UPDATED June 2020
If you are in the market for a Banksy, then there are a few pieces of advice you should be armed with before you start to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.
With the artist’s prolific output and lasting popularity, there is no time like now to start a collection. In this buyer’s guide for you budding Banksy collectors, we have assembled all our top advice on acquiring and handling a collection.
- Is Banksy a good investment?
- Which Banksy work should you choose?
- Authentication – How to know the Banksy you want to buy is the real deal
- Check the condition of the piece
- How much should you expect to pay?
- Where should I buy a Banksy from?
There seems to be no end to the popularity of the mischievous art world trickster, 2019 saw him:
- Beat his auction record at £9.9M with Devolved Parliament, showing the House of Commons filled with chimpanzees
- Crash the Venice Biennale with his tongue-in-cheek Venice in Oil depicting a huge cruise ship amidst small gondolas on the famous canal
- Open a pop-up store in South London selling his original products such as his custom-designed vest for British rapper Stormzy
- And to end the year he greeted Christmas with a new mural in Birmingham highlighting homelessness in the festive season
With his origins in Bristol, Banksy’s public artworks featuring his signature aesthetic first started appearing on streets and in alleyways in the late 1990s. The clever mix of popular and political imagery with a strong, tongue-in-cheek message quickly gained him the attention of those at the top of the global art market, including gallerists, museums and prestigious collectors alike, not to mention the media and the general public.
After his anonymous break into the contemporary and urban art world in the early 2000s, his continuous stunts, successes, pranks, political commentaries and record sale prices have made him into one of the most iconic and sought-after artists on the global market and in popular culture. With his constant presence, including both dramatic street art pop-ups and the large and insatiable demand for secondary market signed and unsigned prints, his number of valuable works is ever-expanding including infamous pieces such as Girl with Balloon, his Rat series and Choose your Weapon.
With a constant finger on the pulse of current events, such as the refugee crisis, the Gaza conflict and Brexit, as well as universal issues such as homelessness, his audience can always count on Banksy to issue public artistic commentary and stir controversy.
Whether it is through subversively incorporating a mocking message into the work itself, or shredding his own print right after it sold for £1.4M at auction, he has consistently poked fun at the very art market for whom he has become the golden boy.
Thankfully, it’s easy today to by an original Banksy piece from a range of places, and prices. While there are the news-worthy auctions with pieces selling for millions of pounds, there are also more affordable editions available to budding collectors.
Navigating the Banksy market, buying a specific print or building a collection can be tricky, but to get you started, here we put together the most essential factors to look out for when you’re landing a Banksy.
Is Banksy art a good investment?
Ever since Banksy broke into the mainstream world of commercial art in the early 2000s the demand for his work has soared year on year. By 2019, he had made it to the top of the pyramid, outrunning Picasso, Da Vinci and Monet as Great Britain’s favourite artist according to a popular vote.
The artist has carved himself a huge secondary market of signed and unsigned prints and is featured in every notable contemporary art auction with about 85% of works selling higher than their estimate in 2019. As he hasn’t released any original prints since Choose your Weapon in 2010, the prices in the existing secondary market are almost guaranteed to keep rising.
Top Tips for buying a Banksy
Which Banksy work should I go for?
The initial question you might have upon embarking on building your Banksy collection is where to start – which print should you buy first?
Certain pieces sell better than others, based on rarity and appeal. The most sought-after Banksy editions and prints are often those directly inspired by or based on his graffiti pieces.
Girl With a Balloon, voted the UK’s favourite artwork in 2017, is very highly sought after as one of Banksy’s most iconic images. Original stencil versions date back to 2002 and have cropped up from London’s East End to Jamaica – but sadly some are now in fairly poor condition. Only 25 print editions of these were made (in 2005) and they rarely come to the market. In 2012, the work sold at auction for £46,850.
This is the piece that dramatically shredded itself at a 2018 Sotheby’s Auction after it sold for a then-record price, £1.4m, only to transform it into a new artwork, Love is In the Bin – now estimated to be worth double the price. It’s the first-ever artwork to be created live during an auction, which the buyer decided to keep.
Banksy’s Rats are another remarkably successful series of prints. Created originally in 2004, works such as Love Rat and Gangsta Rat, are the two most desirable pieces in the edition. There are 750 prints in total in the series with only 150 signed and the rest unsigned. The value increase of these pieces between the years 2008 and 2020 is an incredible 1000%.
Some editions are produced in a range of colourways, with some more desirable than others. Choose Your Weapon, the famous image of a hooded youth taking one of Keith Haring’s cartoon dogs for a walk, comes in 19 colours. Only 25 were made in the bright pink, bright purple, dark orange colours so these are worth more than the grey version, of which there was an edition of 100. One of the grey versions sold for $15,000 (just shy of £10,000) at Sotheby’s New York in 2010. Even more rare are the gold and silver prints given out to a handful of ‘lucky VIPs’.
Other than surprise ‘pop-up’ shops, such as one demonstrated by Banksy in New York in 2014 or Gross Domestic Product popping up in Croydon in 2019, there has not been a public print release since the release of Choose Your Weapon in 2010, which keeps the value of his secondary market on a constant rise.
Banksy announced in June 2017 he was going to release a special edition of Girl with Balloon available only for Bristol-based registered voters not voting Tory. The project was shut down due to legal issues. As far as we are aware, Banksy will not be releasing any more prints to the public.
Another important consideration is if the piece has Banksy’s signature. Banksy’s prints often come in both signed and unsigned, numbered editions, with more unsigned available. While both are desirable, this does mean that the hand-signed versions are more valuable and collectable.
Of course, if there are certain works that appeal to you as a collector, then those are the right ones to start with!
“The Banksy market offers collectors an exciting opportunity at both ends of the value spectrum. The print market in particular allows the novice art collector to bring home a piece of cultural legacy as well as potentially something that will reap great financial reward. However, when beginning to build an art collection, I always offer the same advice – buy something you love, enjoy it, and reap the rewards if and when you choose to pass it on.” – Ian Syer
How to check the authenticity of the Banksy you want to buy:
The first thing you want to check upon coming across a Banksy print for sale is a Certificate of Authentication (CoA). In Banksy’s case, these documents can only come from one legitimate source: Pest Control. They are the handling service for Banksy and the only agency who can confirm with a certificate whether the purchased piece is genuine. No gallery, auction house or collector will accept your piece without one.
Pest Control became Banksy’s handler in 2009, as such any work sold before then may come with a Di-Faced Tenner – a fake £10 banknote created by Banksy featuring Princess Diana’s face, hand-numbered and then torn in two. Some may have a Pictures on Walls embossed circular stamp, which may have an edition number in it. These date back to Banksy’s previous handling service through the Pictures on Walls gallery. These can still be authentic; however, the stamp could’ve also been forged and so it’s strongly recommended you seek out expert advice.
All Banksy artworks after 2009 come with a Pest Control certificate and it is the only place you can buy (the very rare) new prints by the artist. We’ve put together a Pest Control Guide that explains the process in more detail. They are also the only source of prints on his famously limited primary market. Except for Banksy’s past pop-up stunts in New York in 2014 or in London in 2019 when he opened the storefront, and later online-shop, Gross Domestic Product with 22 original works, Banksy hasn’t released new prints since 2010.
If a piece doesn’t have a certificate, then we don’t recommend buying it (unless you are buying one of his public graffiti works that were never meant for sale – Banksy won’t put his name to these as they were meant for public consumption). You do see fake certificates being listed, so make sure you know what to look for. A fake certificate is usually clear to an expert or, of course, to Pest Control.
In some cases – for instance, if the piece was never meant for the commercial market such as Banksy’s street art – it can be impossible to authenticate, so these may come with a letter of provenance, but again, it’s safest to consult with specialists.
Check the condition:
You should always make sure the print that is being sold to you is in pristine condition. It is often the responsibility of the seller to ensure condition checking has taken place, and in case of any damage bring in a restoration expert to advise.
A few things to note to ensure the condition and authenticity of a print: a Banksy art print will typically be on handmade silkscreen with unique colours, on wove art paper, with a crisp resolution which is far superior to a cheap replica or a poster.
Early works such as Rude Copper were printed on a significantly thinner paper stock than the later prints, such as Stop and Search. Original Banksy canvases they are most commonly sprayed on Loxley deep edge boxed canvas. These genuine Banksy prints, signed or unsigned will hold their value. Though of course, they are also not cheap.
It’s really important for a print in your possession to be looked after properly if you expect it to hold and increase in value on the secondary market. A lot of Banksy’s art is weathered, but most of his works were sold in pristine condition. That means to retain its value, you need to look after your piece.
As a collector, it’s vital that you keep your prints in perfect condition since this will largely affect their value. Any prints and canvases should be kept in a dark place away from sunlight. Works on paper should have UV-protective glass framing. Some collectors go as far as keeping their prints lying flat in a dark place in order to optimise value and will advertise the piece as having been kept this way. Ensure the work has been inspected carefully before buying and consult an expert if you are in any doubt.
How much does an original Banksy cost?
Prices for Banksy art prints range from a few thousand up to hundreds of thousands, based on marketability and whether you’re after a signed Banksy print or not. As always with art, how much it costs depends on how much anyone is prepared to pay for it. There are a few universal facts that can help you navigate the market.
Primary market releases are extremely rare and haven’t happened since 2010, however, once a print is first released into the market you can generally expect to pay less.
For example, when it was released, the signed edition of Girl with Balloon was only £150 with screen prints around £25 each. Now, prints from this series regularly sell for over £50,000, sometimes north of £80,000.
To buy an original Banksy now can cost you literally millions. Even limited-edition prints now sell for thousands of pounds. This means to buy an original Banksy in the secondary market is going to usually set you back thousands rather than hundreds of pounds – a lot of money, but more affordable than you might think.
What are the indicators of value?
One of the most significant indicators for value is whether the print in question is signed or unsigned. Limited edition Banksy prints are numbered by the artist and have a signature in one of the bottom corners. There are two numbers, one at the top of the signature and one at the bottom – the top one gives you the number for your specific print while the bottom
refers to the total number within the edition.
Access to a primary market Banksy print is difficult and rare – originals seldom make it to the public, but you might just be lucky.
As for the secondary market, it is very strong and extremely popular. In 2019, the Banksy secondary market made £28 million total at auction and is growing steadily every year. It is estimated there have been around 90 Banksy print releases over the past 20 years, amounting to some 30,000 prints by the British street artist in homes, private collections, galleries and museums around the world. Only one-third of these were signed by the artist, which are naturally in the highest demand. However, the majority of unsigned Banksy works are still very marketable and popular with collectors.
We keep a very close track on the developments of the Banksy market and it always acts as an informative, reliable source for the price of the print you are considering. For example, check out the 12-year arc of Banksy’s famous Rat series. Since the last piece was created – Year of the Rat in 2008 – the works have had a stunning increase in value f 1,000%.
Where do I buy a Banksy from?
The Banksy print market is currently all based on the secondary market as he hasn’t produced any new editions in some time (since 2010!). This means that unless you are lucky enough to catch one of the rare opportunities to buy new Banksy goods – such as the Gross Domestic Product store in 2019 where he sold goods for as little as £10 in a bid to make his art accessible to a wider audience – to start collecting Banksy’s work you need to buy from someone else.
Starting out collecting art this way can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. As well as famous auction houses, Banksy prints can be bought via online auctions and through private sales, often handled by a broker (such as ourselves).
As we’ve seen above, whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned collector, one of the keys to starting to collect Banksy is buying from a trusted source. Always take expert guidance on the vale, condition and provenance of a piece – something that a professional seller will be able to offer.
The most important thing is to buy from somewhere that makes the process comfortable and transparent – buying a Banksy is meant to be an exciting prospect, not something that makes you nervous!
Why use MyArtBroker to find your first Banksy?
At MyArtBroker we offer a safe and simple solution to buyers, connecting you directly with our expert brokers, who — if you are wishing to purchase a particular piece of Banksy art to either start or grow your collection — can assist you in this search with our large network of collectors looking to buy and sell daily. Our brokers will also condition check and authenticate artworks, so you can have confidence before you buy.
A dedicated broker:
MyArtBroker offers a secure space to connect you as a buyer with an expert broker.
Your personal broker will work with you to find the Banksy you’re looking for at the price you’re willing to pay. Our experts will also condition check and authenticate artworks, so you can have confidence before you buy, as well as help arrange delivery.
We offer both the sense of trust and comfort that comes with meeting with a specialist personally, as well as the efficiency, transparency and ease of an online process.
Our global network consists of over 10,000 collectors buying and selling works daily, as well as dealers, collectors, galleries and independent experts globally that work with us to ensure we can offer the most covetable and authentic Banksy works. Our website has 40,000 visitors every month, and we regularly publish pieces tracking the artist’s market performance, keep up to date with new works, auction results and news, as well as offer his updated biography and informative essays on all Banksy editions.
MyArtBroker has access to a worldwide network of art collectors selling Banksy artwork, so get in touch with us if you’re interested in buying a Banksy print and we’ll talk you through the process.