Are Certificates of Authenticity worth paying for?
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  1. #1
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    Talking Are Certificates of Authenticity worth paying for?

    Greetings all! Recently I've been trying to hunker down and organize myself to be more professional when selling my work, particularly in organization, keeping records, and business protocol. In my research about how to store and inventory my art, I've come across the concept of Certificates of Authenticity (and was also briefly exposed to it in Printmaking courses where the concept originates).

    For those who don't know what a CoA is, it's a certificate you would include with your work that ensures the work was created by you, states the number of the print or original, the title of your piece, who owns it, and other such important info.

    You can find an example of a CoA here: http://www.fineartstitle.com/sample.php

    I like the idea of including one to give the customer some guarantee that this image is one of a kind, that should it be lost or stolen it is trackable to a certain degree, and that the work has legal provenance (or a researchable history which is important to museum display and for some galleries). I certainly don't expect my work to be in museums, but the idea of legal provenance is still an appealing one. I've always been nervous when I sell originals at art shows and never hear of the collector who bought them or really know where my piece is, as if it's just sunken into a vast ocean of the unknown. Giving my buyers confidence is also key.

    Now the question is, who do I register my art with? Who is reliable? And is it actually worth it to pay money to register one's art?

    Places I've been looking at so far:
    Fine Arts Registry - They offer a free membership where you pay per registered piece. They also have the added protection of a uniquely printed holographic tag to add to your piece that makes it trackable even if the tag is destroyed along with a free usage searchable database of work.
    National Fine Arts Registry - They offer a registration service you pay for monthly to receive certificates, title transfers, etc. No special tag provided.

    Do any of you have any more places to add to the list? What are your experiences with CoA's? Is it worth it? Do share!

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    I'm sure there are a few legit reasons to use them, but they've always seemed like a gimmick to me. You know, shopping channel hype kind of thing. For prints I could see using them, especially for someone who is collectible and could see counterfeits. For originals I'm not sure I see the point.

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    Never seen any point in it myself. If you're selling an original just sign it. If you're selling a limited edition print stick a number on it too. I'd be wary of paying these companies large sums of money unless you have solid evidence it's a good deal.

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    Mainly I am considering CoA's because it can help prevent counterfeiting, which merely signing your work will not aid in. Signatures can be copied, but identifying tags cannot be (at least according to FAR's claims about their specialized tags).

    Preventing counterfeiting would be especially good for Limited Edition prints as it's fairly easy to nab a high res file (or even a medium res one) and print it off yourself and claim you made it.

    Of course, CoA seems to be more of a concern of artists with a wide area of distribution, which I think most of us do not have. Then again, selling online, which is my main method, has increased my area of distribution far wider than I expected it would. I've already had offers from people in China wanting to resell my work. It sounded fishy so I declined. So much spam and internet theft issues to worry about. That's a whole other topic in and of itself.

    Is there any one who HAS tried it? Surely there is someone. I'd like to hear from both sides of the fence on this issue. Especially those of you who have previous experience with registration.

    It seems most of the traditional fine artists on eBay tout CoA's as a way to authenticate their work in such a massive marketplace. Also, if an artwork is claimed as an investment and is insured, it is much easier to do so with a title registration. Or at least, this is what I have read thus far!

    Things to think about.

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    I don't think most of the people on eBay are really professionals; therefore they're trying to use the CoA's to give their work authority it doesn't have. (Most of the fine art I've seen on eBay is chintzy crap. Though I haven't looked lately.)

    I can see Certificates being used in Printmaking maybe, but in fine art? No. I haven't heard or seen anyone who does this.

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    I always thought it would be interesting if oil painters would insert tiny ampules of their own freeze dried blood into the support frames for DNA comparison. Maybe I'm just really morbid and eccentric though...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aphotic Phoenix View Post
    I always thought it would be interesting if oil painters would insert tiny ampules of their own freeze dried blood into the support frames for DNA comparison. Maybe I'm just really morbid and eccentric though...
    a lot more painters unknowingly leave fingerprints somewhere on their canvas. Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock has an 'art detective', of sorts, that labors over finding evidence to verify a painting as being a pollock original.

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    Well, if you think someone is likely to forge your art it would certainly make sense to stick your fingerprint somewhere rather than pay some dubious company a fortune for doing much the same thing but less effectively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aphotic Phoenix View Post
    I always thought it would be interesting if oil painters would insert tiny ampules of their own freeze dried blood into the support frames for DNA comparison. Maybe I'm just really morbid and eccentric though...
    You'd be surprised! Thomas Kincaid is known for an etched signature that includes hair and blood mixed in for a DNA tag. Creepy, but I imagine completely effective. I don't think I'd want to go THAT far though.

    Grief, it's funny you should mention the Jackson Pollock movie as it was the Fine Art Registry who disproved Biro's identification of the fingerprint on a Pollock painting, Biro being the forensics expert cited in that particular movie. An article on that matter. This article and video was published and produced by FAR so I am not sure how far to trust it.

    I've done some research and found some more interesting tidbits about FAR and CoA's since my last post.

    FAR has also gone on to be sued by Park West Gallery, a high end gallery claiming to sell prints and originals by Dali and others to cruise lines. The gallery was accused of selling fraudulent work and bad business practices (ie. providing fraudulent CoA's) in a previous case and the latest case was dismissed after it was discovered they were trying to file a duplicate claim. (an article about the case which again was published by FAR, but I've found other articles not published by them online about this topic)

    FlameRaven, that is a rather broad sweeping statement about artists on eBay. I know several artists who produce quality fine art work that make decent money there and have used it myself from time to time. Like any community, there are various levels of development and quality. I can see where having a CoA would be a way to try to gain notoriety for your work. For in a crowd that big, it is tempting to do anything to stand out, though I don't think trying to authenticate your work is necessarily a bad thing. Like most art sales, it's all about perceived value.

    Well, if you think someone is likely to forge your art it would certainly make sense to stick your fingerprint somewhere rather than pay some dubious company a fortune for doing much the same thing but less effectively.
    This is exactly why I posted this topic, so I could find out a little more about CoA's and the companies that sell them. So far, FAR is the only one that offers a special tag, title registration, and a searchable database with fairly reasonable prices (a lifetime membership for $200 is not really so bad and really isn't a fortune, persay. The fact they offer a free membership is also appealing). But I certainly don't want to hop on a ship till I know if it's floating or sinking. And ha! it is rather tempting to just plunk a fingerprint on my work now that you mention it.

    It seems that using a CoA is not a guarantee for authenticity, which makes the addition of a special tag very appealing. I'm still researching and brainstorming. Thanks for sharing your opinions thus far.

    Last edited by ladydove7; March 24th, 2009 at 09:11 AM.
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    I know it was a generalization; I'm talking about what I've seen. Like I said, I don't check eBay very often and I do know there are a couple artists selling there who are quite skilled. But the majority in my experience is more likely to be rather amateur work instead of anything really interesting. (This goes for many sites, though.)

    I think I have more issue with the customer base of eBay than the artists, in that case. Thomas Kinkaide was mentioned above... my personal take is that Kinkaide sells incredibly cliche and saccharine artwork... and the crowd eats it up, even though it's kind of crap. :/ Ebay is a lot like that. I used to sell commissions on there, but stopped when the only people who ever bid were the ones who wanted latex mermaids or cyber centaurs or other random fetish stuff. >_>

    Slapping a certificate of authenticity on an otherwise rather plain or unskilled work gives it false value to some people, and that stuff just kind of annoys me.

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    Thomas Kinkaide was mentioned above... my personal take is that Kinkaide sells incredibly cliche and saccharine artwork... and the crowd eats it up, even though it's kind of crap.
    You don't know how many times I've sat with my mom and tried to figure out why she is so madly in love with this man's work. All I see are houses that all look the same (with the exception of a select few that don't involve houses), and yet my mom who has been collecting statues of houses and villages sees something grandiose. Just goes to show you that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, the man is making millions and we can't say that he isn't doing SOMETHING right in tapping into his audience and making his work seem special (well, special to SOME anyways).

    Slapping a certificate of authenticity on an otherwise rather plain or unskilled work gives it false value to some people, and that stuff just kind of annoys me.
    I have to wonder if using a certificate of authenticity is only reserved for the 'famous' people out there who do have wonderful high quality professional glorious work. Are those who are still developing their skills not worthy enough to authenticate that a work is theirs? It's one thing to be arrogant about your work and another to believe in it. If someone can sell something that's not quite up to par and someone connected to that work enough to want to buy it, than more power to them, imo. Still, I would hope artists do strive to put their best foot forward when selling any work of theirs, as it reflects back upon them and the impression they're giving to others.

    Just playing a little devil's advocate.

    Last edited by ladydove7; March 24th, 2009 at 05:40 PM.
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    I don't think it's a question of worthiness, nor a question of putting your best foot forward. The certificate seems to be more about risk and perceived risk. Frankly, at this point in my career I don't worry at all about forgery, and only marginally about misuse. Kinkaid on the other hand probably has some very legitimate concerns. That's the risk part.

    If the certificate gives your potential customer a greater sense of security, terrific. That's the perceived risk part. Then again most of my customers are art directors... kind of a different market. Even if I was into direct sales, I'm not sure I'd bother with a certificate.

    Also Devil's Advocate... seems to me that most of the time certificates go along with "craft" items or maybe prints, but not so much original art. It's a lot easier to slap an artist's brand label onto a piece of jewelry or pottery for sale at a craft show or a boutique than it is to fake an artist's gallery don't you think?

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    I don't think it's a question of worthiness, nor a question of putting your best foot forward. The certificate seems to be more about risk and perceived risk.
    Very good point. It is all about concerns and I imagine imitation is more of a problem in direct sales than it is in other facets of the art industry. Thanks for pointing that out.

    seems to me that most of the time certificates go along with "craft" items or maybe prints, but not so much original art.
    I know the practice of CoA's came about from printmakers who were seeking to legitimize their prints made from plates, but the practice has since been adopted elsewhere. Tagging and certification seems to be becoming more common practice for museums and fine art galleries in particular these days. Practices are definitely evolving beyond a purely craft application.

    I think another question to ask when deciding whether it's worth it is if I'm at the point in my career where counterfeiting is a legitimate concern AND also if it's an investment I can even afford to make (sadly still operating on a shoestring budget here). I may try out FAR for my limited edition prints and see if that has an effect or not and if it seems worth it at all.

    If anyone else has tried using tags and CoA, do feel free to share your experiences. I'd like to know how others have dealt with this kind of system and if it actually proved effective or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ladydove7 View Post
    You'd be surprised! Thomas Kincaid is known for an etched signature that includes hair and blood mixed in for a DNA tag. Creepy, but I imagine completely effective. I don't think I'd want to go THAT far though.
    So wait...are we talking about "Mr. Paints with Light" here? That's so deliciously ironic considering his target audience...

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    Ahahah yes...paints with light...AND BLOOOOD!pld:

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