Appraisals of Original
(above: Carl McCoy, Cherokee
Reservation, North Carolina, Wood Carving of a Bull, National
Archives and Records Administration, Department of the Interior, Indian
Arts and Crafts Board. Cherokee Field Office, Cherokee, North Carolina.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)
Traditional Fine Arts Organization
(TFAO) does not appraise art objects, however there
are many resources for art appraisals. Before considering an appraisal we
suggest that you first read Authentication and Evaluation
of Paintings. While slanted towards paintings, its principles are applicable
to other kinds of artworks. Depending on the type of appraisal that you
need, there are various solutions. Tax appraisals, insurance appraisals,
purchase and sales appraisals may have dissimilar purposes and requirements
-- and yield different results. Before obtaining an appraisal decide on
the use for it and plan accordingly. Here is a referral list for your consideration,
plus other useful information:
1. Hire a fee appraiser. Below is a partial list of professional
appraisal societies and other resources.
- American Society
of Appraisers, P. O. Box 17265, Washington, DC
20041, 1-800-272-8258; 1-703-733-2108.
- All disciplines, referrals given; regarding Fine Arts
specialists who are designated as Accredited Members or Accredited Senior
Appraisers -- ASA has 113 such specialists. Appraisers who have a designation
in Fine Arts not only have to meet all the education and experience requirements
for achieving a personal property designation, but they undergo specific
testing in Fine Arts appraisal and their experience must be in that specialty.
To qualify for the Accredited Member designation (AM), an individual must
have at least two years of full-time appraisal experience and a college
degree or its equivalent. To qualify for the Accredited Senior Appraiser
designation (ASA), an individual must have a minimum of 5 years of full-time
appraisal experience and a college degree or its equivalent. ASA is an
international, not-for-profit, independent, multi discipline appraisal
organization that was established in 1936 and incorporated in 1952. The
society's purpose is to establish an effective profession-wide affiliation
working cooperatively to elevate the standards of the appraisal profession.
There are more than 6,000 ASA members in 88 chapters and branches located
throughout the United States and abroad. To read an article furnished by
the ASA which discusses tips on finding and evaluating appraisers, please click here.
- ArtBusiness.com A Web-based art appraisal & research service
- The International
Society of Appraisers A nationwide network of
professional appraisers headquartered at Riverview Plaza Office Park, 16040
Christensen Road, Suite 102 Seattle, WA 98188-2965. Phone 1-206-241-0359
- Many art dealers are experts on value and provide fee
appraisals. Some dealers are members of professional associations such
as the Art Dealers Association of
America, Private Art Dealers Association,
Fine Art Dealers Association, and the
National Antique & Art Dealers Association.
In its web site, the Fine Art Dealers Association says " Because evaluating
an artwork demands thorough knowledge of the artist's work, as well as
the current market for both public and private sales, it is imperative
that a dealer has current working knowledge derived from hands on experience.
The ability of a dealer to discern the subtle nuances that can differentiate
a "6" from a "10" comes from years of experience and
study. " The Art Dealers Association of America argues the advantage
of retaining art dealers for appraisals: "An art dealer's livelihood
depends upon that dealer's ability to make aesthetic and economic judgments
about works of art. For this reason, dealers are best qualified to make
valuations of works of art within their areas of specialization."
- To find names of appraisers, you may wish to contact
the curator or director a local museum for suggestions about individuals
or companies near you who may be of service.
2. Take advantage of "appraisal days" at museums.
- "Appraisal days" are held annually by an increasing
number of art museums. For a nominal fee, usually in the area of $10, members
of the public may obtain verbal opinions on the value of objects of art
from experts. Call your local museum to learn where and when such an event
will take place. Or, your city may be on the tour of the popular Antiques
Roadshow sponsored by PBS.
3. Obtain a free appraisal.
- Auction companies (see list of Auction
Houses) will often provide an auction estimate (appraisal) without
charge based on a photo and description sent to them. Estimates provided
this way can be a very rough gauge of auction value. Auction houses sometimes
tend to evaluate objects at the lower end of the value range so as to encourage
a sale. Lesser experienced evaluators at auction houses are often unaware
of the true value of works by important artists whose works have infrequently
been sold at auction. Prices estimated and paid at auctions are often considerably
less than retail prices charged at galleries -- many art galleries purchase
a large portion of their inventory at auctions. Markups of two to two and
one-half times from auction price to retail price are common. Christie's
and Sotheby's have information on how to buy at auction on their web sites.
When contacting an auction house bear in mind that it is often best to
choose an auction house that is located close to where the art was created,
not close to where the seller is located.
- Get an offer from an art dealer. Dealers often sell art
in inventory for double or more than what they pay for it. Be aware that
you may receive from a dealer a quote at deep discount from what the dealer
will later charge to a buyer. If you let the dealer know you are getting
bids from multiple sources, you may receive a much higher quote if art
similar to what you have is in high demand by collectors.
- Art museums do not appraise art works. An exception is
"appraisal days"noted above.
- TFAO readers may find of interest a cautionary article
by Alan Bamberger, a San Francisco, CA-based art consultant, titled Beware of Free Art Appraisals
4. Perform your own appraisal.
- Unless you are an expert it
is very difficult to estimate with precision the value of an original work
of art. You may be able to determine, however, a rough idea of value by
- Many elements may be considered when arriving at a value.
Thirty-eight of them are identified below in our list of appraisal factors.
You may wish to perform investigation work regarding some of the elements.
- Conduct a keyword search
using the artist's name in Resource Library.
The results of the search may provide valuable clues as to the importance
of the artist. For instance, search results may identify instances where
the artist's work was included in a museum exhibition
or is in a museum's collection. Checklists and object labels appended to
Resource Library articles indicate names of museum and private owners
of artworks in exhibits (see definitions
of these terms). Works of art by an artist that are placed in museum exhibitions
are evidence that a curator (see staff name
definitions) was involved in the selection of the art and that the museum
found the artwork worthy of exhibit. Museum exhibitions and museum collections
including an artist's works are strong predictors of monetary value. The
frequency of exhibitions over time is also important. The expertise of
the curator of an exhibition and accreditation
of the collecting museum are of importance when considering the weight
to be placed on these predictors.
- Look up the artist in Distinguished
Artists. If an artist is included in the list that is an indicator
that the artists's work may be of material value. Click
here to learn how TFAO evaluates sources of information on artists
and a warning on quality levels of online biographies.
- Artcyclopedia provides links to images of art work held in museum collections.
The fact that a museum has an image by an artist on the Web is a signal
that the artist's work may be of significant value. The quantity of museums
owning the artist's works and the prestige of collecting museums are both
predictors of value.
- In Dr. Roger Dunbier's essay Fine
Art Comparables - Part Two (8/28/97), he argues that "...prices
conform to the magnitude of the literature, indeed follow to a considerable
degree the published word...." To study the magnitude of citation,
conduct a Google search of the artist's
name by placing quotation marks at the beginning and end of the name, e.g.
"Franz Bischoff" plus the word "artist" so that a search
is made for the exact name. The volume of search results are an indicator
of popularity of the artist in published documents, and therefore an indicator
of price. In December, 2010 Google introduced the Ngram
Viewer, a tool for graphing the popularity of a phrase (e.g. artist
name) over a span of time. Use the Ngram Viewer to study whether an artist's
name is trending towards gain or loss in popularity over time. In cases
where name popularity is rising, an artist's work may be gaining monetary
value, or losing value if popularity is waning.
- There are online and paper-printed sources of auction
results. Popular online services are artprice.com
and AskArt.com. They charge a fee to view
the auction prices for thousands of American artists. There are also other
online services that perform this service.
- Many art dealers and galleries post names of artists
represented and retail prices of available inventory online. In some cases
prices are not placed online. Calls to galleries with works without quoted
prices will often result in learning the prices. Bear in mind that retail
prices charged by dealers are usually different than prices that can be
obtained through auction.
- A Web search may uncover a book or lecture mentioning
the artist. Contact with the author can lead to identification of an expert
who may then comment on value.
- If you are not sure how the artist's name is spelled,
search for the name using several guesses in Resource Library, Google
and Artcyclopedia until you find possible matches. Then look at several
pictures of the artist's work to see if the style of art matches via Google Images, Resource
Library, and Artcyclopedia. Google Images will lead you to Web pages
containing the images. You can then study the context of the images and
more sources of information.
- If all of these steps fail to identify an artist, there
is a lessened probability that a work by that artist is of significant
- If the artwork is unsigned, you may need to employ options
1, 2 and 3 to find out who created the work.
Appraisal factors: What factors do buyers and sellers consider and
what questions are asked when arriving at the value of a one-of-a-kind painting
The following elements of value are
not listed in order of importance and are not all-inclusive.
About the artist
How many articles and essays - in exhibition
catalogues, other books, news and publicity articles, and critical reviews
- have been published about the artist, in all media, by what authors, and
when? What are the credentials of the authors? For interesting statistics
see AskART's Most
Book References for important artists
How often is the artist's name cited online
in exhibition catalogue essays, other books, journal, magazine and newspaper
articles? Again, what are the credentials of the authors?
What is or was the extent of the artist's
participation in art colonies, artists' associations and other art-related
Who were the artist's teachers and who
were the artist's students, and what degree of fame did members of each
Where and when have there been museum exhibitions
covering the work of the artist and what is the trend?
What are the credentials of the curators
What collectors and what museums own the
Which galleries and dealers sell the artist's
work and what is their reputation?
What professional designations and awards
were earned by the artist and how important are they?
If the artist's works have been sold at
auction, what is the volume of sales, when were the sales, at what price,
sizes of the objects, by which auction houses?
Is the price trend for the artist up or
down and is the price trend for the class of subject matter (western genre,
pop art, etc.) up or down?
What are recent comparable sales for the
size of the work, the subject matter, the medium and other variables?
What is the highest sale to date for the
artist and what is the highest sale per square inch for the artist?
What is the price ranking of the artist
relative to other artists?
What percentage of a deceased artist's
output remains in private hands as an indicator of scarcity?
If a living artist, what are the expected
remaining years of productivity of the artist, is the artist full-time or
part-time and how many works are produced each year and what is the trend?
About the object
What is the medium (oil on canvas, watercolor) used for
What is the method of production (studio, plein air) of
If signed, what is the quality of the signature?
If bronze, is there a foundry mark?
Is the work dated?
Where was the work created?
What is the size (height and width) of the work?
What is the condition (holes, tears or stains; pieces missing
or broken, wear on the patina) of the work?
Has cleaning been performed and how has it affected the
visual appeal of the object?
Is there evidence of repairs such as inpainting, lining
or other restoration of the object? Poorly conducted restoration can impair
value more than neglect.
Are there gallery or framing stickers on the back? Is there
anything written on the back or on the work or mat?
Is there a title to the work?
If there a title to the work, how often is the title cited
online and in what context for each citation?
How central is the work to the most sought after period
and subject matter of the artist?
What is the quality of the frame, if any?
If the work has been sold at auction, when were the sales,
at what price, by which auction houses?
What is the providence (history of ownership) of the work?
Was the work held by a well-known collection and the ownership
What exhibitions are associated with the work; what are
the credentials of curators of the exhibitions, and the reputation of the
In what articles, essays, catalogues and other publications
is the work cited? Is there a photo of the work with the text? What are
the credentials of the authors and publishers?
What certificates are available for the work concerning
authenticity and condition?
What are the credentials of the authenticator?
What written appraisals are available?
What are the credentials of the appraiser?
Dunbier on Fine Art Valuation
In the column Fine Art Valuation by Roger Dunbier, sometimes irreverent, provocative and always informative Dr.
Roger Dunbier speaks out on issues regarding the valuation of fine art:
Business of Art: Evidence from the Art Market, an exhibit held March 16 - July 25, 2004 at the J. Paul Getty
Museum, provides insight into the inputs of value Accessed 12/14
Thomas Cole Historic
House has a website page
dedicated to collectors, with questions answered on authentication,
valuation and conservation.
What Is An Appraisal? and How to Find an Appraiser
by Victor Wiener.
Note to sellers:
For resales of art objects, there may be an obligation
to pay to the artist a percentage of the sale amount. If the appraisal is
being made in contemplation of a sale, sellers should consult with advisors
familiar with state and federal laws. For an article on this subject please
see the Wall Street Journal's March 5, 2009 article titled "The
Case of the $80 Royalty Check: a Mystery for Patty Milich, Art Sleuth"
by Sarah McBride.
Return to Resources for Collectors, Life Long Learners, Students
and Teachers of Art History
Artists catalogue provides online
access to biographical information for artists associated with this state.
Also, Search Resource Library for online articles and
essays concerning both individual artists associated with this state's history
and the history of art centers and museums in this state. Resource Library
articles and essays devoted to individual artists and institutions are not
listed on this page.
*Tag for expired US copyright of object
Links to sources of information outside
of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration.
Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained
in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be
inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced
organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes
no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other
sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information
on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General
Resources section in Online
Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.
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