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Home Arts What’s your art worth? ARTworks By: Tom Beckett

What’s your art worth? ARTworks By: Tom Beckett

Conrad Furey-Fisherman with Net

Value Village. Salvation Army. For sale on Kijiji or a garage sale. Or worse, Got Junk or curb-side pick-up.  That’s where your prized art may land without a plan to ensure your family, friends and estate knows its value.

I had a call a short time ago from a client to alert me that she saw two paintings by respected Indigenous artist at a local Value Village a few a days earlier.  They were $25 each!  She was aware that I work with the artist and would know the value of these original paintings. I immediately called the store, but they were gone.

A savvy shopper picked up the deal of a lifetime.  An estate, or at least the people who dropped off the art, lost out on what might have been $10,000 worth of art.

I can’t help but think that the people who dropped it off might have thought – That’s not my taste!  I have no room for that! Let’s clear all this out! The colours don’t go with my décor, etc.   If they only knew the value of the art, they could have been sold on consignment through a gallery and realized their true value.

Art Valuation

There are three good reasons to ensure you have current valuations of your art: 

  • Re-sale – in case you want to sell it
  • Insurance
  • Estate purposes 

On one of these dark, cold winter days, I suggest a little project for you to get the process started, as well as some practical tips to help ensure your valuable art doesn’t end up being a treasure at a thrift store.

It’s a little bit of work, but trust me, the effort will be rewarded when the information is needed.

Rita Letendre-Sharas

1. Create an inventory

The first step is to create a written inventory of your art be it wall-hung or sculpture.

  • Document your art

Work on your computer or with pen and paper.  Start with #1 and capture any details you are aware of about each piece such as: its name, artist name, date created, medium, where purchased, when purchased, price you paid for it, any provenance you’re aware of, what it’s worth (if you know) and the date of the last valuation.

  • Take pictures

If it is a painting, turn it over and take a picture of the back. If it’s an original, it will likely have tags attached to it to indicate the galleries who have handled the sale of the piece over the years.  The back sometimes tells quite a tale! For original art, take a close-up of the artist’s signature and any other details you discover.

  • Create an inventory

Match up the photographs to the document.  Again, depending on your skills, an electronic inventory or paper inventory works as long as it connects  #1 on your inventory with its corresponding picture(s).

Arthur Shilling-Hope (Many Faces)

2. Assess the approximate value

  • Review and sort your inventory

Determine which pieces are valuable, and which pieces that aren’t so valuable, but perhaps are treasured or enjoyed by you or your family. You can search the internet to find similar pieces by the same artist to get a general sense of the value of your art.

If you have original works of art by prominent artists, including paintings, sculpture, silk screen and other original limited edition fine art prints, you are likely aware that most retain and grow in value over time.   If you have the bill of sale, an appraisal or other documentation that can help identify the value of the art in today’s market, include those documents with your inventory.

3. Consider a Professional Appraisal

While you can do some of your own “Googling” to learn a little more about your art investment, which I encourage, having an art professional conduct a thorough review and prepare a certificate of appraisal may be the best solution for your original art.

An art professional will work with you to determine which of your pieces should have a formal appraisal.   Seek out someone with extensive experience in the art world and someone well versed at the type of art in your collection.  

For a nominal fee, the art appraiser will research the artist, the art, and any other relevant information to determine the current value for both insurance and estate purposes and prepare a written appraisal document. An appraiser will give you three copies of the appraisal. One for your insurance company, one for your Will & Estate file and one for your personal Art File. Your insurance company will require a proper formal appraisal created by a professional.

Appraisals should be reviewed every 5 years or so to ensure they reflect the current market for your art.  For instance, Maud Lewis originals have increased in value exponentially in the past few years.

Frederick Simpson Coburn-Logging in Winter

4.  Communicate!

  • Create an Art file

If you’ve pulled this together electronically, print it. If you’ve done it on paper, copy it.  Make at least three copies as noted above and keep one in its own file with the word ART in bold.  That will help ensure the key information is available when and if it’s needed.

  • Make it visible

For valuable paintings put a copy of the appraisal, a copy of the receipt and any other relevant information in an envelope and affix it to the back of the piece.  That way, anyone handling the piece in your absence has all the information they need to ensure it is handled appropriately.

I’ve done art appraisals for several decades. Nothing makes me happier than sorting through a client’s collection and finding rare gems and seeing their faces light up when they learn the true value of their art.

Tom Beckett

So, it’s the new year. Yes, assess and ensure your treasured art is protected, but maybe, just maybe, cruise by the “home décor section of your local discount store and check for treasures!

Tom Beckett is the owner/director of Beckett Fine Art, est. 1966, 196 Locke Street South, Hamilton, ON., Canada 416-922-5582

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