Appraised Inventory Values Versus Actual Sale Values

If a probate record contains an appraisal of property and a list of what the property sold for, compare them. Are they close? Usually the values are reasonably close–unless there’s an item or two someone is “fighting over.” What can be more interesting is to see if there’s any pattern in the sale prices.

In one probate from Missouri from the 1860s, the price the widow paid for items at the same was approximately 10% of the appraised value. The items that neighbors bought sold for amounts that were reasonably close the the appraised value. It didn’t take long to figure out that neighbors were probably letting her purchase items she needed. State law dictated that after certain items were given to the widow, the rest had to be sold.

The estate had few bills and there wasn’t the need to raise money to pay them. The likely “unwritten agreement” between the neighbors to let the widow bid at a low price allowed the sale to take place while helping the widow preserve her property.

Sometimes people find a way around things.