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by Bob Brooke


Cezanne StilllifeCollecting art is filled with pitfalls for those who don't know what they're doing. Unlike furniture or glassware, collecting art works can take knowledge and expertise.

For those who've never collected or sold art works before, the question is where to begin. Out of the dozens of fields--old drawings, bronze sculpture, 19th-century lithographs, primitive American paintings--a beginning collector must choose one and get to know it well.

Beginners should take time to learn about art by spending hours in museums learning all they can about the particular form of art they wish to collect. They should scour their local library and read up on the history of art works they like. In short, they need to become somewhat of an expert.

Collectors should also make sure pieces of the type they seek are readily available. They should also check on the number of dealers who handle them in their area. Also, a good supply of reference books in the chosen field should be available. Finally, they need to make sure that there are no fakes.

For instance, copies of prints are worth next to nothing. In fact, limited edition prints aren't worth nearly what collectors think.

When purchasing a serious work of art, the collector should insist on a written history naming the artist, medium, date finished, and previous owners. A short background on the artist might also be included. Also, mention should be made as to whether the piece was ever "restored" and by whom. In restoring paintings, for example, other older paintings have sometimes appeared underneath the present one. How much of a work has been restored, especially in the case of paintings, is also important to note. This can drastically affect the resale value.

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