What Can You Get For Your Automotive Art?

“Hi, I’ve got some art of a Shelby Cobra I bought at a car show many years ago and I’m thinking of possibly selling it. Can you tell me something about it like how much is it worth. I can send you a picture of it.”

With a name like Automotive-Art.com, you can bet we get calls and emails like this regularly. People are downsizing or raising money or their personal space is now governed by a new spouse. Maybe Uncle Steve bequeathed it in a will. Whatever the reason, we’re asked how much can I get for this piece of automotive art?

We offer the following tips to help you value the artwork you intend to sell.

WHAT’S THE MARKET FOR AUTOMOTIVE ART?

The “masters” of automotive fine art can command $15,000 and more for their originals.  Their work is collected by avid automotive enthusiasts who see the latest at prestigious car shows and concourses.  Several museums curate automotive art as part of their contemporary art collection.  Up and coming artists are asking and getting $3,000, as they build awareness.

Yellow Bird 30 x 40 in by Ken Eberts sold for $16,500 in 2003

Yellow Bird 30 x 40 in by Ken Eberts sold for $16,500 in 2003 [print available]

The best fine art in any genre appreciates over future generations.  Since automotive art began in the  late 60s, even its “founders” are still among us.  But what they paint is destined to leave our culture.  In the future, cars will become automated and functional rather than admired for their design.  They will be considered more an appliance than the objects of passion.  Fine automotive art will be valued for presenting the golden age of the automobile.

WHO ARE THE TOP ARTISTS? 

The genre has not been around long enough to designate its Van Gogh, Picasso or Warhol – at least outside the car culture.

Members of the prestigious Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS) are held in high repute.  It is their 10,000 square foot tent that greets visitors to the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and are showcased at each Amelia Island Concours.

720-maybetomorrow-150

*Maybe Tomorrow?* by Charles Maher 25″ x 75″ sold in 2013 for $9,500 [print available]

Brough Superior SS100 Automotive Arr by Charles Maher

*Brough Superior SS100* also by Charles Maher 20″ x 40 ” sold for $7,000 in 2015 [print available]

That said, there is great art produced outside the AFAS group…

Bugatti 35 by Roger Hector

*Bugatti 35* by Roger Hector sold for $15,000 in 2010 [print available]

WHICH DO YOU HAVE?

Is it an original painting – of which there is only one? Or is it a print?

One conclusive piece of evidence it’s a print: below the image do you see a notation like “8/200”? If you do, that means it’s the 8th print from a limited edition size of 200.

With something called a loupe (it’s like a magnifying glass), you can check for dot patterns which would indicate a print reproduction.  Versus seeing brush strokes.  But even if you see brush strokes , you should know some reproductions (often called remarques) are enhanced by a hired hand to add brush strokes here and there to a print, to inflate the price.

If you want to sleuth like a professional art dealer, this article on original vs. print seems very clear in giving guidance on whether print or original.

If the artwork was purchased after 2000 (Y2K), you might have a giclee print. If it is a giclee and printed on canvas, even artists admit it can be difficult to tell the difference from their original.  That’s technology for you!

But don’t be discouraged. Maybe the best advice is to find an artist or gallery in your community and ask them.  “Is what you have in your hand an original or reproduction?

IT’S A PRINT, NOW WHAT? 

The value of a print or poster depends on how rare it is.  So if the edition size is huge (like offset prints before Y2K), and there are still online vendors with inventory, then your print will have negligible value. If the edition size is very limited to say, 30 prints that were created 50 years ago, then like anything that’s rare, it’s worth more.

Some vintage racing prints, like those made by Geo Ham, can fetch thousands.  But they have to be from the original print run and not some contemporary reproduction.

Vintage Racing Poster Le Mans

This “original” poster [which was after all, a print] sold for $4,000 USD.  But it was printed in 1959, and is considered vintage and collectible.

Here is one way you can find out more about a print.  Take a sharp picture of your print and save it.  Go to Google Images, and drag the picture of your print into the search box.  Google will find where else on the web that picture can be found.  And you will instantly get a read-out on how rare your print is.

VALUE ADDED BY AUTOGRAPHS OF FAMOUS PEOPLE

Does your artwork bear autographs from the likes of Carroll Shelby or Phil Hill or Jackie Stewart or … If so, add +20% to your valuation as a *fame factor*.

WHAT CONDITION IS THE ARTWORK?

If anything is wrong with your artwork, it’s a *placemat*. Crinkled, torn, yellowed? Re-gift it to your neighbor’s 12 year old.

DOES SIZE MATTER? AND OTHER FACTORS

Size of an original does matter when artists set their original price.  Why?  Because of the differential in effort it takes the artist to fill a large canvas.  But size as a criteria is trumped by other factors like stature of artist and subject matter [which is subjective].

How much is your piece of artwork worth?  The rules are just like selling a car.  If the car is really old, in brilliant shape and offers an excellent example of a revered marque, then you’re rich!  If it’s a Saturn Aura, at present valuation, not so much!  (Unless it was Ronald Reagan’s daily driver.)