River Trading Post Art Valuation Services - page 3

market value than those of the November Indian art sales at Sotheby’s in San Francisco. For auction data to
reflect legitimate price discovery, a critical mass of sophisticated buyers must know of the sale.
Based on this amalgam of objective and subjective information, River Trading Post estimates the current
retail or auction market price of the sculpture. In this case, the collector would have found that his 1960 Alan
Hauser sculpture acquired for $8,000 could be expected to trade at auction for approximately $24,000--3
times the price paid for it a decade ago.
The process of valuing American Indian Art trading in the secondary, i.e. auction, marketplace is much like
that used in pricing real estate: sales data are collected then "massaged" to best reflect recent trades in
comparable items.
Valuing contemporary American Indian Art where no specific resale data exists is a less transparent
procedure. Estimating the price of such works demands knowledge of the principal dealers or galleries
representing an artist; also important is an understanding of the general price structure of works by artists of
similar standing. The resulting valuation inevitably reflects the artwork's gallery--or retail price--rather than its
quick liquidation value.
Valuation is the most basic--and least expensive--of the procedures used to determine the current market
price of a painting, sculpture, print or other artwork. (The fee for an art valuation at River Trading Post's is
$30 per item.) In many cases, this is the only procedure needed for valuing an artwork. Typically when the
artwork is worth less than $25,000 and its authenticity is not in question, this simple valuation will suffice for
determining current market value. In instances where the exact nature of the work is in question, a valuation
is a sensible first step in the attribution process. It is an excellent decision screen before spending the time
and money to authenticate an artwork.
In summary, a valuation is suitable for: suggesting a selling price, determining whether insurance values
should be altered, and in getting an initial "read" on the authenticity of an artwork. But it will probably NOT
suffice for substantiating values on donations of artworks to non-profit organizations nor for making
insurance claims.
Second Step: Appraisal
Kicking it up a notch, the next level of art price determination is the fine art appraisal. This is a more
complex--and therefore more expensive--procedure than a simple valuation. The appraiser will require that
the collector provide good front and back photographs, actual photos not email images, of the artwork. Also,
the appraiser will ask to review all available documentation for the work particularly provenance information
including sales receipts or transfers of ownership of the artwork in question. Prior appraisals, expert
opinions, publication and exhibition histories are also helpful in speeding the appraisal process and in limiting
the cost. The appraiser may wish to inspect the artwork, especially if condition or attribution appears to be at
issue. Typically, the base price for such an appraisal is $150-$200. If the appraisal requires specific
research, this is usually billed as an additional hourly fee.
Appraisers are considered part of a self-regulated profession. Legally it's unclear where the appraiser's
liability, if any, falls. A person who is qualified to do general estate appraisals can be utterly inadequate at
valuing works of art; an appraisal from such a source is of limited use. Even an art appraiser who knows 19th
century European paintings is unlikely to be expert in Chinese scrolls. Finding a suitable appraiser takes
some effort, but the energy is well spent if the artwork is believed to be of significant value. River Trading
Post does not make appraisals, but our Art Valuation Service can sometimes suggest an appropriate
appraiser as part of a valuation report. Art museums and historical societies may be willing to suggest
reputable local appraisers. Trade groups such as the
Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association
can be useful
resources, as well.
If the appraisal is needed for a specific reason, such as a donation to a museum, ask the museum whose
valuation they will accept and also inquire of the IRS if the appraiser is qualified. (Strange though it may
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