Editor's note: The following article was rekeyed and reprinted on December 10, 2007 in Resource Library with permission of Lonnie Pierson Dunbier. The article is an excerpt from Dr. Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting.  Dated 1982, the original typewriter manuscript is owned by his wife, Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, who edits and submits the chapters to TFAO. If you have questions or comments regarding the article, please contact Lonnie Pierson Dunbier in Scottsdale, AZ, at ldunbier@mac.com.



By Roger Dunbier, PhD (1934-1998)


The Frenchman slammed the book shut and poured another glass of milk.  "You know Picasso was a fraud. . .all those young girls he kept as an old man. . ." his voice trailed off.

"What about them?" I asked.

"He spent ninety years working on this myth of his, and those mistresses were the best part. . .the whole world thought he was. . .what do you say, some acrobate sexuel octogenaire, but the truth, well it's. . .

"Yes, it's". . .I coaxed.

"It was not the bed; it was the pencil; he wore them out signing 'original Picasso prints'.  

"On Monday the printer would drop on his door a thousand sheets reproducing some old painting of his, and Friday the publisher would pick up a thousand signatures.  What do you think?"

"He could have signed them," I said.

"And I think you Americans are naive. . .but. . ."

"On the other hand, you Americans are at the same time very clever."

"Take this lithographic investment thing".

"You mean the art investment shelter?"

"Oui. . .now, what Frenchman would ever have thought of selling a big hole in the pocket. . .Impossible.  Even now I cannot understand. . .tell me if I am correct".  I nodded; he continued.

"This New York publisher finds an artist and buys his picture," he said, finishing the milk.  "Then he separates the copyright from the actual piece.  He now prices the copyright at $140,000 and sells it to you, while never letting go of the original.  For this shall we say, rather ethereal property, you pay $20,000 down, ending up with a $120,000 debt to the publisher.  This, of course, is a big loss, which you take to your accountant, who sends it on to the Internal Revenue Service, and your taxes go down. . ."

"And the national debt up."  I added.

"Oui, but this is not all; you still must pay for the cost of printing, which is another $15,000 or so, and then some months pass, and like Picasso, you find a thousand so-called 'originals' dumped on our door, and it is up to you to get on your bicycle and sell them."

"So correct me if I am wrong", I said.  "You are now thirty-five thousand dollars out of pocket, and owe an additional one-hundred twenty thousand.  All of this is an expense that you can charge against current income, which if you are in a high bracket makes it all to the good as it come right off the top of the old 1040 form- - -that is if the I.R.S. goes along, right?"

"Oui, but do not forget about the one-thousand so called limited editions?"

"How could I?  Let's see, approximately $175,000 gives you a cost of $175 each. . .a base cost upon which the dealer, if you can find one, makes his markup." I said.

"Now you can see, mon ami , how a signed 'original print' can come to be valued so quickly at four or five hundred dollars.  There are so many to be satisfied; the artist, the promoter, the investor, the printer, the art dealer, and his framer with maybe a wholesaler in between."

He got up, walked to the fridge, opened the door, and grabbed a carton of milk.

"You're hitting that stuff pretty hard, aren't you?"

"Oui, you Americans have driven me to it."

Edited and Submitted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier who holds the copyright


About the Author:

From 1982, Dr. Roger Dunbier (1934-1998) combined his professional economics training, research skills, and love of art to develop an easily accessed, 'all-in-one-place' repository of factual information so that buyers and sellers of American art could make decisions based on hard-core data rather than just marketing hype.  With ever-more sophisticated computers, programmed by Charles Lefebvre, his long-time associate, Dunbier built an artist record database, which by the time he died 16 years later, had 21,357 names linked to their respective auction prices, literature and biographies.  Today the result of his dedication lives on as the foundation of AskART.com, an internet site since 2000.  

Dunbier's innovation of computer systems began in 1963, when he pioneered computer mapping on what were then relatively primitive computers.  In 1967, he utilized concepts of 'arbitrage' and 'comparables' in designing the first real estate Multiple Listing System.  Its direct descendent remains in use by realtors across the United States, and he later applied the same underlying principles in building his artist database.  (right: Roger Dunbier, photo courtesy Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, derived from a larger image at http://tfaoi.org/am/16am/16am17.jpg)

Dunbier was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.  His interest in American art was natural because his father, Augustus Dunbier, (1888-1977) was a prominent landscape, still life and portrait painter and art teacher, whose studio and classroom were in the family home.   Although Roger showed few 'right brained' skills, he did have other talents.  He graduated first in his class and Summa Cum Laude from the University of Omaha in 1955 with majors in economics and history.   He then received a Marshall Scholarship, which led to enrollment at Oxford University in England from 1955 to 1959.  During that time, he was on the Oxford University basketball and track teams, and was a member of the British National Basketball Team.  In 1961, he received a Doctorate of Philosophy, Economic Geography from Oxford.  His dissertation, The Sonoran Desert, Its Geography, Economy, and People, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 1960, and subsequently used as a text book for college geography courses.

After formal education, Dunbier held full-time professorial positions for several years at the University of Omaha and the University of California-Irvine.  He lived most of the remainder of his life in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, and had economic-geography related jobs including CEO of his management consulting firm that prepared demographic and locational studies; and President of Metro Press, Inc., publisher of over 100 computer generated area directories for Metro Phoenix.  In 1991, he married Lonnie Pierson of Lincoln, Nebraska.

-- By Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, 2008


About this article's editor

Lonnie Pierson Dunbier of Scottsdale, Arizona and originally from Nebraska, married Dr. Roger Dunbier in 1991. From then, she worked full time on his artist database. After his death, she co-founded AskART.com, for which she was Research Director from 2000 to 2007. Ms. Dunbier is also the editor of all other excerpts from Dr. Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting

Resource Library editor's note:

readers may also enjoy:

and for a complete listing of Roger Dunbier's articles please click here or here.

rev. 12/24/07

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