Daily Archives: May 6, 2011

What’s in a name?

Do you watch the Antiques Road Show?  Have you ever watched the Antiques Road Show?  The event, the Show, often takes place in the grounds of a stately home or some similar prestigious venue.  Large queues of hopefuls, bearing their valuable items, shuffle slowly towards the tables of the experts, curious to learn more about their precious offerings and, importantly, their worth if sold.

The preliminary chit chat between expert and owner usually follows a predictable pattern with the expert asking, ‘How long have you had it?’, ‘Where did you get it?’, ‘Do you know anything about its history?’, ‘If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you pay?’ and so on.

Invariably at this stage the expert will study the item carefully in search of a name.  Usually the base will be examined closely to identify an artist, designer, craftsperson or factory.  There is great excitement if, for example, the name of Moorcroft, Lalique, Clarice Cliff or Faberge is revealed.  Certainly it makes life easier in deciding a price because such items appear regularly at auction houses throughout the country.

But I often feel uneasy about the ‘power’ of a name, perhaps especially when valuing items such as paintings.  If a painting satisfies the criteria associated with fine art of the highest quality, should it matter who created it?  If it is good, it is good!  Is the ‘expert’ not prepared to back his or her own judgement?

And yet quite frequently we hear an expert say, ‘If we can prove that the drawing/painting was by so-and-so my estimate would quadruple’, or, ‘You could add a nought to the figure I’ve just quoted’.

Is there such a thing as the intrinsic value of an item?  If so, is it possible to calculate that value in monetary terms?

See also Show Me the Monet , Self! Self! Self! Fake or Fortune?

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