For starters, you could buy one of the annual price-guide books that list recent auction sales for thousands of different artists. These will give you only a ballpark idea, because some pieces by an artist are obviously better than others, but the books are still very helpful-especially if you're looking for art off the beaten path, in places where you have to make snap decisions.
Another way is to subscribe to one of the Internet services, such as Artnet, that give auction results as well as descriptions of the work. This is somewhat better than a price guide, because it gives you more detailed information.
If you're buying a multiple -- such as a print or a bronze cast -- you might also want to check the Internet to see if a different gallery or auction house is offering another example of the same thing. See what they're charging.
When your taste is higher than your budget
Suppose you have very high-end taste: The art you covet isn't in the local gallery; it's in the National Gallery. But your budget is strictly peanut gallery. That doesn't mean you're limited to framed Monet posters forever. You can still buy real artart that you can both enjoy and afford.
Sometimes it's as easy as looking at which artists inspired each other. Maybe you can't own Van Gogh, but you can buy one of the Japanese prints that influenced his style. Prices start at about $ioo. If you love the Pre-Raphaelite painters, you'll probably like Belle Epoque posters that were inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and share many of the same design elements.
You can also appease your craving for high-end art by looking for less-expensive types of art from the same era. If you love Surrealist painting, for example, consider Surrealist photography, which has fewer zeros in the price tag.
Sometimes being priced out of one type of art can open your eyes to something you didn't know about -- and like just as much.
Hang your art like a pro with tips from STYLE AT HOME magazine.
Excerpted from The Intrepid Art Collector by Lisa Hunter Copyright (c) 2006 by Lisa Hunter. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.