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Buying Original Art

Pricing on art is extremely volatile and changes all the time.  While there are pricing guides and guidance available (like those books shown above) DO NOT use these (or any price guide) for explicitly accurate pricing information.  Between the time any guide is written and then printed and made available for sale, the book will already be inaccurate.  Books can be useful/ interesting for a number of other reasons, including the articles on collecting they contain and the sheer fact that they catalog a lot of different art.

A better way to gauge market value for art (taking the factors below into account) is to look online at actual sale prices and get a feel for current value on the kinds of pieces you would like to collect.

It is ALWAYS a good idea to negotiate price on art if you think that the asking price is too high.  Walk away if it's more than you think is right or are willing to spend.  Art dealers will often negotiate a price downwards depending on how long they have been holding onto the piece, perceived demand, and your past buying relationship with them.  As with buying comics, if you buy a lot from a person/dealer and they know you they are usually more willing to cut you a deal.

Ultimately, art is worth what a person is willing to pay for it and in the past few years there have been people willing to pay a lot for comics art.

Factors That Influence Price

  • Artist - Certain artists command higher prices.  In some cases it's because of their historical significance or body of work, other times it's just because they are currently considered to be a "hot" artist.
  • Condition - Folds, creases, tears, etc. can affect price but keep in mind, with Original Art you're looking at the only one of something, so you're not going to find that exact same piece in better condition somewhere else like you can with a comic book.
  • Type of Page - Covers, splash pages, etc. command higher prices than plain panel pages.
  • Character - Popular characters (particularly super-heroes in costume) will increase the price significantly.
  • Content - A significant story event or action packed sequence will command a higher price than people just talking.

Ways to Acquire Original Art

There are many avenues for acquiring art, the main ones are detailed below.  When buying art over the internet, it's a good idea to ask questions about shipping: both the cost of shipping and how securely a seller will pack the art to ensure it is not damaged in transit.

Directly from the Artist - Many artists bring pages with them to conventions or can be contacted through the internet. Most have websites, tumblr pages, twitter, DeviantArt pages, etc.  
Artists will frequently sell their art at conventions if they have a booth or a table in Artist's Alley.  You can often get the best prices buying directly from the artist as you're not paying for the markup added on by middle men.
Be aware that some artists do not sell their original artwork.

Art Reps - Some artists turn the matter over to dealers that specialize in re-selling. This way the artist is not hassled by dealing with advertising, getting payment and shipping the art.  The Art Rep makes a tidy commission and you get your art.  More info on some of the ones we have used is listed in the Guide to Original Art Websites.

Art Dealers - There are certain individuals that specialize in the purchase and sale of original art pages. They typically have a website or sell on eBay and can often be found at conventions. Some tend to favor certain artists, genres, or types of pages. Many dealers also function as Art Reps for selected artists.  More info on some of the dealers we have used is listed in the Guide to Original Art Websites.

Auction Houses - There are auctions that feature (or even specialize) in Original Art.  These are often great places to get art that the original owner needs to sell because they no longer collect, need money, or (unfortunately) may have passed away and a relative is selling off their collection.  More info on some of the ones we have used are in the Guide to Original Art Websites.  Make sure you keep an eye on the various fees that auction houses charge, these can add up to 30% (or more) to the price you win an auction at.  Look for "Buyer Fees" and "Handling Fees", as well as their shipping charges.

Estate Sales - If you can beat the dealers there are sometimes pages available at estate sales for great prices.  Keep an eye on local newspapers & web-sites for information on these.

eBay - An excellent resource for Original Art, Back Issues, etc.  You should set up an eBay account even if you never plan to buy or sell anything there.  From your account, there are many tools to assist you in collecting information about the market.  You can search for particular artists or other items and they have a category of "Original Art" in the "comics" section that you can just browse at your leisure.  There are even sub-categories under Original art for things like covers, splash pages, etc.  Remember that you're relying on the seller choosing those particular categories so you may be missing out on items listed more generically whenever you use the eBay categories.  Categories may also be filled with spurious items placed there to get you to look at them.  We often see prints and color guides and other stuff that is definitely not original art in the Original Art category.
Much of the art is listed at a set price (or has a set minimum) that may be more than you want.  We suggest using the "Add to Watch List" option.  This will allow you to track the item to its final disposition.  Frequently the auctions will expire and then the seller often just relists the item, over and over again.  Each time it is relisted, eBay will notify you. 
You can also visit the seller's other items by clicking on the button that shows their other items.  Many of the sellers do an active business in multiple pages of original art.  If they seem to have things you like, you can add them to your favorite sellers list.  That way, you can periodically check their inventory without having to search directly.  From the seller's page, you can select to see their completed listings which will show you the price that the items sold for unless they were done as best offer deals.  This way you can see the prices actually being paid for pages of original art.  
There is an option for eBay to select similar items but for things like original art, the "matches" can be pretty different.  If you have patience, you can find good deals on eBay. 

    The Comic Art Price Guide by Jerry Weist

Grail Pages by Steven Payne