Jan 12, 2017


The Appraisal Foundation has produced a short (2-page) brochure (download it here: PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISERS AND YOU), that very succinctly and clearly offers the general public and others who recommend appraisers to individuals (librarians, museum curators, bank trust officers, attorneys, insurance companies, etc.) advice on what qualifications appraisers must have and how to find appropriate specialist appraisers.

Nov 12, 2016

Concise Lowdown on US Ivory Sales Restrictions

I just came across a good, short, and clear article, "Antique Dealers Come Face-to-Face With Ivory Ban" By Kristin Hugo in National Geographic online (July 8, 2016) that explains the difficulties for the antique trade the new ban on sale of endangered species material has caused.

It explains
The new ban restricts interstate sales of ivory items to two narrow categories: antique ivory that’s proven to be more than a century old and items that contain only a little ivory, such as a violin bow with an ivory tip.

 and that
increasing stigma against ivory ownership and tighter regulations at the state and federal levels have been encouraging dealers to gradually get out of the business.

it also points out that
It remains legal to sell antique ivory within states, other than in California, New York, New Jersey, or Hawaii, which have passed state bans on the ivory trade. Other states have legislation pending. That means a market still exists for some ivory sellers. 

Lastly, the article offers some guidance on what to do with ivory items you are unable to sell:
Ivory owners who want to get rid of legally acquired ivory can donate it to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wildlife repository, in Colorado, if they’re willing to pay the shipping costs. Or they can simply keep it in their own private collections, which Lang said is a popular option for antique dealers wanting to remove ivory from their stores.

Owners may also offer to donate their ivory to a museum. Art, culture, and science museums in particular might be interested in legally acquired, historically significant ivory, according to Sheila Hoffman, the chair of the American Alliance of Museums’ ethics subcommittee.

Sep 29, 2016

Advice on Selecting a Qualified Appraiser

Many thousands of persons hold themselves out to the public as appraisers but few are actually properly trained to do the job. The IRS and knowledgable insurance companies, bank asset managers, and attorneys have been requiring all appraisers they hire to adhere to USPAP as well as Appraisal Foundation standards when selecting appraisers. Members of the general public should as well.

For a good discussion of what it takes to be a qualified appraiser, see this article PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISER QUALIFICATION CRITERIA

Although the new standards described in the article above will not go into effect until January 1, 2018, you should be mindful of them now. You can download the Appraisal Foundation brouchure on these new criteria HERE

Jul 24, 2016


The Chinese art market is dominated by sales at auction houses within Mainland China, in Hong Kong, or in Taiwan. There are so many auction houses these days that it is hard for the public to know which ones are the larger and more important ones. I have complied the list below, based on data culled from several sources include Artnet, Artprice, Artron, and Blouin. Note that this list OMITS the big three Western auction houses that have sales in China: Christie's (HK & Shanghai), Sotheby's (HK & Beijing), and Bonhams (HK).

Beijing ChengXuan Auctions Co., Ltd.

Beijing Council International Auction Co.,
Ltd. 北京匡时国际拍卖有限公司

Beijing Huachen Auctions Co., Ltd.

China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd.
Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo,
New York, Vancouver

Duo Yun Xuan Auctions Co., Ltd.

Beijing Hanhai Auction Co., Ltd.

Hosane Auction Co. Ltd.

Poly Auction (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong

Poly International Auction Co., Ltd.

Ravenel International Art Group
Taipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, China

Rong Bao Zhai

Rong Bao Zhai (Shanghai) Auction Co., Ltd.

Sungari International Auction

United Asian Auctioneers
Hong Kong

XiLing YinShe Auction Co. Ltd.
Hangzhou, Beijing

Zhong Cheng Auction Co., Ltd.

Jun 22, 2016

Sales for Fine Japanese Prints Set Record

The June 21 Paris Sale of the famous Portier collection of Japanese prints in Paris at Druot June 21, 2016 netted record prices for superlative prints, indicative of why well preserved and rare prints by famous masters are in high demand among collectors. See a story on this HERE
Kitagawa Utamaro, "Deeply Hidden Love (Fukaku shinobu koi)," from the series “Anthology of Poems: The Love Section” (Kasen koi no bu), pink mica ground Oban tate-e, 24.6 x 36.2 cm. Sold: €745,800

Jun 21, 2016

Japanese Prints: Basic Info for Collectors

The Ronin Gallery in NY has published a very useful basic introduction to evaluating Japanese prints on their website. It explains, and shows with examples why some prints are more valuable than others, pointing out how differences in earlier and later impressions of prints and condition issues (such as fading, backing, trimming, and centerfolds) affect value.
Read the article HERE

Hiroshige, Plum Garden at Kameido. Image: Ronin Gallery.
Good color preservation    Faded Impression

Jun 8, 2016


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a final rule revising the African elephant rule under section 4(d) of the ESA [50 CFR 17.40 (e)] on June 6, 2016. The guidance provided in this document will be effective July 6, 2016, 30 days following publication of the rule in the Federal Register. 
African Ivory Ruling Here

Q&A Below from the Appraisers Association of America, for guidance only.
You may need to consult an attorney and definitely need to check your own state's regulations which may be different from federal laws.

Is it legal for me to keep my lawfully acquired elephant ivory?
Yes. This ESA 4(d) rule and other federal wildlife laws and regulations such as CITES, the ESA, and the AfECA do not prohibit possessing or display of ivory, provided it was lawfully acquired. There is no certification requirement or process to register ivory items and you do not need a permit from the Service to possess or display ivory for noncommercial purposes. We recommend that you maintain any records you have that demonstrate the origin and chain of ownership of the items. We also suggest that you provide all documentation to any future gift recipient of your elephant ivory items. Check to make sure that you are also in compliance with local and state laws. Contact your state wildlife agency to check on their requirements.

Will this ESA 4(d) rule impact activities with other types of ivory?
No. This rule regulates only African elephants and African elephant ivory. Asian elephants and parts or products from Asian elephants, including ivory, are regulated separately under the ESA. Ivory from marine species, such as walrus, is also regulated separately under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.). Ivory from extinct species, such as mammoths, is not regulated under statutes implemented by the Service.

If I am selling an item made from walrus or another non-African elephant ivory, such as a Native Alaskan handicraft, will I need documentation to prove it's not African elephant ivory?
This rule applies only to African elephants and African elephant ivory. It does not impose any documentation requirements for non-African elephant ivory. However, depending on the species, other regulatory requirements may apply. For example, walrus ivory is regulated under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is important for sellers to know the species involved so that they can determine what regulatory requirements apply.

Can I donate or give away ivory?
Yes. This ESA 4(d) rule and other federal wildlife laws and regulations such as CITES, the ESA, and the AfECA do not prohibit donating or giving away your ivory specimen, or receiving an ivory item as a donation or a gift, provided it was lawfully acquired and there is no exchange for other goods or services involved. We recommend that you provide the recipient with any records or documentation you have that demonstrates the origin and chain of ownership of the items. Check to make sure that you are also in compliance with local and state laws.

What is the de minimis exemption?
The final rule provides an exemption from prohibitions on selling or offering for sale in interstate and foreign commerce for certain manufactured items that contain a small (de minimis) amount of ivory that meet the following conditions:

A. If the item is located in the United States, the ivory must have been imported prior to January 18, 1990, or imported under a CITES pre-Convention certificate with no limitation on its commercial use.
B. If the item is located outside of the United States, the ivory must have been removed from the  wild prior to February 26, 1976.
C. The ivory is a fixed or integral component or components of a larger manufactured item and is not the primary source of the value of the item, that is, the ivory does not account for more than 50 percent of the value of the item.
D. The ivory is not raw.
E. The manufactured item is not made wholly or primarily of ivory, that is, the ivory component or components do not account for more than 50 percent of the item by volume.
F. The total weight of the ivory component or components is less than 200 grams.
G. The item must have been manufactured before the effective date of the final rule.

What types of items are likely to qualify for the de minimis exception?
When we proposed the 200-gram limit we had a particular suite of items in mind. The following types of items may qualify for the de minimis exception:  many musical instruments (including many keyboard instruments, with ivory keys, most stringed instruments and bows with ivory parts or decorations, and many bagpipes, bassoons and other wind instruments with ivory trim); most knives and guns with ivory grips; and certain household and decorative items (including teapots with ivory insulators, measuring tools with ivory parts or trim, baskets with ivory trim, walking sticks and canes with ivory decorations, and many furniture pieces with ivory inlay, etc.). However, to qualify for the de minimis exception, all of the above criteria must be met (either A or B and C- G).

What types of items are not likely to qualify for the de minimis exception?
Examples of items that we do not expect would qualify for the de minimis exception include chess sets with ivory chess pieces (both because we would not consider the pieces to be fixed or integral components of a larger manufactured item and because the ivory would likely be the primary source of value of the chess set), an ivory carving on a wooden base (both because it would likely be
primarily made of ivory and the ivory would likely be the primary source of its value), and ivory earrings or a pendant with metal fittings (again both because they would likely be primarily made of ivory and the ivory would likely be the primary source of its value).

How do I demonstrate that my item meets the criteria to qualify for the de minimis exception? To qualify for the de minimis exception, an item must meet the criteria provided above. We consider an item to be made wholly or primarily of ivory if the ivory component or components account for more than 50 percent of the item by volume. Likewise, if more than 50 percent of the value of an item is attributed to the ivory component or components we consider the ivory to be the primary source of the value of that item. Value can be ascertained by comparing a similar item that does not contain ivory to one that does (for example, comparing the price of a basket with ivory trim/decoration to the price of a similar basket without ivory components). Though not required, a qualified appraisal or another method of documenting the value of the item and the relative value of the ivory component, including, information in catalogs, price lists, and other similar materials, can also be used. We will not require ivory components to be removed from an item to be weighed.

What is foreign commerce?
Foreign commerce does not include import or export activities. Foreign commerce is defined in section 3 of the Endangered Species Act and applies to individuals or entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The term “foreign commerce” includes, among other things, any transaction—

A. between persons within one foreign country;
B. between persons in two or more foreign countries;
C. between a person within the United States and a person in a foreign country; or
D. between persons within the United States, where the wildlife in question is moving in any country or countries outside the United States.

What is meant by the ESA antiques exemption?
Under the ESA, an antique is an item that meets all of the following criteria*:

A. It is 100 years or older.
B. It is composed in whole or in part of an ESA-listed species.
C. It has not been repaired or modified with an ESA-listed species after December 27, 1973.
D. It is being or was brought in to the United States through a port designated for the import of endangered species antiques.

*Under Director’s Order 210, as a matter of enforcement discretion, items imported prior to September 22, 1982, and items created in the United States and never imported must comply with elements A, B, and C above, but not element D.