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How to catalog your collection.

How to catalog your collection

To keep track of a prize collection, it's well worth taking the time to catalog the items. Having up-to-date records will prove invaluable when you want to buy or sell certain pieces--or if you have to file an insurance claim. (For examples of ways to display collections, see page 92.)

Keep records in ledger, file, computer

One approach is a simple ledger noting when and where you bought each item, and what you paid for it. Don't put this data on gummed labels affixed to the objects; the labels may dry out and fall off, or the gum may stain the objects. And if the items are stolen, you'll have no record.

One collector of primitive art uses thread or string to attach small cardboard tags to each object. (To make the tags less conspicuous, he colors them with felt-tip pens.) Each tag bears the number of a different page in a notebook. The appropriate page lists the object's dimensions, age, purchase price (and date and location), and other pertinent information, and contains a color photograph of the item. All sales slips and evidence of purchase are in another file, along with letters and documents of authentication. This data could also be kept in a card file or on a computer disk.

Find out what it's worth

Many collectors have their objects appraised at least every two years.

Most museums won't appraise, but they can be very helpful in directing you to experts who will. Serious collectors also usually know appraisers in their fields. Or check the yellow pages under Appraisers. Look for ones who are cerfified, tested, and insured; be sure to ask for references and proof of certification--membership in the American (or International) Society of Appraisers, for example.

Appraisers charge $35 to $50 an hour. If they come to your home ($65 to $150 for the first hour), you'll make the best use of their time if you have the items readily available. Also send the appraiser photographs of the objects ahead of time for preliminary research.

At the appraisal, make available all the information you have on a piece--even if it's just family history. And be prepared to take notes. You'll receive a written report, but it may be brief; your notes of what an appraiser actually says may prove useful later.

Within 30 days, you should receive two copies of a written certification and valuation (stated as either "replacement value' or "resale value'--which subtracts sales fees equaling about half the replacement value) of each item.

Storing your collection

As your collection grows, you will face the need for more storage. In order to keep objects in good condition, storage and display should be planned with equal care.

We saw one storage room organized like museum stacks, with open shelves and vertical slots for prints and paintings. Another collector uses clear plastic shoe and sweater boxes for storage. The boxes are dustproof and crushproof, and items are visible. If your display can't accommodate your entire collection, try rotating objects from storage several times a year.

Photo: Indian basket in her collection has photograph in notebook; facing page contains information on its purchase price, dimensions, current value, material
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1986
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