Is Your Art Worth Something?: A Quick Guide


Appraising is an art, not a science, and market trends can quickly cause fluctuations in prices. While most people hire an appraisal expert in order to arrive at a dollar value, it’s possible to figure out if your art is valuable or not.

Is it a One of A Kind?

Original art is worth more than prints or lithographs.

Many prints can seem original but here are a few tricks to tell the difference:

  • Look for brush strokes. Real paintings will have real brushstrokes. The brushstrokes will vary in size and texture.
  • Hold the painting up to the light and look at it from the BACK. You should be able to see variations in the light coming through the back of the canvas. This is because artists use varying degrees of heaviness of paint in certain areas. A lithograph on canvas will not have these variations.
  • A real painting will almost always be signed by the artist in the lower right hand corner. The artist’s signature should have a dimension to it if it is signed with real paint.

Is the Artist Well Known?

Artists generally fall into three categories of renown: well-known, up-and-coming, and unknown. Artists who are well-known and have a rich history of collection can almost always command more value more than artists who are unknown.

Does the Painting Itself Have History?

Find out if the piece of art has ever been owned by someone renowned. Barring the artist themselves, works of art that were formerly owned by someone famous or well-known can command much higher prices than those pieces who don’t.


An item that is ripped, water-damaged, discolored, or otherwise damaged can return significantly less than an item that is in perfect shape. Note that an item that isn’t technically damaged but isn’t as vibrant as it was when first completed will qualify as having a “condition issue.”

If you think your art may be worth something you should contact a certified art appraiser to help you put an exact value on your art. The fine art market is very volatile so don’t trust that a painting worth a certain amount in 1990 will hold the same value as today.