The Benefits of Getting a Fur Appraisal and Why You Need One
For many of us, there is nothing quite as amazing as the feeling of a nice, warm, fur coat. Whether it’s the natural way the fur envelops your body, or the luxurious history behind a particularly timeless piece, wrapping yourself in fur conveys a sense of pride, status, and taste.
But like everything, furs need to be taken care of, and that includes getting an appraisal from time to time. Because furs are generally high-ticket items, they are obvious marks for thieves who would want to steal one from an unsuspecting consumer and sell them at their local pawn shop or – even worse – through an online outlet, where there’s little chance of retrieving it. In 2016, one Manhattan fur coat store had just a black and white chinchilla coat stolen. The price tag? $50,000.
Getting a fur appraisal is about more than peace of mind, it’s about protecting yourself and your investment. Every fur has a history, and you want to make sure that you are able to pass on your role in shaping that history to the next generation.
Why Get a Fur Appraisal?
Though people choose to get fur coat appraisals for all sorts of reasons, it usually boils down to two: insurance and resale.
Luxury items like furs are notoriously difficult to sell if you don’t have an appraisal; after all, what’s worth thousands to you might only be worth half that to a buyer who is unfamiliar with its history. Moreover, how do you price those intangibles when you list it for sale?
The only person that is able to tell you what it is truly worth, thus establishing a fair market value for both paries, is by taking it to a professional appraiser. These are people who are skilled in the art of maximizing value and have the experience necessary to know what is truly valuable, and, more importantly, what isn’t. A small but noticeable flaw in the fur can make the difference of a few hundred dollars, at least.
Unlike diamonds, furs have a shelf life to their elegance; they may stay around for a few hundred years, but you will definitely notice a drop off in the quality after 50 years or so. For that reason, it’s important to get fur coat appraisals as soon as possible to maximize your replacement value, which is the price your insurance company will pay in the event that it’s stolen.
Furthermore, if you decide to sell your fur yourself, rather than take it to a fur coat store, you’ll need to have an accurate figure of what it’s worth so you don’t undercut your own value. Having an appraisal not only ensures you get the best price, but also makes you more credible in the eyes of potential buyers.
Though it’s not thought about as often, getting an appraisal comes in handy when it comes to estate planning as well. You want to make sure that whoever inherits your worldly possessions understands the value, in case they decide to sell it or need to pay the appropriate amount in taxes.
Getting your fur appraised is not just a means to an end in terms of dollar amounts, they can also look the piece over and give you a verbal report on how the fur is holding up, and what you need to do to repair or keep it in optimal shape.
What is Considered During a Fur Appraisal?
Fur retailers will make their determination based on a variety of factors, such as what type of fur it is, the condition that it’s in, as well as the designer behind the piece itself. Furs like mink, chinchilla, fox, and sables are some of the more common furs appraisers evaluate, but they also can do raccoon or beaver as well.
Whereas you may not notice a defect in your fur when you bring it in, an appraiser will be able to tell right away if there are any tears or rips in the lining or in the piece itself. Moreover, if the fur has not been stored the right way, it will dry out over time which can erode the value significantly.
Though the type of animal the fur originated from may not change, there is also a huge difference in who designed the piece in the first place. A top-tier designer may have access to animals that are native to a particular area, whereas someone less than reputable may have animals that are not as controlled. Or, even worse, they may use unethical (or illegal) trapping and hunting procedures. If that’s the case, run far away from the store.
An appraiser takes all of these factors into account when making their evaluation, so it’s important to bring as much documentation with you as you can when you come in for your appraisal. Furthermore, always look for a qualified and professional appraiser when bringing your fur in to be valued. A legitimate appraiser will never disclose numbers over the phone or e-mail, especially not without looking at it first. Even if they did, that documentation will most likely not be certified as valid anyways, so always deal with reputable retailers that will take the time to adequately examine your piece.
What’s the Appraisal Process Like?
If you’ve never set foot inside of a fur retailer for a professional appraisal, chances are you’re a little nervous about the process. The last thing you want to do is be taken advantage of, but you also most likely won’t know what kind of questions to ask or how to come in prepared. For that reason, here’s a quick guide of what to expect.
Decide What the Ultimate Goal is. Whether that’s donating your fur to a third-party, selling it outright to the retailer, or exchanging it for a fur from the retailer themselves, they’ll ask you as soon as you walk through the door what your intentions are. They’ll adjust the valuation appropriately, but if you’re just looking for an appraisal and nothing more, state that upfront.
Make an Appointment. You may get lucky and find an appraiser who works for free, but nearly all of the (reputable) fur retailers will charge anywhere from $25-50 for a full appraisal. This may seem like a lot, but when you compare it to the cost of losing the piece forever due to an accident or theft, it’s a small price to pay.
Determine How to Get It There. If you’re going to bring in the coat yourself to the appraiser, this is a moot point, but some stores will allow you to ship the coat to them instead. This is especially useful if you prefer to use a specific appraiser, or want to get it priced in a specific geographical locale. Contact the store first to ask about shipped appraisals and they’ll ask you a few questions; if they agree, ship it and you should receive a valuation in a few weeks.
Bring All Documentation. Make sure you bring in every piece of identifying paper you can on the piece itself: where you (or someone else) bought it, its history, past valuations, etc. Also, if you have a receipt that can verify its authenticity from a particular brand, bring that too. The appraiser will want to know as much as possible about the piece, so any information you can provide will make their job easier.
Get a Second Opinion. Just because you received a favorable answer from your first choice does not mean it’s the only one you should receive. If possible, get a second or even third appraisal to verify the information on the first one, especially if you suspect that the process wasn’t as thorough as you would like. Any professional appraisal will work for insurance and resale valuations.
Plan for Future Appraisals. Once you’ve gotten your fur valued, it’s best to speak with your individual insurance agent to ask about the frequency for future appraisals. Every five to ten years is traditionally the norm, but if you have a particularly volatile piece that changes prices often, they may advise bringing it in more often.
Why Wasn’t My Appraisal as High as I Thought?
For some, the process of appraising their fur can be a little bit of a letdown. Promises of treasure found in the attic or holding on to heirlooms for years in hopes of a large payday down the road can end abruptly when the appraisal comes in with a less than satisfactory number. This usually happens for one major reason: people confuse the insurance quote with the actual cash value of the item.
The cash value of the fur is the price that specific item would go for on the open market that day. It takes all of the various factors into account, such as damage, brand, age, style, marketability, etc. Despite popular opinion, the “age” of a fur has less to do with how old it is and more to do with how well it has been taken care of. A fur that has been stored and conditioned properly will retain its value a lot more than one that is simply shoved inside of a closet for half a century.
The replacement cost of the fur is what the insurance company believes a new version of the piece is worth today. In case your fur is stolen or damaged in some way, the replacement value determines how much the insurance company has to pay in order to replace the fur itself. This number is normally significantly higher than the cash value of the item that an appraiser might also give you.
The specific reason that you came into the store to get the item appraised will determine which appraisal the vendor will give you, so make sure that you’re clear about your intentions when you walk in.
Are Vintage Furs Worth More Than Modern Furs?
Typically, we are under the impression that anything that used to be of great value and has a token of luxury to it only increases its material worth as the years go on. In the case of watches, that might very well be true, but it’s not exactly the case when it comes to vintage furs.
Older furs are typically heavier than their modern-day counterparts, which makes them less fun and usually more cumbersome to wear on a daily basis. In addition to that, the style that is associated with vintage furs is not always ideal. In some areas, it was en vogue to leave the animal’s head or feet on the fur when it became a piece of clothing. Suffice it to say, that style is not really an ideal fashion trend in more modern times.
As mentioned above, furs also have the potential to get damaged quickly, particularly chinchilla, beaver, and rabbit furs which are more delicate. A vintage fur that has been stored in an attic for the last 50 years is most likely going to emerge damaged in at least a few ways.
If I Don’t Like the Appraisal, What Else Can I Do With It?
Selling a fur is not for everyone. For some, they have ethical problems with owning fur, but because of sentimental reasons, they don’t want to just throw it in the trash. They also may not want to sell it, for the same reasons. So if you’re not going to sell the fur, what else can you do with it?
The most obvious path is to donate it to a charity. In this case, having an accurate appraisal is vital for establishing the tax deductions that you will receive for it. If you can’t find a thrift shop or charity store nearby, another option is to donate it to a museum that will display it; this works especially well if you have an unusual fur or one with a lot of significant history.
If you prefer not to donate it, sell it, or trash it, there is still one alternative left on the table: have it remade into a family keepsake. Fur and Leather Creations, for example, is based out of Nebraska and turns your old furs into one-of-a-kind teddy bears. If that’s too far away, do a quick Google search to find one closer to your area.