Appraisals of Original
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
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
- 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 and Appraisers.
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 personal research.
- 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
- 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
- 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 value.
- 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 or sculpture?
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 community organizations?
- Who were the artist's teachers and who were the artist's students,
and what degree of fame did members of each group reach?
- 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 of exhibitions?
- What collectors and what museums own the artist's work?
- Which galleries and dealers sell the artist's work and what is their
- 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 the work?
- What is the method of production (studio, plein air) of the work?
- 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
- 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 verifiable?
- What exhibitions are associated with the work; what are the credentials
of curators of the exhibitions, and the reputation of the exhibitors?
- 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
- 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:
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
What Is An Appraisal? and How to Find an Appraiser by Victor
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
The above names and addresses are provided only as referrals
for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in employing these
or other consultants or vendors. Traditional Fine Art Organization, Inc.
takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information herein. Information
from the named firms may be inaccurate or out of date. Traditional Fine
Art Organization, Inc neither recommends or endorses the above referenced
organizations. Although Traditional Fine Art Organization, Inc. includes
links to other Internet sites, it takes no responsibility for the content
or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial
or other control over those other sites. For
more information on evaluating web pages see Traditional Fine Arts Organization,
Inc.'s General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors
and Students of Art History.
TFAO's catalogues provide many more useful resources:
Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American
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