|Valuation Considerations of Antique
I have often talked to groups about the valuation of
antique artwork. I do not give monetary appraisals because that is
within the realm of an appraiser and I believe that antique dealers have
a serious conflict in giving monetary valuations on items that he/she
might be interested in purchasing. However, it is my pleasure to offer
you the following article about how to value your antique artwork and
hope it helps you in any small way:
Valuation of antique portraits & silhouettes depends on several
"Miss Bowes" by Charles Allen DuVal
Attributed to Jacob Eichholtz
A signature of a known artist adds great value. If there are no
signatures but you can secure an attribution by an expert to a known
artist, the value will increase although not to the height of a signed
In addition to handwritten signatures, many well-collected
silhouettists signed their pieces with embossed or impressed signature
dies and by pasting a trade label to the back of either the silhouette
backing card or the back of the frame. If there is no signature, an
artist attribution by a silhouette expert might be possible.
Signed by Asahel Lynde Powers, Sitters Identified,
Exhibited in Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center
Published & Referenced in Exhibition Catalog & Other
Who owned it?
Has it been exhibited in a
Did it sell at an important
Has it been published?
Knowledge of all of these things can increase the value.
|Also important to valuation is the rarity of the piece which can
include the follow variables:
silhouettes & portraits, the more figures the better.
The addition of jewelry for
women, backgrounds that include details of family life & pets.
Handpainted or lithographic
backgrounds on silhouettes.
Unusual colors used for the
Any addition of personal
mementoes, such as the addition of arranged hair to the front or back.
Any jewelry or snuff box.
Silhouette of David A. Sayre,
Signed by Both Sayre & Edouart
Rare Silhouette with Block Printed Body Showing Original
Then How Simply Turning The Fabric Made Condition More
Is the paper browned,
stained, foxed, brittle, have tears, creases or holes?
Does the artwork have
repaint, scratches, restoration?
Has the original artwork been
laid down onto something or has it been taped?
Is the frame original and
what is its condition?
In the case of a portrait
miniature, is the ivory cracked?
Any antique in good untouched condition is worth more than one
that has had had restoration. But poor condition will drive the value
down and sometimes good but judicious conservation can bring value back
up, although not as high as an untouched piece that can be enjoyed
Everyone of us can be burned. I'm a very experienced
buyer and dealer and I've recently been burned by a dealer that I will
not name. However, let's just say the dealer handed out more abuse
than you could possibly imagine....all after she admitted that her
representation that the item in question was in "excellent condition"
and had "no restoration" was false because she, herself, had it restored
and agreed to refund my money. It was a truly bizarre and
unpleasant experience that can happen to anyone.
For everyone, I have these warnings about buying:
1. Know who you buy from and that they are honest. Think about the
following characteristics of the dealer;
a. Does the seller guarantee her/his inventory and is the
seller’s business funded so that she/he can come up with the money
if you find out down-the-line about misrepresentations made by that
seller, regardless as to whether the
misrepresentation was blatant or an unfortunate mistake. There is a
real difference between a “refund policy” that assumes that the
piece sold is as it was represented, and what the seller is willing
to do if misrepresentations are discovered. Ask up front how the
seller would handle future discoveries of misrepresentations;
b. What credentials does the seller really have?
i. If a seller has never had a bricks & mortar antiques shop,
never done shows, and this person only sells on a third-party
website (i.e. ebay) or even has his/her own nice looking
website, then chances are that dealer has never really had
face-to-face interactions with potential clients, other dealers
within the industry, museum personnel, etc.
ii. There is a major difference between having the ability to
answer questions when they are asked in person and having the
luxury and time to research every question online before
answering. Yes, I research a lot of the questions you ask me,
but I also have had years of face-to-face time in which I
answered questions from my knowledge on a subject (although I’m
never afraid to say “I don’t know but I can probably find out”).
iii. Does this seller have a resume that includes education
in the field in which that person sells? Has the seller ever
presented educational talks to informed groups or published any
iv. While I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy from anyone who
only sells via website or on ebay, the above are all important
considerations and should be part of your decision regarding the
amount of money you are willing to spend with this person. How
experienced you require the seller to be might be different if
you are spending $100 or $1000 or $10,000;
2. Always ask for a condition report when you are buying online. I
made a serious mistake in taking for granted that “excellent condition”
with “no restorations” meant what it said. When asking for condition
reports, ask for the general condition but also ask about issues that
are of particular importance to you—such as restoration, whether paper
or canvas is laid down onto anything, are their cracks in ivory, tears
in paper, holes in canvas.
3. While asking for a condition report, also ask to see larger format
photos so you can see the piece in detail. Putting really large photos
on a website slows download time tremendously and creates a cumbersome
website. However, the seller will probably have larger format photos
that can be emailed directly to you.
3. There are many reputable dealers and hundreds of wonderful pieces
advertised on ebay and in similar markets. It is fun and adventurous to
look for treasures in shops, at shows, in flea markets and estate sales,
and on the Internet. I am certainly not saying you should limit your
choices and only buy from certain dealers. Instead, be aware of the
things that can go wrong. Anticipate them and try to find out what would
happen in a worst-case event. You should be wary of paying as much
on ebay-type markets as you would from a dealer or an auction house that
you know and trust. With a little forethought and purposeful
inquiry you can dramatically increase the chance that, when you do lay
out your hard-earned money on a new and exciting treasure, your
transaction will be one that you are happy with for a very long time.
Henry Williams Portrait Miniature I Got Burned on