Selling Art on eBay: Is it worth it?

Published Nov. 16th 2006

Ebay Art PageI came across this topic a while back on William Lehman’s blog, Artist Hideout. (William now writes for

He wrote that he was going to attempt a trial run and put a painting of his own on eBay, and I admit I’m curious as to his results. When I looked into eBay a few years ago as a viable way to promote and sell my art, I came away a little disappointed.

Despite the huge amount of traffic and all the potential buyers who visit the site every day, I found that thousands of paintings went unsold every week and those that did sell were primarily works by famous artists.

After reading William’s post I went back to eBay to see if anything had changed in 2 years. I narrowed my selection in the Art category to original paintings, oil paintings, and listed by artist, and then checked the option for completed listings.

This brought up a little over 3800 paintings, all of them supposedly listed by the original artists. The prices showed a disturbing trend, although there was a slightly higher number of sold paintings than I had expected. While the most expensive painting on the list was $4,900 (it didn’t sell, the auction simply ended) the prices began to drop off very quickly.

After scanning the list of completed items, I found that about 70% of them had ended with under a hundred dollars bid on them, with half of all completed items ending at fifty dollars or less.

Plus, I estimated that at most only 20% of all the paintings listed actually sold. A high number of those that sold were featured items which may have helped, and many of them had the artist’s name prominently featured, indicating that name recognition was contributing as well.

From those results, I think that it’s almost impossible for relatively unknown artists to sell their work on eBay for over $50. For that amount there probably wouldn’t be a lot left over after the cost of canvas, paints, listing fees, and eBay’s percentage of the sale, much less a good hourly wage for the artist’s time.

For those of you interested in selling your art online, I’ve put together a chart comparing some of the top art-selling websites. And if you know of a good website that’s helped you sell your work online, feel free to contact me.

As for you art collectors looking for great deals, be very careful. A few months ago I found this satirical article about art fraud on eBay. To say the least, I was disturbed by the methods that the author mentioned and appalled at the apparent ease with which fake art is used to scam inexperienced buyers.

Please don’t take that article seriously by the way, it is a fake tutorial after all, and not intended to train you in the “art” of art fraud.

KiwiAnd, moving from fraud to fowl, this week on Drawn! (a blog devoted to illustration, cartooning, and drawing) I found a 3 minute video by Dony Permedi which you can watch here on YouTube.

It’s an animated short about a Kiwi bird that. . . well, I really don’t want to spoil it, so just take my advice and go see it, you won’t be disappointed.

And check back tomorrow for How to Judge Art.

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