Appraisal Services


After obtaining his BA (History) at the University of California, Davis, Mr. Murian began his work as an appraiser under the tutelage of Mr. Herbert Caplan of Argus Books in Sacramento in 1970. He received his MLS from the University of California, Berkeley with special emphasis on the history of the book and archival methods. He became the out-of-print specialist at California State University, Sacramento where he also received his MA in history of the American West.

He has been  recognized as a qualified appraiser of books and manuscripts and appraised large libraries donated to the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Los Angeles. Since 1986 he has appraised books, journals, letters, photographs and manuscripts for collections given to the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and various museums.

Besides appraisals for the FBI, he has served as an expert witness at a trial involving the theft of historical documents where the U.S. Attorney's Office states: "Mr. Murian is the best available appraiser with expertise in this area [historical documents]."  He is a biographee in Who’s Who in the West, 1995-, Who’s Who in America, 1996- and Who’s Who in the World, 1996-. He has served as a consultant for the Arizona Historical Society and on the Arizona Book Awards Committee.   His articles on the book trade have appeared in AB Bookman’s Weekly.  He was the lecturer in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield "Lure of the Book" series given at the Phoenix Public Library in 1999.  Since 2014,  he has been the appraiser of books, autographs and manuscripts on Arizona Collectibles which is broadcast on KAET-TV (Channel 8 and its affiliates).

Examples of written appraisals are available upon request.


The purpose of an appraisal is to find an independent and competent third party that can determine the value of personal or business property to the satisfaction of the interests of both the owner and the appropriate agency.  In the case of books, autographs and documents any serious bookseller can assist the owner in discovering the value of a book or a library.   Although this should be evident, using the internet as a price guide by itself is unreliable since those prices often do not represent the actual market.   The vast majority of books, photographs and papers  do not require a formal, written appraisal.   We offer to give free estimates of value on those items when brought to us by appointment.

Many collectors simply want to have an idea of what their book, autographs or collection is worth on today’s market.  Since their purpose does not require submission to any tax authority, estate attorney, insurance company, or any similar party, they can obtain this information from any bookseller who has earned the respect of his or her peers.  Normally, these booksellers will be members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of  America or of its parent organization the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.   

There are times; however, when a formal, written appraisal is required. When an insurance claim is filed, the absence of a careful record along with a written appraisal places the owner at a distinct disadvantage. While various companies and their appointed adjusters will examine claims with varying degrees of strictness, the presence of records (for example, original purchase invoices or a recent appraisal) will often simplify the process. Of course, a collector may sometimes purchase an item for cash at a public sale. Often the value can be many times what was paid for the book.  this case, a record of the acquisition will help but at some point an independent appraisal is advised.

An appraisal may be required also when a collection is part of an estate. Whether the collection contains one truly valuable item or represents an entire library, an independent appraisal will be required.

One of the most difficult appraisal issues occurs when a library is donated to a library, museum or other non-profit institution. If the library is substantial, the appraisal must be carefully substantiated. A qualified appraiser must not only establish the value of the collection, but if challenged ought to be able to defend their evaluation with the appropriate citations, reference materials, and other levels of substantiation. Any appraiser who is not willing to defend an appraisal before the appropriate tax agency should avoid this level.  In all cases, insurance, estate, or tax jurisdictions, require accuracy and an indefensible appraisal may constitute fraud.

Conflict of Interest

Where a formal or written appraisal is required, the appraiser should make it clear that they have no interest in acquiring said material. For an appraiser to attempt to serve the client’s interest while hoping to acquire the material is unethical. The appraiser often includes a statement to the effect that he or she has no present or contemplated interest in the items being appraised. While it is possible to wear two hats in looking at books and assisting people in determining the value of books for sale, it is not ethical to prepare a formal appraisal and then immediately offer to buy books from it. Of course, the appraiser may be an active buyer of the material once the owner decides to place it on the open market in a public offering.

If you have further questions about appraisals, you may call us at (480) 946-1969. Of course, when people want an informal appraisal or estimate, there is never any charge.  Since an appraisal does require examining the book in hand only general guidelines can be  provided via e-mail or over the telephone.