Everyone likes to think that their passed down family valuables or personal art collections are worth a pretty penny. Watching antique and art appraisers at work on television sends people snooping in their basements, hoping that they too have an undiscovered treasure worth thousands. With some basic independent research, you can find out whether your paintings are junk fit for the attic or assets to form the basis of your retirement plan. Start with online investigation and family sleuthing; next, try galleries and auction houses and take advantage of expert opinion.
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Decipher the signature on your painting and Google the artist's name. See what comes up about the painter. Note biographical information, and take down the names and numbers of galleries, auction houses and museums that deal in your artist's work.
Consult with family members and ask where the painting came from, especially if it's been in the family for a while. Asking older family members about the work can give you insight into the painting's past, which is potentially useful for professional appraisers. Depending on the clarity and certainty of family memories, you might be able to estimate your painting's age as well.
If your artist turned up considerable search results in the first step, look up the name on a site that tracks auction prices of paintings. Sites like Artprice and Artnet offer auction results for a fee, and both services are recommended by Artcyclopedia if you want to estimate the value of your paintings. On either site, you can search your artist's name to see if they turn up any results before you pay to view recent auction prices.
Call museums, galleries and auction houses and ask if they offer professional appraisal services to the public. If you found any places associated with your artist's name in Step 1, try consulting those institutions first. Ask if they offer free appraisal days (some museums do), and what the regular fees are for appraisal services if they're offered. If you decide to make an appointment with an appraiser, arrive at the meeting armed with the information you've collected from the Internet and your family.
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