Okay- I’m ready to take the plunge and buy a piece of animation art. What next? What to look for in starting to collect, or a refresher course for those of you who are already on their way!
Check around a little for prices and dealers. As I mentioned in earlier columns, prices may vary on the same piece (reproduction art), or on similar poses of pieces (production art). And different dealers have different personalities. The dealer should have your collecting goals in mind, and suggest pieces that suit your preferences. For example, I like to establish how long a client has been collecting, what characters or films they like, if there is a specific price range, how many pieces they may be looking to acquire, etc. Only then, do I recommend pieces that I feel work best for the client.
Prices vary for a variety of reasons.
-How strong the perceived demand for a piece is for that individual gallery’s clientel.
- Origin country. Usually American art is cheaper if acquired from America, as marmite (and I know as my husband downs the stuff like I’ve never seen!) is much cheaper in England.
- Whether the piece is framed or unframed and what materials have been used.
- Shipping and customs charges. Often it is cheaper to acquire a piece from the US even after adding in shipping and customs, but not always. Check first to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
- Whether a paricular gallery is running a sale or seasonal special.
- Exchange rates – most notably between the £/US$ as most animation art is from the US.
- What the competition is perceived to be. Logically, the more galleries, the more competitive pricing needs to be.
All of the above, but also including: – How much a gallery paid for a particular piece. With production art, the sources can run from attic finds, to animators, to other dealers. It’s sometimes like the Antiques Roadshow!
- What the individual store’s expenses/markups are. High rents and lots of employees may translate into bigger markups.
How can I shop around?
- Call a few places, Disney Store, Warner Store, galleries and get prices/faxes over the phone. You may get lucky and find art from a private indiviual. But remember that you do not have the same protections in terms of return policy or guarantee of authenticity that you would with an established dealer.
Remember that for original art, it is much harder to make direct comparisons, so as long as pieces fall into a certain ballpark, you should be fine. For example, if the “right” price (i.e. most seen) for a Dumbo cel is £2750-£4000, and you see one that is £6000, it may be worthwhile to shop around.
- Surf that internet! There are some good sites with images and prices. Find them, and you have a reference point.
- Ask other collectors you know, or ask the gallery for a reference if it is a new place you haven’t dealt with before.
What else influences prices of original art in general?
Aside from the factors above, we have:
- Film. Getting the character from the original, or and older, film is more expensive.
- Pose. The better the pose, the more sought after, and thus valuable the piece. I recommend collecting the best pose that you can afford.
-Character. The main character of a film generally commands a higher price. However, there are a few sleepers who are very sought after, but appear in the film for such a short time that their prices dwarf the main star’s. Some examples are: Queen from Snow White, Blue Fairy from Pinocchio, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and those Warner Bros. scamps such as (vintage) Marvin the Martian or Gossamer.
-Condition. Again, the better, the better. Don’t give up hope if the paint is cracking. Cel paint can be restored. Paper restoration is trickier and more expensive, and if the cel material is damaged in the are to be covered by the mount, don’t worry, but cracking of the actual cel on any of the character is not good. Give the piece a miss.
- Background. What type of background is with the cel? Master, production, hand-prepared, colour laser, etc. A master (appeared in the film) background is king- expect it to 2-10 times the price of a piece without a ground. Can be well worth the extra cost. Some collectors only collect master ground set-ups. Next valuable is a production ground from a similar film (i.e. a Day for Eeyore Pooh background with a Honey Tree Pooh cel). After that, hand-painted and colour lasers don’t add much monetary value, but they do look great and really can enhance the visual enjoyment of a piece.
- Artist. Sometimes if a piece can be directly attributed to a specific, sought after animator, the price may reflect that.
- Signatures. A Walt Disney signature usually adds around £1500 to a piece. A studio signature, i.e. others authorized to sign for Walt, add about £100, and the Marc Davis, Frank and Ollies, should add about £35-50 for each signature.
- Significant cartoon. If a cartoon won an award, or was otherwise particularly significant as in the first introduction of a character, etc. it may reflect in the price.
What should I look for once I’ve picked a piece?
Okay, you feel good about the price, you feel good that the individual or place you are dealing with is knowledgable and cares about your collecting goals. So…..
- Inspect the piece’s condition carefully. If ordering over the phone or internet, ask for a detailed decription of the condition. For vintage art, signs of age and wear are expected and normal. Excessive signs of age and wear should be reflected in the price. Make sure that you know which type of background accompanies the piece.
- Ask for and expect a detailed guarantee for the piece in writing. A guarantee that says the piece is a Donald Duck cel is not too helpful, at the very least, the decade should be indicated, and hopefully the exact year or title of the cartoon. For characters that appeared in numerous cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, etc., some leeway must be allowed for approximations unless the pieces are being offered as master set-ups or as from a particular film.
- Get a receipt and ask about the refund/exchange policy.
Okay, now you’re ready to go! As always, happy collecting….