What to Know About Paintings

We’ve all wanted to know how to determine the value of a painting or even an artist. Jim Kamnikar, president of WorthPoint and GoAntiques.com, was curious, too, so he spent time with Dave Crockett of Artifacts Antiques at the Miami National Antique Show, who was generous with his time to help.

Kamnikar began by asking what should someone be looking for to determine the value of a painting, or separate what might be a good painting from one that is not so good?

“The artist is the most important,” says Crockett. “Who’s hot, who’s not.”

“Artists go in and out of favor. Some who were selling for $100 10 years ago are now selling at the top of the list. Some of the people on the top of the list are unaffordable today,” adds Crockett, saying that the collector play closer attention to the artists who are selling at the more affordable second- or third-tier collectible level.

But, how do you know who is hot or not?

“WorthPoint and GoAntiques are the logical place to go, but there are other sites on the internet, such Art Price Index and Art Fac,” says Crockett. Antique shows, he says, can determine when an artist becomes hot, because more of the artist’s paintings will become more available. “One of the things that help the artist is the supply. If there is more of that artist at the show, that’s usually a good time to get into it,” Crockett says.

What else makes a painting good? “Well, is it the subject matter that the artist is known for?” Crockett says. “If he does landscapes and you see a portrait by him, well, the portrait may have little or no value for that artist. Or in its size. If he is normally painting 30- x 50-inch paintings and you see one that is 8 x 10, it will dramatically affect the price of that painting.”

Crockett says condition also plays a role in determining value for an artist. The painting can’t have holes, tears, be relined, or be inpainted, and it must have the original frame. The signature plays a role, too. It must be signed properly, it can’t be signed later, and it has to be the artist’s signature. Having an unsigned painting will affect its value, too. Is the painting on canvas, on cardboard, on canvas board, on a wood panel? These are the kinds of things that also affect the value of a painting.

Crockett also suggest that if you are selling or buying paintings that you should know who you’re dealing with. “A dealer will guarantee it and put it in writing. An appraiser should not be buying your artwork. It is a conflict of interest for someone to appraise your artwork and buy it from you,” he says.

When a painting is priced by a dealer, it often has much to do with how much the dealer has invested in it, Crockett says, but “many, many times, it also has to do with trends. An artist may be selling for only a couple of hundred dollars, but if the artist is hot and begins to sell for thousands, then the price will reflect that.”

“Paintings with their original frame can add tremendously to the value of a painting. A bad frame can kill a great painting, while a good frame will help an OK painting,” Crockett suggests.

Lastly, Crockett says, provenance in the form of a price label or letters from previous owners will help to know where the painting has been which could make all the difference in the value of the painting.

A lot to absorb, but important to know.

A video showing Jim Kamnikar discussing paintings and art with Dave Crockett can be viewed here .
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