Collecting Aviation Art: A dying market?

Collecting Aviation Art
Hey guys & gals,
  I have been thinking about this topic quite a bit lately and wanted to hear   your thoughts on this. Over the past couple of years we have seen a decline in releases and numbers of editions being put out each year by aviation artist. Do you think the decline of WWII veterans signed prints will also have an impact and cripple the market even more? I have only been collecting aviation art, mainly WWII pieces, for about 15 years and pray it doesn't come to that. I know with our WWII veterans passing away each day at an alarming rate it puts a strain on obtaining signatures on some, hope to be, still new released prints in the future. I know one of the the biggest attractions for me when buying a print are the signatures on it. Would like to hear your thoughts as well.
14/03/2015 15:49:22
My first point.   The death of the veteran-signed print market has been greatly exaggerated (to borrow a phrase).   From what I understand, major publishers have a considerable stock of signed print paper.   I think we will be seeing WW2 veteran-signed prints for many years to come.
  My second point.   The aviation art market rises and falls with the state of the economy.   Aviation art is a luxury if there ever was one.   No one needs it.   Those kind of things tend to sell well when times are good.   The worldwide economy has been pretty poor since about 2007, and is only now seeming to break into territory that a rational observer could begin to call "good".   I suspect the market will pick up a bit as times get better.
  My third point.   I don't think it will ever go back to those heady days in the late 80s & 90s.   Think about how many hundreds of thousands of prints have been released over the last 25 years.   Enough to just about fully satisfy the aviation art market, that's for sure.   My advice to anyone thinking about releasing a print - it better be damn good - otherwise don't even bother!
  My fourth point.   The end of the signature-driven aviation art market could be a liberating experience!   Do you know why we never see aviation art portraying the Soviets, the Japanese, the Italians, and all the other extremely significant aspects of WW2 aviation history?   Because publishers didn't have anyone to sign them, that's why.   All we've been getting for the last 25 years is an endless repetition of the Battle of Britain, the 8th Air Force, and the Luftwaffe largely due to the focus on signatures.   Once signatures are no longer the first consideration of publishers, perhaps other interesting and significant aspects of the war will get their due.   Also, once the signed print is no longer the focus of the aviation art market, I think collectors will grow toward original art.   I'm actually looking forward to that future!
15/03/2015 00:11:30
Wow, that's quite a question you posed.   The response might vary based on where the collector's interests lie - almost along the lines of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".   This hobby/passion has many variations, and areas of specialty.   Certainly signed prints are a major aspect, but some folks might collect unsigned prints simply because they like the artist and the subject.   Others might focus on remarques. Or pencil drawings. Or ink drawings.   Or model box art.   In my case, I enjoy collecting original paintings, by both current artists and some that go back to the early days of the aviation art genre (I can honestly say I don't own a single print, signed or otherwise).   And like so many things these days, aviation art continues to evolve.   We're seeing more and more digital art on eHangar, and the quality of some of the work is phenomenal.   Granted, it might not be to every collector's taste, but then again, neither are signed prints, or pencil drawings, etc etc etc.
  One person's opinion.   It would be great to hear what other eHangar members have to say on this topic, including some from  the artist community.   Great question!
17/03/2015 17:16:34
My reply is based on my experience as a collector from the late 1980s who took some time off and is now getting back into the hobby.
  Not really looking at the newer stuff so much and my focus is remarques.   But I buy what I like.   Signatures are great and a consideration but for me it is the image.   I have to want to look at it on my wall or I won't buy it.   Original paintings are not something that I will likely be able to afford but I certainly have grown to love original pencil drawings and at least those are within budget.
  Just getting back in, I am amazed at the variety and quality that is available.   I think a lot of the folks that got started in the 80s and 90s are retiring and letting go of their collections.   Great older classics along with fantastic remarqued prints are in abundance.   The thing that shocks me are the prices.   I do love a bargain of course, but the prices that some of these works are going for indicate to me a lack of buyers.   That may be the economy or that may be the decline of the hobby but it is still a definite downward trend IMHO.   Last night, I watched a John Shaw print of Hornets Nest in good condition with many Doolittle raid signatures and a very large B25 remarque go for $350!   I purchased a copy of his God Shed His Grace on Thee print with the signatures of 27 American heroes AND a very nice P38 remarque for $218.   I know it is not sold out and maybe not that popular but the price seems crazy low when you think what Shaw gets for a remarque now.
  I'm sticking around because I love this stuff regardless of how the hobby goes.   But I am beginning to think that the future looks pretty bleak in terms of value.   Just one man's opinion, hope I am wrong.   We all (including me) need to do a better job of supporting the young artists I think for the sake of the hobby.   Meanwhile, I am lovin the low prices!
17/03/2015 21:05:58
Yes - but did you also see what a copy of the print "The Regensburg Mission" by Gil Cohen sold for on eBay the very same day?
  That's an extraordinary price.  
  Be careful drawing any conclusions from individual auctions on eBay.   I look at eBay as a statistical process.   You can draw conclusions on price trends from a statistically significant sample size of auctions (i.e. a whole lot of them), but it's tricky to conclude anything definite from one or two auction results.   The result of a particular auction or two can really be skewed by various factors - was the print damaged?, do buyers have confidence in that particular seller?, was there something peculiar about the listing that prevented it from popping up in common searches?, etc.
  Having bought & sold a few aviation collectables on eBay myself, I can say that with experience.    On occasion,  I'm scratching my head asking, "How did that sell so low?"   Other  occasions I'm wondering, "How did that go so high?"   Over the long term and over many auctions, though, eBay is a  decent indicator of the market.
  That being said, I will  say prices are generally pretty good right now.   It's not a bad time to do a little bidding  on things you like.
  Nice acquisition on "God Shed His Grace On Thee".   That's one of John's early prints, but as far as I know it has not sold out.   You can't beat $218 for one with a P-38 Remarque!
17/03/2015 21:53:31
Fuzzy, I certainly wouldn't argue any of your points.   Just my humble opinion and  the view from my foxhole based on my own buying and selling in the last few months.   Even if the number of new releases has dropped off in recent years, there is still a vast array of quality products available, both old and new.   I guess my point of view is it's a great time to be a buyer and I certainly was not complaining about that!  
18/03/2015 01:27:32
I agree with many points stated above. There is no question that economy and inflation are huge influences on the health/decline of the aviation art market. There is also no question that there are significantly fewer print releases these days which is an indicator of the state of the hobby. Signatures were a huge driver in the print market but seem to be a little less so even as some print houses have a stash of signature sheets. I was told that private commissions for original paintings (at least for the top artists) is still very strong (in some cases even more than in the past). High-dollar multi-sig prints also sell out quickly. Its the mid-range that seems to be hurting. This is completely true across the board in all business. Mid-range (middle-class) is a challenge. No attempt here to be political, just middle class disposable income is more limited than ever. Yep, a good time for deals on eBay and the like but I believe the investment aspect of the hobby is largely gone/done. Publishers re-releasing    sold-out editions    on canvas might look awesome but I know it has infuriated many collectors! More artists are opting/forced to set up their own websites/web-sales which has some good points. Quality print on demand/glicee is also having an influence on expectations, sizing, no need for stock quantities, etc. Hopefully some artists will chime in. I own WAAAAAY more prints than I will ever have wall space for so my print buying has reduced by 90% and I can tell it will stay that way for quite some time.
18/03/2015 21:17:36
Collecting Aviation Art: A dying market?
  This is a very interesting subject, some great opinions and insight all of which are true. Yes, without a doubt it is dead already compared to the heydays. As already stated it is partly due to economics, the declining middle class, deposable income and some disillusionment amongst collectors on the sanctity of    limited editions    I think the most damaging influence is simply supply and demand, driven by demographics and subject interest. The generation who created the demand largely lived through WWII or were borne soon thereafter. This generation had an interest in WWII and its flying heroes particularly the ability to buy prints signed by them, creating an historic document.   Granted there are exceptions to this group who enjoy Aviation Art, people in the military, ex military, people with a keen interest in History and people who just like collecting. This interest group is far fewer than the generation who drove up the original demand.
  Supply increased to meet demand with many Artists establishing themselves, RT came from a restoration and Naval Art background and NT from a Locomotive background, many other Artist jumped on the growing interest. As demand accelerated they were releasing multiple around 8, high print runs (1,000/1,250) a year. This worked well from the mid eighties to towards the end of the nineties, peak buying for this demographic group. Over this period literally hundreds of thousands of prints were released. Once they slowed buying as they moved into retirement the market gradually slide to its current moribund state. Will it ever recover, frankly no, unless something drives a lot of interest which is unlikely. As an example how many films have been released with WWII subjects compared to 20 to 30 years ago and what is the interest level.
  So demand has declined significantly but on the other side of the equation supply is increasing on the secondary market again driven by demographics. The generation who created the original demand is now in late retirement wishing to sell their collections or their collections have moved to their estates. The problem is demand is now very much weaker. If you look at when Pat Barnard sold the Military Gallery his timing was great, he clearly anticipating the decline
  This is all very sad, the damage can be seen on eBay and other sites were the same old prints come up week after week and month after month with not a hope of selling at the asking price. The vast majority of prints will never realize their original release price. There are hundreds of thousands of them out there with no real demand. It is not all bad news; some prints continue to do well and always will. In general they have in common, good artistry, good signatures and generally popular subjects, Dambusters, Doolittle Raiders and Luftwaffe Easter Front (high scores) subjects. Or they are very limited releases which will always be scarce with sufficient demand to keep prices up.
  Why some specific older releases do well besides being popular subjects with good signatures leads to another aspect of supply. These are in more limited supply due to their release dates being before collecting had really taken off and collecting for investment (never a good idea) was not even thought about. Many were framed, a lot badly and other were damaged over time due to poor handling or stored incorrectly in tubes. There are a limited number of these prints in good condition and very few near mint condition. Again supply is limited and prices hold well. In addition, these releases were made when the Artists were in their prime and represent some of the best of their work.   It all comes back to demographics.
19/03/2015 17:27:33

Hi Taylor Prints,

First thanks for your many posts, especially on Remarques        as a collector who started in 2014I have learned a ton from you. On the comments here about the market for Aviation Art today a few make perfect sense while others I find puzzling        particularly those about economics. Not sure what country you a writing from but here in the US the economy is incredibly strong, real wage growth expanding, unemployment at the lowest levels and the stock market at all-time highs. The money needed to support our genre is out there        and plentiful.

I align completely with your generational remarks. In my office I have a couple RTs on the wall and to the millennials WWII might as well be the Spanish-American war. They have little awareness of WWII or personal interest. The only exception to that is among pilots (I have 1400 hrs, many in vintage) where at places like Oshkosh you can meet a young person who gets excited about a P-51 and possibly a picture of one. But for the vast majority of the younger generation Me 109s, Zeros, Lancasters, and Sptifires are all ancient history and they could care less.

Where the economics come into play is the boomer generation shifting to fixed income. 10,000 boomers retire each week in the US and their discretionary income for everything shifts to a more fixed model it means the prices of this specific genre will continue to fall.

14/10/2018 09:25:14
Dear collectors what you have written and ' true,but' i also think that the merchants of art that sell tons of prints to be made for around for many years,have ruined the world of aviationart,have created a monopoly and a shameful to sell. Just look at the numbers of runs of prints to understand. Then when the market began to slow down came up with reprints with a pencil drawing of the artist to try to make only one print. What collectors are asking to have something unique that others do not have.But i wonder and'better to have a printout with the signing of the pilot preferred edition of hundreds of pieces and expensive or even begin to buy paintings by artists who are not famous in prices of a print to hang on the wall,thinking that what i bought did not have anyone. Them out there are many artists who do some wonderful work but who are not considered because they do not have the signature of the pilot on their work, i believe that today in 2015 this has more sense.                  Eros
20/03/2015 15:36:43
I don't buy on eBay but I do searches sometimes and I always wonder why so many print sellers stick to high asking prices for so long when a "completed listing" search shows so few sales????   Do a completed listing search of Robert Taylor prints and you will see.   At what point does the lack of movement of product result is lowering the prices?   
20/03/2015 19:09:35

Hi CBI. Long time lurker, first time poster. About 20% of my collection was acquired through eBay and most negotiated. Selecting        contact seller        and asking if they are open to a lower than        buy it now        price. For a seller who has re-listed the same print multiple times they might feel this is the best (only) offer they have seen in a long time and pull the trigger. I bought an RT1 remarqued piece this week for 1/3 the ask. Happy hunting!

09/09/2018 08:47:12
I often wonder if the overwhelming aviation art popularity of Battle of Britain/Doolittle Raid/Dambuster Raid/Eastern Front Luftwaffe is  truly based on collector interest, or if it was simply driven by what aviation art publishers chose to offer based on availability of signatures?
  It certainly seems to be that way for aviation art, but other aspects of aviation interest don't really reflect the same intense focus on those few subjects.
  Take books for example.   Check out the aviation/military section of a good bookstore or online store and you will find a very wide variety of subjects, and not just those select few.
  Take models for example.   Check out a hobby shop or online store and you will find a stunning array of kits - almost anything you can imagine - not just Spitfires/Me-109s/Mustangs/B-17s/Lancasters.
  Obviously, the main aviation art themes & aircraft are universally popular.   However, other areas of aviation interest offer a much  more diverse  array of subject matter.
  I think the signatures have skewed this hobby into such a narrow focus on a handful of aviation topics.   I also think this repetitiveness has contributed to our current market malaise.  
  You say there's another B-17 print coming out?   Meh...   (Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care.)
23/03/2015 01:24:43
CBI - Lowering prices means less profit and Ebay is not a cheap place to sell. Especially when they started charging you a final selling fee on your postal costs !
  I traded on Ebay for around 4 years and just discounted and discounted until prints sold. I probably got my money back, but certainly did not make any profit. So what was the point bothering in the first place ?
  I still use Ebay but only for genuine 'sale' items that I'm offering and as a marketing tool to let people know I exist. It works as I had a very large order a couple of months back which started with the customer seeing my Ebay adverts. And I have sold a small number of big ticket items like Robert Taylors Malta George Cross Set through Ebay which does make it worthwhile even if there are only a few of these a year.
  So I keep a few adverts on there - no shop, its cheaper just to stick them on for a month and then re-apply them again. Just do not ask me for a price reduction !
23/04/2015 22:50:37
I also wonder just how much of the market contraction is down to the recession. I started collecting around 2001 and whenever I wanted to pass on a print, I never had an issue selling it or getting a good price. I found a lot of my sales were coming from the USA and Canada in particular.
  I started my little business just before the recession hit. In a way I saw it coming, as I noticed sales to the USA and Canada just simply stopped dead. The UK soon followed.
  As has been mentioned, amongst the more general population interest in AV Art has diminished as people have had to concentrate on the art of living & surviving. I also think that we as a hobby / business are going to have to work at it a lot more to drive that interest up.
  I think 'Taylor Prints' comment "Will it ever recover, frankly no, unless something drives a lot of interest which is unlikely" is a little fatalistic, in that its up to us to do that !
  I recently went to a Militaria Fair here in the UK. I had two portfolio folders full of prints ranging from just   10 to   250. All of the enthusiasts were busy buying guns, knives and clothing. Only a handful of them actually looked through the prints. No-one bought any and I was the only stall selling them. Am I going to go there again - Yes. I think we have become too complacent expecting the market to come to us.  
  In a way its a bit like Ehanger. It did drop off many peoples radar and went the way AV Art has. But it seems to be picking up again. I'm back. So are others. How can we expect people to be interested in AV Art when a website and forum dedicated to it sees a reduction in its popularity and useage ? The point I'm making is I think its just a sign of the times. As I think Fuzzy mentioned, when money is tight, no-one is going to spend it on something that hangs on a wall.
  The recession is not over yet but things are slowly improving. The AV Market will be different, but as people have the disposal income to spend once again, I'm confident it will still be there !
24/04/2015 09:56:14
I think the market may go more high end. Remarque, Multiple Signature prints and Canvas Giclee.
  Some of the older unpopular prints, that are still available at RRP, may end up being purchased for the signatures , which could be Do It Yourself matted to some of the more popular editions. If you are not afraid to cut up prints for the signatures, you could create some nice multi matted pieces for a lot cheaper than those offered by a dealer.  
  Canvas prints are big and bold and all about the picture..... and they can be produced one at a time. I think they are here to stay, but I don't think they will ever increase in value after purchase.
10/06/2015 21:32:49
It will be interesting to see if canvas prints will increase in value.   I think a few can.   
  In order for that to happen, here is what is needed.   First it must be a great image.   Second, it must be a great reproduction.   I've seen some canvases that don't look all that great, and I can't imagine collectors seeking those out.   Third, it will have to be a truly limited edition.   The GW canvas of Into The Teeth Of The Tiger was an edition of 200, and that is way too many.
  An example of the kind of canvas I have in mind is Gil Cohen's Rosie's Crew.   A spectacular image, large at 40 inches wide, a beautiful reproduction with the added feature of artist applied brush strokes, and a very limited edition of 20.   Any B-17 fan would love it.
  I have recently seen RT's Channel Dash at secondary market price on a dealer's website.
13/06/2015 18:48:07
I've never got into the canvas prints. I'd still rather spend my limited funds on a  multi-signed or Remarque print.
  I've seen one or two canvas and yes the colour and quality is great, but veteran signed prints are what started me collecting, and its that touch of authenticity, that it has been signed by someone involved that tugs at my strings.
  I do find it sad that there are  many older prints still available  from stock. Coulson's Op Jericho with 18 signatures ! Still readily available. Taylors Eagles On The Channel Front - A great image. The Malta George Cross editions to name just a few.
  Does  this show how the interest in AV art has waned over the years, or could it be that they were  and still are, priced too high for the average collector when you look at the RRP  ?
  DC, I think it would be sad if not criminal, if some of these fabulous prints were destroyed just for the signatures.
  I once asked a dealer if he had any Jericho signatures available for matting with a watercolour I had on the raid. No was the answer, but I could buy Coulson's print with its 18 signatures and cut them out ! I was horrified that this was the attitude of one of the biggest dealers out there ! I have to admit, when they bring out these special editions with about 20 matted signatures I do wonder were they have really come from ?
13/06/2015 23:53:52
100% it is dying....its not like it was in the 80s and there still a market yes sure...but it just aint the same...will one day a greater interest happen making aviation art more of an investment and valuable...yes I think I will...when? Who knows...many younger folks do not appreciate war subjects like in the old days...a hundred years from now I'm sure some of these prints will be much more valuable......i could go on and on...for me its a sad subject somewhat too
02/01/2016 20:39:23
Yes - the market is not the same as the 80s & 90s - how could it possibly be?  
  Back then, aircrew signed aviation art prints were a new thing.   For example, Robert Taylor's print offerings consisted of a few dozen titles.   30 years later, Robert Taylors print offerings number in the many hundreds of titles.   Same for many other publishers and artists.   Clearly, that is enough product to satisfy the market.
  There is still a good amount of demand out there.   However, there is now an immense supply that has been created over the last 30 to 40 years to satisfy it.
  In some ways, a tougher market is a good thing.   I can still remember leafing through those Aviation Art magazines in the 90s, and finding many well-done aviation prints, but also being surprised by how many bad prints there were.   I think that was a sure sign of an overheated, and unsustainable, market.   Just throw a print out there, regardless of quality, and it will probably sell.   Those days are over, and that's good.
02/01/2016 23:37:55
Hello Forum!!
  Been quite some time and I thought that I would check in and report that I am fine. Well, mentally...
  In regards to your question: I feel that aviation art has run its course and the decline is from the market not being able ti withstand what it once did about 15 years ago when it was booming. Many artists, myself included, have had to reduce their print numbers if doing any at all as the printing cost was tough to eat when the prints do not move. My being told to diversify by many, notably my wife and Bill Phillips, (c'mon now, who would not listen here) who said he saw the decline in the market  years ago and changed  his direction to become more well rounded and it has worked very well for him. But he IS Bill Phillips after all...the man can flat out paint!  
  In short, my first love is aviation art, but I have had to and will continue to press other venues to make myself a better well rounded artist, such as working with more charcoal and western art pieces, but always trying to keep aviation in the picture.
  Having the pilots/participants die off does not help, but that should not drive sales. The art has to be good enough, and if it is, it will sell without the signatures IMO. Cut signatures help and I have a good collection of these to use on my upcoming original  pencil/charcoal drawings. Having signatures adds an authentic realism and prints have a solid monetary value with them on it, but with good solid art the market can survive. Keep collecting please, we artists need you guys who help keep us focused and eager to put our wrk out there.
  I am so happy to see many of the regulars back on here, and I promise to be more interactive within the Hangar.
12/01/2016 04:15:04
Great discussion!
  This topic has come up before, but the proof is in the pudding:   time has not lessened the demand for quality work, period.
  Brian and others bring up great points - fine art in general is a luxury item, and while artists should NEVER "give away" (heavily discount) their work based on the whims of a fluctuating economy (there are several professional reasons not to slide your prices up and down the scale week to week or month to month), smart, i.e., time, money, and quality productive diversification is definitely key to ultimate success in that same floundering economy.
  You find what works and sells, and what you enjoy doing, and you push the throttle levers forward.   For several reasons, I no longer offer new limited edition lithos or giclees, preferring to concentrate on expanding/diversifying my smaller drawing and book remarque portfolios in recent years in addition to spending more time on 'finished' (for sale) studies as part of my big projects.
  Of course, my larger commissioned paintings are the 'anchor' of my business.   I do offer many open-edition prints via a third party vendor in addition to my remaining stock of l/e prints, but long story short I'm investing my studio time now in producing original works, from my large book remarques and Vignette drawing series on toned papers (both of the latter are works drawn from wartime photos to significantly reduce my time investment and thus the cost to a much wider base of collectors) to my large original oils with scenes totally composed from scratch.   Been that way for 3-4 years now, and I'm busy as ever!
  To answer OP's question:   First, Aviation Art is not just prints - that's where "the galleries" dropped the ball big time, unlike pretty much the brokers of all other genres of fine art!   And, thus, aerospace art - quality aerospace art - is *not* dead.   Bank on it!
13/01/2016 01:08:36