Hi. My name is Chuck, and I’m an addict.
I’m addicted to those shows about people that buy storage units, shows about pawn shops, and those shows about rummaging through old barns and such. But something about each and every one of those shows drives me crazy - the “I need to take this to an expert to get it appraised,” part.
Way back in early 1983, I sat down in a classroom in Paris, TX and spent half of that year with my face buried in a microscope every day and my nose buried in a book every night. Everyone out there that has the pleasure of having the title ‘Gemologist’ beside your name knows how difficult the training is. Everyone that has taken their gemological training via correspondence knows even more how hard it is.
I did the training in residence and I can’t fathom how someone can do it without the benefit of having an instructor at the front of the class to help you get through it. And, for those of you currently working to get your gemological certification, this column is for you.
First and foremost - If someone wants my professional opinion, I’ll sell it to them. Yes. I said I’ll sell it to them. I will not give it to them. I busted my butt to learn this stuff, and I did it for a reason; to earn a living. The look on peoples’ faces sometimes just kills me. They can’t believe I’m not just gonna spend 30 minutes of my professional life looking at some treasure, they bought for the purpose of reselling for a profit, for free.
Yes. I do charge for appraisals.
I really like Pawn Stars, but that dude brings in waaayyy too many experts before making a deal. I’ve worked with countless number of pawn shops through the years and not one of them has brought me into the mix until they actually own the piece. Then, they hire me to appraise and evaluate what they bought. For the record, the pawn shops always win.
Pawn Wars is as close to a real pawn shop as it gets. They never bring in experts. They just make an offer, argue with the seller, threaten bodily harm, and do the deal or have security escort the customer off the property. I’ve worked with shops like this on and off for 30 years and have yet to see one lose money on a transaction or bring me in before making an offer.
Auction Hunters and Storage Wars are constantly seeking professional appraisals on the items they discover. Now I see nothing wrong with seeking a professional opinion. Hell, being a professional appraiser, I highly recommend it. But, not once have I seen any of these shows actually pay for that professional assessment. This leads millions of people across the country to think that those kinds of professional opinions are free. Well, not at my store. Plus, the pitfalls of giving free, verbal appraisals are many.
The appraisal industry changed when the Internet came along. People were buying expensive things from strangers and bringing them into their local jewelry stores to find out if they got what they paid for. Since it was so new, we would just look at the item, say yes or no, and that was the end of it.
Fast forward 5 years and a D.I.V.O.R.C.E. is right around the corner. She takes her diamond in to sell it and finds out it’s not what the Internet documents say it is. The Internet company is out of business, but not the jewelry store. So who’s in the line of fire for the lawsuit? Yep... the jewelry store.
Many courts have deemed that if the buyer made their decision to keep an item based on your professional opinion, even if they didn’t pay you for that professional opinion, you can be held liable. Yea, I know it sucks, but that’s just the way it is.
Your relationship with your appraisal doesn’t end with you handing over some documents or proffering your opinion. It hangs around for years. Hell, I’m probably still professionally liable for the very first appraisals I did way back in 1983.
I had a couple come in recently with a large emerald they bought at an estate auction and wanted me to do an appraisal so they could sell it online. I said no. Even though they were willing to pay for the appraisal, I wasn’t willing to do it. This was an item that they were going to list online and sell. Then it was going to probably be sold again and again (all with my name attached to it) and I didn’t want to play. I wasn’t willing to expose myself and my insurance company to that kind of liability. I pay handsomely for appraisal liability insurance and I’m not willing to risk that relationship for some auction hunter.
When it comes to appraisal liability, here’s the scoop. A written, signed, well researched, well documented, and well done appraisal is fully covered. Anything less than that, well, good luck to you. If I’m signing my name to a legal document, you can damn well bet I did my due diligence. I stand behind my training from way back in 1983 and the tens of thousands of written, signed documents since. Verbal opinions, in my opinion, are just inviting trouble and I won’t have anything to do with them.
Now, if someone wants to do a reality show about all of the people that come into jewelry stores to get free expert opinions? Well, I’d sign up for that... for $100 per opinion!
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.