What Every Artist Should Know About…

27 Jul

Authenticity (Photo credit: elizabethdunn)

… Certificates of Authenticity.

The other day, I made a blog post about the work I posted on eBay.  A fellow artist who checked out my work commented about their interest in the subject of Certificates of Authenticity, and it gave me the idea that perhaps I should do a post on the subject.

Until I began looking into selling my own art, I had the general idea that Certificates of Authenticity (CoA) were something that accompanied only the truly expensive works of famous artists/works of art which were more likely to be forged and fraudulently sold to unsuspecting buyers, but I discovered I was wrong.  CoA are offered with works of art from all mediums and levels of art, and in the case of certain states (California, for instance, along with several others) CoA are required by law when selling multiples or fine prints(1).   Artists selling their work themselves would benefit from a quick check to find out if and when CoA are required in their own place of residence.

Art is a wide term, covering a multitude of mediums and price ranges.  The more valuable a work and the more famous the artist, the more value a CoA adds.  As with anything of value throughout history, forgeries occur.  Obviously, the more famous the piece/artist, the more cautious one should be about authenticating the work.  Many artists begin as relatively unknown, and therefore do not consider that a CoA is necessary for their work, but those same artists can have no way of knowing if or when their work will become valuable in the market or if, like van Gogh, their fame will occur after their death.  Bearing this in mind, some artists, although currently unknown, feel that offering a CoA with their original pieces, as well as fine/numbered prints, not only adds to the perceived value of their work in the moment, but also adds security to their early works should they ever become sought after.  If you are a fledgling artist (or one beginning to make a name for themselves) and have an interest in providing CoA with your work, you should be aware of what is required for your CoA to be worth the paper it is printed on.

The question that was asked which sparked this post was “Where do I get a Certificate of Authenticity for my art?” and lucky for us ‘starving’ artists, the answer is that you can make it yourself.  Technically, you can write the needed information on a piece of notebook paper and, as long as it contains the required information and comes from a legitimate source(2), it is valid.  However, unless you are sinfully famous, that sort of CoA doesn’t add very much to your work in the way of ‘perceived’ value.  You obviously want the CoA to appear as official as possible, although flowery script and gold leaf are not necessary.  You want something that appears professional and will add to the piece of mind of buyers purchasing your work.

The following is a list of legitimate sources for a CoA:

  1. The Artist
  2. The publisher of the art
  3. A confirmed, established dealer or agent of the artist
  4. An acknowledged expert on the artist.

Outside of this very limited list of issuers, a CoA is meaningless, and does nothing to validate a work of art(2).

There is also a very long list of information that can be included in a CoA, not all of which is required, or need to be included.   This site has a comprehensive list along with clear explanations as to what each piece of information is, which I couldn’t begin to state better than they already have.  For the full list of possible information, I direct you there, however, I will include a basic list of information one should include on a CoA being issued with their work(2)(3).

  • The name of the artist who created the work
  • The title of the work
  • Date of creation
  • The medium/materials of the work
  • Edition type and size
  • A very detailed description of the work.  The description should leave no doubt that the piece of work being described is the piece of work the CoA is for.
  • An image of the work (optional)
  • The (legible!) signature of the issuer, as well as verifiable contact information

For an explanation of these terms, as well as other information that can be included, I again urge you to please visit this site and/or see references two (2) and three (3).

You can attach your CoA to the back/bottom of the piece, place it in an envelope attached to the piece(4), or simply give it to the buyer separately, but not attaching it in some way increases the likelihood of the two becoming separated in time.  You can buy archival quality tape in almost any craft store or online to use for attaching, or an archival adhesive if you don’t like the look of tape.

The requirements for a CoA are the same regardless of the medium of the artwork, so this information applies whether you are a painter, sculptor, photographer, or any other style of artist.

I hope that this article has helped you understand more about Certificates of Authenticity and how they may apply to your work.  All of this information is available with a search on Google, and I referenced the following articles specifically to write this article.


(1) – artbizblog.com

(2) – artbusiness.com

(3) – artpromotivate.com

(4) – painting.about.com

3 Responses to “What Every Artist Should Know About…”

  1. astraltravler July 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks for posting this very valuable informatin on Authenticity of Art. You can never learn too much.


Share your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: