The Art of Appraising Art:  A List of guidelines...

 The Art of Appraising Art: A List of guidelines...

Written by Alli Hames

(reading time 2 minutes)

As mentioned in our blog postGeographical Art Market: The naturally occurring hundred mile art diet” we have a number of clients who come to us seeking to establish the value of various works of art, for a variety of reasons. It can include value for insurance, value for resale, or simply curiosity.

Below is a list of guidelines we use. The beauty of this criteria means it can be applied to the appraisal of almost anything; from vintage cars to instruments, documents, coins and bills.

  • Condition

No other factor will boost or reduce value more than condition. If something is rare and in mint condition, that is considered the “holy grail”. If something is rare but suffers condition issues, it can reduce value moderately or severely. The same applies if something has been repaired or refinished.

  • Age

Just because something is old, does not necessarily make it valuable, however something can be valuable because it is old. Something old but common would not be considered valuable, yet something old as well as rare could be more valuable.

  • Rarity

The rarer something is, the more potential value it has.

  • Medium / material

What something is made of may have a direct bearing on value. For example something made of gold would have more value than something made of tin.


  • Local relevance

Does the art in question have local, national or international relevance? An artist with local relevance would sell best in the local area, whereas an artist with national or international relevance would appeal to a wider audience.

  • Artist / known, unknown

This plays into the issue of “local relevance”. An artist may be well known in one location and unheard of in another. In Addition to location, time also plays a part. An artist may have been well known in their day but decades later have become relatively unknown or forgotten. There are exceptions where an artist has overstepped the boundaries of both time and location to become highly recognized.

  • Signed / unsigned

The presences of a signature is always prefered to the absence of one. That being said, the absence of a signature is not necessarily detrimental to overall value. The material used as well as the condition and intrinsic value of a piece will be deciding factors when appraising the value of an unsigned work of art.

  • Intrinsic value

In plain terms intrinsic is an adjective that means: “belonging to a thing by its very nature”. As a philosophy pertaining to different subjects, defining intrinsic value becomes increasingly complex. For our purposes, we use the term “intrinsic value” to describe an object’s “charm or desirability” in a general sense. In other words, would the piece in question appeal to a large or small group of people. To gain a deeper understanding of intrinsic value and the philosophy behind it I recommend further reading on the subject. The Principles of Aesthetics, by Dewitt H. Parker, Chapter III- The Intrinsic Value of Art.

  • Provenance

The origin or earliest known history of something. It is always good to discover the origins of a work of art. Documented proof of the origin is especially important. Some important questions to ask pertaining to provenance would be, “where was this piece created, when was it created and who has owned it since then?”


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