In the course of doing fine art and personal property appraisals over the years, I can't count the number of times I was called to do an appraisal for a work of art that was completely fake but came into the buyer's hands with a Certificate of Authenticity. And you know I hate to be the bad news bear, right? In some cases, the certificate in question was meant to go with an authentic work by the artist but got attached to a fake instead, in other cases it stated the work was authentic but was not issued by right authority, foundation or expert in the artists' work. But which were the cases I hated the most? When the fine print or a little digging would show the buyer on their own that the certificate had no merit before they spent their money.
Ending soon on eBay, there is a listing that falls into that last category. It's heading states it is an "Original Watercolor Ink Signed Andy Warhol with COA" Well that sounds like you would be bidding on the real thing, doesn't it. But let's see, who issued the certificate?
Well, the seller has a photo attached of a fancy looking paper issued by a group called the National Fine Arts Title Registry. If you visit the nice title registry folks online, you'll see that in exchange for a payment, they will create a record of an art work based on the owner's input. I am sure that they are providing a great service for folks who are using them to document their own collections. But this paper in no way proves that the Warhol in question is authentic, and in the case of this listing, the document pictured even states that the work is "Attributed to Andy Warhol". An attribution statement is always a red flag. So not only is this not a certificate, if you read it, you will know that the seller is not really telling you it is by Andy Warhol. Convenient for them, isn't it?
We can talk more about recognized experts and having a work of art correctly authenticated another day. This work has a letter from someone in Italy but the person is not a recognized expert in Warhol authentication.
For now, just read the fine print, remember that anyone who will mislead you about what they are selling will also go to great lengths to convince you that they are not being misleading. For too many people all it takes is a little ole "certificate". But not you, because you shop smart!