Remember: an appraisal is different from an authentication.

You hire an appraiser for an opinion on an authentication, asking for thoughts on who created the piece. Assuming the piece is genuine, and once a creator is determined, an appraisal value is made. This value depends on why you need an appraisal.

Appraisal type is determined by the activity you’re doing with your art collection, which typically fit into four categories:

Fair Market Value

Fair market value (FMV) is the estimated price the piece would sell on the open market. FMV is generally used for determining charitable donation values and inheritance tax.

Replacement Value

Replacement value is the cost it requires to replace the item with a similar work of equitable condition, purchased in an appropriate market place, and within a limited amount of time. This value is typically the highest value of an artwork and is used for insurance coverage.

Market Value

Market Value is the price a buyer is willing to pay to a seller, with no obligation to transact, in the competitive and open market.

Liquidation Value

Liquidation value is the value of the piece if forced to sell in limited conditions, possibly including time constraints.

Keep each appraisal document in your records, both in hard copy and digital forms. Insurance companies use the appraisal values to file a claim, and estate planners set up your art estate.

As your collection grows, managing your inventory and schedules for cleanings and appraisals gets more complicated. Organized collectors use an inventory management software tool, including ArtExpress accounts, to set reminders, store documents, and view reports.


Here are four ways you can increase and preserve the value of your art collection and why it’s essential to the health and longevity of your collection.

Increase Your Collection’s Value by Recording Provenance

Authenticating provenance can have a direct correlation with the value of the piece. Especially if the artist is no longer living, the recorded history of the piece’s owners and whereabouts is the first step to confirming its creator and origins. Advisors and appraisers will consult the documentation to confirm an artwork’s legitimacy. The details that arise in the ownership can lead to increased value.

Scan the paperwork to create a digital record—and don’t forget to create that all-important backup copy to store elsewhere. In ArtExpress, all documents and files are stored with backups in the cloud. If your computer or your files become damaged, these files are easily restored, and you can access your records with any Internet connection.

Take every opportunity to learn more about your art. If the artist is still living, talk to them about the emotion and intention behind each piece you own. If the artists is no longer living, chat with appraisers and gallery owners who are familiar with the work and its significance in the artist’s career and the art world. By keeping detailed records for everything, art managers and family members can have access to this information.

Protect Your Collection’s Value in the Face of Theft

An itemized record of your art collection will be your first resource when responding to a theft. This itemized report will hold all the documents that prove you own the art and where it was located before it was stolen. The most up-to-date appraisals and valuation documents will support your insurance claim, which is why you want to practice frequent evaluations with appraisers and conservators. These experts can also support your insurance claim and verify the piece and its condition.

Enhance Your Collection’s Value by Documenting Its Evolution

The progression of your collection is important to your portfolio. For instance, the first piece that sparked your interest in Neolithic Ceramics has a story to tell, and the story grows as you acquire more pieces.

A well-documented collection gives your artwork the detail and personality that it needs to increase your collection’s value.

When you neglect to document the history of a piece of art, you may compromise not only its historical significance, but also its overall value.

Preserve the Increasing Value of Your Collection for the Future

Understanding your investment is pivotal in caring for your art collection and your overall net worth. When you manage the value of your collection with Artwork Archive, you can analyze your collection’s value based on location, see the geographic distribution of your art pieces, and review statistical reports that let you see your collection’s total value over time.

Armed with this information, you can protect your investment, respond quickly to disaster, plan your estate, and ensure your collection’s legacy. Carefully documenting your art collection and its history increases its value for you as the collector, your family, and the community with whom you share your collection.


As you accumulate artwork, you’ll reach a point where knowing all the who, what, when, where, and how becomes impossible. Cataloging your collection may seem daunting at first, but diligently recording all the details will secure your collection’s value.

Preparing an inventory of your art and collectibles is not difficult, as long as you understand it takes time and you use a system. For example, start in one room and systematically work your way around, room by room, through the entire house until you’ve recorded everything.

Work Backwards

It can seem overwhelming to inventory a career’s worth of collecting art, so we recommend working backwards. Working this way, you’ll start with the art that is freshest in your mind, oftentimes sparking excitement to continue cataloging and adding details. As you go through each piece, you’ll get a sense for the amount of time and energy you can spend cataloging your collection, and you can break it up to fit your schedule.

Take Photographs

Photographs provide a visual reference for each artwork, and they are especially helpful for large collections. High-quality images of artworks are useful, too, when you decide to sell a piece, or if you file an insurance claim. Remember to photograph the back and sides of a piece, along with any particular damage or areas with repairs.

Number Your Work

An inventory numbering system can be useful to help track your artwork. This numbering system can start anywhere, as long as it is meaningful to you and can be easily understood by others.

Artist Cedar Lee, for example, organizes her art with a two-digits number for the painting she painted that year, followed by a letter for the month (January is A, February is B, etc.), and ending with a two-digits year. On her blog, Art by Cedar, she writes “for example, there is a painting in my inventory with the control number 41J08. This tells me that it was the 41st painting of the year, created in October of 2008.” She resets again each year with number “1” and the letter A every January.

Additionally, you can also signify the type or medium of the work like “OP” for oil painting, “S” for sculpture, “EP” for edition print, and so on. This system works well for a diverse collection.

Add In the Right Details

As much as you can record, you need at least:

Title, Dimensions, Inventory Number, Price, Medium, Creation Date, Subject Matter and Description.

Additionally, you can include framed dimensions, condition reports, location, and appraisal values.


Some experts argue that your provenance documents are just as important, possibly more important, than the artwork. So, what exactly is included in a full provenance?

A Description of the Work

Provenance documents must include a detailed description of the artwork. Starting with dimensions, you want to confirm the materials used, the type of work, and what it looks like. This ties your document back to your piece, unquestionably. A description will also include the title, date created, and the artist. An artist’s signature does not prove the work’s creator. Only a signed, certified document outlining the details of the piece, including the signature, can verify a work’s creator and condition. Provenance documents without these details are not considered authentication.

A Legible, Identifiable Signature

The certifying authority must legibly sign the document, so you can trace their identity. This signature can be verified by the expert himself or herself, if still living, or prove that this person truly existed.

In general, signatures on provenance documents also include the contact information and the certifications or qualifications of the expert. On a sales receipt, for example, the gallery representative is responsible for verifying the purchase.

An Original Copy

Photocopies or PDFs do not serve as provenance documents. Although you always want to store digital copies in your inventory management account in case of emergency, original documents are the best evidence. Of course, some documents are digitally printed these days, but what’s important is an inked signature.

A List of Previous, Verifiable Owners

Verifying the work’s history is the only way to confirm that your documentation is accurate. If the history of a piece’s past owners has loopholes, you may be missing critical pieces of evidence, or it could indicate suspicious activity. Most artwork provenance will list each owner and the years the owner had the work in possession. With this information you can confirm these people existed during that time, and if they are still alive, you can ask them about the work. If you speak with a previous owner, you can also verify the galleries that used to have the work, and from where, exactly, the collector bought the work.

Practice Due Diligence When Buying Art

Especially true with artists who are no longer living, confirm that your provenance documents are legitimate. If you neglect these details and discover, after the fact, that the provenance is fallacious, you may end up with costly legal fees, stress, and disappointment. However, taking time to verify provenance will ensure your collection is legitimate.


Art insurance defends against the unexpected. Like homeowners insurance or health insurance, although no one wants an earthquake or a broken leg—it’s imperative to be prepared.

Victoria Edwards of Wasserman & Associates Insurance Agency, LLC, specializing in fine art and jewelry insurance, and William Fleischer of Art Insurance Now answered some of the big questions about insuring your art collection.

Does My Homeowners Insurance Protect My Art Collection?

This is one of the first questions new collectors ask about their artwork. The answer? Homeowners insurance covers your valuables, subject to your deductible and coverage limits.

“Some people think that their homeowners insurance will cover fine art,” Victoria Edwards explains. “But if you don’t have a separate policy, and think it’s covered under your homeowners insurance, you need to check the exclusions.”

“A homeowners policy is normally not as sophisticated as a specific fine art insurance policy,” Fleischer adds. “They have many more restrictions and more underwriting. As the art market has gotten so much more sophisticated, a homeowners policy is not the ideal place to put your coverage.”

Typically, collectors buy special coverage for their art collection specifically. This type of insurance policy will cover artworks for their most recent appraisal value.

What are the Advantages of Working with a Separate Fine Art Insurance Company?

With a common homeowners insurance policy, your art collection is nothing more than a part of your valuables. Art insurance specialists are also more experienced in creating policies to protect your art collection and knowing how to help in claim situations. When you make a claim with an art insurance specialist, your collection is taken very seriously.

“The advantage of working with a broker who actually specializes in fine art insurance is that we work on behalf of the client and not the company,” Edwards clarifies. “There is a personalized attention when working with a broker who is working on your behalf.”

“A specialty art insurance company focuses on the art,” Fleischer says. “They understand how the claims situation is handled, how the appraisals work, and they understand the movement of an art piece.”

Some personal policies exclude restoration. If your piece is damaged and needs to be repaired, you will be responsible for the cost. If you need to send a painting to a conservator, the value may reduce. Fleischer also notes that an art insurance policy will give you the reduction of market value if that is included in your coverage.

What’s the First Step in Insuring My Art Collection?

The first step to insuring your art collection is putting together provenance, or all the necessary documentation, to prove that the work of art is yours and what is its current value. These documents include proof of ownership, bill of sale, provenance, a replacement estimate, photographs and the most recent appraisal.

“It’s critical to have proper documentation of your collection. Inventory management is essential to keeping an up-to-date provenance.” – Jason Saarm, Bluewater Insurance.

If you use an inventory management system, such as ArtExpress, you can keep these documents organized and easily accessible in the cloud.

How Often Do I Need to Schedule an Appraisal?

There is no concrete answer, and the appraisal frequency heavily depends on the age and medium of the piece as well as the company’s philosophy. Generally, you want to have an updated value from within the past few years.

Fleischer suggests having an updated appraisal once a year while Edwards suggests every three to five years.

“Maybe the piece was originally $2,000,” Edwards suggests, “and five years from now it’s $4,000. We want to make sure that in the event of a loss, you get $4,000.”

When you schedule an updated appraisal, specify that it is for insurance purposes. This will give you the most up-to-date market value of your piece. Not only is this important for insurance, but is necessary for planning your estate, analyzing the overall value of your collection, filing your taxes, and selling artwork.

How Can I Keep My Provenance and Appraisal Documents Timely for My Coverage?

When you’re consistently adding pieces to your collection and updating your appraisal documents, it’s important to stay organized. An archival system like ArtExpress is a great way to keep everything you need in one easy-to-find place that you can access anytime, anywhere.

Having all your documents in one place allows you to properly manage the value of your art collection.

Accurate information also makes you a lower risk within your insurance policy.

What Are the Most Common Claims?

The most common claims are theft, robbery, and damage during transit. If you are moving or loaning part of your collection out to museums or different venues, make sure your art insurance broker is aware and acts a part of this process. If the loan is traveling internationally, be aware that insurance policies vary from country to country. “You want to make sure there is door-to-door coverage,” Edwards says, “so when they pick the painting up at your house, it is covered in transit, at the museum, and in transit back to your home.”

Don’t Wait to Mitigate Your Risk

The best way to be sure that your insurance policy covers everything you need is to call your local broker, or start calling potential brokers and ask questions. “Ignorance is not a defense,” Fleischer discloses. “Not having insurance is a risk,” he continues, “so do you take the risk or hedge the risk?”

Your art collection is irreplaceable, and art insurance protects your assets and your investment. It also ensures that, even in the event of a catastrophic claim, you can continue collecting. “You’re never expecting something to happen,” Edwards warns, “having insurance gives you peace of mind.