Every family has a historian, who tells a story about the importance of a family heirloom. “George Washington slept in our tester bed”. “Eliphalet Chapin made this clock.” “This fan was given to your great grandmother by the Empress of Russia.” “Of course, it’s from Connecticut. It’s made of cherry”. These are not unusual situations. From a family perspective, these statements are carried from generation to generation. The family treasures the objects and they are very emotionally attached to the items. Sometimes, the statements are true and there is correspondence, a signature, a specific style, or other evidence supporting the statement, but often the statement is incorrect or misquoted. In addition, word of mouth stories get distorted as they are passed down over time.

This becomes an appraiser issue. It is the appraiser’s job to examine the object and understand exactly what the object is, both from a valuation basis but also from a human interest point of view. While an appraiser is not required to authenticate an object, he may be called upon to show why the statement is not true. This requires a high degree of experience and careful research and an ability to show the client what the object is and what it is not. The appraiser must have an even temperament and the knowledge to know how to make the client comfortable. This situation may require the help of a specialist and this is why the professional appraisal organizations certify or qualify their professionals. The real test comes from the appraiser and his ability to satisfy the customer. This ability can only be developed by experience.



















Nelson O. Clayton is an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers. He is designated in Personal Property Residential Contents-General and Antiques and Decorative Arts. He is also a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property of the International Society of Appraisers, Inc., approved to appraise Antiques and Residential Contents. He is actively engaged in the appraisal of household contents, and antiques and decorative arts and he is building his credentials in silver, and fine arts. With consultation with experts, he has appraised paintings and sculpture in the appraised range of $10-$550,000, individual items of silver in the $40,000 range, clocks in the $30,000 range, and furniture in the $125,000 range. His training at the Winterthur Museum helped him to develop these skills. In addition, he is trained in research and analysis, first as a senior bank-lending officer, and second, as an appraiser. In every assignment, Mr. Clayton continues to develop his skills by identifying and analyzing complete household contents, collections, and family heirlooms. Mr. Clayton’s appraisal business has been developed through personal referral and direct contact with families requiring appraisal of their household contents, primarily for estate tax planning and settlement, donations, divorce and insurance purposes. He has evaluated complete household contents as well as selected individual items.