How-To: Collect Art

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What to Look for When Buying Art


When buying art as an investment, there are a few things to keep in mind.

We’ve all heard stories about people who collect art and have it appreciate significantly over the years. Like the two married postal workers who collected art over a lifetime, whose collection is now valued at tens of millions of dollars. This couple basically collected what they liked and in the end it paid off. Their buying wasn’t random this couple took a smart approach to buying original art. They collected from artists early in their career, who were professional artists. Therefore, they paid lower prices. These young artists ended up becoming serious names in the art world. So this couple bought artwork they liked from professionals and their artwork increased significantly in value.
Disclaimer *Always Collect what you Like*

The first thing about collecting artwork is collect what you love and what you want in your home. Never try to collect artwork with plans of is being purely an investment. It’s always a gamble. Also this is not an article for high end art investment. That involves art experts, ten of thousands of dollars(many times much more) and a lot of nerve. This article is for those people who want original artwork on their walls that also might grow in it’s value.  That begin said there are common traits among artworks that appreciate with time. Below are some things to look for when buying.

What to look for in Artwork

Here are just a few of the questions to ask yourself when buying artwork.

  • Is the Artwork Original?
  • Where do I go to buy?
  • What am I looking for?
  • What do I want to collect?
  • What will appreciate?
  • Edition size is that a factor?

Let’s discuss a strategy to use when buying artwork that will increase in value.

Collect from Professional Artists

Discovered artists are those with a professional career, then for whatever reason, their work becomes highlighted and the prices for their artwork takes off. Understand that artists who are “discovered” aren’t hobbyists selling their art for pennies on the dollar at the local craft fair. Collect from professional artists, not hobbyists, if you hope to have a return on your investment. With reputable artists you will be able to search on the internet. Establish that they have a career and have been working. Bottom line always buy artwork from professionals.

The Collectibility Factor

A good example of collectibility and artwork appreciating with time is the artist Maynard Dixon. Dixon was never an unknown artist. He was always a known, working professional recognized in circles on both the east and west coast. He passed away and his painting had appreciated though his lifetime modestly. However in the last 35 years, the prices for his paintings have gone through the roof and he has more recognition among general art collectors.

Quality equals Collectibility

Professional artists are your best bet to guarantee their work has quality that can be recognized in the future.The opportunity to buy art is everywhere over the last few decades: art fairs, on the Internet, etc. With so many opportunities to buy art, how do we know if an artist is a professional?

Tips for verifying if an artist is a professional:

  • Do an internet search. (Use your smart phone if you’re at a fair.) If it’s a professional artist, they should be mentioned in several places on the internet.
  • Ask if the artist has a website. If not, that could be a red flag.
  • Ask the artist about their career and what they’ve done. Many artists like to exaggerate their accomplishments. Try to verify online.
  • Ask the artist about gallery representation. Who carries his or her work?
  • Did the artist receive professional training to be an artist?

These questions can quickly establish a working career artist from a hobbyist.

Buy Originals Art or High-Value Prints

We hear from several sources we should buy original art, whether as a potential future investment or as part of a determination to live life fully. Original art is art that is one-of- a- kind or part of an edition of hand pulled fine art prints(woodcuts, linotypes, etchings and engravings).

Paintings are easier they are normally one of a kind. Sculptures and fine art hand pulled prints come in editions of varying numbers. When looking at artwork that is part of an edition to, the size of the print run does matter. You want limited, numbered print runs. Scarcity creates value. You see this on Antiques Roadshow or other auctions. You see schoolbooks from the 17th century brought in to be appraised. To the dismay of the owners, the books aren’t worth very much because there are so many of them available.

Age does not equal value. These are over 100 year old books that aren’t worth anything. Age doesn’t automatically increase an object’s value.

On the flip side, in auction you might see an early 20th century child’s toy in mint condition where there’s only two or three left and they’re worth thousands of dollars.

Scarcity creates value

When buying art that’s in an edition, you always want low numbered editions.  Print sizes of about 200. The lower the number of images in an edition, the more likely that image will hold value. An edition with 1 to 10 prints is more likely to hold value than 1 to 250. 1 to 20,000 has no value.  Remember the scarcity creates value principle: the less there are in existence, the more it is worth.

Remember it’s okay to buy prints with larger editions, but buy it because you like it, not because you expect it will have value.

Be aware of Giclées prints. These type of prints can be original artwork, limited edition runs of some value, worthless knockoffs, or mass produced posters. So buy these with the expectation of them being art you like not art that will appreciate with time.

Buy what you like

Always buy what you like. As with the stock market, you never know what’s going to happen to the value of your painting. There’s no guarantee of huge returns.

If you buy from a hobbyist because you love the artwork, that’s fine. Always buy because you like it. Just understand it likely won’t have any resell value. It’s just like buying travertine tiles and installing them in your house: you’re doing it because you like it but you won’t be able to pull it up and resell it.

It’s worth repeating: always buy what you like.

You get what you pay for.

When you’re dealing with a professional working artist, there is a minimum price point to look for. To run a business takes money; for operating expenses, materials cost, travel expenses, and all the other costs that go into creating custom work. A price of say $800 for an 18×24 is lowest you can expect to pay for a professional artist. . Less than that price range is most likely a hobbyist. You will have to spend more money if you want art that’s going to appreciate in value.

Art doesn’t appreciate over night

Remember it takes time for artwork to build in value. It won’t happen overnight. Like investments it is a long term venture. So use these tips we have discussed and you will be likely to have artwork that will appreciate in value and bring you lots of enjoyment.

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