The pricing of a piece of art, an archive of documents or any artifact is a challenging affair. While much of the basis for pricing may be content driven or tied to the manner of expression the price is clearly subject to strong demand-side influences. Markets flow freely and must be “trapped” when appropriate. Timing can be crucial. The death of a reclusive author, say, J.D. Salinger, might prompt a special market for any secreted letters or first editions.
The process of selling a piece of art or a collection can be daunting new territory to navigate and often times the seller is best served to commission an experienced dealer or a knowledgeable student of comparable fine art or documents to represent them. In many cases this is an independent Appraiser.
Why an Appraiser?
The object of appraising is to remain at arms-length and discover through market analysis all that is pertinent to the valuing of the object. In order for the owner/seller to set a price he must, with an unbiased mentality, study the provenance (history of ownership), what comparable and like items have brought in the market place, where and when these sales have occurred, and how the piece or pieces being appraised compare to the items that have already sold. Through training and experience the appraiser is sensitive to the materials and techniques of the artist and comparable artists and authors and to the particular period of development within their productive lifetime. And, although an appraiser is not an authenticator, he or she understands the need for committed research into materials and techniques including paper analysis, exact measurements, inscriptions and markings as well as the many subtleties of artists’ and authors’ signatures.
Once the appraiser has completed the critical survey, appropriate pricing and timing are crucial. The right auction, the right geographic selling market (e.g., most southern art does not sell well in the northeast) and a timely and aggressive promotion could lead to fantastic pricing. For instance, in the case of Salinger, the documentary movie and the new biography arrived at the market place during the same September week in 2013………. did this rekindle the mystique or stimulate a market for Salinger? How about the spill-over effect on other reclusive author’s private letters or first editions? …………… Are there any Hemmingway archives lying around?