Insurance Value, Wholesale Value, and Retail Price

by Barbara Burns on March 2, 2018


Barbara Burns

Mary Lane and Suzanne Pretty have collaborated on this article about the differences between insurance value, wholesale value and retail price of work. I wish I had this information when I was shipping a tapestry to Serbia. I insured it for the full retail value of the tapestry. I almost fell over when I was told how much it would cost. Having read this article I now know that I could have used the wholesale value.


Retail Price is the dollar amount a gallery, museum or other seller of your tapestries lists as the cost to buy your tapestry. It includes the amount that you, the maker, will receive, plus the amount that the seller and any other party who is going to be paid after the sale, will receive.

Wholesale price is the dollar amount you, the maker, will receive after the sale of your tapestry.

Insurance value is more complex. Before your tapestry is sold, the insurance value is the same as the wholesale value. It is what an insurance company would pay you for your tapestry if it were lost, damaged or stolen during shipping or during an exhibition, BUT ONLY IF you can prove that wholesale value by producing records of sales of comparable work sold for approximately the same price.

After your tapestry is sold, the insurance value becomes the retail value, the price the buyer paid to purchase your work. If the purchaser needs to make a claim with his/her insurance company because of damage or theft, he/she will need the sales invoice to prove the value. Insurance value of a particular artwork can increase, if the value of the artist’s work increases. Again, any claim about the value of an artwork has to be proven with sales records.

Barbara Burns, Solo Exhibit, Stable On Front Gallery, Bath, ME 2016

Consistent Pricing

If you have gallery representation, or you are trying to obtain gallery representation, it is important to keep the retail price consistent. If you are selling your work for less than the gallery is asking for similar works of yours, the gallery owner will be less likely to keep you on in his/her stable.

Think of it this way. The commission the gallery receives is payment for promoting your work, keeping a gallery open, etc. If you sell your work out of your studio, you are doing the work of promoting your work and paying for the cost of your studio, so you deserve the money the gallery owner would have received because you are doing the work that the gallery owner would have been doing.

In most cases you sign an agreement with a gallery. The agreement often has a clause that governs removing pieces from a show and any sales that you personally might arrange with a buyer who saw your work in the show. You should honor your contractual agreements.

Methods of Pricing

Are you wondering how to determine the value of your tapestry? Barbara Burns conducted a survey of tapestry weavers that focuses on pricing methods. The complied results can be read here.


Professional Practices for Artists

Google “Professional Practices for Artists” for many more discussions, and contract examples, for this topic.

Consignment Contracts

Google “consignment contracts” for many more discussions, and contract examples, for this topic.

Contracts for Commissioned Artworks

Google “contracts for commissioned artworks” for many more discussions, and contract examples, for this topic.

By Mary Lane and Suzanne Pretty

Suzanne Pretty

Mary Lane

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