Monday, September 25, 2006

So how much are they worth?

When I tell people about the RCA Secret show after they have picked their jaw up from the floor when I tell them the maximum period of time I have queued for (24 hours) and the maximum period of time I am aware that others have queued for (2 weeks) the next question I am always asked is how much the postcards are worth.

The simple answer for me personally is that I don't really care. I wouldn't sell my collection and for me RCA Secret is a way of enabling me to have contemporary art on my walls that I would not be able to afford otherwise. I did attempt to sell one postcard once in a period when I was really skint. It was a postcard created by Lawrence Weiner (pictured) for the 2004 sale and I put it in a Bonhams sale with a reserve of £250. It didn't sell. I later sold it on ebay for £150. I felt really bad selling it but I still have 2 cards by this artist in my collection and at the time I really needed the money.

One of the people I regularly queue with says that he would only sell his secret postcards to buy other art. This chap never queues for more than 18 hours but has, in his secret postcard collection, cards by Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Nick Park. Sir Paul McCartney and Sol LeWitt amongst many others. So I guess if he were ever to sell he would make a lot of money. But I am pretty sure he never will.

One concern with the queueing system for the first 50 places in this years sale is that people will be more inclined to see the sale as a money making opportunity. I have already spoken to a number of people who have no real interest in contemporary art but have decided to buy raffle tickets in the hope that they can pick up a card by a leading artist and sell it the next day. Once you take out the "investment time" of queueing for hours it is inevitable you will get more cash hungry punters.

Anyway since it is such a repeatedly asked question I thought I would try and answer it as best I can.

Not many of the postcards by the leading lights of the RCA Secret sale have ever, to my knowledge, been sold. If anyone has any concrete information about sales that have taken place (or are going to take place) then I would love to hear it.

A comparable event was the art of care auction in 2005. This was an auction of postcard sized cards for in aid of tsunami relief. The auction took place in Scotland.

Because it was a charity event the prices realised may be slightly higher than in a normal event. Nevertheless we are given a good clue about potential values. Some of the prices realised for Secret artists are as follows:

Norman Ackroyd - £700 and £400
Elizabeth Blackadder - £800
Tracey Emin - £1,000
Anthony Frost - £350
Damien Hirst - £4,500
Paul McCartney - £1,500
Chris Orr - £380
Barbara Rae - £600
Mario Testino - £800
David Hockney - £7,200

A full list of prices realised can be found by clicking here.

As for sales of secret postcards there is a database on the rca secret yahoo group of cards sold on ebay. A John Bellany card sold for £245 and a Billy Childish card for £255. Of the less well known artists the smallest amount I have seen paid for a potscard was one by Rose Peeters that did not even make £3, and it was framed.

So the answer to the question "How much are they worth" is difficult to give. To me they are priceless.

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