Whether you watch a lot of Antique Roadshow or you are a collector, you can turn your passion into a job as an antique appraiser. However, becoming an antique appraiser is more than just knowing about antique furniture, art, dishes or toys. It takes education and training to offer appraisals.
According to Katherine Yellen, a nearly 20-year veteran appraiser, the best place to start is at the professional appraiser's associations: International Society of Appraisers (ISA), Appraisers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). In addition to offering classes, they can help you find the best track to become an appraiser for you. The best education for you is a personal choice. You can choose to get your experience as an appraiser through formal association courses or by completing a college certificate program, according to Yellen. While getting education isn't required, it can give you a great foundation.
Taking Classes Through Associations
All three associations offer courses. These cover the theory and methodology of antique appraisal as well connoisseurship.
- At the ASA classes are available through local chapters for individuals. The ASA also offers large group courses that come on-site. E-learning and webinars are also available.
- The ISA offers both on-site and an online course in appraisal studies. You can also find a distance education program in appraisal of fine art and antiques, furnishings and decorative arts.
- The Appraisers Association offers a comprehensive appraisal studies program, along with individual courses. If you need a more on-demand format, they offer recordings of their programs.
Participating in a Formal Program
There are also formal certificate programs that are available at some colleges and universities. These can be offered in conjunction with a professional association or stand alone. For example, Purchase College of the State University of New York offers an Appraisal Studies program. MassArt also offers a certificate program in conjunction with the American Society of Appraisers. Formal programs generally offer you the theory, methodology and valuation courses that you need to become certified.
If school just isn't your thing or you want to gain a bit of experience before venturing off on your own, then you might choose to get an entry-level job or complete a mentorship to learn the ins and outs. This can be another path to certification, and the hands-on experience can be very valuable.
Complete an Internship or Mentorship
If you are a hands-on learner, it might be more conducive to your learning to complete hands-on training under a master. For example, Kathy Bailey, an independent appraiser, started learning the ropes as a collector. However, she then started an informal apprenticeship with an appraiser to learn the trade. While an informal apprenticeship is one way to go if you know someone interested, you can also choose to get a formal internship through an appraiser association like through the ISA. However, to get access to these internships, you must become a member.
Learning by doing might be the best path for you. Yellen noted that she had entry-level positions that helped to give her an edge on the competition. For example, you could start out as a part-time assistant for a local appraiser. This will help you learn the theory, methodology and tricks firsthand. Additionally, working at a local auction house doing research can help give you an understanding valuation and pricing. The Appraisers Association also offers a job board for new appraisers.
While you can become an appraiser without certification, Yellen states that certification is helpful when you are working with lawyers, accountants and courts. This is because certification shows you are a distinguished professional in the field. Getting certified involves several steps:
- Satisfying the educational requirements
- Submitting appraisals for review
- Agreeing to ethics requirements
- Passing the USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) every two years
- Submitting hours of experience
You also must typically join the association from which you apply for certification. Yellen also noted that some associations can offer specialties, or you can get a generalist certification where you turn down appraisals if you don't feel qualified for them.
Finding Your Niche
Being an antique appraiser is more than just researching prices or watching Antique Roadshow; it is a demanding position that requires specialized skills and unquestionable ethics to ensure excellence for customers. While formal education is available, you can choose to try an informal apprenticeship or entry-level job to get your foot in the door. And if you are still unsure, check out some appraiser associations to help you solidify your career choice.