River Trading Post Art Valuation Services - page 2

No matter how much American Indian Art is appreciated for its aesthetic merits, collectors still need to know
the financial value of their collection.
Valuations, appraisals and authentications serve several purposes: they help the collector in making prudent
buying & selling decisions, in updating fine art insurance and even in settling tax planning & estate issues.
For the treasure hunter, a price estimate from a disinterested, informed source validates, or questions, the
skill of her/his collecting eye.
Not all price estimating procedures are the same; they differ in cost and purpose. This short primer explains
how to go about finding the value of American Indian Art in a sensible, cost-effective way.
First Step: Valuation
The basic level of price determination, an art valuation provides an estimate of the current market value of a
weaving, pot, sculpture, kachina doll or other item. In a valuation, the piece is taken to be what it appears to
be. Unless the owner specifically raises the issue, the artwork is presumed authentic and saleable.
Example: A collector bought an Allan Hauser sculpture (circa 1960) from a reputable dealer in 1995. The
collector has been lax in keeping abreast of Hauser’s prices in galleries and at auction. Hauser died in 1994,
and the collector wants to know the current value of his sculpture.
Various art valuation services exist on the Net for this purpose. Such a service is our own River Trading Post
Art Valuation Service. Methodologies vary somewhat, but this is how River Trading Post arrives at a price:
The collector submits digital images with basic information on the piece(s) to be evaluated: artist, title, date,
size, medium, condition and a brief description. Also receipts of purchase and provenance if possible.
Consulting recent auction manuals, current price databases and other sources, River Trading Post compiles
sales information and uses it to arrive at a per-inch price (or other comparability measure) for the
comparable pieces. (To novices this sounds scandalous, but price/inch is a standard measure in the art
business.) Since art is not entirely fungible, we do not weight all price data equally. Instead, we "scrub" the
data for several factors including:
Size of Artwork
. Outsized artwork typically trades at a discount to more standard size ones.
Date of Artwork.
Certain periods of an artist's output typically trade at a premium to other periods.
Condition of Artwork.
Damaged works can never be entirely repaired; therefore they trade at a
Auction Venue
. Because it has become so easy to collect and transmit auction results, the location of
the sale must be considered. Oftentimes prices achieved at provincial, general merchandise auctions (in the
US and abroad) are included in the data; prices from such sources can skew the results in a misleading
Example: Auction venue is especially important when the artist is not a household name. Consider the Allan
Hauser: Results from an estate auction in western Canada are surely less representative of the sulpture’s
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