ValueMyStuff: expertise to everyone, anytime. The accessible and transparent auction house
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
Patrick van der Vorst got his first investment from Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis on Dragon's Den through his enthusiasm for making the art-identifying and valuing process as approachable as possible and created Value My Stuff.
Patrick will be on the panel of jury at Startup Weekend Art
With over 469,000 valuations and 400,000 customers Value My Stuff is one of the largest online valuation companies on the market, based in London and New York and recently in LA too.
Follow their tips, quotes and fun news on art and antiques on twitter.
When and why did you set up ValueMyStuff?
In 2009, I set up this easy-to-use website with the goal of providing expertise to everyone. My enthusiasm for making the art-identifying and valuing process as approachable and transparent as possible led me to leave Sotheby's after 15 years as a Director and Head of the Furniture Department. In 2010, ValueMyStuff appeared on Dragon's Den, where Patrick received a £100,000 investment from Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis, who are still my current investors. The whole idea for setting up the business was to make the appraisal process more accessible and transparent.
Who does ValueMyStuff appeal to?
ValueMyStuff is a young and innovative valuation company with a team of over sixty experienced and renowned fine art, antiques and collectables specialists who have formerly worked at major international auction houses such as Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips, and Bonhams. Valuing over 40 collecting fields, ValueMyStuff has been called the “The Antiques Roadshow Online”. With this is mind we have a large range of customers who seek valuations from us. Whether it be antique collectors, shopowners, art market professionals, people who have inherited property from their parents or grandparents, or men and women who wish to decorate their homes and need third party advise when shopping in the confusing and very much daunting market of galleries, antique shops and the new online world.
So tell us about your plans to break the US market...
I have this secret weapon - she's an Angeleno native who also worked at Sotheby's and decided to turn her hand at providing art valuations for the masses. She has launched the office in Los Angeles with an aim at capitalizing on the current booming young art tech scene there. Think of LA like Silicon Beach (a mini San Francisco offshoot of Silicon Valley) - a lot of young art tech firms are moving there as its West Coast meets art. With a touch on the pulse, we'll hire US digital marketing experts who can advertise our services to the critical mass and receive advise from other art professionals who are trying to educate people about art, art history, antique provenance and how to value property. We are also breaking out into much younger forms of advertising like Youtube & Facebook which will truly make our brand familiar to all different communities. We want to show people that we are truly like the Antiques Roadshow online - and even better is that we're affordable.
Do you find their auction and valuation market is very different to the UK’s?
The key for US expansion is identifying the differences between the UK and the US art & antiques communities. The core question we asked ourselves before opening our US office was - what categories of antiques do Americans wish to have valued? Ultimately, we are all inheritors of stuff so it is important to nail down cultural differences in the individual US states to understand what they wish to have valued and how they wish to be spoken to. Valuing anyone's antiques is a very personal experience and how we reach Americans is very different then how we reach the British. The first identifiable difference is Americans say "appraisal" rather than "valuation". This small language difference makes a paragraph about Ceramics valuation incomprehensible to an American but once you change the word to appraisal we open up the communication to the a huge subset of customers.
What are the benefits of having a valuation from ValueMyStuff? Can it help confirm provenance? Is this harder with artworks, especially when working from photographs?
Our proposition and experience provide people with the extra reassurance they need when buying at shops or online. Receiving expert advice allows buyers to negotiate with the knowledge that the Queen Anne Style furniture is actually "in the style of" and not dating back to the early 18th century and worth 80% of the asking price. Our service not only benefits buyers, but also sellers who armed with an auction estimate can dictate to the auction house or on their online listing the price that they wish to receive based on actual market value of the item.
Provenance is confirmed through historical photographs and documentation such as invoices or letters. That being said a valuation can assist in confirming what the photographs or invoices may suggest. For instance, if a grandparent wrote that they were given this silver in Sheffield in the 1800's, our experts can verify that the silver bears the proper maker's mark and thus confirm what has been put in writing by our ancestors. Also, our valuations help to identify artists, manufacturers, styles which can then help establish the provenance of the objects. With paintings, specifically artists whose works sells at large international auction houses, our valuations can assist people by recommending the appropriate authentication process for painters such as De Kooning, Van Gogh, Banksy, Henry Moore, or Corot to name a few. By receiving our valuations our customers are armed with knowledge and courses of action to help appreciate their object's value.
In this modern day and age, providing valuations from photographs has been made easier with technological revolution of smartphones like Samsung and iPhone whose camera technology allows users to take high resolution images from their phones.
Why do they seek valuations from you?
-To sell their item at auction
-valuation for inheritance
-need to provide an accurate value for an insurance company
-report values for tax purposes
-record of value for charitable donation
-artist, maker, or manufacturer identification
-looking to buyer and want to ensure that you are receiving a fair price
-wish to learn more about the history or purpose of the object in question
-want to know whether the unique item has any value
Are you seeing any trends in the types of artwork being presented for valuation?
Our items are as varied as our customers. We value over 60 collecting categories and on a daily basis value objects as diverse as American Tonalist paintings, Tribal Masks and Sculptures, classic cars, pop & film memorabilia to silverware. The most common categories that people send in for valuation tend to be ceramics which most often are Chinese ceramics. There was a large collecting trend from the beginning of the 1900's to collect Chinese ceramics which were being exported from China and Taiwan.
Based on your experience, can you highlight any artists whose work:
- is significantly rising in value at the moment
Latin American Art and Artists.
Contemporary Art market as a whole, but only the solid artists remain, with a lot of young artists who had a buzz and short lived success falling by the waste side.
- is worth looking out for in local auctions, car boot sales, etc?
Always - at ValueMyStuff our members of staff score local auctions everyday to see what art is being sold for local estates. Still today there is art by well known artists that is discovered and authenticated at local auctions, estate sales and car boot sales. Most recently, we identified and valued an Egyptian Maul that was purchased for 3 GBP at a car boot sale in Northampton and was valued at 3,000 - 4,000 GBP. There are great finds no matter where you look!
- is a relatively safe investment, holds its value well
The Old Masters and the Impressionist paintings and prints will continue to hold value throughout time. These first painters are the ones who taught us how to see and look at art and will always maintain their significance in the history of art.
- is just starting to become collectable
African Art is just starting to become collectable. The Post-Impressionists and Fauvists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso uses Tribal Masks and a source of inspiration for their portraits and paintings, however the work did not yet become collectable for the critical mass until today.
Are there any specific genres of artwork that are becoming collectable?
All of the above.
What is your view of the state of the global art market at present?
The global art market is bullish with new collectors from around the globe thirsty for fresh to the market works. The internet is working in the global art market's favour as news regarding exhibitions, auctions, collections, and museum events is able to reach people through a click of a button. We are seeing dissemination of art market news at a rapid pace and with this access comes greater responsibility for research institutions to provide accurate and up to date information. It is an exciting time to be part of this change from the local to the global and it is certainly a great position for both buyers and sellers. This does, however, mean more competition across the board whether that be for auction houses against one another or for buyers against buyers as "deals" on great pictures are few and far between.
Do you think a ‘bubble’ has formed or is the market’s current strength sustainable?
The question of the bubble is complex - did economists predict the 2008 American housing bubble which led to an international economic crisis? Well like in 2008, some speak about the doom of the art market, but in my view art will remain as a treaty alternative and tangible asset and we can’t see this coming to a halt. Also, if one buys against ,market trends, such as buying good 18th century furniture now, or collect silver, there is only upside possible in the future.
You have a whole raft of other services now under the My Stuff banner. What is the reasoning behind the launch of these services?
After providing valuations for three years, we realized that our customers need to understand the value of their art or antiques was only the first step in the journey to sell or insure their valuables. Our customers not only sought our advice regarding the value of their objects but wanted to know the best place to sell, which conservator to use for restoration or even the most qualified art shipping company to transport their property. After rebranding last year, we added services to insure, auction, exhibit, transport, restore, and store people’s objects online. This makes the platform a one-stop-shop for anything people eventually want to do
How can ExhibitMyStuff increase the value of your work?
Exhibition builds provenance and value of objects. Art and antiques appreciate in value when they have been exhibited at museums. This is why once we have identified an artist or a piece of pop memorabilia we encourage our customers to email us to be included in our property list available for exhibition. Curators often call us to score our database for unique objects to include in their exhibitions. We view this service as value added for our customers just as much as providing assistance with restoration and/or fine art shipping.
Who uses this service? Where might the work be exhibited?
Collectors, curators, and museum owners use our ExhibitMyStuff service. People often associate museums with sculpture and paintings, but there are museums dedicated to Toys, Coca-Coca Cola and Dolls (to name a few) who are always looking to boost their permanent collection with unique, fresh to the market works. ExhibitMyStuff is an important feature of what we do as a research institution.
Why and when did you launch AuctionMyStuff?
We launched AuctionMyStuff after identifying a need amongst our customers. After providing valuations for three years, we realized that our customers need to understand the value of their art or antiques was only the first step in the journey to sell or insure their valuables. Our customers not only sought our advice regarding the value of their objects but wanted to know the best place to sell, which conservator to use for restoration or even the most qualified art shipping company to transport their property. After rebranding last year, we added services to insure, auction, exhibit, transport, restore, and store people’s objects online. This makes the platform a one-stop-shop for anything people eventually want to do.
What are the advantages of buying from AuctionMyStuff?
AuctionMyStuff gives a buying advantage to all our customers who believe in the collaborative consumption platform but do need that additional reassurance that what they are buying is as marketed. AuctionMyStuff comes with the added benefit of our regulatory body ValueMyStuff where items are accompanied by the item's initial expert valuation. In this way, buyers can feel satisfied not only that the item's description is correct but that the value is correctly placed among the market. This is why the P2P selling platform and online marketplaces like eBay get a bad reputation - a lack of a third party regulatory body. It seems like the best analogy is a democratic government analogy and we have put that check and balance system into place for buyers (and sellers).
What are the advantages of selling on AuctionMyStuff?
The advantages of selling on AuctionMyStuff is to sell to buyers who are dedicated to art, antiques and collectables. Also, once a valuation is received, listing is a swift two step process with no listing fees, no unsold fees, in addition to the fact that the item does not travel or leave the seller until they have been paid. The AuctionMyStuff selling commission is lower than international auction houses in addition to the fact that there are no hidden fees. Also, the estimate you receive as a seller is true market value and not pitched at a level that would make it attractive to buyers without protecting the value to the seller.
Are you an art collector yourself? If so, please tell me a bit about your collection.
I am a Post War, Modern and Contemporary art collector with a passion for antique furniture. I am always looking for new contemporary artists who cast a new glance on painting or drawing. One of my favorite artists is Yves Klein. His blues cheer up my blues so to speak!
How do you decide what to buy?
In this world we need beautiful and inspiring things to infiltrate our everyday lives - some people get this from music, others through words and then some of us through art. Inhabiting a space is a creative act and I choose to express myself through the art that I collect.
Why collect art?
Why not? Art is life affirming. As we fill and arrange our homes with personal artifacts, they become reflections of our inner selves. It is a way of expressing the everyday, the fantastical or the mundane.Whether canvas, board, paper or bronze the way perception can be manipulated, changed, or distorted through seeing a different way is beautiful and often surprising. There is a great quote from art critic Matthew Goulish which reflects how I feel about collecting:
“We may agree on the premise that each work of art is at least in part perfect, while each critic is at least in part imperfect. We may then look to each work of art not for its faults and shortcomings, but for its moments of exhilaration, in an effort to bring our own imperfections into sympathetic vibration with these moments, and thus effect a creative change in ourselves. These moments will of course be somewhat subjective, and if we don’t see one immediately, we will out of respect look again, because each work contains at least one, even if by accident. We may look at the totality of the work in the light of this moment – whether it be a moment of humor or sadness, an overarching structural element, a mood, a personal association, a distraction, an honest error, anything that speaks to us.”–Matthew Goulish
What tips would you give for investing wisely?
In one of my recent blogs for the Huffington Post, I spoke about the collecting contemporary art and people's obsession with collecting for investment purposes rather than for the love of collecting. Most ask whether they should buy art and antiques as an investment, which any collector will vehemently deny as the best course of action; but all the same the question is a valid one.
It is such a hot topic of conversation because people are constantly trying new ways to hedge their bets by following a collecting trend and in doing so receive more for their investment.
The collector Sir David Tang, Founder of Shanhai Tang and Owner of the China Club, said when it comes to collecting, “The only question I ask is: when I wake up and get out of bed, would I want to see it? You have to like the picture. I can ‘t think of anything more ridiculous than someone wanting to buy a painting for their fireplace or to fit a certain space. The moment you ask where you’re going to hang it, you’re asking the wrong question.”
I echo Sir David Tang’s thoughts regarding the importance of buying art that you wish to see and art that will continue to be aesthetically pleasing in the early morning before the coffee has hit your cerebral epicenter. However, the question of what or who to collect is still valid as it is hard to imagine the person who wishes to buy an object projected to depreciate in the near future.
What tips would you give for deciding when to sell?
My best advice would be to sell when you are ready to part with an item; being forced to sell because of economic pressures is never a fun way to sell. That being said, a good way to know when to sell is to follow market and seasonal trends. Predicting the market, whether financial or art, can seem like an opaque process for those who do not live and breathe the relevant news and results. The advice that I can give, and do give people, is to become familiar with the auction season and the different auction houses. Look at results and see what people are selling - ask yourself what does well and think of the reasons why?
Inspired? We look forward to seeing you at Startup Weekend Art London in October!