How to Value: Drawings

Learn about how to value drawing, with our ValueMyStuff valuations and appraisals experts. Discover what to look out for and how it can impact the value.


Although some drawings have been appreciated as art in their own right for many centuries, their value is currently booming as collectors appreciate more and more the insight they give into well-known artists for less than their formative works. At the same time, the decorative and displayable value of other types of drawing such as technical drawings, concept designs and plans which is only adding to their appeal to collectors.

Envelope-Sketch or Masterpiece?

Prices for Old Master and 19th century drawings, even amongst well-known artists have an enormous variety in price. As they were often preliminary works, you might expect drawings by any one artist to be of a similar value. The value of drawings, though, is often determined as much by composition and historical significance, as it is by the renown of the name. Drawings were used artists as studies to capture the composition, mood and energy of a proposed subject or scene; some come much closer to achieving all this in monochrome than others. The same applies for technical drawing and design, as some may capture the spirit of the subject or iconic elements of any architectural or engineering project far better than others.

Historical significance is also important to both artists’ studies and technical drawings. Artists’ sketches and studies can hold significance in all kinds of ways including through exhibiting the development of the artist’s style or a particular work or subject, as well as through casting light on other aspects of the society in which the artist lived. Similarly, technical drawings and designs can be of historical interest for showing the design process behind famous buildings or projects. As with any works of art or design, links with famous past-owners can also add to the appeal of a drawing.

The Value of Provenance

Establishing the history of a drawing can be about more than just an adding value to a piece; it is important also for establishing that it is genuine. As many studies were not intended to be sold or exhibited, they may not bear the hallmarks of a typical painting by an artist, such as their signature. It is not uncommon for signatures to be added to a drawing by later owners, usually to add value to a drawing, whether it is in fact by the artist that it claims to be, or not. This is, of course, more likely in the cases of very well-known artists on whom an expert opinion would be needed. Any information on previous owners or exhibitions, particularly with written evidence, can be difficult to question and a close relation to a known, finished work can also be very helpful. Equally, the provenance of any map or technical drawing is also important, while forgeries are less common in this area they may also be harder to spot. A known history of any drawing can also indicate its rarity; a rare piece whose attribution is beyond any doubt will be most likely to achieve its highest potential value.

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