Is Having Your Art Appraised a Good Idea?
ArtBusiness.com is a consumer resource website for people who own art, people who create art (aka artists), fine arts professionals, and anyone else with a love of or interest in art. The site receives thousands of requests for art price information annually and provides all manner of appraisal services so people can intelligently buy, sell, trade, insure, donate, value for legal purposes, or otherwise transact in original works of art. The following art price information is for each and every one of you who wonders whether you can effectively and accurately evaluate art prices with little or no knowledge of the inner workings of the art market... or whether under certain circumstances, art appraisers, consultants or advisors are actually worth paying for.
To begin with, the art business is totally unregulated. Anyone can call themselves an art dealer, anyone can call themselves an artist, anyone can open an art gallery, anyone can sell whatever they feel like selling and call it art, and anyone can price whatever they call art however they please. As long as they don't engage in fraud or misrepresentation and operate within the law, they can arbitrarily price a work of art at $1000, $10000 or even $100,000-- whatever they feel like-- and regardless of whether the art would appraise for anywhere near those amounts. Believe it; it's true. On the upside, the overwhelming majority of art dealers, galleries and artists price their art fairly-- but not always. And that's why we have art appraisers and advisors-- professionals skilled at accurately evaluating art, determining fair market values, and making sure you have the most up-to-date understandable price information possible.
Let's say you either inherit or have owned art for years and decide to sell. Without current appraisals, you make an easy target for unscrupulous buyers. You have no idea what your art is worth; they do. You can sell way too cheaply without any idea you're doing so, and the bad news is you have little or no recourse for recouping your losses. Appraisers and consultants protect you from that happening.
Think you can appraise art yourself? Think again. Figuring out how much art is worth and, based on those values, whether to buy, sell, trade, insure or donate-- those are by no means easy tasks for people who are unfamiliar with how the art business works, including buyers, bidders, donors, collectors or inheritors... and even artists. The job of qualified appraisers and advisors is to protect anyone who has questions about art values by providing the prices they need according to the situations they're in, in order for them to make informed intelligent decisions.
Art appraisers evaluate art prices in much the same way that stock brokers evaluate stock prices or real estate brokers evaluate home prices. A qualified art appraiser studies a variety of characteristics of a work of art and the market for that art before valuing it. A typical evaluation includes assessing the artist's exhibition history and career accomplishments, studying and analyzing the artist's recent auction and gallery sales histories, and examining particulars related to the work of art itself including it's size, subject matter, detail, quality of craftsmanship, ownership history, age, condition, and so on. We're talking technical here.
If you're not experienced at pricing art, contact an appraiser or advisor anytime you have questions about value. This is no different than consulting a doctor when you have a medical question or an attorney when you have a legal question. Paying a few dollars for accurate art price information up front can easily save you hundreds and often thousands of dollars later. Believe me-- it's true. Here are some additional pointers on when and how to use appraisers in "art and money" situations.
** If you own original art and you've never had it appraised or you lack current price information, have an appraiser value it.
** Avoid getting appraisals from the people who sold you the art. A gallery that sells you a work of art, for example, has an obvious conflict of interest, and a tendency to appraise high in order to make that art, its artist, and their gallery look good.
** Avoid free appraisals. Free appraisals are rarely free. Please-- for your own good-- avoid free art appraisals.
** Use a qualified art appraiser to value your art. Don't use your friend who's an artist or your aunt who has a booth at the local antique mall.
** Update appraisals every three to five years, or before changing the disposition or ownership of any work of art that you own. Art prices fluctuate over time.
** Use art price guides, auction records, online art prices or art price databases and other art price references for entertainment purposes only. Unless you know how to analyze and extrapolate their data, leave those jobs to the pros.
** Never accept spontaneous or unsolicited cash offers from anyone to buy art that you own. These kinds of offers are usually low. Get appraisals first.
** If you're not an experienced collector, get an appraiser's or consultant's opinion before buying works of art from dealers or galleries that you don't know or have never done business with.
** If you're not an experienced collector, get an appraiser's or consultant's opinion before buying art by artists whose names, artwork, or market histories you're either unclear on or not familiar with.
** Get an appraiser's or consultant's opinion no matter what kinds of art bargains sellers tell you that you're about to get.
** Unless you're an experienced auction bidder and buyer, ask an appraiser or consultant to inspect art that you're thinking about buying before you bid on it. This is especially true when buying at online auctions. Online auctions are extremely risky places to buy art.
** No matter what kind of art buying situation you find yourself in, if you're not totally 100% sure what you're doing, ask an appraiser or advisor any questions that you have about the art, artist, or circumstances surrounding the purchase before you buy, not after. You'd be amazed at how many people don't ask questions until after they've spent hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars.
** Never give away, throw out or otherwise get divest yourself of any art that you own, no matter how bad you think it is, what you think of the person who gave it to you, what condition it's in or how unimportant you think the artist is. Always have a qualified appraiser or consultant inspect it first.
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