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News & opinion

1 FEB. 2019

What are the world’s most iconic landmarks worth?

The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Wall of China – what are they actually worth? Whilst some surveyors may deem this a dreaded dinner-party question, Barden Prisant, FRICS FRSA, believes that consideration of such hypotheticals is an important exercise for valuers.

In recent years, Barden, who is president and founder of New York-based International Art Advisors, has endeavoured to undertake valuations on a range of iconic assets. His subjects have included, among others, the White House, the Major League Baseball World Series, Mission Control in Houston, and Disney World.

Working with valuers across a range of disciplines, the outcomes have then been presented to RICS professionals at conferences in the United States and Canada.

"A key aim of mine has been to bring valuation professionals closer together," he continued. "RICS encompasses many different valuation disciplines, yet valuation professionals actually share many common bonds – for example the Red Book, methodologies for assessing comparables, or the myriad types of values we are asked to assign day to day."

We’ve called these sessions Iconomics, a phrase coined to describe the exploration of how one can use traditional valuation methodologies when evaluating items of iconic status.

Barden Prisant FRICS

Barden's next Iconomics presentation will focus upon the value of the Tower of London. Dating back to the 1070s, the Tower's rich history includes periods as a secure fortress, royal palace and infamous prison. Today it's a top UK visitor attraction and home to a world-famous collection of 23,578 gemstones – the Crown Jewels. So how do you put a price on an asset with 'priceless' contents and such a prominent role in UK history?

"Without giving too much away, I start with what are informally known as the cost, comparable, and income approaches to valuation, which are considered to be the guideposts. One then pursues each to its logical conclusion, which, with such a property, can be a mind-bending experience." He said. "For example, using today's technology, shaping and placing the outer curtain wall stones would be far easier than it was back in the 13th Century. Therefore, exploring the cost of rebuilding it today is not really reflective of how significant, and costly, an undertaking it was eight centuries ago."

Barden is also keen to express how this type of hypothesis allows valuers in niche fields to gain more prominence.

"In an era of hyper-specialisation, I have found it refreshing to witness RICS professionals, almost all of whom are in real estate, take a keen interest in art, business, and intellectual property valuation. These talks allow the panellists in more arcane fields a time to shine and really engage the audience."