What is everyone's opinion on secondary market sales.  I have been acquiring the artwork of fellow artists at antique stores, yard sales & through ebay.  I have used these as study models and also for personal use.  I wear brooches daily.  Some are examples of my work and sometimes they are from my collection of work by others.  Is there emotion when seeing your work sold through a reseller?  This topic has interested me for some time.

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The highest compliment anyone can pay for your work is money we thinks. Most of our work is sold through resellers and there are many flavors, as you have pointed out. We take great joy in finding new niches and ways to get the work out there. The emotion comes in when we see a stranger pass us in a foreign airport wearing one of our pieces (happened more than once) or getting a call from someone five states away because their friend wore a piece to a party and could we make something for them. Its all good.
In the Secondary marketplace the maker of the jewelry gets no additional monies from the sale. The reseller has often acquired the piece through an estate sale, yard sale, or second hand store. More often than not the item purchased is acquired at a much lower price than what the maker of the jewelry intended. It is true that the artist can get additional exposure from someone seeing the item being worn by the new buyer.
Fred, the implication of your statement seems to be that the original maker should expect, or be entitled to, compensation every time a piece changes hands. We are hard pressed to think of anything is this world that works this way. The closest examples might be royalties and licensing fees paid to music artists, stock photographers and software companies. Thus, a piece of jewelry would not be purchased, but licensed for use.

On another note: We suspect that 99.9% of the jewelry sold directly by makers is at a much lower price that what the maker intended. ;)
Corliss & John,
I did not mean to imply that we should get additional payment for the resale of the piece. That idea would be impractical. My only intent in posting this is to solicit thoughts about seeing your work on eBay, antique store, second hand store, or any of the other market places.
I put no judgment on this practice. I am usually a buyer and delight when I can find a new piece to wear.
We have added substantially to our own collection this way too. There are retail venues that specialize in this sort of thing, as you and Andy have pointed out, where they know what the the work is and what it is worth. Most people, us included, haunt the back alleys, garage sales and flea markets specifically looking for those bargains where the seller doesn't know or under-values the item. Stories abound about people throwing away or selling off valuable art for nothing because they don't know what it is. Andy says, "Philistines" and is pretty much on the mark. All of this is a far bigger commentary on art appreciation in America than it is on the value of any artist's work sold for peanuts off a blanket in someone's front yard. Its a shame that so many people have so little appreciation for art in any form. But on the other hand, we love those deals!
A couple years ago I found an older piece of mine for sale on line at a reputable online reseller-- a person who treats contemporary metal work as collectable, at times historically significant, representations of the field and discipline. (I am not saying that she considers my work to be "historically significant" but that is the tenor of the site.) There is jewelry from the village smiths--Art Smith, Ed Weiner-- along with unattributed work and pieces from contemporary smiths such as Boris Bally, Biba Schutz and Sandra Enterline..

The piece, a brooch, had been sold in the 90's by a NYC gallery. My first reaction was one of surprise and irritation- how could someone get rid of one of my pieces? How callous! The philistines! But once I calmed down and started noodling around the site I began to have a different feeling. Since the work was treated with respect and the site carefully curated, I realized that this was a healthy sign for our field. Our work is now collectable and as such occupies a place in history.

The real question was if the prices reflected this collectability. I can only speak about my brooch "Blade" since I know what the original retail price was: It had, in fact, appreciated. Not by a lot, but by enough. (I must admit that I find it irksome that I will never receive any money for this but that's the way of the world.) In the end, I'm glad that it was sold through that reseller (Fred -- you and I spoke about this in Yuma and you knew the reseller).
In a related story, I went with a friend to poke through antiques last week on my birthday and in an antique mall found several pieces for sale attributed to people that we knew. If the names are attached, it is to add value and that is a good sign for the field.

Andy, I do recall the conversation we had and it is in part the reason I posted this. As you know, I am constantly exposed to the antique and second hand. I frequently see pieces by fellow craftsmen mixed with the older pieces. Online auction houses will also have a few recognizable pieces. You are right that the site that your piece was sold on, treats these pieces as having significance and being collectible.

Sadly too many times the items are inexpensively sold due the lack of understanding by the seller. I, as a buyer, am thrilled to own a piece that I admire and can wear. I often see significant pieces by well know metalsmiths on eBay and some are priced accordingly and some under priced.

I hope others will give thought to this.

Fred, after our conversation I spoke with the editor of Metalsmith about the possibility of writing an article on our work in the secondary market. My interpretation of her response was that she saw no point to the story-- no resolution, I think she said......

I am a total scrounge-- flea markets, Cragslist, etc. for a lot of stuff. The idea of finding a deal is really appealing but flies directly in the face of what the deal implies for the maker and the field....
Andy, there has always been, and will always be, people who come into possession of things for which they have no appreciation or knowledge. We have picked up many a treasure at estate sales where the children of a collector simply wanted to convert the collection to cash (divy the spoils) as fast as possible. Does an individual seller's lack of appreciation devalue an individual work, or the field in general? We think not. Case in point, we picked up a Spratling piece recently in a junk shop for $3. Could we resell that piece at fair market value to a knowledgeable collector? Of course. Not that you could pry it out of our hands.
John and Corliss, you are absolutely correct that this is the way of the world. My point is the disconnect between what I would like to see for my field-- that my work and the work of my colleagues would appreciate in value and importance as it passes through the world--and the delight that I take in discovering treasure and the art of the deal.


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