Basics of Valuation
The fine and decorative market is a finicky beast. Oftentimes, the rationale for what is and is not valuable seems entirely arbitrary. After all, how can one landscape painting be worth $1,000 while another is worth $1,000,000? In short, here are four key factors which affect valuation.
The value of a work is greatly dependent upon who made it. As we are well familiar, the name of an artist has the ability to greatly affect the value of the work. Such artists as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Vincent van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock are internationally renowned. Works by these artists, regardless of all other factors, are likely to attain higher values at auction than works by unknown individuals. This concept also applies to jewelry designers, furniture makers, as well as decorative art brands/manufacturers.
Fakes are abundant in the art world and values are heavily dependent upon determining an item's authenticity, or lack thereof. With respect to most painters, sculptors, and photographs this can be determined by researching the artist's catalogue raisonné as well as the work's provenance and its congruence with the artist's other works of the period. Authenticity can also be confirmed by aging and well as the various inventions (pigments and construction techniques). It should be noted that some artists are known for their inability to authenticate. Albrecht Dürer, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dali are three exceptionally well-known examples of challenging cases. If you have an original by one of these artists (or any other household name), you are likely to have a high-value item. However, if the work is determined to be fake, the value can be nearly non-existent.
If a work of art is in pristine condition, it is highly collectible. However, works of art which are in overall poor condition can lose virtually all collectibility. Damage which is minimal, or commensurate with the works age, is often acceptable and can have little to no impact upon a work's value. However, objects which suffers from substantial damage can be affected by the basic cost for repair, it's scrap value, or as is often the case with fine art, can have lost all collectible value. Please note that improper cleaning and repairs can have devastating effects on an items value, so please consult an expert.
Items which have historical significance such as a handwritten letter penned by a sitting president, a signed first edition of a great American novel, or an ethically recovered artifact have considerably more value than their historically less significant counterparts.