What happens in Vegas can—and frequently does—end up in a pawn shop collection.
The History Channel’s hit TV show “Pawn Stars” owes much of its success to the eclectic mix of people who live in and frequent Las Vegas, says fine art appraiser Brett Maly (pronounced “MAY-lee”).
“Here in Las Vegas, every day is a new day,” Maly says. “The city holds a vast array of art—from Renaissance-era to California contemporary modern—owned by people who come from a variety of backgrounds and geographic origins.”
Maly speaks from decades of experience. In 2004 he completed an appraisal studies program at the University of California, Irvine, and added “appraiser of fine art” to his role of director at Art Encounter, a fine art gallery located at Arville and Russell. Maly also spent several years assessing fine art for insurance purposes.
In 2009, Maly was asked to evaluate the fine art that came through the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the family-owned business at 713 South Las Vegas Boulevard that is at the center of reality show “Pawn Stars.”
The value of property appraisal
So, how do sought-after artifacts actually turn up on the collectibles market? According to Rick Harrison, who co-owns the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, some belong to people who are retired, wealthy, and/or well-traveled; others pass down to the next generation who may sell them, for whatever reason.
Still other artifacts turn out to be stolen goods. For this reason, the decision to buy valuable collectibles has financial implications beyond the purchase transaction. Having a precious asset appraised before purchasing it can be beneficial, compared with the potential losses that may come with buying ill-gotten property.
To get ready for an appraisal of your own personal property, Maly says one of the most important steps is keeping complete records. Write down everything you know about the piece that you are having appraised. Provenance (record of ownership) can add value to an object, he says.
Buying and selling collectibles
Over the years, Maly has seen a change in the types of appraisals that clients want. From 2003 to 2008, insurance appraisals—determining the replacement cost of a piece of art—made up the bulk of his business, he says.
More recently, people have been seeking to liquidate their collections. They see that family heirloom or piece of art as a potential financial windfall, he explains.
And, sometimes it can be. George Tallas, co-owner of Global Art & Collectibles, says he turns to Maly for help doing research on fair market value—the price an item would receive in the marketplace.
As example, Tallas holds up a plastic sleeve containing a block of mint-condition stamps, dated 1869 and titled “The Landing of Columbus.” Tallas says he found the stamps at a garage sale, and just sold them for $1,800. (He wouldn’t say what he paid for them.)
“One of the most unique things about Las Vegas is that there are so many collectibles here—in garage sales, or from storage units left unclaimed,” says Tallas, a retired NASCAR driver, lifelong collector of racecar memorabilia, and an area resident since 1979.
Collecting in Vegas can offer a sense of discovery, he says, as well as history lessons from these discovered artifacts. And, unlike other local pastimes, it can also provide a chance to put together something meaningful.
“Collecting is like building your own time capsule for your family,” he explains.
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