Did you just buy a Currier & Ives print or piece of carnival glass at an auction and you can’t wait to start researching it? Maybe you found a treasure trove of marked costume jewelry in grandma’s jewelry box and already have your smartphone set to Google. You are sure you can find it online and value it yourself, but if you don’t correctly identify the antique, you will never find its true value. Most people don’t correctly identify antiques.
Here are just three of the many research wrongs that I see people make all the time. If you make these mistakes, you could end up throwing away a valuable antique just because you failed in your research.
1. Metal Plaque on Painting’s Frame
You think this will be easy. The artist’s name is right there on the fancy plaque screwed on the frame of your new 5 dollar auction painting. You’ll search and hopefully find that you are thousands of dollars richer. Most often that plaque is not the correct name of the artist who painted the painting. No one ever thinks that the frame on your painting once belonged to another painting and over time it was switched. Truth is…I see that happen a lot.
Some resellers have also been known to take the plaque from another painting and attach it incorrectly to your newly purchased frame in an attempt to fool you. Sometimes a new plaque is made just for your painting so you think it is more valuable and you buy it for more than it is worth. Of course, the name on the new plaque is always a well-known artist that you can easily research. You never thought this was happening, right? That is why trained experts like me don’t rely on metal plaques on frames. Start your research by looking at the back of the painting. Read more on the myths about paintings and value.
2. Website Sells Your Antique
You found the signature on your painting and you quickly type it into a search engine. There is no mistaking that you spelled the name correctly. You click ‘Submit’ and the first result is a match—You think, “oh, research is so easy.” You then click on the art gallery that sells the work by that artist of your new purchase and you read all about him. The website states that this artist was a very good friend of an expert art historian named Dr. Lori Verderame (hey that’s me). So, you assume this artist is exactly who the art gallery says they are and that all the information on this gallery website including prices are correct.
Unfortunately, in this real life example, I was never good friends with this particular artist. In fact, this artist died before I was even born. Hard to make friends with someone before you are born. Some could say this is marketing, but as far as I am concerned, it is a lie. So, how reliable is the information on the rest of this gallery’s webpage if they just make information up? Read why unsigned paintings can be more valuable than signed ones.
3. Two Names on a Print
You picked up a deal at the Goodwill. It looks like a print, but how can you tell a valuable print? There are all types of markings, names and numbers on the front of the print, how do you identify a prints’s markings?
Your first thought is that this print has two different artists so it must be rare, right? Wrong, there is typically only one artist for most prints. One of those names on the front of your print is the artist and the other is the name of the printer who printed the artist’s image. Now what do you do? If you search the printer’s name, it might not appear or that printer could have printed many works by many different artists. Typically, the prominently signed name on a print is the artist’s name but then after your search, you have to always consider it may be incorrect. Sometimes terms like “pinx” or “sculpt” may be printed near a signature on a print and those terms are clues to whether you are looking at the artist’s name (pinx.) or the printer’s name (sculpt.). Then after you land on a webpage researching, to be sure, always remember number 2 above.
When in doubt, ask an expert like me. I have no agenda other than to tell you the truth about your new art purchase or antique find and I’m trained with a Ph.D. in art history and antiques not to mention decades of experience in museums and appraising objects. Bring your antique to one of my events to be sure your research is correct. You can also send your photos, I’ll do the research for you and that way, you’ll know it’s correct.