13 FAQs: How To Get Art Appraised For Insurance, Tax, & Auction | Hanging Investments (2023)

For art collectors, having a painting, illustration, photograph, or other types of artwork appraised is one of the first crucial steps in owning and later selling a piece. An appraisal report is a key document to validate the fair market value and becomes a vital step in watching the investment grow in value over time. But how do you get art appraised?

Art appraisals are performed by experienced professionals. Contact reputable art dealers or appraisers that belong to recognized associations and have extensive expertise in providing estimation services. Insurance companies that underwrite artwork sometimes have a referral list of appraisers.

I had the following questions when locating and interviewing art appraisers.

13 FAQs: How To Get Art Appraised For Insurance, Tax, & Auction | Hanging Investments (1)

Appraisal Basics

How do you know if artwork is valuable?

Toknow if your artwork is valuable:

  1. Research the artist’s career stage along with the size and popularity of their body of work.
  2. Compare recent sale prices of similar pieces by the artist.
  3. Hire a professional to authenticate that your item is genuine then a certified appraiser can provide a value.

As you research, you’ll find a vast range of prices of art. Online research is the most accessible resource, especially if you’ve purchased or plan to purchase something online. A Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and a written provenance or history of a piece canhelp support a valuation.

Using information such as the artist, time of composition, material, style, and provenance can guide your searches. You can find the sale or worth of similar pieces from this starting point for a general price estimate.


Online research can be a first but not a final stop in valuation. Personal research can onlyhelp you decide if it is worth pursuing a deeper investigationinto getting at an art piece’s value. If you choose to continue, it’s time to seek a fine art appraisal from an expert who complies with theUniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice(USPAP).

What is the purpose of an appraisal report?

The primarypurpose of an art appraisal reportis to establish a fair market value. A certified appraiser documents the approximate artwork price for insurance coverage, equitable distributions, or tax compliance. An appraisal also helps establish a sale or auction price.

The twoprimary uses for an appraisal reportare insurance and equitable distribution.

For insurance, an appraisal usually refers to the “retail replacement value.” This price is generally at the higher end of the valuation,reflecting a replacement costin the case of loss or damage to the artwork.

In estate proceedings, an appraisal report will refer to a “fair market value,” which is considered the lower end of a valuation range. This value is used todivide the possessionsbetween survivors, family, and recipients of an estate. The same appraisal report is also used fortax reporting.

A charitable donation of artwork during one’s lifetime or posthumously is often a tax deduction. TheUS Internal Revenue Service(IRS)requires a well-documented appraisal report for any gift over $5,000. The IRS even has a special board for donations valued at over $50,000 to scrutinize the appraisal report. Again, the fair market value is used for this scenario.


A painting could be worth millions or prized only by the owner for its emotional, sentimental, or aesthetic appeal. The fair market value generally supports an initial auction listing price. Bids will begin at this valuation, with the owner often seeing the final“hammer price” as the new, documented price of the piece.

How do appraisals determine the value of artwork?

Artappraisals determine the value of artworkthrough research on the artist, date of creation, materials, and dimensions. An appraiser used the current condition, history of ownership, certificate of authenticity, and recent sales or auctions to estimate the current market value.

The value of art is indeed subjective. The appraiser’s documentation becomes as close to an objective valuation as is possible. In fact, a report that follows the USPAP guidelines itselfadds to the overall value of the workif ever the piece is brought to market for sale.

Appraisals tell you and future buyers the price of the work and how it fits into the art market at the time of the assessment.

How does a fine art appraisal work?

Afine art appraisal worksby finding a certified, USPAP-compliant professional and establishing a written agreement on their credentials, services to be rendered, and expectations of the appraisal process. After paying the invoice, theappraiser delivers a reportafter the agreed evaluation period.

This appraisalreport becomes a legal document supporting the art piece. The report should answer a majority of questions about the value of the work under most circumstances for a given need.

For example, aninsurance appraisalwill include descriptions and reasonings to support restitution in the event of loss or damage to the work of art.

Anequitable distribution or sales appraisaldocuments similar characteristics of the artwork. It will answer many questions a futurebuyermight want to know toassign an initial sales price.

13 FAQs: How To Get Art Appraised For Insurance, Tax, & Auction | Hanging Investments (2)

Appraisal Pricing

Like with everything in the art world, the cost of an appraisal varies widely depending on the appraiser’s experience, location, research depth, types of documents to deliver, etc.

How much does it cost to have art appraised?

It costs between $150-200per hour to have art appraised. While some appraisers charge per piece or report, an hourly rate is more common. Association membership, experience, and expertise impacts this rate. Obtain a written quotation with fees and expected appraisal documents before work begins.

I contact 6 US-based appraisers from the 3 primary art appraisal associations/societies to confirm pricing. I’ve listed their contact information later in this article.

But what if your initial research shows that your piece is not valuable enough to support the cost of having an appraisal?

Where can I get a free art appraisal?

You can get a free art appraisal from some auction houses. Generally, these estimations are offered to entice sellers to bring artwork to the business and increase the company’s inventory. A free appraisal from an auction house should only be considered as a research starting point.


Auction houses earn a profit when they successfully sell a piece of art. They may only providean estimation when their staff sees a minimum level of value.

Other auction companies have designated valuation days or offer inexpensive online/remote appraisals. Again, these services anticipate that sellers will want to use their market to consign their artworks.

In fact,Barnebys purchased online appraisal company ValueMyStuff.comto bring their brick-and-mortar auction businesses into the 21st century. The service offers competitively-priced written appraisals. But despite paying even a nominal price for an assessment, this report is only helpful as an initial price when selling art at that particular brokerage house.

Are free appraisals acceptable for insurance or tax purpose?

A free art appraisal is generally not acceptable for insurance or tax purpose. A free report is primarily an offer to buy at a lower estimation of an artwork’s value. A certified appraisal will include well-researched evidence from an industry professional supporting a higher, authoritative value.

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Free appraisals provide little written documentation consisting mainly of an offer to buy at a given price and therefore are not accepted by insurance. Most insurance companies require professional documentation to begin underwriting an art piece or art collection.

An appraisal report for tax purposes requires an even higher level of documentation. Estate taxation and the charitable donation of artwork are highly scrutinized. An appraiser who established the valuation report can be called to further support their documentation. Free appraisals are not written for use as legal proof of value.

Free appraisals also generally take much longer to receive. Because art appraisal is not regulated, there is a risk that some free appraisals may not be accurate. If you think your artwork holds significant value, it is best to pay for an appraisal report.

Why does getting art appraised cost so much?

Getting art appraised is expensive because of specialized knowledge, heavy research, and legal documentationrequired to produce a report. Professional art appraisers have many years of experience in the art market. They also produce recognized legal paperwork which can defend their valuations.

It’s important to remember that determining an artwork’s value often requires extensive research and examining the work itself. Appraisers must consult databases and sometimes even books to find all the information they need to properly appraise a piece.

The cost of an appraisal is thus a combination of the appraiser’s expertise, an examination of the piece itself, time spent researching the work and art market, and producing the final report documents.

Finding An Appraiser

How would one go about getting a piece of art appraised?

  1. Initial research to see if worth the time
  2. Decide why you’ll want an appraiser
  3. Find a reputable appraiser
  4. Discuss all aspects of the services, then hire the professional
  5. Receive the report and securely
    1. file a copy along with the artwork’s provenance
    2. send a copy to your insurance company

What should a collector look for in an appraiser?

Art collectors should look for an appraiser that is a member of one of the 3 appraisal industry associations, The Appraisers Association of America (AAA), The International Society of Appraisers (ISA), or The American Society of Appraisers (ASA). The appraiser should follow the USPAP guidelines.

Here are the questions I used to interview the appraisers:

  1. What types of artwork can you appraise?
  2. What kinds of art do you specialize in appraising?
  3. Do you have any certifications?
  4. Are your appraisals in line with USPAP guidelines?
  5. How are your services priced (by the hour or piece)?
  6. What forms of payment do you accept?
  7. Can you issue an invoice with an agreement for services?
  8. What is a typical turnaround time for reports?
  9. What are your data security practices? Is my information safe and confidential?

If you plan to have an in-personal assessment, look for an appraiser in your area and ask these questions:

  1. Do we meet at your office, or do you come onsite?
  2. How will we make an appointment?
  3. Is there any preparation that needs to be done before the in-person evaluation?

For a remote or online appraiser, ask the following questions:

  1. Do I need to ship my artwork to your location?
  2. Can I take high-resolution photos to send?
  3. How do I securely upload photographs of my art to you?

How do you find a reputable appraiser?

To find a reputable art appraiser, look for an appraiser that follows USPAP guidelines and is a member of the appraisal industry associations. Each of the organizations provides an online member directory to find an art appraiser near you.

Appraisers Association of America

Lelia Williamson Nightingale
Nightingale Art Advisory, LLC
(404) 502-0080

Jane Cofer
Art Matters, LLC
(404) 495-0156

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American Society of Appraisers

Elizabeth L. Lovett, AM
Lake Lovett Appraisals
(404) 984-9888
* Ms. Lake-Lovett was very communicative and transparent and a pleasure to interview

Spalding M. Nix, AM
Spalding Nix Fine Art
(404) 841-7777

International Society of Appraisers

Selma Paul
Selma Paul Certified Appraiser & Estate Services
(770) 888-8808
ISA membersince Jul 01, 2003

Courtney Ahlstrom Christy
Ahlstrom Appraisals LLC
(404) 219-9705
ISA membersince Jul 22, 2013

Disclosure: We have no prior or current business affiliation with these vendors.

I chose appraisers around Atlanta, Georgia, for the ease of in-person evaluation. Use the association/society directories to locate appraisers in your area. Alternatively, many appraisers are starting to work remotely.

13 FAQs: How To Get Art Appraised For Insurance, Tax, & Auction | Hanging Investments (3)

How to find online or remote appraisers?

The art market tends to thrive in urban areas. If you are not located in a metropolitan area, finding an in-person appraiser can be difficult. However, there are ways to have your artwork appraised remotely.

Many companies provide online art appraisals and generally have turnaround times between 2 to 7 days.

When searching for a company, it is best to look for one specializing in the type of art you want to be appraised. A company that claims to value absolutely any antique or art will likely not be as accurate as a company that focuses on paintings.

Many art appraisal businesses have found ways to conduct their appraisals remotely as businesses move operations online. You can try to reach out to an art appraiser specializing in your artwork to see if a remote appraisal is possible.

An online appraisal can be advantageous if you live in a more remote area. Online appraisals also tend to be cheaper than in-person evaluations.

In The Report

What kind of information should be included in an appraisal report?

The information included in a quality art appraisal report

  • Agreement and job scope
  • Purpose of the report
  • Research and valuation methods
  • Limiting conditions
  • Appraiser disinterest statement
  • Artwork’s description and condition
  • Provenance/history summary
  • Certificate of appraisal with signature
  • Appraiser’s qualifications and association membership information

As mentioned before, these elements of an appraisal report should be collected using the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice guidelines.

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While the USPAP is designed primarily as a set of standards for real estate appraisers, the document is generally accepted as guidance for personal property appraisers, and in our case, art appraisals. Thecurrent standardscan be found on The Appraisal Foundation’s site.


How do you value artwork for insurance? ›

Generally speaking, insurance adjustors will use an artist's past sales to determine valuation. If you sold a similar painting for $1,000 (and can provide legitimate documentation), expect a valuation of about $1,000, unless you've started working with precious metals.

How do you get artwork appraised? ›

Appraisals & Appraisers

Consider finding an appraiser to determine the value of your artwork. Appraisers are trained specialists who work for a fee. They evaluate your piece and give you a written statement of its value.

How can I get my art appraised for free? ›

Please email info@californiawatercolor.com to receive a free estimate of your artwork. Original art only please (oil paintings, watercolors, acrylics, pastel, pencil, sculpture, etc.). We will research your artwork and get back to you via e-mail within a few business days.

What is the typical cost of an art appraisal? ›

Antique or art appraisals cost $250 to $300 on average for a single item. Depending on several factors, you may pay as low as $25 an hour to over $300 an hour.

Which painting has the highest insurance value? ›

Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as having the highest ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US$900 million in 2021.

What is the difference between fair market value and insurance value? ›

When looking at homeowners insurance, fully insuring a home means covering its entire insurable value. The insurable value is different from the market value of a property; it can be higher or lower, depending on the circumstances. The market value is simply how much a building will sell for on the real estate market.

Is it worth getting art appraised? ›

When owning one or more artworks it's crucial to, aside from their intrinsic aesthetic, cultural, historical, or even sentimental value, know how much they are worth. This can come in especially handy if an artwork is lost, damaged, or if one is planning to gift or donating it.

When should you get art appraised? ›

It depends completely on the type of art in question. For some types of art, we recommend updated appraisals as often as every six months. For other types of art, appraisals can last several years without needing to be updated.

What do art appraisers look for? ›

Appraisals are based on market research. This involves consulting auction records, private sales records, artworks currently for-sale, and more to find comparable objects to the object being appraised. Provenance, or history of ownership and of exhibitions, can also contribute to the value to an art object.

How do you collect art if you are poor? ›

Research online and go to as many auctions and fairs as possible. When you're there, find things that you love and then see if there are other works by that artist available elsewhere, perhaps works on paper or less expensive editioned works by them.

Is there an app to value paintings? ›

Smartifiy is an app that allows users to instantly identify artworks and access information about them, by simply scanning them with a smartphone. Smartify is available for free to download on iOS and Android devices.

Does painting increase appraisal value? ›

Increase your home's value

On average nationally, painting both the inside and outside of your home yields a $4,000+ value bump. That's a 107% ROI for interior painting and a 55% ROI for exterior painting.

How do I choose an art appraiser? ›

Look at the appraiser's background and experience in the specific area of artwork you have, they should have some an educational background specializing in the type of art you collect, or long history appraising artwork. Find an art appraiser with specific expertise in the style or type of art needs appraising.

Are art appraisal fees tax deductible? ›


Generally, appraisal fees will be deductible on your Schedule C or Schedule E if the appraisal is conducted for business reasons.

What is the darkest value in art? ›

Value in art is essentially how light or dark something is on a scale of white to black (with white being the highest value and black being the lowest value). It is widely considered to be one of the most important variables to the success of a painting, even more so than your selection of color (hue).

What makes a painting go up in value? ›


An artwork's provenance, the documented history of who it has belonged to, is a huge determining factor in its value. For example, if a painting was once owned by a celebrity, a prominent collector, or perhaps a respected gallery, it will certainly attract higher offers when put on sale.

What paintings are worth money? ›

Ranking the most valuable paintings in private hands
AuthorWorkEstimated Value
CaravaggioThe Crowning with Thorns$150 million
CaravaggioThe Martyrdom of Saint Ursula$190 million
Pablo PicassoNude, Green Leaves, and Bust (Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur)$185 million
Pablo PicassoThe Mirror (Le Miroir)$140 million
15 more rows

Why is insurance value more than auction value? ›

Thus, an insurance value is based on the price you might find for an object in what the IRS defines as a "reasonable time" — usually not the price you might get after bargain hunting for months. Unlike retail and auction values, which are often verbal, appraisers issue insurance values as formal written appraisals.

How do I find my fair market value? ›

Fair market value (or "FMV") is an estimate of the price that a home would sell for on the open market.
Here are four ways to find it:
  1. Go to a site like Zillow or Trulia. ...
  2. Contact a local realtor to run a comparable market analysis (CMA). ...
  3. Get an appraisal. ...
  4. Check the taxes.

Do insurance companies give you market value? ›

The insurance company calculates the payout on the wholesale price a dealer would pay for your car. This is their general definition of "fair market value." If you go through your own insurance company, it pays this amount, less your deductible.

What are the 4 types of value in art? ›

There are also several variations of value in art, referred to as high-key, low-key, and mid-range. Value adds effects like highlights and shadows, which create emphasis, perspective, depth, contrast, and so much more to a visual composition – giving it life.

What should you not tell an appraiser? ›

Just keep your communication to the appraiser about the facts of the home and neighborhood, how you priced the house, and any other relevant information you think the appraiser should know. And remember, don't discuss value. Don't pressure the appraiser to 'hit the value' and you'll be fine.

How do I price my artwork for licensing? ›

Art Licensing is usually a royalty range of 3-10%. Brand and character licensing can go as high as 15%. 2) Where it's sold determines the percentage as well. Mass markets (such as Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart), start as low as 3-5%.

How do appraisers value art? ›

Appraisals are based on market research. This involves consulting auction records, private sales records, artworks currently for-sale, and more to find comparable objects to the object being appraised. Provenance, or history of ownership and of exhibitions, can also contribute to the value to an art object.

Is expensive artwork covered by homeowners insurance? ›

Most homeowners insurance policies cover jewelry, art and collections the same as any other possession, subject to your policy's deductible and coverage limits. For example, most homeowners policies limit coverage for possessions to up to 75% of your dwelling coverage.

What is the depreciation rate for artwork? ›

[A] valuable and treasured art piece does not have a determinable useful life. While the actual physical condition of the property may influence the value placed on the object, it will not ordinarily limit or determine the useful life. Accordingly, depreciation of works of art generally is not allowable.

Can you negotiate the price of artwork? ›

Unexperienced art buyers are often reluctant to inquire about a discount. However, if you are unable to afford a full price, you shouldn't be afraid to ask for a small reduction. Many galleries even expect a bit of negotiating. After all, it's better to sell an art piece with a discount than not to sell it at all.

What is a fair royalty percentage? ›

In most cases, licensors prefer a royalty rate that falls within 25% to 75% range of the sublicensing income. Their stake usually amounts to more than half of all profits. In rare cases, the licensee can negotiate a rate split and apply their own royalty obligation to the sale of sub-licensed products.

How much should I ask for royalties? ›

Well, royalty rates vary across book formats like prints or ebooks. They also vary across publishers (if you're on the traditional route) as well as stores (if you're self-publishing to them directly). Generally, the average royalty rate is around 10% under traditional publishing and up to 70% under self-publishing.


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