In the 5e PHB, p. 144 under Selling Treasure: Gems, Jewelry, and Art Objects, it says:

These items retain their full value in the marketplace, and you can usually trade them in for coin, or use them as currency for transactions...

In the XGE, p. 85's table on woodcarver's tools shows

Carving a small wooden figurine - DC 10

Though paintings are clearly artwork, I am wondering if these wooden figures (such as a Druidic totem or statue of a religious figure) be considered as artworks?

Though I am mainly asking about crafting such items, it also occurs to me that as your party is looting paladins, clerics and druids, knowing if the wooden statues and druidic totems they collect would be considered artworks would be beneficial when it comes to selling/trading them...

What is considered “artwork” when it comes to selling crafted merchandise?

  • \$\begingroup\$ No, that was a quote from the book. Though I am picturing a small statue of a deity or a finely detailed cylinder of wood depicting a or a stalk of animals. (Religious Relic or Druidic Totem) The idea is to exactly define the terms of the book. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 8 '19 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast thanks for the edit. Though I linked my Twitter to D&D Beyond, following those links for me turned from "Sign in to see this page" to "Access Forbidden"... I have no idea why. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 8 '19 at 5:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB: Pretty sure only the second link (to Xanathar's) should be inaccessible without owning the book on D&D Beyond, since the first is just a basic rules link. (Also, it's a Twitch account, not a Twitter account; adding other sign-in options is on their roadmap.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 8 '19 at 5:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Could be, I don't know why but it happens on a lot of links. The first one works though. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 8 '19 at 5:51

There doesn't appear to be a hard-and-fast set of rules in 5e about what constitutes "art object" vs totem or focus. Your best guideline is likely the DMG, specifically Chapter 7: Treasure. The chapter opening divides possible treasure into four categories: Coin, Gems, Art Objects, and Magic Items--the separation is important, implying that Art Objects have no inherent magic, or magical properties, of their own.

Taking a look at the treasure tables on pp. 133-134 backs this up; the available ideas for Art Objects are all items of visible worth (usually involving precious metals, gems, and fine workmanship) but never make mention of any magical capability at all. So it appears that items of fine craftsmanship, without magic to them, can be considered Art Objects and thus retain their value at sale, but items with magical properties cannot--they become Magic Items.

It does appear that items need to hit a certain level of aesthetic expense and craftsmanship in order to qualify, though that may be just the limitation of the reference here. So expect a DM ruling about the relative value of your wooden statuette, presumably taking the quality of carving and the rarity of material into consideration. Rough-hewn abstract carvings made of the region's most common tree probably won't do as well as a meticulously detailed piece of a rare wood from another land.

So, moving on to your second question: when evaluating totems or foci, that leaves us with two main metrics: quality of craftsmanship, and whether they're considered magic or not.

The question of whether basic foci, regardless of class, have enough innate magic to be considered "magic items" in the first place should probably be another question on its own. I would argue it's up to the DM to make a ruling here one way or the other--either a basic focus has some small amount of innate magic in order to enable it to be used as a focus in the first place, or it doesn't, since it can be found on the basic Adventuring Gear table, which has no magic items on it at all. Whichever argument you go with will inform your game and your world, even if only in flavor.

A judgment on the quality of craftsmanship also belongs to the DM here. As druids generally eschew a lot of the high-expense materials found in art objects, druidic totems are subject to the same criteria as your wooden statue: craftsmanship, and innate magical properties. You could make more of an argument for a Holy Symbol of an amulet or reliquary to be "blingy" enough to be considered an art object, considering the long, real-world history of people spending a lot on religious icons to prove their piety.

TL;DR, Art Objects need to match two criteria: high level of craftsmanship/expensive materials, and not being magic. Consult your DM for specific rulings on a particular piece.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This was quite detailed. Where I was thinking totem wasn't to add magic in it, but I believe it was in XGE that I read that a woodworker would be hired to make the chests for Leomund's Secret Chests, telling me the totem can be made without initial magic.... Though I used this more as an example... \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 9 '19 at 4:22

I don't really know how the rules for calculating sale value work in Dungeons and Dragons, but considering the actual logic, a point might be that an item that had a functional use as well as an artistic value would be worth more.

In other words, if you tried to sell a carving purely as "an exquisite piece of Elven craftsmanship", you might get the full amount it was worth as an artwork. But you might still get more if you described it to the buyer as "a magical charm (of exquisite Elven craftsmanship)", and accepted the usual markdown. It would depend how good an artwork it was and how powerful a magic charm it was - it would be up to a canny PC to decide, is the additional value of the magic worth more than half what you would get for it as just a piece of artwork?

For that matter, admitting that it might have magical connotations might cut down the number of people who would be willing to buy it off you as just a sculpture - if all they were looking for was an ornament, they might be wary of buying something with possibly dodgy magical powers!

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is what counts as artwork, not how to value a piece of artwork. Can you clarify how this addresses the problem in the original question? If you're intending to describe a way to distinguish what is artwork, I can't glean it from your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Mar 8 '19 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 9 '19 at 3:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Real world sales are based on how much someone is wanting to pay, rather than function (aka a $3 shirt can sell for $30). Function often has an adverse effect, as need breeds bargains. (I need scissors but won't pay that much to get them) I understand what you mean by selling magical items and I realize that XGE has it's own guide for them, but, as they are magically embued pieces of art, they are a good point to understand what is defined as art in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 9 '19 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bloodcinder I was really just meaning that if the item belongs to two categories, being both an artwork and a useful object, then maybe if you described it to the prospective buyer as just an artwork and forgot about the magic, then it would be charged by the artwork rules - but in that case you'd forgo any extra value the magic might have. It may not work like that at all; I've no idea what the logic is behind this odd rule about equipment but not art being worth only half its face value. And in the case of the totems the OP mentioned it may be impossible to hide that they're magic. \$\endgroup\$ – A. B. Mar 10 '19 at 0:19

If an item is functional, it isn't art. Holy symbols and druidic focuses etc. would follow the rule for arms, armor and other equipment and be sold at half price.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In that case, would a statue of a religious person who serves no more than decoration or "trinket" then be considered as artwork? Such as IRL statues of Buddha people purchase for their homes. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Mar 8 '19 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could really do with some backup. Why is a 'functional' item not art? Where is that stated or how did you arrive at that conclusion based on what you've read or experienced? \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Mar 8 '19 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House and the Taj Mahal are not art? Nor the exquisite sword hilts in the Staffordshire hoard? \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Mar 8 '19 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ My reasoning is simple - anything that is listed as equipment like a druidic focus has already been categorized as equipment. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Mar 9 '19 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Leomund's Secret Chest is a different matter. The chests aren't magical objects, they are objects with a magical spell cast on them. The chests aren't artwork either. They are made out of expensive materials but they are functional items, not ornamental ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Mar 10 '19 at 19:17

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