Describing Assemblages: Groupings, Collections and Accumulations

Describing Assemblages: Groupings, Collections and Accumulations

(by Dave Maloney) While appraisals typically list one item at a time, often the appraiser encounters assemblages and the need to combine items together as groupings, collections, or accumulations of property. For instance, pairs, sets and suites are often encountered when conducting an appraisal for the purpose of acquiring insurance coverage. When preparing estate appraisals, the appraiser frequently encounters accumulations such as of common hand tools or of everyday dishes and glassware. (For a complementary article focusing on describing property in general, go here.)

The degree and depth to which groupings, collections or accumulations of property are described will hinge on:

  • The scope of work and intended use of the appraisal
  • The relative value of the property being combined
  • The needs of the client and other intended users
  • The degree of similarity of the property
  • Whether or not the property is considered as appreciating property or depreciating property.

Describing Groupings

Groupings are defined as more than one item for which the individual items are either identical or part of the same set, service or suite. For appreciable property, the value of a grouping could be enhanced if all the members of the group are present. Examples of groupings include:

  • Pairs (e.g., candlesticks)
  • Sets (e.g., sterling silver dresser set)
  • Services (e.g., dinnerware, flatware or crystal stemware services)
  • Suites (e.g., of furniture such as a suite of bedroom furniture)

Because of the potential for a premium in value to be added for groupings that are complete, it is important to recognize when the grouping is complete (or incomplete) and to accurately list the individual items that make up the entire grouping. Another reason for listing the individual components is that it might be required by the insurance company such as is normally the case for an appraisal of a sterling silver flatware service done with the intended use of acquiring insurance.

For damage claims appraisals of groupings, be sure to describe the complete group as it would appear if complete and undamaged as well as those parts which have been damaged or lost. A damaged or lost part could have a significant negative impact on the value of an otherwise complete and undamaged grouping.

A description of a two pair of candlesticks might be:

Two pair of International Silver Co. sterling silver candlesticks in the “Diamond” pattern, c. 1945; the socket supported on an undecorated tapering faceted column mounted on a square domed base; good condition; h-11”.

For the intended use of acquiring insurance coverage, a sterling silver flatware service for eight might be described as:

78-piece sterling silver flatware service for eight by International in the “Prelude” (a current) pattern; mid-20th century; all pieces in good condition; no monograms; the service consisting of:

a. Eight place knives @$90
b. Eight place forks @$110
c. Eight iced beverage spoons $120
d. Eight salad forks @$100
e. Eight soup spoons @$90
f. Eight cocktail forks @$90
g. Eight individual steak knives @$90
h. Sixteen teaspoons @$80
i. Two tablespoons @$200
j. One sugar spoon @$80
k. One cold meat fork @$220
l. Carving knife and fork @$180
m. One gravy ladle @$220

However, if done for a less formal intended use such as for state estate tax purposes or for an assignment making use of forced liquidation value, the above might be described simply as:

 78-piece sterling silver flatware service for eight by International in the “Prelude” (a current) pattern; all pieces in good condition.

Note that in the above examples that the inclusion of the troy ounce weight of the sterling silver flatware was not considered necessary by the appraiser. Some appraisal intended uses such as federal estate appraisals, however, require including the weight of silver in Troy ounces (ref. Treasury Reg.  Sec. 20.2031–6(d)). In addition, it is customary within the trade to always include silver weight when describing certain types of sterling silver such as early American hollowware or flatware.

Describing Collections

Collections consist of a number of objects of the same type accumulated for the same purpose. Often they are of a similar nature having similar value-relevant characteristics. Collections are another form of combining items which has its own unique descriptive needs.

Collections may be of valuable appreciable items such as 19th century toy mechanical banks, Barbie dolls, Depression glass, or baseball cards. Or, they may be depreciable in nature such as collections of Beanie Babies or common souvenir shot glasses (neither of which, in my opinion, are worth appraising in the first place!)

Unlike groupings, collections normally have no premium in value added because of the degree of completeness. Typically the aggregate replacement value of the collection is simply the additive values of the individual items that make up the collection. In addition, the market value for a collection is often less than the combined market values of the individual parts.

Unlike accumulations (below), when dealing with collections of appreciable items such as a collection of art glass or Oriental porcelain, because of the significance of each individual member, such collections of appreciable items normally require that each item within the collection be listed, described, and valued separately.

Describing Accumulations

In addition to groupings and collections, it is often necessary to develop a system for describing accumulations of property which, while similar, are not components of groupings nor are they collections—rather they are simply assemblages of miscellaneous items of a common type.

An assortment of household linens, miscellaneous pots and pans, common everyday dishware and glassware, plastic storage containers, common garage hand tools, etc. all fall into the category of accumulations. Accumulations consist of items that are depreciable in nature and normally of nominal value; therefore, (if there is no objection from the client) to save time and expense it is common practice to list accumulations of similar items together in one line item rather than listing each item separately.

Typically, accumulations of depreciating property need not be described to any greater degree than the following examples:

1. Miscellaneous and common amount of kitchen utensils.
2. Usual amount of assorted bed and bath linens including towels, sheets, pillow cases, and mattress pads.
3. Small amount of miscellaneous everyday dishes and glassware.
4. Large amount of common pots and pans.
5. Small amount of common kitchen flatware.
6. Approximately fifty common hand tools.
7. Six common small electric kitchen appliances.

It is normally sufficient to use such abbreviated descriptions for depreciable accumulations; however, if the intended use of the appraisal is for a litigious divorce, it may be necessary to count and provide a greater level of descriptive detail even for relatively insignificant items included within accumulations.

Be on the lookout for appreciable items of property when grouping seemingly depreciable property. A linen closet full of common white goods may be hiding a valuable 19th century quilt. A box of apparent costume jewelry may contain a diamond ring. A kitchen cabinet full of everyday dishes may contain some valuable American art pottery.

© David J. Maloney, Jr. 2012

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