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Professional appraisers use the term “value attribute”. A value attribute is any feature that contributes to the sum of values an object possesses. Age, provenance, maker’s mark(s), condition, and physical elements such as arms on a chair are some of the typical factors that comprise an object’s worth. For instance, a chair with arms has more value than one without arms; chair arms are a value attribute. Although value attributes typically influence an object’s worth, demand always trumps other attributes. This is a rare, absolute statement. Absolute statements are not wise to use, but in this instance it is accurate to exercise the absolute.

No matter what the property is, demand will determine its value, or lack thereof. For example: If you have a pot of gold near a nuclear reactor that goes bad and the gold is irradiated so that it is rendered dangerous, then the demand for your particular stash of gold will be diminished to zero. It has been made worthless due to contamination. Demand vanishes. This is an extreme scenario, or is it?

During WWII and in its aftermath many starving citizens of Eastern European metro areas found themselves refugees fleeing from the carnage of war and/or the approaching Red Army. These refugees fled with what they could carry. They escaped the cities into the countryside to barter for food, shelter, and safety. The peasant farmers, once looked down on by the city slickers, suddenly had the upper hand, and they exploited it viciously. The farmers traded food for gold, furs, jewelry, and anything else that took their fancy. They got rich over night.

Tobacco was at the top of their list. The smart city slickers that grabbed tobacco on their exodus instead of furs, pianos, and paintings survived very well. Tobacco was the rarest of commodities at that time because it enjoyed the greatest demand.

Demand is typically a natural phenomenon which can be manipulated by savvy marketing. Anyone can recognize effective marketing. Things Go Better With Coke. Diamonds Are Forever. It’s Ford Tough. Recognize these marketing successes? Ah-huh, thought so. These are legitimate, tried and true, etc.

But there is marketing that goes on that we have all been warned about. It’s too good to be true. It promises great returns. It’s accompanied by “Certificates of Authenticity” or appraisals written by the seller that purport the object’s value to be orders of magnitude higher that the actual sale price. Huh?

When the hair stands up on the back of your neck or if your sphincter begins to tingle … people … the tooth fairy is trying to tell you something — get out of Dodge! You’re being swindled.

There are all kinds of clever ways for one to be separated from one’s money. Two ways that I see frequently, because I am an accredited ASA appraiser, is the marketing of what I call “artificial art” and the other is flat-out fraudulent art, fakes. Please be wise, people. Don’t buy anything that is being sold on TV at 02:00 A.M. It doesn’t matter what the headline is, if it’s being sold on TV in the wee hours, especially on a cable channel, it’s being marketed to fools. Gold-plated buffalo nickels, collector plates, model trucks, toy dolls, or silver-plated puckered pimples recently plucked off Benjamin Franklin’s keister — for Pete’s sake, don’t buy it! It’s all “artificial art”, if it can be called art at all.

And if there is a slick franchised storefront in your neighborhood that sells nicely framed oil paintings all by the same “artist”, forget it. All of this crap is “artificial art”, big-time. There isn’t an accredited appraiser in the whole galaxy that would value all of it for more that what bovine flatulence is worth to an energy company.

And then there are the outright fakes. Please be careful. When you are ready to shell out thousands, go to a reputable dealer or consult an ASA accredited appraiser first. I have witnessed many a grown person cry when I tell them they should have called me first. Don’t buy “art” marketed in a hotel or on a ship or from the back of a vehicle in a parking lot. You wouldn’t hire a neurosurgeon at any of these venues, would you? Of course not. Do you really want to risk it?

Buy beer instead. It’s better for you.