Arts & Antiques by Dr. Lori Jun 2012
Star Appraiser on the hit TV show Auction Kings on Discovery Channel.
At my appraisal events across the country, I often hear people say, “Oh that’s not valuable, it’s just a print!” Well, folks might have a change of heart when they review some actual sales records for valuable items that are often discounted as “just prints.” Prints can bring real money in the art market if you know what you have and what it’s worth.
Recently, a Currier & Ives lithograph sold for $76,375, Picasso’s etching of the Frugal Repast sold for $123,000, and a set of ten Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs brought home $882,500. All prints!
Prints can turn up anywhere. For instance, I met a woman who brought a print to one of my appraisal events at the Kansas City Home and Garden Show in Kansas City, Mo. that she purchased at an estate sale for $2.50. It was actually a $50,000 work of art by Pablo Picasso that someone thought was worthless. And, I told a gentleman in Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League Hall of Fame, during an antiques appraisal event that his print depicting an old time baseball diamond was by Currier & Ives and valued at $70,000. And many prints—lithographs, serigraphs, etchings, engravings, and other prints bring very high prices too. Not bad for an image on a piece of paper!
What You Should Look For
When collecting prints, a tried and true rule is that prints are judged on the quality of the impression, the condition of the paper as well as the integrity of the process. If you have a print with a fraction marked on the bottom, that fraction represents the print’s number within the print run. The numerator tells you how early or late in the print run your print was pulled off the machine. The denominator tells you how many prints are included in the entire print run or how many pulls occurred. For instance, the Dutch master Rembrandt mainly produced small print runs. He typically produced prints in a run of no more than 12 impressions. There would be only 12 prints pulled off of one print plate. On the other hand, print runs could also be very large like Thomas Kinkade’s runs which often swelled to 5,000 impressions for the same image. In this case, you and 4,999 of your friends may have the same print—and that doesn’t do much for value.
In short, the more prints available of the same image or the larger the print run, oftentimes the lower the value of each print. Popular posters called collotypes are typically found in print runs of 100,000 or more. For collectors, you want to have a low numbered print and run like “1/10.” This number would indicate you have the first print off the presses in a small print run of only 10 prints. This mark shows that after 10 pulls, the artist and the printer agree to destroy the original plate—like breaking the mold in sculpture—so no more may be produced.
Thought all prints were just inexpensive reproductions? You may want to think again.
_________________________________________________________________________________Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents appraisal events nationwide. Watch Dr. Lori appraise antiques on Discovery’s hit TV show, Auction Kings airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Learn about your antiques at www.DrLoriV.com or call (888) 431-1010. Visit her Facebook at: Facebook.com/DoctorLori