Should you provide a certificate of authenticity when you sell your artwork? Short answer: yes.
The Certificate of Authenticity (COA) plays a larger role then just proving the artwork is authentic. The COA documents important facts about the artwork for future owners; helps the artist keep track of finished artwork; and assists representatives in selling your artwork.
Documenting important facts for future owners
When a piece of artwork is sold, presumably the person who purchased it knows all about the artwork. Likely, they researched the artist, and they may know about the process and materials involved in creating the work. But, what happens if the original purchaser sells the artwork, gives it away, or leaves at to heirs after death?
Without a COA to document the artwork, verifying the artist, materials, or even the time period the artwork was made can be difficult. This is especially true after the artwork has passed through several owners. Eventually, the artwork may reach an owner that does not appreciate it’s value or history. Unfortunately, this is how many pieces and up at the thrift store or worse, at the dump.
If you are an artist that cares about what will become of your art, providing a COA may increase your art’s ability to survive and even thrive long Into the future.
Helping the artist keep track of finished artwork
If you provide a COA for your artwork, you can keep a copy of it as part of your archive. This can be done in a simple binder where you can take additional handwritten notes at your convenience. As your career develops, you will have a written record of the pieces you made, when you made them, and what became of them. This can be beneficial both for making artistic decisions about the direction of your work, but also in helping you authenticate your work in the future.
Some jurisdictions provide for a percentage of the sale of an artwork to be paid to the artist if the art is resold at a profit. This is true in California. If the artwork has a COA, this will help the reseller in complying with this law. In addition, if the artist has a matching copy of the COA, there will be no question as to who should receive a royalty.
Assisting representatives to sell your artwork
Sometimes, as an artist, you will need to rely upon representatives to sell your artwork for you. This is especially true if your artwork is represented at a gallery or an art show. It can be difficult as a representative to discuss the artwork if you do not have all of the information easily at hand.
Representatives are likely representing multiple pieces of art. If your COA includes all of the pertinent information about the art, including its title, measurements, materials and description, it’s much easier for the representative to confidently talk about (and sell) your work. The more details and information they have about your work, the easier it is share your artwork with potential collectors.
ARTIST TIP: Attach a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) to the back of your artwork to make sure your representative has all the pertinent information on hand. There is a simple COA you can download in the downloads page of this website.
What should your COA include?
Your COA can be customized to your specific needs and may be different for every artist. But, at a minimum, should include the following information:
- Title of artwork.
- Printed name of the artist.
- Date the artwork was sold.
- Measurements of the artwork.
- The materials or medium used to create the artwork. Sometimes the materials are obvious, but this is particularly important for artworks that are using new or unknown mediums.
- Any notes that the artist might like to include about the artwork. Additional notes might include the subject of the artwork, or the artist inspiration. If the artist thinks there is additional relevant information, it should be included in the description notes.
- An indication of whether or not the artwork is an original, limited production, or a limited edition. If the artwork is an original, it’s value is much different than if it is a production piece or limited edition. If the artwork is a limited edition piece, the number and addition size should be noted on the COA. For example,the piece may be a limited edition print, number 32 of 100 in the series.
- The artist’s signature.
- A copyright notice. A copyright notice can be a bit touchy during the sale of artwork. Including the notice within the COA is an easy way to make sure that notice was given without putting your buyer off. Presumably, the COA will be kept with the artwork and will also put future owners on notice of your copyright. The copyright notice should indicate that the artist retains all copyrights and reproduction of the art without authorization would be a violation of US copyright law. If you wish to also sell your copyright, you should document that separately.
All of these elements together, verify that in fact, the artwork is authentic. The COA provides future owners information about the nature of the artwork which will help them determine its value. As an example, an artist just starting out may not yet attain great prices for their artwork. However, 20 years later, that artwork may be worth a great deal. The COA helps to prove and authenticate a future value that is not yet known.
There is a Certificate of Authenticity template available for free on the downloads page of this website. In addition, it is uploaded and available for free on the Art & Prosper Facebook group. The download is a modern and clean design that provides four COA’s per page – perfect for attaching to your artwork.
If you don’t already have the access code for the downloads page, you can get it right here: