VANCOUVER -- Whether you got it at a garage sale or it's a family heirloom, have you wondered what your art is worth?

Navigating the art world can be intimidating for beginners, but it can also be a good way to make money off of pieces you've outgrown.

But how do you know whether you'll actually earn anything?

We asked an expert – an art auctioneer – to evaluate pieces owned by CTV News viewers, and for tips on what owners should look for before trying to sell off their paintings and sculptures.

Rob Cowley, president of Cowley Abbott, was shown a Picasso-style sketch with what appeared to be the Spanish painter's signature at the bottom.

"It looks like it's what we call 'manner of Picasso,'" Cowley told CTV Morning Live Vancouver Thursday.

"That means the work is not by Pablo Picasso, but rather it's painted or created in the style of the artist. Oftentimes, works that are in the manner of the artist come after the artist's life has ended, and while they're often quite beautiful, they do have a limited value."

He said the value is more decorative, and pieces in the manner of an artist would be worth just a fraction of something by the artist themselves. He estimated the piece he was shown during the interview may get a winning bid of "somewhere in the low hundreds of dollars" at auction.

Cowley looked then at a bronze sculpture purportedly crafted by Polish-Canadian sculptor Esther Wertheimer, who he described as being highly celebrated and well-known.

He said her work has been sold through online auctions hosted by his company, and typically something like the bust seen on CTV Morning Live would be worth between $500 and $1,500.

Lastly, Cowley was shown a painting from early-20th-century Canadian artist William Topham.

When looking at value, subject matter is important, Cowley said, and the piece he viewed is what Topham was most known for.

"He was a landscape painter. He painted in Quebec as well as Eastern Canada," Cowley said.

Similar work sells for between $200 and $800, according to the auctioneer.

Cowley said it does happen that people aren't aware of the worth of the art in their homes.

Recently, he said, a piece created by David Bowie was found at a donation centre in Northern Ontario, and cost the owner $5. The auction is still going, but bidding is "north of $20,000."

"It does still happen from time to time," he said.

Cowley said it's best to consult with experts, but there may be some hints that something is worth more than it seems.

Things to look for include the artist's name or signature. He recommends looking online for what that signature looks like, as well as examples of the artist's other work, for a comparison.

Additionally, the medium matters: "If it's an original painting by the artist, that typically will have more value… than a reproduction."

He said his auction house offers free assessments for those who think they may have something of value.