How Much is my Painting Worth?

A "quick" valuation of an artwork is often fraught with error - in both price directions. However, few buyers have time to complete a detailed price evaluation when looking at a piece coming up at auction or at a local estate sale: we all resort to quick analysis for purchases.

Accurate valuation of an artwork takes time and is tied to a myriad of important questions about the art and artist. You can do a lot of the research yourself without cost that will get you pretty close to an accurate value.

Quick Analysis for What a Painting Might be Worth

Free Art Values

Basic Mindset with Determining Art Values: Fair Market Comparable Values

The easiest comparable method to valuing an artwork is found with residential real estate.

Want to know the value of a home in America?

We all know its pretty easy to ascertain the value - we research the sale price of similar homes in the area: the most credence is given to sales on the same street with the same lot and house size, we then compare any updated features: new kitchen appliances, etc. + we consider general aesthetics: curb appeal - you know the drill.

The exact same process in valuation occurs with artworks although its a little trickier to evaluate comparable prices unless you're paying for services providing detailed auction values - since the free services don't include detailed information about condition or provenance. A bad condition issue can negatively affect price and lower an auction result. A painting from a special pedigree with supporting provenance that verifies its important nature can cause an inordinately high auction result our painting will probably never achieve.

Thus, looking at the basic averages - or middle ground - is your safest bet for quick evaluation of auction comparable art prices.

Types of Art Valuations

Another important lesson with art valuation is to know the difference between various terms you'll hear appraisers use when discussing the value of an item.

Ever watched Antiques Roadshow?

Since the producers know its audience often loves to witness ultra-high values on previously undiscovered treasures - the show's appraisers will often use the terms: "If I had this for sale in my shop" - or - "If you wanted to insure this item" - because these two prices represent the higher aspect of collectibles price structure. Alas, neither is very close to what you would get to take home if you wanted to sell that same item yourself.

Different Art Price Valuations

Use a singular example piece

In a Gallery / Retail Price


Insurance Value

Auction Value

Cash Value

Cash value is what you could expect to take home after all expenses with a bit of sale preparation and planning. If you're looking at the quick-cash value? That's more in line with tax-value.

Tax Value
Tax value is generally the lowest value you could place on an item for the sake of an estate. Its often a bit lower than "cash value" since its what you could expect to get for the item quickly: in a two-day estate sale, a quick-sale to a dealer or at a pawn shop. It's equated to what we call the "quick cash" value - how much could I get for it if I had to sell it within 48 hours?

Important Factors Affecting the Value of an Original Artwork, Include:

How do we determine fair comparable values for the original artwork we have? Following is the most essential factors influencing price. We make note of the following key inputs and create a basic scorecard for each one:

Who is the Artist?

The biggest factor affecting art value is the name of the artist that created the artwork and how they are viewed and valued in the art world. In other words: a small original work created by Pablo Picasso is worth far more than a huge, detailed canvas by a locally known artist whose not widely recognized by experts and museums as being important to art.

If you don't know who created your painting - you'll have to do more research. Fortunately, in a post internet and Google society - that's never been easier!

Herbert Carmichael

Collectibility of Artist

The collectibility of an artist is often a tricky aspect for beginning collectors.

Auction Comparable Prices

To achieve noteworthy value with an artwork - an artist needs to have sold works through recognized auction houses.

Few Auction Values: Babb, Radell

Size of Work
Generally speaking, larger artworks are worth more than smaller pieces but exceptions always exist. Some artists are most recognized for creating smaller pieces: if they're the ones with the highest values at auction? Then a smaller work will supersede a bigger piece. Also, some pieces are incredibly large: that cuts down the number of buyers who could effectively display the work in their home or office: oftentimes causing it not to be worth any more than a

XXXL Piece photo


In a perfect world - you'll already own documentation from a reputable gallery or auction house that authenticate the artist in question. Unfortunately, those of us collecting art on a budget usually lack such beginning documentation to support our paintings. Much of the time, you can accurately ascertain authenticity yourself. However, with more valuable and collectible artists usually require input from an expert.

Montenegro: Unsigned / auction catalog

Thomas Hand
Moses Soyer: Subject / Quality / Doyle's sticker


Auction House
Diego Story
Award Win Floral
Fish Market
Melvin Miller
Pierce Rice / Stamp

Montenegro: Artist Frame
Reyes: Ideal Frame Added
Adding Period Frame: Venus

Condition can have a
big impact on the value of an original painting. The

Cleaning - Varnish yellowing, cloudy: can also offer buying opportunities: red head boy, Neuville

Damage: Chester


Extensive Cracqulier

Sid Oil
Redhead boy

Oil: Canvas / Board
Watercolor: Kupferman
Drawing: Soyer
Tempera: Maurer

If artist is unknown - and your left to value your piece purely from aesthetic value - then style becomes

Helge Helme

Major vs. Minor Work

A major vs. minor artwork most often relates to the degree of detailed effort
Small: Montenegro

Subject Matter

Subject matter always affects the value of an artwork.

Outside the artist's recognized / most popular style

Helge Helme
Scarlett vs. Geometric
Winter / Night Scenes vs. Summer / Day
Melvin Miller

Period of Artwork amongst Artist's Works



Quickly finding out