the tax court should avoid this level. In all cases, insurance, estate, or tax jurisdictions, require accuracy and indefensible appraisals may constitute fraud.
Conflict of Interest
Where a formal or written appraisal is required, the appraiser should make it clear that they have no interest in acquiring the material at that time. For an appraiser to attempt to serve the client’s interest while hoping to acquire the material is unethical. The appraiser often includes a statement to the effect that he or she has no present or contemplated interest in the items being appraised. While it is possible to wear two hats in looking at books and assisting people in determining the value of books for sale, it is not ethical to prepare a formal appraisal and then immediately offer to buy books from it. Though the latter is possible, the professional appraiser will keep the matter
distinctly separate. Of course, the appraiser may be an active buyer of the material once the owner decides to place it on the open market.
If you have further questions about appraisals, you may call us at (480) 946-1969. Of course, when people want an informal appraisal or estimate, there is never any charge. Since an appraisal does require examining the book in hand only general guidelines can be provided via e-mail or over the telephone.
QUALIFICATIONS OF RICHARD MURIAN AS AN APPRAISER OF BOOKS, PHOTOGRAPHS AND MANUSCRIPTS
After obtaining his BA (History) at the University of California, Davis,
Murian began his work as an appraiser under the tutelage of Mr. Herbert Caplan of Argus Books in Sacramento in 1970.
He received his MLS from the University of California, Berkeley with special emphasis on the history of the
book and archival methods. He became the out-of-print specialist at California State University, Sacramento where he
also received his MA in history of the American West.
He was recognized as a qualified appraiser of books and manuscripts and appraised large libraries donated to the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Los Angeles. Since 1986 he has appraised books, journals, letters, photographs and manuscripts for collections given to the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and various museums.
Besides appraisals for the FBI, he has served as an expert witness at a trial involving the theft of historical documents where the U.S. Attorney's Office states: "Mr. Murian is the best available appraiser with expertise in this area [historical documents]." He is a biographee in Who’s Who in the West, 1995-, Who’s Who in America, 1996- and Who’s Who in the World, 1996-. He has served as a consultant for the Arizona Historical Society and on the Arizona Book Awards Committee. His articles on the book trade have appeared in AB Bookman’s Weekly since 1986. He was the lecturer in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield "Lure of the Book" series given at the Phoenix Public Library in 1999.
Examples of written appraisals are available upon request.
Member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
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