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How Do I Find Out If a Painting Is Worth Money?

Learn how to find the artist of a painting and determine if it holds any value.
painting image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com

The old painting in your attic you thought of throwing out could be worth a fortune. New Yorker Elizabeth Gibson once owned a Rufino Tamayo painting, originally destined for the garbage, that turned out to be worth millions. Paintings retain value over time, and knowing the current value of a painting can help you determine if you want to keep it in your family, donate it to charity, or sell the piece to the highest bidder. Even if you created a painting yourself and would like to know the value, you can learn how to inspect a painting and who to contact to identify if a painting is worth money.

Check the painting for scratches, cracks and discoloring. A painting's condition directly affects the value, and the better the condition, the higher the value. Avoid cleaning any visible blemishes yourself to prevent devaluing the painting further. In most cases, a professional restorer can help mend any damage.

Check the painting for markings and signatures. Examine the back of the painting for sales receipts or exhibition stamps. These markings can help you trace the painting’s “provenance" or history. If you know the provenance, you can determine who sold the painting, the sales date and the previous sales price. However, if the painting lacks a signature or contains a signature of someone you have never heard of, do not lose hope. An art historian or enthusiast can help you determine the painting's time period, and possibly the artist.

Show the painting to an art historian at a local college or museum. Art aficionados possess extensive knowledge about various types of paintings from different creative periods. Art historians may not be able to tell you exactly how much your painting is worth, but they can help you determine if you should move forward. Get more than one opinion before moving forward.

Contact an art appraiser, if a few experienced art aficionados have stated they believe you have a fortune on your hands. Art appraisers specialize in determining the value of artwork based on factors like history, rarity and condition. Locate a professional art appraiser in your area and make an appointment to have your painting evaluated (see Resources).

Things You'll Need:

  • Sales receipt
  • Exhibition history
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