What is a Certificate of Authenticity in regards to Native American art?
Typically abbreviated COA, it is a document that is typically given to a buyer during the purchase of a piece of art. Most COA’s will have specific information about the artwork including, Artist name, title, medium, date created, name of gallery, name of issuer, a photo of the piece and signature of artist or issuer.
Certificates of authenticity are often problematic and most can even be worthless. Many people believe that art with a COA is automatically genuine, but that's not necessarily the case. For instance, no laws govern who is or is not qualified to write certificates of authenticity, or what types of statements, information or documentation a COA must include. In other words, anyone can write a COA whether they're qualified or not. As if that's not bad enough, unscrupulous sellers can and do forge official looking certificates of authenticity and use them to either sell outright fakes or to misrepresent existing works of art as being more important or valuable than they actually are. And to make matters even worse, meaningless COA's have been issued for decades; a COA dated 1965, for example, can be just as meaningless as one written today.
A formal certificate of authenticity is not necessarily required to prove that a work of art is genuine. Any valid receipt, bill of sale, or proof of purchase from either the artist herself or a confirmed and established dealer or agent of the artist will do. An appraisal from a recognized authority on the artist is also acceptable.
Today’s world of the internet has complicated things even more. Anyone can download a “Free COA” and fill it out. So really the old adage is true….buy what you like. This way the dangers of a less reliable COA will not have a big impact on your enjoyment of your collection!