Value in Fine Art Paintings

What Really Counts When Looking for Value in Fine Art Paintings?


I often see art work that might be several hundred years old but sells for under $2,500. Wouldn’t something that old be worth so much more? So many of the older paintings are not signed, so unless you have provenance, meaning a record of ownership from the time it was painted, most likely the price for it will be rather meager.For example, I bought a painting in Kansas City years ago and thought I was going to strike it really big on this one. It was a Madonna from the 16th century, and I was almost certain it had been painted by one of the great masters. Paying considerable money to have it authenticated, I found out it was probably from one of the masters studios, but not by the master himself. I had paid $2,500 for this painting and sold it for only $3,500 two years later. Needless to say, I was greatly disappointed, and I learned a valuable lesson I won’t soon forget.

But, age is only one element in your search for value in paintings.

Subject matter is also an important element. Some subject matter is in more demand than others and is an important consideration The Kentucky artist, Harvey Joiner is an artist known for his landscapes, even though he painted portraits the first twenty years of his life and painted portraits of the first five Indiana Governors. So, it will most likely be this artist’s landscapes that bring the best value. When I was able to pick up a portrait Joiner had painted at an unbelievable price, I was hoping it might bring as much as his landscapes, today. It was a rather large painting, and Joiner was quite masterful in his portraiture. Now if you looked at size and compared it to the selling prices of his landscapes, which are much smaller, you’d think it could possibly bring in $15,000 to $20,000. But it brought in $3,700. This piece was signed by a great artist, but not what the buyers were looking for that day, and maybe not any other day. But as a buy on my part, it still brought in over twelve times what I paid, so it certainly fit the criteria for having bought it in the first place.

Locating paintings by a listed artist who has sold at auction, is another component. Having sold at auction gives the public a comparison as far as pricing. If you find a painting that a person can’t find any record of, your chances for getting top dollar for the painting are slim. Also, often living artists don’t have enough of a body of work for many people to collect. This means that the number of paintings the artist has produced can have a bearing on his value. I often say that if you found the greatest painter in the world, but he only painted one painting, the odds are that the piece would never have any great monetary value. Services such as AskArt and ArtNet have auction prices available but are subscriber based. Members of our 31 Club looking at paintings and do not have subscriptions to these services, can call us for help. We’ll explore the available information on these sites to help discover if you’ve found a listed artist, and what the particulars are about that artist, including current auction prices.

So where are we? First, being old can count if the painting is by a listed artist or you have provenance. Second, it should be a painting that is in the style people are looking for. If a painter is known for seascapes, then his landscapes are likely to bring less, as a general rule. Third, be sure that the artist has a formidable body of work so he or she can be collected.

Condition is the next issue to consider. Always check for repairs, whether they are in painting, tear repairs, perhaps a new stretcher, fake signatures (which can be detected under a black light), relining (putting a new canvas on the back of the original to give the old canvas integrity or hide repairs) and cleaning to the point that the actual painting is weak because so much of it has been removed from the surface.

Now you know why I took up buying and selling paintings much later in my career. There is so much to learn. So, I would say that while you are learning, become friends with people that are knowledgeable about paintings until you have the confidence in your own judgement. One of my largest purchases at the time, was taken to my friends at the Cincinnati Art Gallery to verify my opinion. Never hesitate to admit if there is something you don’t know.

Cindy has asked that I write several blogs on paintings, so this will be the first in a series. Be sure to keep posted. She made this request because this is an area of high interest to her, as well as many others, and today, we are going on an adventure where she hopes to find a painting that could be her first real treasure. Please wish her the best. You see, I didn’t say to wish her luck, because she has spent many hours now preparing herself to recognize a good quality piece if she sees it. You don’t need luck when you have knowledge.
Discover how the 31 Club, together with our book, can be the tool that helps you begin building personal wealth using antiques, collectibles and fine art, rather than the conventional methods of using stock, bonds, and real estate investing. You won’t find results like these through your bank or your stock broker! Find out more about joining our growing community of antique and art wealth builders here.

Read more about The Million Dollar Challenge 31 Club members are participating in, here.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to see what we’ve got listed in the 31 Gallery & Marketplace, click on over and take a look. You might even find a real bargain. We’ve got many high quality items priced reasonably. If you have a high quality piece you’d like us to find a buyer for, why not consign your item to us. No high fees when you sell with us.

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