Ever Heard Of Making Money From Art Flipping (Buying and Selling Art)? Well…Here Is How To Do It!

Are you ever surfing happily on the internet and come across one of those ads that will “make you rich” in an some ridiculously short amount of time?

Make four million dollars in five minutes, guaranteed!”

“I made seventeen thousand dollars while I slept last night by doing this one thing, and you can, too! 

Until last week, I was broke. I was being evicted, my children had no food, my dogs ran away, my bank closed my account because I hadn’t put any money in it for two and a half years, and I lost the last sixteen cents to my name in a manhole when I was crossing the street to get a shopping cart from Safeway for all of my belongings.”

“And then I found the most amazing website called this-is-a-scam.com! They taught me everything I had to know to make real money, and now I can teach you! Below is the copy of my first check that I received from this-is-a-scam.com.”

You’re going to teach me what you learned from this-is-a-scam.com? No, thanks, I think I’ll pass. If I don’t, I’ll will end up as broke as you were before you found this “most amazing” website; we both know that you want my one-time-only credit card number so that you can “get me started” and that once I give it to you, I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get back all of the money you steal out of my account.

Don’t advertise this (no pun intended), but I have actually spent time checking out some of the places and things that will “make me rich” (I didn’t give any personal information out, though, I’m a little more internet-savvy than that) and guess what? I’m not rich. I’m not even close.

There are, however, ways to make money on the internet that are legitimate. You won’t get scammed and you won’t lose all of your money. However, there’s no magical website, you will have to work more than five minutes to earn the money that you make, and I’m thinking that seventeen thousand bucks during one night of sleep ain’t gonna happen. (Sorry.)

There are two things I could do right now. I could sit here and name jobs that you can get on the internet to make money (which you probably would like me to do), or I could concentrate on one “sure-fire” way to do it.

I’ll take option number two, Alex, for as much money as I can make. So let’s talk about something – one thing – that will make you money, guaranteed. No scams. This is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. This is a legitimate way to make some serious money. This legitimate way to make good money is called “flipping art”.

You may have seen articles and advertisements about “flipping houses” or “flipping domains”. The premise of investing in a hot commodity and then selling it to make a profit is known as “flipping.” When you buy art low and sell it high, you are “flipping art”.

You can take a painting that cost you ten bucks at a garage sale and turn around and sell it for a thousand bucks on eBay. You can take another painting you bought on eBay for a hundred bucks and flip it for five hundred bucks. Point being, the profit margins can be huge.

The great thing about this is that you don’t have to have an art degree to make money buying and selling it. A lot of people end up really getting into it and building a lucrative business and they didn’t know anything about art when they started.

You can’t expect to go out and make money in a world that you know nothing about, either. You’re going to have to do some research. Nothing too painful, I promise you. But there is a lot of work to do to make the kind of money you do when you flip a piece of art.

I am going to make a big qualification here: In this article, we are only going to be talking about paintings. If you want to really get into flipping art, later you may want to get into sculptures, ceramics, or something other form of art, but right now, we’re starting out easy.

Okay. When you need to learn about something, you usually read about it, right? This is no different.

Let me warn you: There are two words I am going to repeat (a lot): Google and online. In the “old days”, you used to always have to go to the library to research things. I am living proof that this is no longer true; I haven’t stepped in a library to research anything since 1970-something and there was an assignment in some class that I was in.

Most you need to know is online; it’s just an easy way to research without having to go somewhere. However, if you can or want to go to the library, that’s great, too, because then you can look firsthand at the pictures, etc.

You’re going to want to start familiarizing yourself with just a few things as you start to buy paintings. You’ll want to know about artists, styles, and different types of paintings. You’ll want to focus on American Art, and whatever people are currently buying. (Google it.)

Google anything that you want to know. General or specific. If you have a question, type the whole question into the google box. (By the way, if you prefer a different search engine, go for it. It’s just that Google works so well for me; that’s why I use it.)

A good way to see what people are buying is to buy some art catalogs (eBay sells them). Google it to find out where else you can get them. One thing: In the catalogs you will find what the final auction price was for the different items you’re interested in learning about. Make sure that the catalog you’re going to buy has that in it, because some of them don’t.

Get catalogs from main auction houses, like Christie’s or Sotheby’s (they are the two best in the world). Google some other auction houses and get catalogs from them, as well.,

This will be kind of cool (and you should get used to it): Go to art auctions that are mainly about American Art, and don’t forget the point of all of this is to find out what people are currently buying.

Next, try art museums. Under American Art, look for museums that may specialize in things like Western art or  Native American Art. You may not find a lot of contemporary art. On the off chance that you do, go to museums that specialize in them.

These are just a few places to learn; get creative or google to find more.

Where can I buy art (cheaply)? 

Now that you have an idea of what art to look for, here’s some places that you can go.

You’re going to need money; take cash. I’d take $300.00; it gives you enough money to buy what you may find; in addition, if you find something you like and the seller wants more than you have, you have enough to leave a deposit and go run to an ATM for the remaining balance.

Some sellers take debit and/or credit cards, but a lot of them don’t. The main thing is to have enough money to buy something you may want.

Also,it might be good to carry twenties (or some combination of small denominations). That way when you pull our your money, someone doesn’t see that you have hundred dollar bills and get the idea that that you can afford more than you want to spend. That’s just a theory; just do what’s comfortable for you.


I don’t know if you have ever dealt with Craigslist, but if you haven’t, it is a great place to find everything you need, and I mean everything.

When you go to Craigslist (just google it and put in the area you live in), on the front page, you will see a ton of things to buy, rent, sell, etc.  First, though, look at the left side. The second option down is all about how to not get scammed. It is very important that you know all about scams on Craigslist! Have a look at the personal safety section, as well. The whole point is to make money, not to get ripped off or hurt.

This tip is probably in there, but try and meet in a public place; since you don’t know these people, you probably don’t want them knowing where you live.

Don’t let any of this scare you! It’s just better to be safe than sorry.

Okay. Now go to the ‘For Sale’ section. If you need a job and a place to live and some activities in your community, great, you can go to those categories, too, but right now you are going to see if there is anybody selling art you might be interested in.

The thing about Craigslist is that you have to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. People honestly don’t know what they’re selling a lot of the time (they didn’t read this article!) and so you may be able to pick up some great deals.

You need to narrow it down (don’t look for art under electronics, you probably won’t find any), and there are three different categories that you can look under:

Art, Collectibles, and Arts and Crafts.

To narrow it down even further, you can type in things that relate to paintings:

Pastels, Watercolors, Oil, and Limited Edition Prints (or just Prints). Look up more if you want to. 

Estate Sales.

You will notice when you are browsing around that some of the art is listed in estate sales. This is one of the best (if not the best) places to go to find some art! An estate sale is usually held when someone passes away, and if there is an estate sale listed by a private party (the professional ones don’t haggle and probably know what they’re doing) and something interests you, go!

When you go to an estate sale, there are important things to know, like when you get there and if you need to be on a list to get to see things. Look these up beforehand so that you’re not surprised when you get there!

Go to EstateSales.net to find estate sales near you.

Garage sales.

Try garage sales, too. People have no idea what their stuff is worth, and that’s what you are looking for. You can find garage sales listed in the classifieds of your local paper, or on Craigslist. If you can, go to the better areas of town.

Go to GarageTracker.com or GarageSaleHunter.com to find some in your immediate area.

Flea Markets or Swap Meets.

Flea markets or swap meets are great places to look. The sellers will haggle, too; maybe not a lot, but they will haggle.

Go to FindAFleaMarket.com to see when there is going to be one in your area.

Antique stores. 

Here’s another one to try: Antique stores. Try and find the ones that are messy and not so rigid. Some owners will not haggle at all and only cater to the very wealthy. The messy antique stores have things in places that are hidden away, so don’t be shy about peeking under things, and don’t have any qualms about haggling!

To find them, google antique sales and your area, or try USAntiqueDealer.com.

Thrift stores.

You know a great place to go? Goodwill! My niece goes all the time and hits the jackpot once in awhile – and I mean a jackpot. Ask someone where you can find the art, and if you can’t find any, do what you do when you go to the shoe store and you can’t find your size: “Do you have any in the back?”

My niece only frequents the Goodwills that are located in (extremely?) wealthy neighborhoods. A lot of people don’t know what they are donating and you may end up getting an exceptionally valuable piece for next to nothing.

Any thrift store is good, really.


And of course, there’s always (and always will be) Ebay. Using everything you know, check out the art under Art, Antiques, and Collectibles. 

If you have never dealt with eBay, then go open and account and play around a little. A couple of things to know; If you should find a seller that deals with the artist that you want, or the type of American Art that you want, then put them under Favorite Sellers. When you have a search that hits everything just right, put it under Saved Searches.

Do those two things and it will save a lot of time because you can go back to the places you want to without having to go through the whole search all over again.

Not to be morbid, but try to look for artists that are – well – dead. (Sorry.) If you focus your searches on from like 1800 through 1970; that will help. The point is to look for art that has proven auction records (more on that in a minute).

Note: Make sure to get some bidding software (google it for a good, free type). That way you can “be at the auction” when you’re not; it’ll do all your bidding for you – right down to the last minute.

Always try to get an original (avoid reproductions) and even then, make sure that it is by doing your own research, starting with the information you get by the description.

With all of these places to look, you may not find anything on a day that you go. So go the next day! Just keep trying; you’ll get a good hit somewhere.

How you can see what it’s worth. 

You’re not an art appraiser. How can you tell if something is worth buying?

The cardinal rule: If it seems to good to be true, it is. Walk away from it.

Here are ways to authenticate a painting. Google each one for their particulars and how to go about establishing what you need to know about them.


Provenance. (Where it’s from, etc.)


Signatures: Go to ArtValue.com and look up the artist. If the artist has at least five auctions to his name, that’s good. You don’t want an artist who has never sold a painting.

Next, go to the website of one of the auction houses that I mentioned and, using their zoom tool, zoom in on the signature and make sure that it is close to the original signature. There can be some variation, but not much. Any real doubts, pass.

If there is no signature on the front, check the back. Sometimes there will be a painting with both. No signature anywhere? Pass.

Size matters.

Anything taller than 60 inches is too big. I remember going to a gallery opening and finding a painting I have never wanted so much in my life. It was gorgeous: Modern, contemporary, and perfect for my living room. It was also seven feet tall. Enough said.

What sells well.

Certain subjects sell better than others:

Good looking people.

Native American art.

Western art.

Light and airy paintings: Meadows, sunny paintings, pastels, flowers, etc. No dark paintings.

Miscellaneous stuff.

There are so many things that go into the value of a painting:

Can it be restored? How old is it? What’s its style? Who exactly is your artist? Did he study under someone famous? Is the signature authentic? Research every possible thing you can before you go looking.

You need to know art terms; this is a very important part of your research. There are many references that you will want to know; googling and reading will tell you what you need to know.

When you can, try and talk to gallery owners, auctioneers, etc. about anything regarding to art. A lot of people are only too happy to “tutor” you in some very important ways that you may not think of.

Where should I sell my art?

Finally! The final step that makes the research and work you’ve done worth it.

There are many places that you can sell your art.

Auction houses.

This should be your number one place to sell. I mentioned Christie’s and Sotheby’s; there is also Bonham and Butterfields, which is famous for American Art. You can google auction houses and find others.

See if you can sell your piece by consignment. This means that you list your piece with them, and if they sell it, they take a portion of the sale price. See if you can lower what they want for their portion. Some of them will.

Sometimes an auction house will not want your piece. (How rude.) If that happens, ask them if they know of someone else that would be interested.

If they want your piece, you are on your way to the flip! They will need to photograph and catalog it; send the piece one to two months ahead of the auction. They will provide you with a consignment contract; google that to see what one looks like.

You can put a reserve on your piece. What that means is that it cannot be sold under the price you want to get for it. Factor in your time, what it cost, the house percentage, and all of your expenses.

It’s a good idea to put a reserve on your painting; that way, at least you’ll break even. After all of your hard work, you don’t want to (say this softly) lose money.

Make sure that you check with the auction house on all of the particulars, such as insurance, when they pay, etc.


Look up dealers that specialize in American Art. Go meet them; get to know them. You want to look like an expert, so don’t call one that doesn’t even sell it. Another thing to research: Where are the dealers in my area that would like my piece?

Be careful of scam dealers. If they ask you weird questions or if your gut just says no, then heed its warning.

Try not to give a price. Ask them to make you an offer first. If you say that you want two thousand for a piece, you won’t get it. If you have to give a price, start high. You can always negotiate down to the price you wanted in the beginning. As I always say, “I may be high, you may be low, so somewhere in the middle we have a deal.”


A great place to sell, as well as buy. In fact, I think it’s better to sell. (That’s only my humble opinion.) Just remember all of the warnings about scams, etc., especially when collecting the money. Top two: No Western Union and don’t ship anything anywhere.


Of course I had to put in Ebay! Obviously, it’s a proven place to sell. Make sure you put all information into the listing – all of it. Add tons of pictures and make sure your terms of sale are clear. Most seller take Paypal, but if you want to take debit or credit cards, that’s okay, too, just make sure that you lay it out.

In addition, figure out how you are going to charge shipping and make sure you are clear about that, as well.

List an explicit return policy.

Always get insurance!

You should probably have a reserve price; as I said, this is so that you don’t undersell. Cover your expenses.

By the way, if you want to sell something for a lot of money (say $25,000.00), Ebay may not be the best place to do it. Check and see how much the average painting sells for and if anyone ever gets anywhere near the price that you want for the piece.

Flipping art. Your mind is probably mush by now, because yes, I have given you a lot to think about. But think about this:

The more research you do, the more knowledgeable you become. The more knowledgeable you are on the whole process of flipping art, the more you’ll make. You have the potential to make chunks of money that will let you do a lot of things that you never could before.

Finally – again – this process really works.  So go flip some art!

P.S. I read a great eBook by Alexander Murrow about art flipping that I really think you should get if you want to make some serious cash in this industry.  Alexander has been a fine art dealer based out of Southern California with extensive experience in art flipping. He has flipped hundreds of paintings, sculptures, prints, and more. His primary interest is California Impressionism and Western art. By the way, a free chapter of his eBook is available on his website makemoneyflippingart.com.

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