William Henry Knieves
San Francisco is rich in history and cultural movements, says Alissa Ford, director of Western & California Art at Heritage Auctions.

Experts by the Bay


Portraits by John Wilson White

Few cities are as collector-friendly as San Francisco.

Locals and visitors can’t get enough of the stellar collections at the de Young Museum, the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Cartoon Art Museum near Ghirardelli Square.

An excursion to Napa Valley and Sonoma will take you to the heart of wine country, while San Francisco’s own dynamic culinary scene and performing arts centers like the Symphony, the SFJAZZ Center and the legendary Fillmore complement any visit to the city’s great collections.

“San Francisco is an arts-lover’s paradise built by painters, writers, dancer, poets and musicians,” says Holly Sherratt, director of Modern & Contemporary Art at Heritage Auctions in San Francisco. “We have many of the top museums, galleries, architectural landmarks, art fairs, music festivals and performance venues in the world.”

With a new location in the Jackson Square/Barbary Coast district, Heritage Auctions adds to the city’s reputation as a prime location for collectors. Specialists offer appraisals on a wide range of categories, including arms and armor, American art, modern and contemporary art, European paintings, coins, jewelry and luxury handbags, fine wine, and comics and original comic art.

Heritage’s San Francisco office also offers an array of certified coins, for both new collectors and experienced numismatists, for immediate purchase. And its galleries regularly host exhibits of fine art by well-known artists. “With frequently changing displays, there is always something new to see,” says Alissa Ford, managing director of Heritage Auctions’ San Francisco office.

On top of that, anything goes in San Francisco. “Ride a tricycle down Potrero Hill at the Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race,” Sherratt says. “Visit a bar in a Santa suit during SantaCon, or run in your favorite costume at the Bay to Breakers annual footrace. There’s no shortage of performance art on our colorful streets.” 

Alissa Ford

Director, Western & California Art
Why is San Francisco important to collectors?
San Francisco is rich in history and various cultural movements. Whether it’s art from the Gold Rush, music posters from the “Summer of Love,” or coins from the Mint, there’s much to be desired in this unique and fascinating city.

What is the best place to view California art in San Francisco?
The American Art Collection at the de Young houses some of my favorite American paintings while the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento is my favorite place to see one of the best collections of California art. Scott Shields, chief curator at the Crocker, is continuously working on new scholarship and educating people on the art of this incredibly vibrant state. The Crocker is truly a treasure of Northern California.

Why do you love working in Jackson Square/Barbary Coast district?
Located just blocks away from the bay, the Barbary Coast is one the most historically significant locations in all of San Francisco. Deeply rooted in the Gold Rush era, this neighborhood has continued to be ever changing. From the antique and architectural design district to high-end fashion and Michelin-star restaurants, the Barbary Coast is a vibrant, creative and iconic location that is a must-see in San Francisco.


Clementine Chen
Clementine Chen at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 200 Larkin St.

Clementine Chen

Consignment Director, Asian Art
Why is San Francisco important to Asian Art collectors?
San Francisco’s Asian-American population is more than 30 percent, and there are many old Asian collections in town. The most important collectors of Asian art, such as [co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo!] Jerry Yang and [co-founder of Oracle Corporation] Larry Ellison, are here in the Bay Area.

What is the best place for Asian art collectors to visit in the Bay Area and why?
The Asian Art Museum is a must-see for Asian art collectors visiting the Bay Area. The museum has one of the greatest collections of Asian art in the states, with more than 2,000 artworks on show from all the major cultures of Asia. There are always important and well-curated exhibitions year-round.

As an Asian art collector, what’s your favorite place to visit in the Bay Area and why?
Chinatown is the oldest and biggest Chinatown in the states. Here, people can get exposed to historical buildings and authentic Chinese food. More importantly, Asian art collectors can still find one or two old-school and decent antique shops.

David Carde

Consignment Director, Arms & Armor
Why is San Francisco important to Arms & Armor collectors?
From its great history related to the Gold Rush era of 1849 and settlers coming out West to find new riches, the Bay Area became known for its frontier guns, knives and Indian weapons. Famous knife-makers such as Will & Finck and Michael Price thrived in the Bay Area. The legendary lawman Wyatt Earp spent some time in the Bay Area seeking new opportunities. His final resting place happens to be in Colma, Calif., which is about 10 miles from downtown San Francisco.

Where is the best place to view arms and armor collectibles in the Bay Area?
For a crash course on Winchester and the guns that “won the West,” head to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. You can spend the whole day visiting the grounds and stained-glass displays or the firearms museum, which includes Winchesters from the Civil War through World War II. And don’t forget to check out the shooting gallery.

As an arms and armor collector, what’s your favorite place to visit in Northern California?
A great place to visit is the Castello di Amorosa castle about 60 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Calistoga. This great winery is as close as you get to Italy in California. You’ll see everything from suits of armor to edge weapons. Great medieval architecture makes you feel like you are in a real 12th or 13th century castle. Make sure you have time to visit the torture chamber, which houses an authentic iron maiden, which the owner bought in Italy.


Giles Moon
Giles Moon at Heritage Auctions, 603 Battery St.

Giles Moon

Consignment Director, Entertainment & Music Memorabilia
Why is San Francisco important to collectors?
The city has a rich and diverse musical heritage. It’s best known for the Summer of Love, which took place in 1967 and was home for some of the greatest rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Where is the best place to view rock ’n’ roll memorabilia in the Bay Area?
Well, my choice would be the Beat Museum, which follows the history of the Beat Generation and leaders of the movement such as Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs and, of course, Jack Kerouac. Although not rock ’n’ roll, it certainly connects to ’60s artists such as Bob Dylan and the Doors.

What is your favorite place to see live music in the Bay Area?
It would have to be the legendary Fillmore on Geary Street. This world-famous venue was the epicenter of live psychedelic music in the 1960s, led by promoter Bill Graham, and is still going strong today.


Janell Snape
Janell Snape and Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker at the Legion of Honor Museum at Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave.

Janell Snape

Specialist, European Art
Why is San Francisco important to collectors?
We have something here for everyone! There are opportunities to see wonderful collections in our wide variety of museums, like the Asian Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Cartoon Art Museum, de Young (which encompasses American Art as well as the art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas), and European art at the Legion of Honor, to name a few.

What about the city’s art markets?
When collectors are looking to purchase, San Francisco hosts fairs throughout the year, such as Art Market San Francisco, Fog Design+Art, PhotoFairs San Francisco, the Tribal & Textile Art show, and the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show. Combined with a scenic location, a diverse food scene (from amazing food trucks to Michelin-starred restaurants), collectors will find our “City by the Bay” a great place to visit.

What’s the best place to view European art in the Bay Area?
The Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, has a small but distinguished collection of European paintings and sculpture, particularly strong in French works. It is situated in Lincoln Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. A lovely spot for both art and nature.

Harry Metrano

Senior Numismatist & Consignment Director
Why is San Francisco important to coin collectors?
San Francisco was the hub for all gold miners and privately issued gold coins in the 1840s. The gold boom of this era led to the opening of the State Assay Office of California and eventually the San Francisco Mint in 1854. Some of the rarest U.S. gold coins were minted in the Bay Area during this time.

What is the best place for coin collectors to visit in the Bay Area?
While the San Francisco Mint is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, it is not open to the public, however, they do occasionally allow the public to visit. If you are lucky enough to get in, it is by far one of the coolest experiences for a collector. There, you will find some of the rarest privately and U.S.-issued gold coins and bars. Otherwise, I suggest checking out the Bank of California building on 400 California Street. Downstairs, they have a small museum, which displays some of the rarest coins around. 


Holly Sherratt
Holly Sherratt at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 3rd St.

Holly Sherratt

Director, Modern & Contemporary Art
Why is San Francisco important to collectors?
San Francisco is an arts-lover’s paradise built by painters, writers, dancer, poets and musicians. The city’s diversity, in terms of geography and cultural identity, makes it a mecca for collectors. Where else can you find 19th century landscape paintings, 1960s rock posters and cutting-edge contemporary art in the same collection? The Heritage Auctions San Francisco office has experts in all of these diverse categories.

Where is the best place to view Modern & Contemporary Art?
The recently remodeled San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the United States and my favorite place to view contemporary art. Across the street is Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Gagosian Gallery, and the Berggruen Gallery. After a double espresso from Peet’s Coffee, you might visit all of these arts organizations in the same afternoon. And, of course, inside Golden Gate Park is the de Young Museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. De Young is one of the most visited museums in the country, situated in of one of most beautiful parks in the world. If you take an elevator up de Young tower, you’ll see a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the city … fog permitting.

What’s your favorite neighborhood?
The Dogpatch neighborhood is a great place to eat, shop or discover art. One of my favorite places to visit is Workshop Residence. This shop/gallery collaborates with artists and designers to create beautifully designed handmade household goods. The Dogpatch is also a great spot for foodies.

Heritage San Francisco

Heritage Auctions’ San Francisco office offers appraisals on a wide range of categories, including Arms & Armor, American Art, Modern & Contemporary Art, European Paintings, Coins, Jewelry and Luxury Handbags, Fine Wine, Comics and original comic art.
Phone: 415.777.4867
Address: 603 Battery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
Website: HA.com/SanFrancisco

This story appears in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.

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