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Aviation Art - Introduction to the Secondary Market

When demand for a print exceeds supply, trading will often take place amongst collectors after the print has sold out, this is referred to as the secondary market.  Sometimes a print can take the market by storm and accelerate in price very quickly.  More often though they will creep up steadily over the years as dealer stocks become exhausted and sadly, as signatories pass away.  If you have a significant collection and you don’t keep track of this then you may find yourself seriously under insured.  It is not unusual for us to talk to collectors who have no real idea what their collection is worth and are very pleasantly surprised when they do a proper valuation (except that they suddenly find themselves seriously under-insured).

At the other end of the scale some collectors who want to sell are unrealistic about the price they are going to receive.  When you insure you should use the full cost of replacement but if you are selling, particularly through a dealer or gallery then expect less. The gallery has costs including staff, credit card charges and taxes to cover in addition to actually trying to turn some profit so anticipate an offer of at least 30% less than top market rate. You will be offered even less if you try to sell a big collection all in one go. You can sell privately of course but this may be impractical for a large collection.

A good compromise may be for the gallery to sell on a commission basis. This will allow the gallery to take a smaller precentage as they are not having to buy the print up front.

What influences secondary market values ?
There are four main factors.  The quality of the art work and its reproduction.  The subject matter of the painting, if all other things are equal a Spitfire will outsell a Catalina.  Demand for the aircrew signatories, how distinguished they are and how rare their original signature is.   Lastly of course is the edition size, reflecting basic supply and demand.  In addition the value of any given copy of a print will be affected by its condition and where you are trying to sell it, certain subjects will sell better in particular geographies.

There is an increasing trend towards breaking an issue down into a standard edition and a number of higher value sub-editions, sometimes as few as 25 prints, typically these will have more/rarer signatures. This is a good trend for the collector, it means that if you just like the art work and are not particularly concerned about signatures then you can buy a standard edition at a reasonable price, whilst the signature collectors can indulge themselves with the more exclusive editions.  These will obviously command proportionately higher secondary market prices, as generally do Artist Proofs. A pencil remarque by a top artist on a rare print can easily add $800-$1,000 so take this into account when calculating insurance values.

Is it possible to predict which new issues will increase in value ?
This is quite difficult to do. Certain artists, like Robert Taylor in the UK and William Phillips in the USA have a good track record of producing prints that sell out quickly and then appreciate but there is no guarantee.  Accepted wisdom is that you should buy things you like and take any increase in value as a bonus.

How does Aviation Art World reach its valuations ?
The first thing to say is this is not an exact science, many things can affect an editions value and they are constantly changing.  We have the benefit of a worldwide network of contacts.  When we decide on a value for a rare print it will reflect both recently achieved prices and what other sellers are now asking. Ultimately though something is only worth what someone else will pay for it at a given point in time.

Little Willie Coming Home by Keith Ferris

Little Willie Coming Home
Keith Ferris
Issue: $145
Current: $1400
Change: 965%

50 Years a Lady by Craig Kodera

50 Years A Lady
Craig Kodera
Issue: $150
Current: $750
Change: 500%

Bader Bail Out by Frank Wootton

Bader Bail Out
Frank Wootton
Issue: $185
Current: $1400
Change: 756%

All images copyright the artist/publisher.

Unless stated otherwise we always refer to the ‘standard’ edition.  The special sub-editions mentioned earlier, typically with extra signatures, can be of such small numbers that there is no real ‘market’ to provide a reference point.  We also assume that prints are in mint condition.

How can I determine the value of my collection ?
The advertised prices on this site are as good an indication as any of replacement values. If you want to be sure your valuation is accurate (particularly for insurance purposes) then you should get additional valuations and set values accordingly. Also be aware that valuations usually change over time, sometimes quite dramatically if, for example, a distinguished signatory passes away. You should reassess your collection regularly, we would recommend every 2 years.

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