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News Article

Interpreting Harold Newton Market Prices
What Art The Criteria Used To Determine Value?

By Bob LeBlanc

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper      

The history of the highwaymen has been well documented in books by several authors, the latest being the excellent work of Catherine Enns titled "The Journey of the Highwaymen", published in 2009. 

If the history of these painters is the steak, then money changing hands for their work is the sizzle.

After almost fifteen years of specialization and intense study, I offer a few crucial yardsticks in

the evaluation of paintings in the Harold Newton market.

 

Here and now, in July 2010 as I write this, his price range at public auction is $400.00 to about $15,000.00. A record was set a few years ago by private treaty for in the vicinity of $ 44,000.00. I sold one in the thirties and more than a dozen or two have changed hands in the twenties. Transactions such as these are very rare and very wonderful.

 

His price range in 1995 to 1997, when a masonite pine tree portrait was featured on the cover of AARF, was $25.00 to $ 150.00.  I bought that painting from Jim Fitch in 1998 or 1999 for a new record price of $700.00. I had to pay a premium because, as he explained to me, it had additional value due to the provenance of being published on the cover. I had decided on the drive to his studio in Sebring, that, if necessary, I would pay $ 1500.00, even sixteen. One could buy incredibly   beautiful pieces for well under $ 200.00 in those early days of the market.

To become expert in any specific supply and demand market, you first must define it. The market for Harold's work, like any collectibles market, consists of the "players" and the supply.     

The supply is fixed because Harold Newton is deceased. Sadly, his death and the birth of the highwaymen phenomenon occurred virtually simultaneously. Jim Fitch's first AARF article in         1995, mentioned Harold as one of the better artists in the group, but no longer producing as he was incapacitated by a stroke. Harold began painting the Florida landscape in 1954 and, according to his brother, Sam, never put down his palette knife or brushes for four decades. If Harold only produced ten a week, do the math, you get 20,000 paintings. Therefore the supply is large enough to support a viable market.

The demand side of the equation is controlled by the players, the dealers and collectors who are both willing  and able to either buy or sell available paintings.

Many are willing to do both. The decisions that they make result in actual commerce, money changing hands and affecting values.

When you've been looking at every Harold Newton painting to come on the market, every one that's been available for you to see for over a decade, you get an idea as to what is rare and what is not. That "hands-on" experience is the single most crucial factor in determining value.

Once one has gained this knowledge through experience, combined with common sense, one can intelligently interpret values.

There are many variables involved in trying to establish a pricing structure.

Remembering, of course that # 1. Any collectible item is only worth what you can actually get for it once you have made the decision that it needs to be liquidated, or traded for cash. Liquidity is further complicated by economic factors which affect the size of the market, or the number of players.

To over-simplify by example, if there is NOBODY who is willing to buy your item, whatever it may be, it is worth exactly NOTHING. Suntrust and Bank of America will not accept Harold Newton paintings for deposit.

Only actual results from sales or purchases are relevant.

Asking prices in galleries, starting prices on eBay, throw them out the door. These prices will only result in immediate sales if they are too "low". This is understandable, people make mistakes.

Asking prices will result in nothing if they are too high. This, too, is understandable. Write it off to   wishful thinking, or going fishing for an unknowledgeable buyer if you are a seller who "knows         better".

Every Harold Newton painting is unique.

He painted tens of thousands of paintings, and much of  his production was extremely repetitive. Each has to be treated as unique.

His works can be slotted into "templates" as Jonathan Otto has organized his collection in the Enns book, and this comes into play in evaluation in terms of popularity per template, or group.

Which group is easier to sell, would be how I define popularity. I get calls every week with the caller saying, " I have a Harold Newton painting, it's a big one, can you tell me what it's really worth ?" The curious caller may have read an article, such as the one in the NY Times giving the range of $ 1000.00 to $ 10,000.00. They WANT their painting to be worth the high number, it's only natural.

This following list of nine criteria, not in order of importance, does not coincide exactly with the items in my certificates.

When I issue  certificates of authenticity and appraisal, I list nine identifying features of the painting and its replacement value. An example can be found on the welcome page of my primary web site www.highwaymen-buy-sell-trade.com

     1. "Size" can be important, but it is not always a factor. Is a "jumbo" worth more than a 24 x 48? ("Jumbo" is vernacular for any size larger than 24 x 48. It's a cute and catchy name, coined by John Phillips way back when.) Is a 24 x 36 worth more than a 12 x 24?

In general, yes, larger is worth more. But, what about a collector with only little wall space who's not willing to remove existing paintings to make space? What about two repetitive comparables equal in every way, but the longer one is just stretched out, not as tight and balanced as the shorter one? The one that looks  better balanced should be worth more.

     2. Is it "pretty" or not ? Is it rather plain or elaborate? This is nothing more than individual taste, a willing buyer's interpretation of the painting. I like to think I can tell a prettyone from a plain one, but it's my opinion coming in to play. Your personal preference may be a gray misty river over a bright sunlit day on two equal river scenes of the same size and era.

     3. If it's a formula picture ( a scene that he repeatedly painted due to popularity), does it have "extra elements"? Is it a Poinciana framed by a couple of Cocoa Palms to make it more interesting? Or does the Delonix regia, The Flame Tree, the Flamboyant stand alone? Has it got a path to the water? Is there extra depth to the overall view? Is that a hundred dollar sailboat? What if there are two sailboats? Or three? As far as rarity is concerned, it may be scarcer with no sailboats. That would not, in my opinion, make it more valuable, although it may be more rare.

     4. If it's "older", is it worth more? Nope,we're back to individual taste on this point.Personal preference rules. Age is irrelevant Primitive ( 50's), mid-range, mostly upson board (60's-70's) or masonite era (80's-94).

     5. "Signed" or unsigned ? Unsigned Harolds are scarce, but I've had a handful and have issued certificates for another half dozen. Sometimes the signature has been cut off for the painting to fit a frame, maybe pre-1995 when it didn't matter, before this art caught Fitch's attention.

Sometimes Harold forgot to sign them. I have met people who bought from him on the spot while he was painting, were in a rush and said, "Don't bother to sign it." Sometimes he even spelled his name wrong. I've had paintings signed H, Neton and H, Newon. I seem to remember a H, Newto. Seriously. Signed is worth more than unsigned. In general. Misspelled signatures are interesting but irrelevant in pricing.

     6. Does it have extremely "rare elements"?

Shacks or buildings, roads, huge boats or drying fishing nets? Any people, unusual animals anything "special" ? Yes, these things will add value, and sometimes it can be considerable.

     7. "Condition issues"? Scratches, dings, or scrapes? Crackelure?

Paint loss due to flaking? Water or humidity damage? Mold or mildew spots? Water spots? Nicotine stained ? Just plain dirty?

Bowed or twisted ? Many of these paintings spent decades in garages and attics. I had an early Gibson many years ago that a store owner had spray painted "OPEN' on the upson side and used it on his sidewalk. That did not affect the value, but it was pretty beat up just the same. I had a Daniels that had been used as a ceiling tile replacement. But I digress.

Issues such as these can cost money to fix if one finds it desirable to improve the "look".

As many of the world's most valuable works of art have been, they can be restored by qualified professionals.

     8. "Frames". Framing is a matter of personal choice.

Many people prefer original frames, and I usually agree. But, sometimes a frame change can improve the overall eye appeal of any painting.

If you are new to this highwaymen market and think an original crown molding frame is helpful in identification of whether or not a painting is genuine, you should be aware that faux original frames are easily manufactured. Several people are in business to do just that.

     9. "Cash flow. "Without it, there is no market to be followed and interpreted. When money gets tight, due to hurricane repairs, or the economy in general, less commerce occurs, prices slip and adjustments in evaluation need to be made. This is a function of any collectibles market, and quite possibly the single most important factor affecting Harold Newton paintings today.

 Look at your painting. Line all those things up, add a dash of common sense, and think to yourself, "What would I be willing to sell this painting for?"

That number, whatever it may be, is exactly what your Harold Newton  painting is worth.

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