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To Damn With Faint Appraise
Learning about "comps" at the feet of the master.
Without boring you with too much detail about my personal finances, it’s been an annoying week. I happen to be applying for a home-equity loan, and the lender seems to be unimpressed with my net worth.
Anyway, that’s what I assume, due to the laughing out loud.
The process was to add up assets that could be considered collateral and to subtract outstanding debt. Mortgage, credit cards, extortionists, etc. What was left is not a figure that would bowl you over. My banker wasn’t entirely unsympathetic. Surveying the balance sheet he said, “You’re old. Do you, by any chance, have a coin collection or a wealthy dying relative about to come through for you? Are there any precious natural resources to be exploited on your ⅛ acre of suburban property?”
“Does radon count?” I asked.
No, alas. So I’ve been doing what I always do when I face adversity. I scroll my phone madly for hours on end to follow the Donald Trump court cases. Because the prospect of his imprisonment and financial ruin is the only thing these days that gives me hope and joy. Not that I’m depressive or anything, but honestly, it’s what gets me out of bed in the afternoon.
And then, on Tuesday, while catching up on Michael Cohen’s testimony in the New York attorney general’s fraud case against the Trump Crime Family, I had an epiphany. I’ve been doing this finance stuff all wrong, and Trump has been doing it right. He says the litigation is all a witch hunt, premised on the state’s willful ignorance of how assets are appraised in the real world. What an education as witness Cohen held a Master Class in tidying up a balance sheet. Namely, big valuations!
Trump’s lawyers keep saying it’s all strictly kosher, because property appraisal is subjective, not some deducible value determined by independent “experts.” It’s about finding the right “comps,” prices fetched by others for similar properties, with maybe some minor adjustments. (Like the “presidential premium” attached to the Trump name, or multiplying the actual square footage of your penthouse by three.) Well, eu-fuckin’-reka! All I need to do is reappraise my assets as if I had Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg working for me.
Here are a few simple examples, beginning with this attractive and stately moose head trophy sold by Woodland Creek’s Log Furniture Place, which promises to “bring out the raw nature of this wild and sedentary beast in your living room, fireplace setting, game room, or the bedroom.”
Priced at $4,469.
I happen to own a moose head trophy myself. Behold!
And better, because it is plush and washable in cold water and low temperature tumble dry. (Use the “moose” setting). Furthermore, it is vastly more humane, as no wild beasts were harmed in displaying this stately office decor. I value it at $18,700.
Let us discuss timepieces. Here is a 1972 Rolex GMT Master wristwatch worn by Marlon Brando in the movie Apocalypse Now. It was last sold for $1.9 million. Used, mind you. But quite handsome.
May I now call your attention to a 10-year newer Eddie Bauer timepiece that has been carefully preserved in my socks drawer for decades.
Practically identical. Plus luminous dial for night timekeeping. No band, however. So I value it at only $1.8 million.
Now let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to Petra, in Jordan, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World? I have. It’s phenomenal — a vast rose sandstone quarry carved two millennia ago by the Nabataeans into detailed facades of a Roman city. You may have seen it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Archeology at the site has unearthed so many ancient artifacts, such as this primitive oil lamp.
According to the Barakat Gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills:
A lamp such as this might have lit homes in the fabled city of Petra during the flowering of the Nabataean Empire. A metaphor of joy and prosperity, for hope, for life itself, lamps have illuminated the path of civilization for centuries. They have guided great thoughts through the night, stood vigil with lonely passions. In the presence of this simple object, we are in touch directly with a vanished world, with the people once warmed by its glow. Today it remains as an enduring symbol of man’s desire to conquer the darkness.
$3,000 retail. I own one.
This rare antiquity I purchased at the Petra gift shop in 2004 for $30, but today is much older and useful in a power outage or 8-day cleaning of a destroyed sacred temple. $3,500. Firm.
Now, on the subject of rarity, please take a gander at this old, ash Louisville Slugger baseball bat once used by a long-dead player named Babe Ruth.
It was sold at auction for $1,265,000. Now here is my Louisville Slugger, engraved with my name and never used. It is one of a kind, and also I am alive, so …
Estimated value: $2 million. Finally, there is my real estate. I happen to live in the same Maryland community as Dan Snyder, disgraced former owner of the Washington Commanders professional football team. Perhaps disillusioned with the Nation’s Capital, he is offering his home for $49 million.
It has 13 bathrooms and a powder room, but only five bedrooms. My tidy townhome across town has four bedrooms, plus two dedicated parking spaces and a nice screened-in porch.
Doing the math, bedroomwise, I should probably value it at 80% of Snyder’s place. But I am significantly less disgraced, and much closer to shopping. $47 million. Adding it all up by Trump Organization methodology brings this small sample of my assets to $50,822,200. I expect that should satisfy the bankers. I hope so. That loan is kind of important. I need a new water heater.
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