Paleonet: Microfossil donation appraisals

Thomas Hegna thegna at
Mon Oct 1 15:29:48 UTC 2012

I wanted to convey my thanks to everyone who offered advice on our microfossil donation. The donation appears to qualify as a 'small' donation, so we will suggest ways for the donor to arrive at a value themselves. 

Thomas A. Hegna
Assistant Professor
Department of Geology
Western Illinois University
Tillman Hall 113
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 09:52:19 -0700
To: paleonet at
From: jlipps at
Subject: Re: Paleonet: Microfossil donation appraisals

I've done quite a few of these loans in the past and made a
few donations of my own.   Gary is correct and cites the proper
IRS rules.  For larger collections, I don't think there is a rule
about how a qualified appraiser can be selected.   I've done it
in three ways:  1.  Let the donor find one of his/her own;
2.  Provided a list of one or more that the donor then could chose
to work with (an institution cannot make a recommendation, I'm sure); and
3. contacted qualified people myself that were then selected by the
donor.  The appraiser then usually did a comparison of market values
from catalogs, internet stores, or shops.   The IRS form is a
simple one for the appraiser to fill out and asks for all this sort of
information.   For most donors, they simply do not have the
knowledge to do this without some help.

The receiving institution also has to sign the form acknowledging receipt
of the collection.   Since this is a transfer of ownership, the
actual location of the collection (i.e., it could be in the institution
already) doesn't matter, as long ownership is clear.   That is
taken care of on the forms.

For the smaller collections, as Gary points out, an appraiser is not
required.  But certainly the donor must document how he/she reached
the value claimed (i.e., be prepared to show how he/she evaluated the
material in case of an audit.  Prices lists would do that). 
Anyone can do this on the internet now days.   The problem
comes in the proper identification of the donated specimen to the one
offered for sale.   That could require professional help, and I
don't think there is a rule about who can help the donor on

I should add that collections made on grants cannot be claimed, although
I have seen it done.   All grants, as far as I know, require
that the collections will be deposited in a recognized depository,
although perhaps some foundation grants don't do that.  Still, I
wouldn't try it.


At 08:19 AM 9/24/2012 Monday, you wrote:

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The donor is responsible for getting an appraisal, but an appraisal is
not needed for donations valued under $5000. The IRS does not allow the
recipient to provide an appraisal. I’ve heard that an institution can
provide a list of four or more qualified appraisers to the donor, but I
haven’t been able to find such a statement online.


Up to $5000, the donor can establish the fair market value if they state
the method used to determine the value on form 8283
<>. That method can be
comparison to price lists, value of similar items on eBay, at fossil
shows, etc. See


Of the two methods that Peter Smolka suggested, the IRS would allow the
first but not the second. The labor and travel costs are not directly
relevant to establishing the value of an item. If I drive an hour each
way from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore and pick up a kilogram of sand
from the beach, I can’t say the value of the sand is 2 hours of my time,
plus gas and tolls.


Gary Rosenberg

Academy of Natural Sciences

Drexel University






From: paleonet-bounces at
mailto:paleonet-bounces at] On Behalf Of Thomas

Sent: September 21, 2012 3:34 PM

To: paleonet at

Subject: Paleonet: Microfossil donation appraisals



  We recently had a donation of some nice microfossil slides to our
department. How have other people handled the appraisal of microfossil




Thomas A. Hegna


Department of Geology

Western Illinois University

Tillman Hall 113

1 University Circle

Macomb, IL 61455




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