Market Value of Culture: Quantifying the Risk of Antiquities Looting

4 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2011 Last revised: 7 Jan 2012

See all articles by Erik Nemeth

Erik Nemeth

Cultural Security; RAND Corporation

Date Written: September 1, 2010


The traditionally clandestine nature of the art market poses challenges to assessing looting and trafficking in developing nations. In the absence of direct information on transactions in source nations, sales at auction provide a sense of the market value and trade volume of antiquities and primitive art. Auction houses openly publish results of auctions and enable access to sales archives through web sites. On-line access to sales archives creates a substantive pool of data on hammer prices from auctions around the world. Sales archives also contain detailed descriptions of the artworks. The description that accompanies an auction lot can identify the geographic origin of the artwork. Data mining of sales archives for hammer price and origin enables analysis of market value by source nation. The analysis assesses relative market value and, thereby, contributes to an assessment of relative risks of looting across developing nations.

Keywords: art market, cultural intelligence, antiquities, trafficking, looting, auction houses

Suggested Citation

Nemeth, Erik, Market Value of Culture: Quantifying the Risk of Antiquities Looting (September 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Erik Nemeth (Contact Author)

Cultural Security ( email )

Santa Monica, CA
United States


RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States


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