Have you ever been watching tv and come across Antiques Roadshow? It's a show where antique and art appraisers travel around, people bring in their items, and they find out what they're worth. And it always makes me wonder how many people have valuable pieces just hanging on their walls, with no idea what they're worth. Maybe that cool painting you picked up at a thrift shop is worth hundreds of dollars. So I thought I'd do some research into art appraisal and how to find the value of an artwork.
Find an Art Appraiser
The best way to find out if your piece has any value is to take it to a reputable art appraiser. These are trained specialists in art appraisal who will evaluate your piece and give you a written statement of its value. This service is provided for a fee, and the fees may vary. You will want to do your own research into each art appraiser, but I found a great list to start from.
Art appraisal is a fascinating job. These experts know how to evaluate a piece based on brushstrokes and technique. They have access to a number of research sources to look into the history of an artist or a piece of art. If they're trying to evaluate whether or not something is forged, they may even use x-ray and laser technology.
Art Appraisal Online
If you know a little bit about your piece, you can do some of your own research online. The Smithsonian Institution has a great list of sites where you can do additional research. One I found very interesting was FindArtInfo.com. Not only can you search by artist, but they also have a database of monograms, in case the artist uses initials. You can even use this site if you can't read the entire signature or are confused by some of the letters. It's a very cool site for art appraisal.
If you don't live near an art appraiser, you can also use an online appraisal service for a fee to evaluate your art. Two that I found that seem to have good reputations are MutualArt and Value My Stuff. Because these are done online, they can't verify that your piece is authentic, but you can get a good idea of what your item is worth if authentic, and if worthwhile, you could then get it to an in-person appraiser. Mutual Art charges $49 for a single piece, where Value My Stuff charges $20, and both have packages where if you buy a package of credits to evaluate multiple pieces, you save money.
Free Appraisal Days
Like when Antiques Roadshow comes to town, sometimes auction houses hold free appraisal days where their staff will evaluate and give you their thoughts on your piece. This is going to be the cheapest way to get an expert art appraisal, but it will only be a surface-level examination. Still, these experts will be able to tell you if it's worth taking the piece to an appraiser for a deeper look at the piece. And if you really have no idea about the piece you own, it's definitely a great start.
Does it Matter?
As my mom used to tell us during the Beanie Baby craze, something is only worth what someone else will pay you for it. That was certainly true for Beanie Babies, and it's also true for art. Some people like to collect art as investment pieces. Others are huge fans of famous artists and only want to have originals in their houses. Maybe you own a beautiful painting by an unknown artist, but every time you walk past it, it makes you smile. Then it's valuable to you, no matter what the price.