Cole Ferry is a personal property appraiser who assists clients with written certified reports for insurance, donation, and estate purposes. He is an Accredited Member of the Appraisers Association of America and was recognized with the organization’s “Service to Education Award” in November 2018. He is a graduate of Rutgers College and New York University and was a contributor to Appraising Art: The Definitive Guide. Cole is a longtime member of the Ephemera Society of America, Art Glass Forum/NYC and the Jersey Shore Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him at 917-596-8326 or email at

When do I need an appraiser?

Often the circumstances are based on the purpose of the appraisal and the value of the material. For example, donating books to the local library or clothes to a charity drive (providing that the value is below $5,000.00) would not require a written appraisal. By the same token, most
insurance agents are ok with clients providing retail receipts with their home owner policies for basic household items but may require separately appraised riders for rarer or more unique items. However, the moment the intent involves the IRS, whether for donation or estate purposes, it is probably a good idea to engage an objective professional appraiser, who can also coordinate with your financial and legal advisors. Today, many families have become the stewards of family heirlooms and a large part of my practice involves helping with estate planning and gifting.

How did you get started?

As a young kid, I collected comic books and trading cards. I always have had an appreciation for well designed and made items. In the mid 2000s, I had a gallery in Belmar, NJ that sold vintage posters, prints and maps. It was great fun and I also had a close relationship with Kravetz Auctions, which was an invaluable opportunity to learn about the many, many categories and types of items out there. As a member of the Appraisers Association of America, I am required to fulfill continuing education requirements every year and am expected to keep an eye on the overall art market to offer analysis to clients. If you are naturally curious, this is a good profession for you.

Have you ever discovered a treasure? A real “road show” moment”?

It does make for wonderful tv, but the reality is a lot scarcer. I have informed families that the rug we were standing on in the foyer was worth five figures. I’ve said that the painting on the staircase wall leading to the basement is by an internationally known artist and that dog bowl might be actually be a rare artisan American signed pottery item worth lots of kibble.
On the other hand, I have had to pop the bubble of hope on a vase bought by Great Aunt Maude and say that it will not put your children through college. Sentimental value is a very important emotional feeling that should not be underestimated or discounted in the context of familial relationships. That said, an appraiser must use existing factual data from dealers and auction houses to arrive at the appropriate fair market value.

Are there any areas of collecting or trends you see growing in 2019?

Firstly, you should collect what you like, not necessarily be motivated by what might appreciate in value. Based on recent sales and popularity, I’d have to say early 20th century handmade crafts such as furniture and kitchen items; original illustrations for advertising or comic books; vintage board games such as Clue and Monopoly; any space related items
from Star Wars/Star Trek circa the late 1970s; vinyl records and computer related material from the early 80s are all gaining new and passionate collectors.

Any final thoughts?

The fundamental question is always to determine what is it exactly that you are appraising. Age, condition, artistic merit, and rarity are all factors used to help determine values but without market context and desirability, the story is only half complete. A professional appraiser shouldn’t have all the answers but must know where to get them.