animation art of the 20th century traditionally has been one of the hottest areas in the collectibles market


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals MagazineCollectibles > Feature: Placing a Value on American Animation Art


What to look for - what is current

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Placing a Value on Animation Art
Jiminy Cricket Animation Cel, 1959
Jiminy Cricket
animation cel, 1959

American animation art of the 20th century traditionally has been one of the hottest areas in the collectibles market.  During the late 1980s and early 1990s, animation cels and drawings were plentiful in the market and their prices reflected many collectors' mania for images from their childhoods.

However, as with all markets, the cyclical nature of the collectibles market must allow for the ebb and flow in values and availability of property.

Overall, the entire market is making an adjustment. Today collectors have become more sophisticated and are looking for rare and unusual items.

For animation cels, the market is divided between two areas of collecting: original artworks and limited editions.

Since original production cels were customarily destroyed, they're considerably more valuable than limited editions. Even in today's market, key set-ups of animation cels a cel and background artwork that can be matched to the film and are in the same time frame are still highly sought after.

Donald Duck Disneyland
animation cel, 1950s

Prices for original production work vary according to many different factors.

Important variables include the studio and the character, the movie or cartoon that the artwork is from, and the date of that production.

Other factors include the scene in the cartoon or movie, the size and position of the character in the artwork, and the condition of the art. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for instance, is still highly sought after since it was the first full-length animated feature by Disney.

At the high end, production art from the major animation movies from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s can range from $800 to $200,000. A good example of an $800 cel would be a minor character from the 1951 Disney film Alice in Wonderland, such as the Dodo Bird.  The current auction record is held by Sotheby's, which sold a Snow White color cel for $209,000 in 1991.

Then there are those who are seeking more moderately priced artwork from the heyday of their youth in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Prices for cels from these animation movies are in the $500 to $1,200 range.

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