What is Value?


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In accounting, the term “value” can refer to various ways of assessing the worth or financial standing of assets, liabilities, or even the entire business. Some commonly used forms of value in accounting include:

Book Value

This is the value of an asset or liability as it appears on a company’s balance sheet. Book value of an asset is usually the cost of the asset minus accumulated depreciation, amortization, or impairment charges.

Fair Market Value

This is the amount for which an asset could be exchanged between a willing buyer and a willing seller, both of whom are knowledgeable about the asset and neither is under any obligation to buy or sell. This value can differ from the book value.

Net Asset Value (NAV)

This is most commonly used in the context of investment funds and represents the value of the fund’s assets minus its liabilities. NAV per share gives investors a picture of the fund’s per-share market value.

Realizable Value

This is the estimated amount that an asset can be sold for, less any disposal costs, in the ordinary course of business. This value is often used in the context of receivables and inventory.

Liquidation Value

This is the estimated amount that an asset would fetch in the event of the company being liquidated or sold. Liquidation value is usually less than fair market value and is often used as a conservative estimate of value.

Intrinsic Value

This term is often used in the context of stock valuation to indicate the perceived true value of a stock, based on all aspects of the business and its financials. The intrinsic value can be compared to the current market value to determine if the stock is overvalued or undervalued.

Historical Cost

This is the original monetary value of an asset or liability. In traditional accounting, assets are often recorded at their historical cost, which is then adjusted for depreciation.

Replacement Value

This is the cost that would be incurred to replace an asset at current market prices, which may include costs related to purchasing and installing the new asset.

Carrying Value

Also known as “carrying amount,” this is the book value of an asset or liability that appears on the balance sheet, taking into account factors like amortization, depreciation, and impairment charges.

Example of Value

Let’s consider a fictional small business called “Jane’s Coffee Shop” to demonstrate how different types of value can come into play in accounting.

Scenario 1: Book Value of an Espresso Machine

Jane’s Coffee Shop purchased an espresso machine 2 years ago for $10,000. The machine has a useful life of 10 years with no expected salvage value, so it depreciates at a rate of $1,000 per year.

  • Historical Cost: $10,000
  • Accumulated Depreciation: $2,000 (2 years × $1,000 per year)
  • Book Value: $8,000 ($10,000 – $2,000)

So, the book value of the espresso machine after 2 years would be $8,000.

Scenario 2: Fair Market Value of the Espresso Machine

After researching, Jane finds out that similar espresso machines in used condition are selling for around $9,000.

  • Fair Market Value: $9,000

Scenario 3: Liquidation Value of the Business

Jane also wants to understand what would happen if she had to close her coffee shop. She finds that, in a quick sale, her total assets (including furniture, inventory, and the espresso machine) could probably fetch around $30,000.

  • Liquidation Value: $30,000

Scenario 4: Intrinsic Value of the Business

After evaluating the profitability, cash flow, and growth potential of her coffee shop, Jane estimates that the intrinsic value of her business is around $100,000. This value considers not just her assets but also her profitability and potential for future earnings.

  • Intrinsic Value: $100,000


  • Book Value of the espresso machine: $8,000
  • Fair Market Value of the espresso machine: $9,000
  • Liquidation Value of the business: $30,000
  • Intrinsic Value of the business: $100,000

Each of these values serves a different purpose and would be used in different contexts. For example, the book value is important for financial reporting, the market value could be important if Jane wants to sell the machine, the liquidation value is crucial if she’s considering closing the business, and the intrinsic value could be important for long-term planning or if she’s considering selling the entire business.

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