Whether you think you found a gem in your Granny’s attic or you are searching for the piece of your dreams and don’t want to get ripped off, at some point you will want to do some research. For sure the internet has made researching items so much easier but you need to use your head and good sense to come out on top. Provenance makes or breaks value so the more you know, the better you can make decisions.
I found this piece, NOW WHAT?
Makers Marks, Tags, Stamps, Signatures. All of these tell a story. If you are fortunate to have a piece with any of this information, it will greatly help you in your quests! There is a great community of enthusiasts and collectors who have vast knowledge of makers, designers and their works who post blogs and updates. Start your searching on google, Facebook, Instagram and my favorite, Pinterest. There are many ads and catalogs posted either for sale or just as a reference. These are valuable resources!
Now what do most people ask first when they post in a group to crowd source provenance? HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH? The short answer, nothing if no one wants it. Half the battle of reselling your items is getting it to the audience who does want it and is willing to pay market value to get it. Any legit retailer, myself include, has overhead which needs to be included in the selling price. We are trying to cover expenses and make some money on top of it. If this job was easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s hard work and in 4 years, I am still not making much of a profit nor contributing to my personal finances so keep that in mind when you support the retail industry. If anyone is getting rich doing this at this stage, i’d love to meet them! 😂
Let’s talk about some great places to start sleuthing. Google and Google Image will pick up large auction house listings, first dibs and other online sales. Use this as a start but be leery of claims unless there is significant proof of provenance. There are a lot of false claims coming from the highest end markets.
Ebay can be a great place as well and always remember to search current listings and then go one step further by clicking ADVANCED followed by checking the box for SOLD listings. This will get you realized sales. I also consider the source because there are many facets to retail. Ebay does attract collectors so an in demand item may realize for top dollar, however, a lot of large items are PICK UP ONLY so to me, that seller it not really experiencing the full national market which can affect his price.
Once you think you have figured out the origins of your piece, you can move forward into other realms. I love Pinterest for this and have found many original ads and catalogs there. Ebay also has been a great source for this.
Art specific items can be fun. I have found info in the American Art Archives of the Smithsonian, local art museums have libraries as well. I did find a search engine (worldcat.org) covering libraries and the art museums around the country are also in the search. I have twice used resources at the Philadelphia Art Museum and it is easy to reserve, make an appt to view and then you sign in at the desk and get a visitor’s pass. This pass lets you spend time in the building perusing the current exhibits before you leave as well! Parking in the residential area behind the museum is free for up to two hours! Also note that you may even find a published book or exhibition catalog! Some leads do not amount to much but you will find out more as you go along.