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> Looking at Sports Cabinet Cards

December 13, 2006

David Rudd Cycleback

Neiman to Warhol: Tips for Buying Sports Prints by Famous Artists March 28, 2007

1985 silk screen of Pete Rose by Andy Warhol.  Hand signed and limited edition numbered by the artist, sold by Lelands.


The big sports auction houses have recently included more and more prints by famous artists.  In Lelands, Mastro, SCP/Sotheby’s, Robert Edward Auctions and Huggins and Scott I’ve seen prints by Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, LeRoy Neiman and others masters.  Surprising to many sports collectors, many famous artists made prints of sports subjects.  Warhol made signed screen prints of Pete Rose, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali.  Even Rembrandt made a print of a golfer.  >>

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'Jockey' by LeRoy Neiman, sold by Mastro Auctions

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For beginners to fine art, purchasing art by famous artists can be intimidating   In particular, they are concerned (or least should be!) about fakes and scams.  A man who had bought a Salvador Dali print in a European auction once said to me, “Not only do I have no idea if it’s authentic, but I have no idea how to determine if it’s authentic.”>>

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While a beginner can’t expect to become a museum curator from a five minute read, this article offers important beginner’s tips to help one make smarter purchases.  A more in depth guide is found at Cycleback.com >>

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'The Golfer' by Rembrandt

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Tip # 1) Determine if the print is considered by experts to be an original.  >>

A collector or dealer finds this out by looking up the print in the artist’s catalogue raisonne.  A catalogue raisonne is a book or books that lists the artist’s known original prints and includes the important details for each print— when made, size, how numbered, editions, who distributed them, watermarks, etc.  This is invaluable information for the collector looking to purchase an original.  Most forgeries and reprints differ significantly from the originals—different size, different signature and numbering, different graphics.    The catalogues raisonne are not unlike baseball card price guides, but with much more detail.  Catalogues raisonne are written and edited by the top experts, including art history professors, gallery owners and museum curators.  For some books, the artist or artist’s estate approved the text.  Though some are expensive and hard to find, these books exist for all major artists from Rembrandt to Picasso to Leroy Neiman.>>

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If collectors of the world referenced catalogues raisonne before purchasing, well over ninety percent of the forgeries would be avoided. >>

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A number of catalogues raisonne are available for free online.  This includes Andy Warhol (warholprints.com) and Leroy Neiman (leroyneiman.com).  If you’re considering buying a print by either of these artists, simply up the print the websites.>>

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As a service to bidders, many art auction houses list the relevant catalog raisonne page number when selling a work of art.  If selling a March Chagall print online, the auctioneer will either list the book author and the page/cataloging number that details the work, or they will cut and paste the entire work description.  This shows the bidders that the print is ‘listed.’  >>

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Tip # 2) Deal with a reputable seller.  >>

Whether you’re buying a Pablo Picasso print, Babe Ruth autograph or game used Nolan Ryan jersey, it’s always best when you’re dealing with a seller who is knowledgeable, reputable and has a good reputation with collectors in the area.  If you are buying a Picasso or Warhol from Sotheby’s or Christies, authenticity is unlikely to be an issue. 

At least, you want to purchase from a seller who, while not an expert in art prints, is someone you know to be trustworthy and honest.  There may be a baseball card or game used jerseys specialists who readily admits he’s no art expert, but who you know first hand to be honest and careful.  The key here is that if there turns out to be a problem with the work of art, you are confident the seller will allow a return.   Many sports collectors buy fine art from places like Robert Edward Auctions and Mastro, knowing they aren’t art specialists, but that they are reputable general auctioneers who handle a wide variety of expensive items.>>

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There are many other less famous dealers in fine art prints who are reputable and trustworthy.  Dealers who are members are members of The Art Dealers Association of America or International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) can be considered reputable.  These trade groups only allow as members dealers who are experienced, knowledgeable and have good reputations.  Also, all members are required to follow a strict ethics code.   >>

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3) Provenance and other related documentation>>
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This basically means it is best if a print comes with paper documentations showing, or at least backing up, that the print is authentic.  This can include receipts showing it was sold by a reputable dealer, a letter of authenticity from a respected expert or an article showing it was once shown a museum or public exhibit.  Realize that if you purchase from a well known dealer, you’re adding to this provenance— you’ve added to its history that it was once sold by Christies or Lelands.  If and when you turn to resell the print, you can show your sales receipt receipt proving the print was purchased at Christies or Lelands or respected private dealer . >>

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Strong provenance doesn’t in and of itself prove authenticity, but is part of the authentication puzzle.  It’s like buying a game used baseball bat that has a LOA from the player’s team or sales receipt from a respected bat dealer.  The LOA or receipt alone doesn’t prove the bat genuine— you have to double check by looking at the bat itself, as even the team can make a mistake.  However, the LOA or receipt is excellent documentation supporting the authenticity.  The document shows both you and the next buyer that the bat was once sold by a reputable source.>>

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There are a number of highly respected art experts who give independent opinions on a particular artist’s works.  They will write a LOA and often stamp the back of the work they judge genuine.  These experts, including both individuals and organizations, are often world renown as the top experts for an artist and a LOA from them is as good as gold.  A collector may desire to purchase a work that already has the LOA, or send the work in for opinion.  Most of these experts have websites, with rules for submission and emails for contact.  In cases, the collector can email scans of the art for the expert to look at.  >>

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If and when you send in a word for LOA is up to you.   If the print came from reputable source, is listed in the catalogue raisonne and has strong provenance, an independent opinion may not be deemed necessary.  On the other hand, if the print was very expensive but has sketchy documentation and is a bit different than the catalogue raisonne, an expert’s opinion may be important.  For a $30,000 purchase, the collector may wish to automatically get the LOA.  >>

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Below are a few of the recognized experts/LOA issuers for individual artists.>>

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Andy Warhol: The Andy Warhol Foundation. A LOA and stamp The Andy Warhol Foundation is as close to proof of authenticity a collector can get.  The foundation was designed by Warhol himself to authenticate his work.  If you own a Warhol print you can send it in for the foundation’s evaluation.>>

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lace>Salvadorlace> Dali: The Salvador Dali Archives. For Salvador Dali a LOA and/or stamp from Albert Field/Dali Archives is excellent evidence of authenticity.  Field, who died in 2003, was a world renown Dali expert and formed the lace>New York Citylace> organization called The Salvador Dali Archives.  Evidently, Dali himself approved the group as a repository of information on his art and life.  Though Field died, I believe collectors can still get LOAs from the organization he founded, daliarchives.com>>

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Many LeRoy Neiman prints come with an LOA from Knoedler Publishing LLC.,  Knoedler is Neiman’s official publisher and agent, the company being in charge of handling, distributing and protecting all of Neiman’s art. The LOA originally came with the print when it was first sold.  The LOA is also an excellent example of documented provenance as it documents that the print came from Neiman’s agent.  Collectors can also visit LeroyNeiman.com, which is the artist’s official website maintained by Knodler.  It has Neiman’s catalogue raisonne in free, online form, and the collector may be able to contact Knoedler for opinion on prints.>>

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Note on autograph LOAs>>

Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein and many other famous artists were celebrities.  As with movie stars and ball players, they were asked by fans to sign photos, posters, postcards, books, magazines and, yes, even baseballs.   This means that just because something has the artist’s genuine signature, it does not prove the something an original work of art by the artist.  Obviously an Andy Warhol signed baseball is not an original Andy Warhol print.>>

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Especially with sports auction houses, some prints come with a LOA from PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication or other autograph examining company.  Realize that these LOAs are for the artist’s signature only.  Or, if the print was signed by the artist and a ball player, the two signatures.   Even if the print is an original, the LOA is for the autograph only.>>

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This can be compared to a Robin Yount signed game used Brewers baseball jersey with LOAs from MEARS and James Spence Authentication.  The JSA LOA is for the autograph not the jersey, and the MEARS LOA is for the jersey.>>

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Now, if you are considering buying an original Neiman or Warhol in a Mastro or SCP auctions, is it relevant to know that the autograph(s) are considered genuine by PSA/DNA or JSA?  Sure.  The autograph LOA is a nice document for the winner to have, and is a relevant document supporting the overall authenticity.  Obviously it’s better than PSA/DNA saying Warhol’s signature is a forgery.  But, to judge authenticity of the overall print, you have to look at the catalogue raisonne, seller and provenance.  If the print matches the catalogue raisinne AND PSA/DNA says the artist’s autograph is genuine, you would appear to be in good shape.


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