The Importance of Your Signature and the COA

Colleen Gray #AFAPColleen #certificate of authenticity

If you hold onto your entire collection of work and never sell it, that’s a wonderful thing if it makes you happy. But if you plan to sell your work, two things become important. Your signature and the Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

What’s your sign?

As an artist, your signature is the punctuation at the end of your creation. You’re not obligated to sign your work, but for the consumer or collector, that signature is a deeply personal part of you that is attached to the work. No matter if you have the handwriting of a physician or a formal scribe, go ahead and sign your work. In the beginning it might feel awkward, you might struggle with how to sign your name. Signing a rental agreement is nothing like signing your creation. There’s an inner ego struggle at first …”Who do I think I am to believe that someone might value my signature?” but eventually, that struggle becomes pride in placing your name in just the right spot on the work, or inventing some cool way to sign your work that quietly states who you are as an artist. When you sign your work and sell it, the signature tells the world, “This is good to go. I’m proud of it.”

For some, there is an ache in application of signing finished art much the way the ending of a beautiful song or story can leave one wanting more. Developing your own personal signature is a work in progress for many, and it’ll likely change a handful of times before you’re ready to get married to it. To the person who will be taking your work home, more often than not your signature is valuable beyond your ability to measure because the connection between your art and the person buying it is deeply personal.

The Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

When you create a piece of work that you intend to sell, a certificate of authenticity (COA) is an important document. The COA can include details about the work that the artist wants the customer to know, such as the creation date, medium, title, artist notation, etc. Always sign and date your COA.  

The certificate offers the customer a sense of something concrete that they can hold onto which speaks about their purchase and the details of the work for future reference. It’s also easier to take a certificate out of the drawer than to take the art off the wall and read the back.

Sometimes the COA can move a buyer ahead in the decision to purchase – Certificates of Authenticity can speak to art collectors about the value of the work they are purchasing and the professionalism of the artist who created it.

How do you make a COA?

To make your own COA, you can use pretty much anything. There are plenty of templates on the internet. But one of the pitfalls is that a plain text template certificate can be forged fairly easily. If you’re not afraid to design a little, Microsoft Word can help you to make an easy personalized template.  

Here’s how:

1) Take a picture of your art (trim it in your editing software so you have a clean pic – there are many phone apps that will let you do this if you’re working with a phone).

2) On a desktop, open MS Word to a new document.  Go to Page Layout. Scroll over to Watermark. Scroll down to Custom Watermark. Picture Watermark. Select Picture. Scale: Auto. Select Washout. Apply.

3) You now have a watermark behind your text of the very image being sold. Go ahead and create your text and include the above mentioned suggestions, print, and voila, you have a COA. You can also keep a draft copy of this for your files and write notes on the back of each COA (price sold, to whom, when, etc.)

4) If you are not computer savy, but still want to make a COA for your work, you can write out a document that outlines the details of the work, sign it, date it and if possible, attach an image of you with the art. A COA can be created in many formats and will stand as proof of your work.

There’s a bit more work involved in offering a certificate with your sales, but your customer will appreciate and remember it. It’s good marketing for your career.



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