Researching Your Art: How Much Is Your Object Worth?
It is hard to establish fixed values for antiques, artworks, and other collectible items. The amount asked or offered is determined by many factors, including the condition of the object, personal interests of both the seller and the purchaser, and trends in the market. According to Smithsonian Institution policy, no staff member may offer monetary evaluations. However, the following guidelines should help you find an approximate value for your artwork.
First, consult price guides to determine current sale and auction prices. Some price guides are available on the Internet, but most come in book or CD-ROM format. Specialized university or art museum libraries and larger public libraries often carry these guides. Price indexes are usually published annually and cover international auctions and galleries.
ADEC: International Art Prices
Art Sales Index
Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide
International Auction Records
Leonard's Annual Price Index of Art Auctions
For prints, check the following resources:
Gordon's Print Price Annual
Contemporary Print Portfolio
Lawrence's Dealer Print Prices International
Online Pricing Resources
Appraisals & Appraisers
Consider finding an appraiser to determine the value of your artwork. Appraisers are trained specialists who work for a fee. They evaluate your piece and give you a written statement of its value. Although the following organizations do not provide appraisals themselves, they each publish a directory of their members. Always seek an appraiser with an expertise in the type of artwork you own.
American Society of Appraisers
11107 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 310
Reston, VA 20190
(703) 478-2228 or 1-800-ASA-VALU
Appraisers Association of America
212 West 35th Street, 11th Floor South
New York, NY 10001
International Society of Appraisers
303 West Madison Street, Suite 2650
Chicago, IL 60606
Some auction houses host free "open house" days where visitors can bring in their artworks and have auction-house staff members share their expertise. Other houses allow owners to mail their information with a photograph, and their experts will respond. To find an auction house in your area, search online for "fine art auction houses."
Pictured: Linda Eber, Patti and Don, "Some call us rich," Sherman Canal, from "Changing Venice: Community or Commodity?" (Venice, California Documentary Survey Project), about 1975, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts