If you own antiques, they may well become part of your Arizona estate plan. After all, they represent highly valuable assets – or do they? Unfortunately, TV programs like Antiques Roadshow, et al notwithstanding, just because you own something old does not necessarily mean that it is an antique or worth a lot of money.

In all likelihood, many of the things you own are not antiques at all. Definitions matter in the collecting world, particularly the following three:

  1. Antique: an object 100 years old or older
  2. Vintage: an object 75-100 years old
  3. Retro: an object produced or manufactured in the 1950s or 1960s

Questionable value

Bear in mind that while vital to know, these classifications have nothing to do with the value of any of your heirlooms or investment pieces. Here a wide variety of factors come into play for each and every object, including the following:

  • The condition of your piece
  • The artist, designer or manufacturer of your piece
  • The rarity of your piece
  • The “going rate” for like or similar pieces

Bottom line, your antiques by any other name represent illiquid assets. In other words, you and your heirs or beneficiaries may or may not be able to easily convert them into cash. In addition, each piece’s selling price totally depends on what a willing buyer will pay for it.

Professional appraisals

If you truly believe you own valuable antiques, your best strategy is to hire a professional appraiser to verify your belief. Your safest choice is to engage one certified by the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America or the International Society of Appraisers.

Keep in mind, however, that no appraiser knows everything about everything. For instance, an art appraiser likely cannot give you a valid estimate of how much your grandmother’s diamond ring is worth. Likewise, a furniture appraiser likely cannot give you a valid estimate of how much your Civil War sword is worth. Therefore, depending on the types of things you own, you may well need to hire several appraisers, each with the appropriate skill, experience and background in his or her own area of expertise.