Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 07:11 pm

Before you can sell art in an auction, you may need to get it appraised. Auctions often require documents from a professional art appraiser, especially if you hope to sell your art for a large sum of money.

A professional art appraisal estimates the value of a work of art through extensive research. It is based on in-depth industry knowledge, including an understanding of both local art movements like the Northwest School and international ones like Art Nouveau, as well as current market conditions. The appraiser will need to research what similar works of art are selling for. 

There are many different ways of valuing a piece of art depending on what you plan to do with it. That means you may need to get your art re-appraised before an auction even if it was recently appraised for insurance or estate purposes.

Read on to learn about the art appraisal process and how it can help you prepare for a successful auction.

What does an art appraiser do?

An art appraiser assesses the financial value of works of art based on current market conditions. They provide a well-informed expert opinion based on the art subject matter, recent auction records, the artist’s popularity, the work’s history and provenance, the subject matter, size, rarity, and many other factors. 

A trustworthy art appraiser will usually have some form of accreditation and insurance. Many art appraisers also have an educational background in art or art history. While there is no single accreditation standard, there are several professional appraisal organizations that set standards of training, continuing education, and ethics for members.

For instance, if an art appraiser is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), you can be sure that they’ve completed training in appraisal theory, methodology, ethics, and report-writing standards, including standards for auction purposes. ISA members must also have at least 700 documented hours of appraisal-related experience to qualify for accreditation.

The art appraisal process 

A thorough art appraisal can take a while, depending on the work of art. In some cases, the process may take weeks. However, you can speed up the process with some preparation.

Before the appraisal 

First, choose which art you want to get appraised if you haven’t already. This step can be difficult if you have an entire estate’s worth of items to sell, but having a professional appraiser inspect everything in a home tends to be cost-prohibitive. Only get your art appraised if you think it may be valuable.

From there, you will need to choose an appraiser. Again, a good professional appraiser who can help you prepare for your art auction will usually have rigorous training, education, and certification through an organization like the International Society of Appraisers. They should also be insured, bonded, and potentially licensed depending on the state you live in.

The market value of your art is usually defined as the price that a buyer is most likely to pay for it. Since that price depends on if and where you plan to sell it, you will need to tell the appraiser about your plans. Explain that you wish to sell it in an auction and what your time frame is.

The best thing you can do to speed up the appraisal process is to collect any information you have about the art. Past appraisal reports, receipts, previous auction records, restoration reports, invoices, book references, and certificates of authenticity can help the appraiser do their work faster.

From there, you can finalize your appraisal plans and prepare your art for inspection. You and the appraiser will need to schedule a meeting time and check in about payment expectations. 

If the appraiser is coming in person, we recommend removing your art from the wall or display case and placing it somewhere with plenty of light so it’s easier to inspect. Please do NOT clean, touch up, unframe, or tamper with the art in any way.

During the appraisal

During the appraisal, you can help by keeping distractions and interruptions away. Turn off any nearby TVs, radios, or other noisy items. If there are young children or pets around, keep them away from the appraisal space.

The appraisal process involves a lot of research. In most cases, the appraiser bases their estimate largely on comparable works of art, which means checking auction records, private sales records, art that is currently for sale, and more. They may also need to research past owners or exhibitions of your art.

Many other factors can affect the value of your art, including:

  • The materials or paint it was made with
  • Whether it features a signature from the artist
  • If it’s a print, whether it was part of a limited edition or specialty print
  • Whether the subject is in high demand at the moment
  • The quality of the frame it’s in

Most appraisers will appreciate it if you are available throughout the appraisal process. On top of showing them where the art is, they may need you to answer questions about the art’s history and any information you have that isn’t in a document. We recommend staying near the appraisal work area.

After the appraisal inspection, your appraiser’s research may bring up additional questions for you. It’s a good idea to check your email or phone regularly in the days after the inspection.

After the art appraisal and before the auction

Earlier on, you and the appraiser should have agreed to a fee and payment schedule. Depending on the appraiser, you may need to pay fees during the inspection, after they have completed the appraisal report, or at another time. 

The art appraisal document will typically include a description section with extensive details about your art, followed by a carefully formed opinion on its monetary value in a specific situation such as an auction. You can use this document to back up your art’s value during your upcoming auction.

Art appraisal in Seattle

Fruitcocktail Collectables is a professional appraisal company in Seattle that specializes in art, general household goods, 20th century design, and antiques. We are accredited through the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) and licensed by the State of Washington. In addition to appraisals, we help with online auctions, estate sale planning, and consignment services.

Our company has been helping clients in the Puget Sound area with appraisals for over 25 years. Alyssa Stevens, the owner and manager of Fruitcocktail Collectables, is currently on the ISA board of directors.

Schedule a consultation with us today to begin the art appraisal process and start preparing for your upcoming auction.