Determining value if the work is unsigned or the artist unknown
If you don’t know the artist—perhaps the piece is unsigned or the signature is illegible—then you can try searching for subject matter or style: impressionist still life, for example, to get a better sense of what that type of piece might sell for—but these results will be quite broad.
“When all else fails,” says Sikes, “it’s really important to get a second opinion. Seeking out a specialist or an expert in the field is the next step,” he says. “I always think of a local gallery, perhaps a gallery proprietor.” In cases where information about the artist cannot be uncovered, “what we have to do is base a value on the aesthetics, on the merits of this painting or this print, and that’s where expertise becomes important.”
And if you think you may have found a piece by an artist of great note, then getting a professional opinion is necessary to better authenticate that work of art.
If it turns out that what you have on your hands is a reproduction or a print, then it doesn’t necessarily mean it has no value. What Sikes looks for in that case is: Is it nicely framed? Is it nicely matted? Is it in good condition? Does it have a decent presentation? If yes, then, he says, some reproductions can have a value of one to two hundred dollars.
If you’re not ready to visit a professional, you can check out EBTH’s value estimator, which provides prospective sellers with an expert opinion on what their finds may be worth.