What to Look For When Buying Pre-Owned Art Online

Purchasing a fantastic piece of art no longer means spending hours at various auction houses raising a paddle or haggling with a persistent dealer in some swanky, all-white gallery. Auction houses, entrepreneurs, and art galleries noticed buyer’s preferring to shop online due to both the convenience and anonymity provided by the Internet. Even famous auction houses like Christie’s in New York City use online only auctions alongside their normal live auctions in-house. The e-commerce trend does not seem to be going anywhere, so review the suggestions below to help you make wise purchases when shopping for pre-owned art online.


Smart Online Shopping Advice for Purchasing Used Art

Consider Your Personal Taste

Predicting how a work of art will increase in value is rarely an exact science. Society’s preferences change and fads come and go. Art pieces wildly popular 50 years ago may not hold their value in today’s market. Buy a piece of art because you like it and not because you think it will be worth more in half a century. Not only will you enjoy it more, but your collection will naturally stand on its own by reflecting your own personal tastes.  


Research the Genre & Artist

When you find a piece of art that speaks to you, consider researching the artist and the particular genre to learn more about how they made their pieces and what makes them unique. Learn about their life history, if they won any awards, where their artwork appears, and what other websites list their work. This information can help you to identify if the piece will hold its value and assist you in future searches for similar artworks.

Know the Medium

Art enthusiasts new to the world of collecting must be sure to thoroughly understand the method of reproduction or the medium used to create the artwork. Knowing whether the piece is a reproduction or an original greatly influences the value of the artwork. Sometimes paintings that look original may actually be enhanced prints painted onto a canvas with thick paint to give the illusion of an original. If you know the piece is a print, ask whether it is a giclee, a poster, or a limited edition lithograph, etc.


Verify the Seller

When buying used art paintings, you must be sure to verify the seller is who they claim to be, whether that is a gallery, a dealer, the artist’s representative, or the actual artist herself. Knowing who is selling the piece affects how much you end up paying and how much the artist receives for their work. Many artists prefer to sell to customers directly in order to form a closer connection and the Internet makes that even easier.

Confirm the Seller’s References

Always double-check the legitimacy of a seller by confirming their references. When buying from an online auction website like Ebay, go over the seller’s feedback. Aim to buy from sellers with little to no negative feedback to better guarantee their honesty and professionalism. If not using Ebay, or a related website, always verify their address, phone number, their standing with the Better Business Bureau, whether they have endorsements from other companies within their industry, etc.

Check that the Sale is Guaranteed, or a Return Policy is Available

Buying artwork online poses certain challenges that you do not face when shopping in person. A multitude of variables affect how the piece looks when an image is taken and put online, including the lighting in which the photo was taken, the angle, etc. Even the contrast and brightness settings on your computer can greatly alter the colors of the artwork.

To avoid disappointment, speak with the seller about a satisfaction guarantee and return policy. Buyers typically pay for the shipping, but the seller should guarantee you a full refund if the piece arrives in a different form than described or if it does not meet your expectations. Reputable artists and dealers will offer this up-front without any special requests.

Understand Quality Art Costs More

The world of online auctions and markets advertising pre-owned art has created a set of buyer expectations for low-cost, high-quality pre-owned art pieces that cannot always be met. Good art requires a lot of time and effort on the artist’s side, not to mention the entire process of marketing it online. Be sure you treat the artist fairly and understand the price reflects all of these efforts.


Get a Certificate of Authenticity

Aim to purchase artwork that comes with a certificate of authenticity guaranteeing the piece is an original work. This should be no problem when buying directly from the artist and reputable sellers should offer to provide a certificate without you needing to ask. You may request an appraisal if they do not offer a certificate of authenticity, but it may increase the cost.

Keep it Safe While Shipping

Since most sellers do not cover the shipping costs, but do choose the shipping company, be sure they choose a reliable one. You spent all this time researching, finding, and verifying the artwork, so you want to ensure it arrives safely. Double check that they plan to ship with a company with strict rules for shipping fine art and request tracking along with full insurance if they do not openly offer it.