When determining the worth of your artwork it is important to know the difference between a valuation and appraisal.

A valuation is an estimate of the value of your collection based on knowledge from multiple sources in the art world. This can be completed by gallerists, curators, auctions, or dealers.

An appraisal is a formal and widely accepted process of determining the value of artwork that includes a certificate for tangible proof of your artwork’s value.

Why Valuation Matters for Your Art Collection

The most important reasons for getting a valuation of your artwork are:

  • Charitable Gifting and Estate Planning: Valuation is required to determine the type of tax break or estate tax due when passing along pieces in your collection.

  • Sales: You will need to know the value of your artwork to determine an appropriate asking price if you ever plan on selling them.

  • Restoration: If your artwork is damaged and needs repairs, knowing the current value will help determine the actual cost of the damage if the cost to repair is worth moving forward with.

  • Art Financing: In order to use a piece of artwork as collateral for a loan, a professional and recent appraisal will be required.

  • Insurance: Make sure you have the current value—within three years—of your piece in the case of a loss. Insurance companies will need a professional appraisal, and often times photos, to make the decision about your claim.

Looking for a more detailed description of each type of appraisal? Check out these types of appraisals.

Choosing the Right Art Appraiser

Ask other art collectors, curators, and gallerists who can provide recommendations for reliable appraisers. Look at the appraiser's background and experience in the specific area of artwork you have, they should have some an educational background specializing in the type of art you collect, or long history appraising artwork.

Find an art appraiser with specific expertise in the style or type of art needs appraising. For collectors in the US, the Appraisers Association of America is a trustworthy resource to search for appraisers.

Work with an Art Appraiser

Discuss how the appraiser charges. Is it by the hour? If so, how long would they estimate the project to take?

You will need to have all information related to your artwork ready for the appraiser to get the best valuation possible. That is why it is so important to document information about your pieces when you acquire them.

If you do not have an inventory method in place, Artwork Archive offers a great easy-to-use option that you can try for free.

If an appraiser charges a percentage of the collection's value, you should look for an alternative appraiser. Get tips on working with appraisers in our downloadable Essential Guide to Collecting Art.

Once your appraisal is done, it should include a detailed description of the piece with measurements and photos, the reason for the appraisal, any limitations to the appraiser's findings, description of methods used, condition, provenance, certificate of appraisal with appraiser's credentials, and the signature of the appraiser.

When you have your official appraisal certificate, keep it with all other documentation on the piece in your Artwork Archive account or inventory management system.