Treasure: Not all signed works are created equal

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

When it comes to art and artists, not all signed works are created equal, as Gary Studzinski found out at a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal session held at DuMouchelles’ auction house downtown.

The Livonia resident brought in two artist proof etchings by Allan Reid that he picked up about a decade ago at a garage sale, hoping to learn more about them. He showed the pair to DuMouchelle appraiser Richard Fedorowicz after filling him in on what he knew about the artist and his acquisition at the downtown gallery and auction house.

“I believe Allan also did a 1969 poster of a Janis Joplin concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” Studzinski revealed in an email. “I have seen a few of his etchings on the Internet that had a limited number produced, but never an artist proof etching. The first etching is called “The Climb.” It is about 6” x 17.” The second etching is called “Moon.” It is 8” x 14.” Both look to be from the 1960s and are in very nice condition.”

Unfortunately, an initial search revealed a variety of artists with the same name, said Fedorowicz, something that can complicate the appraisal process. He was able to narrow it down and found some background information on a Michigan artist by the same name, as well as records of an etching by the same artist selling at the auction house in 2014. “It sold for $100, not a huge amount of money, unfortunately.”

Studzinski said he paid $30 each and that his information stated that Reid exhibited and sold work at the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. Fedorowicz said both works were well done and that they have an almost surreal quality that would appeal to some art collectors, similar in style to M.C. Escher. Unfortunately, he also added that he couldn’t find any evidence that the artist’s work was being represented by any galleries, which would add even more credibility. “The works are definitely of good quality, but local or generally unknown artists just don’t sell as well,” he told Studzinski.

“Obviously he would have to be a decent artist to get into the art fair but to get higher prices at auction artists usually need a gallery to start representing their work instead of self-promoting,” he said.

He also said that despite obvious artistic experience, the secondary market for the artist is “a bit sketchy,” he said, which makes putting an auction value on it more difficult. He said you can occasionally get more for works marked “AP,” which stands for “artist’s proof,” but that is true mainly for recognized artists. He added that the common belief that an artist’s proof is the first image pulled isn’t always true. “That’s an old wives’ tale,” he cautioned.

He said he’d estimate the auction value at $100 each, similar to what the other work by the artist sold for auction last year. “Until the artist gets better known, he’s considered a local artist with accompanying auction value for this kind of work.”

He added that it was too bad he hadn’t found a Janis Joplin poster at that garage sale, and that research showed that the Joplin poster sold for about $3,000. “The musical memorabilia market is much stronger… if you had one of those it would be a whole different ballgame.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to trashortreas@aol.com. If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About these items

Item: Etchings

Owner : Gary Studzinski, Livonia

Appraised by : Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $100 each at auction