At A-Z Appraisal, we receive countless inquiries along with myriad questions about items ranging from spittoons to Navajo rugs that we privately answer or have written about in the “Ask the Appraiser’s” column.

We are what you would call “generalist” appraisers or “jack of all and a master of none.” However, with diligent research or searching for an expert, we can find the answer to most inquiries. We work at becoming competent every day, especially when something new or unusual confronts us.

Because we are “generalist” appraisers, we assist with all appraisal inquiries to the best of our ability and knowledge. We are members of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) and are the only appraisers in Arizona to hold a CAPP (Certified Appraisers of Personal Property). We handle it all; however, there are times when our “generalist” moniker becomes a problem. This situation is when our instincts as professionals come into play, and we follow the “Competency Rule.”

Many items in a home or business can stump an expert, and this is when honesty and business ethics as an appraiser comes full swing. If we do not know the answer, or we are not sure of the item’s specific genre to appraise, we can lead you down the proper roads to help resolve the appraisal.

Jewelry and firearms, for example, are two categories we are not comfortable or competent in valuing. We have basic knowledge of many items, such as sterling silver, different pottery makers, some costume jewelry, and commonplace firearms.

We may know a thing or two about these items, but we do not know enough to establish if a 50-year-old Rolex watch is worth $500 or $50,000, or if a handgun is unique or rare.

When we have to make a decision, our competency is the driving force. If we don’t know the answer to a question, we will bring in a professional who has more knowledge about that item.

We refer all jewelry, coins and mineral inquiries to Robert Connelly and firearm collections to Steven Raether. Both are the only two ISA appraisers in Arizona who have the expertise in their selected areas.

Competency should be the driving force not only in the life of an appraiser but with every professional.

— Contact Tom Helms at or A-Z Appraisal & Estate Consultants, 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, Arizona 85014.