A Seller’s Guide To Andy Warhol

Written by - Lucy Howie
Moonwalk (F. & S. II.405) by Andy WarholMoonwalk (F. & S. II.405) © Andy Warhol 1987

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If you’re fortunate enough to own one of the better Andy Warhol prints, and decide you’re ready to sell, you’re in an envious position.

Demand for these Warhol graphics far exceeds supply. This means you’ll be able to exercise some control over determining price and choosing a venue to sell. As always, the more informed you are, the greater the likelihood of achieving maximum value for your prints.

Below are five principles one should consider when it comes to selling an Andy Warhol print:

Dollar Signs by Andy WarholDollar Signs © Andy Warhol 1981

Where to sell?

Sellers of original masterpieces, one-of-a-kind works love the auction houses. And why shouldn’t they? For openers, they have the world’s greatest ‘rolodexes’ — the top auction houses between them know virtually every serious collector in the world. That means your Warhol painting will be offered to a wide array of collectors  — which could lead to some spirited bidding for a unique work of art…

The story is slightly different for prints where the market is larger, the opportunities are broader and there is not the same incentive to bid deep on a work produced in a multiple.

The downside to working with an auction house is their ever-escalating buyers and sellers premiums. This means there’s a lot of money left on the table — some of which could go into your pocket if you work with a private sales partner. The is true of consigning anything with auction, but more so with prints and multiples, where you  might have to compete with another consignor for your print to appear in the next sale. Since a print is a multiple, another collector may have beaten you to the punch, and offered them the same impression before you. This means the auction house probably won’t take your copy until the next print sale (six months later).

Working with a private sale partner  presents a more reliable  approach.  A private sales partner, like MyArtBroker will be able to negotiate immediate payment for your print from a collector, bringing you even more money and get you paid sooner. For example, if you own a Warhol Cowboys and Indians print portfolio, and there is a specific request for one in the private seller’s network, the portfolio will get a good price right now. With the auction houses, if the next print sale is five months off and you need the money now, you’re out of luck.

Finally, a private seller might simply buy the print from you. Top dealers and galleries always need inventory — especially the most desirable Warhol prints. If you’re sitting on a choice Marilyn or another important Warhol, you can approach a private seller with confidence and ask for an outright purchase, and the better your Warhol print, the more leverage you have.

Selling Warhol Online

In recent years, a plethora of online art market platforms have appeared. These websites have proliferated because of a  growing desire for convenience. The entertainment factor can also not be underestimated. Buyers and sellers have become increasingly comfortable buying art online. The advantage to selling online is that your property is exposed to an international audience — which means you’ll have every opportunity to find a buyer. Also, the online platform takes care of all the logistics of a sale. However, as a seller you have a responsibility to be accurate with your listing. You especially need to be honest about the work’s condition and authenticity. This is why working with a great online art platform that will vet everything as carefully as possible for you is highly recommended.

Selling online usually works best with prints and photographs. A potential buyer of a Warhol Mickey Mouse knows every impression is alike. A painting by Warhol, which depicts the same subject, is unique and comes with its assorted quirks and variables. It’s hard to buy paintings online unless you’re very experienced with an artist’s oeuvre and have a feeling for a work’s surface quality. With a Warhol print, as long as you’ve seen at least one example of the image you’re considering, you know what you’re purchasing.

When should I sell my Warhol?

As the saying goes, “Timing is everything.” That axiom certainly holds true with Warhol prints. While it’s impossible to time any collectibles market, if the most recent auction sale achieves record prices for Warhol, it’s probably a good time to sell. For example, if a complete Marilyn portfolio just sold at Sotheby’s for $3.5 million (currently a realistic price), and you’re sitting on one, this would be the time to sell. Sometimes, savvy collectors try to connect selling their Warhol print to an event in the Warhol market. For instance, Netflix recently released a mini-series titled The Andy Warhol Diaries. Given the substantial audience who’s likely to watch this show, chances are a few of them will be motivated to buy a Warhol print. This means it might not be a bad time to sell one. Other art world events that could stir up interest include: an upcoming Andy Warhol museum show, a Warhol exhibition at a prominent gallery, or the publication of a new Warhol biography (one always seems to be in the works).

Then there’s the bigger economic picture. When a country’s economy is strong, serious buyers of blue-chip artists tend to add to their investment portfolios. A rising stock market and burgeoning real estate values often make a collector feel rich (or richer) — which means it’s probably a good time to sell your Warhol print.

Flowers Series by Andy WarholFlowers Series © Andy Warhol 1964

Authenticating your Warhol print

If you’re a seller of an Andy Warhol print, it behooves you to only offer it if you’re 100% certain that it’s genuine. This may seem like an obvious observation — but it’s not. The problem is that many sellers who offer fake Warhols don’t do so intentionally. They simply don’t know that they’re sitting on a fake. It is often the case that art authenticators aren't hired to examine Warhol prints coming from regional auction houses, where the print turns out not to be correct. In these cases, it is very likely that  the auction house didn’t know. That’s because smaller auction companies are generalists.  They’re rarely experts on individual artists — there are too many works, and too many objects,  and therefore  too much to learn to become specialist.

If you believe you own a Warhol, but aren’t completely certain, hire an art authenticator to research it. This service can be facilitated through private sellers like us. At the very least, you’ll know what you own. If it turns out to be a genuine Warhol print, you’ll be in a much better position to sell it, donate it for tax purposes, and insure it. If it turns out to be bogus, you’ll stay out of trouble when you go to sell it, not waste money hiring an appraiser so you can donate it, and not squander additional funds insuring it.

Condition Checking

If you choose to sell your Warhol print, and it’s not in great condition, you will probably encounter a problem. There aren’t many collectors who will buy a print by a blue-chip artist that has a condition issue.  As a seller it would be wise to have a paper conservator inspect  your print before offering it. If your impression of a Warhol Muhammad Ali has some foxing around the edges — from being framed with a cardboard mat rather than acid-free rag board — an ace conservator can easily bleach it out so it looks like new. The same holds true for the removal of residue left on the back of the print from non-archival hinges. Whatever the conservator charges you is well worth it because you’ll be able to get so much more for your Warhol print. Rather than “location, location, location” (as they say in real estate), you should be thinking “condition, condition, condition.”

Ingrid Bergman Complete Set (FS II.313-315) by Andy WarholIngrid Bergman Complete Set (FS II.313-315) © Andy Warhol 1983
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