How provenance affects the value of art, collectibles, artist, authenticators, art collectors and art galleries


It caught your eye in an instant. Maybe it was the flash of colour from a painting, the glint of a vintage watch, or a famous vineyard name on a wine bottle label. Either way you have to have it, but how do you know if the price is right? One of the biggest drivers of an item’s value is its provenance. Provenance is the history of ownership and identity of an object. It can include auction houses, dealers, or galleries that have sold an item, the private or institutional collections in which the item has been held, and exhibitions where the item has been displayed. It can also include academic research and catalogue raisonné inclusion.


Why does provenance matter?

Provenance matters because it can directly affect the three main kinds of disputes that occur when buying and selling valuable collectibles:

Disputes about ownership: if an item has been stolen from its rightful owner, as in the case of pieces looted in Europe by the Nazis, then it becomes difficult to sell. This is because it’s possible that at some later point it could be confiscated and returned to its rightful owner.

Disputes about authenticity:  Items that have a documented chain of ownership from the moment of creation to the current owner are more likely to be authentic. However, expertly falsified provenance has also been used to sell forgeries for millions of dollars.

Disputes about value: If an item has passed though the hands of a celebrity, historical figure, prestigious collector, or famous gallery, then its value will increase. Additionally, just as flawed forgeries can sell for millions due to well-faked supporting documents, the value of authentic pieces can be undermined by careless documentation.

A great example of the impact of provenance can be found in a set of cookie jars owned by Andy Warhol. They sold for nearly a quarter of a million dollars. If they hadn’t sat in Warhol’s kitchen, it’s unlikely they would have sold for even $40.


What does good provenance look like and what information matters?

The word provenance has its origins in the French word provenir, meaning “to come from”. An ideal provenance captures the ownership history of a piece all the way back to its initial creation. When looking at a piece of provenance documentation make sure that:

It’s an original document: Photocopies of letters, certificates, and other documents are not valid forms of provenance (unless the originals are at a known location, and can be accessed and inspected firsthand).  Or view all details on 

All owners and signatures are verifiable: Contact information for all signers must be included somewhere in the provenance — and be verifiable.   yourArtifacts offers secure digital profile exchange

It’s based on fact, not opinion, unless from a respected source  Statements that a piece looks similar to other, authentic pieces can’t be considered provenance unless they come from a person or organization with specific expertise.  yourArtifacts offers secure digital authentication