Discover Vintage America - MARCH 2018

So you want to be a quilt appraiser

Whether you want to become a certified quilt appraiser or are just curious about appraisals or appraisers, I think you'll find the process interesting.

While doing appraisals I am often asked, "How do I become an appraiser"? My short answer: Contact the American Quilters Society for certification information and join the American Quilt Study Group. To be an AQS Certified Appraiser, you must have a full and well-rounded knowledge of quilt history, as well as contemporary quilting, including traditional, modern, and art quilting. You must be able to date, evaluate, and value a quilt from any period and virtually any style or construction technique.

Hexagon Flower Garden detail, 1820s, Philadelphia, PA (Starley Quilt Collection)

Hmmm, starting to see why the process is a bit daunting and only a few obtain certification? There are about 100 Certified Appraisers in the United States and Canada (if it were easy, everyone would be doing it).

American Quilters Society

The American Quilters Society (AQS) in Paducah, KY is the only national organization specializing in the certification of quilt appraiser and they have a training, testing, and certification program. To start appraising, you must attend the AQS three-day appraisal skills course for the basics of appraising. The classes are "Designed to give prospective quilt appraisers an idea of what they know, what they don't know, and what they need to know in order to pass AQS testing before becoming a quilt appraiser certified by the American Quilter's Society." For more information on the certification program, including its comprehensive reading list, visit

With perseverance, practice, and a lot of study, certification is an attainable goal and a rewarding and exciting journey. I did it while living in the desert, starting with no knowledge of antique quilts and only a few years of quilting experience; so you can do it too. After taking the appraisal course, I began appraising quilts (old and new) for friends and the public. AQS only certifies seasoned appraisers and notes "appraisal skills are acquired through experience and working in the field." I joined the American Quilt Study Group and fell in love with learning history through quilts.

Because there were no antique quilts to practice on in my area, I began to collect them, learning history and valuations in the process. I intensely read the books on the AQS list (yes, another new collection).

Tumbling Block Star, 1880s, Lancaster Co. PA (Starley Quilt Collection)

I also continued to keep up with contemporary quilting techniques, patterns, fabrics, and designers, in traditional, modern, and art quilting. I observed the prices for fabrics, books, patterns, and completed quilts and learned how to value the time and materials involved as well as the more elusive factors such as visual impact and artistic merit.

While quilt appraising is not the same as show judging, appraisers do need to distinguish levels of workmanship and quality in order to determine costs to remake a quilt. A finely quilted piece, whether by hand or machine, will be valued higher than one that is poorly made and it will cost more to replace it or remake it. Similarly, workmanship and condition, among other factors, determine replacement value in antique quilts.

There are so many amazing quilt history resources available online now and many social media communities in which to share and learn about all types and eras of quilting, old and new, and develop your quilt appraisal skills. I hope your quilting journey is as wonderful as mine continues to be.

Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at Send your comments and quilt questions to

Covering Quilts Archive past columns