Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pricing antique prints: value rankings

In a previous blog I talked about how we price prints, especially when there are no good historical price record to be found for the particular print in question. Our main modus vivendi in these cases is to compare the print to other prints where we do have established prices. Of course the question is, compares in what way? There are a number of criteria which determine the prices of prints and we try to find a comparable prints with established prices to see if the print in question is better in terms of these criteria, in which case it will be priced higher, or not quite a good, in which case it will be priced less.

Obviously, one of the most important criteria is the content of the print in question. Historic prints which show a person, place or event have their value primarily dependent on what person, what place or what event. So in comparing a print we're trying to price with one we have a price record for, we start by seeing which of the subjects of two prints has a higher “value ranking.”

The “value ranking” of a person, place or event is where in a ranking of values that subject falls relative to other subjects of the same sort. This hypothetical ranking is simply a function of popularity of the subject among the buying public. If many people want images of a particular person, place or event, it will be ranked near the top and if few people are interested in a subject, it will be near the bottom. This “value ranking” of the subjects is not dependent on the importance of the subject (there are many important individuals, for instance, whose prints do not sell for very much), but simply popularity.


So who are the most popular people? On the world scene, individuals like Napoleon, Jesus, and Simon Bolivar are both famous and heroes to many, so they come in near the top of the value ranking of portraits, whereas people like King John of England, Don Lope de Aquirre, and Marie Antoinette, though famous, tend to be looked on in a negative way, and so they rank well down in their value ranking.


In terms of American historical figures, there are two names that are at the top of the value ranking of portraits, significantly above any others, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Others near the top of the ranking are Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Figures who played a prominent role in American history, but whose prints tend to be well down on the value ranking are people like Henry Clay, Aaron Burr, and Winfield Scott. It is always interesting to compare people from the same period to see how their value rankings differ, and for the Civil War, while Lincoln is at the top, it is mostly Confederate generals, like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who are valued highly, while Union generals like Grant and Sherman are relatively less valued.

For maps and views of places, those showing American locations tend to be the most highly valued, though important foreign locations are also quite desirable, for instance cities such as London, Paris, Cape Town, and so forth. Within the world of American places, the value ranking of states is quite interesting to look at. This value ranking is reflected closely in the hierarchy of values of maps of those states.

At the top are maps of Texas. For the maps from any particular world atlas, the map of Texas will almost always be worth more than that of any other state. Again, not because Texas is more important (a statement many Texans would probably disagree with), but because lots of Texans love Texas and desire maps of their state. A similar thing applies to some other states, such as Virginia, where the fondness Virginians have for the “Old Dominion,” translates into maps of Virginia selling for more than most other states.
It is not just the popularity of the state which determines its value ranking. Another factor can be the shape of the state! I hate to say it, but Pennsylvania is a fairly boring shape—pretty much a standard rectangle. Compare that to Florida, with its swooping peninsular and delicate pan-handle, or Kentucky with its interesting hump-backed shape. I am convinced that maps of Pennsylvania would sell for more if the state had a more interesting shape and that Florida would not be so desirable if it were squared-off!
There are a number of other reasons for a state’s ranking in the list of values, but one other factor that is interesting is whether people identify with the entire state or not. For instance, in New York State, citizens of New York City tend not to identify with the state as a whole, only with the city. This cuts out many of the people who you might think of as wanting New York state maps, so that state is quite a ways down in the ranking. Similarly, Pennsylvania (again!) is ranked fairly far down in the state value ranking because those in the southeastern part of the state tend not to identify with the rest of the state, while those in the west often don’t like those in the east, and those in the middle often wish both ends would drop off. This means that there are not a lot of people who love Pennsylvania-as-a-whole, and so its maps are valued less highly than many other states
For cities and towns there is also a complex and varied calculus which determines how highly that place is valued. Maps and views of New York City are very popular and valuable, as there are lots of people with lots of money who want them. Philadelphia views and maps are also quite valuable, as are most of the big cities, though some cities seem to generate less positive vibes, so that we find that views of San Francisco almost always sell for more than views of Los Angeles, while views of Chicago are more desirable than those of Detroit (there are, of course, other reasons for these differences besides the cities’ positive vibes…).
In terms of events, probably the most desirable images are those of the American Revolution, followed by those of the Civil War. Wars always create interest, but whereas the French & Indian War prints are valued highly, and those of the War of 1812 are relatively popular, those of the Mexican-American are less so, and those of the Spanish-American War even less. This doesn’t mean there are not collectors for all these wars and that some images of each do not sell for a large amount; it is simply that all other things being equal, a print of the Civil War will sell for more than one of the War of 1812, which in turn will sell for more than one of the Mexican-American war.
In general, the value of other American historical events tends to reflect how well known they are today or whether the issues involved still seem to matter. There were plenty of disasters, assassinations, scandals, elections, treaties, and so forth, in American history which at the time were important and had many prints made of them, but which now are known by relatively few. Prints of these events are wonderful American documents, but the lack of recognition means that their relative value is fairly low.

It can be a lot of fun to see how different subjects—persons, places, events—compare in terms of their value ranking and to try to figure out why (why, for instance, do maps of North Carolina have a higher value than those of South Carolina?). Getting a sense of these value rankings is the start to figuring the price for any print. However, as I alluded above, the value rankings determine the difference in value of prints for different subjects all other things being equal. Of course, rarely are all other things equal, so in the next blog I’ll talk about some of the other factors which we need to take into account when assigning a price to print for which we have no good price records.

Click here to go to next blog on pricing antique prints.

27 comments:

  1. I have a print that is titled Jeanette. It was copyrighted in 1913 by the Elwood Myers Company in Springfield, Ohio The picture is numbered 99512, so it msut have been part of a series. No one I have asked has been able to help me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a print 1900 named Dreams by the Fire Side. #20

    ReplyDelete
  3. What I value of an1858 print the turkey guardian by c.salmon

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a print by Giuseppe Vasi called, Chiesa di S Marco, from plate 115.
    I am trying to find the value of the print.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a print that i brought when i was 16 years old from an antique shop i am nearly 50 years old now.This print is Alaska Down Bustles .This print is 2 by 3 feet in length. I am trying to find the value of this print. any help would be appreciated

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a print or litho of racehorse man o war

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have a very old print

    WolfGANG Amadeus Mozart, OLGEMALDE VON BARBARA KRAFT
    Im Besitze der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien

    dsm4@ymail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have a lithograph of the Pallace Hotel in S.F before the earthquake, the artist is Brhaus & Shimpp. is this worth anything?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it is a contemporary print of the hotel, then it will definitely have some value. If it is a reproduction of some sort, then it will have only "decorative" value.

      Delete
  9. I have an old print "the return from Calvary" It's 20" by 30" Printed in London 1891 by Herbert Johnalz. Published by Dowdeswells Ltd. It does not appear to be a copy. It's black & white. Does it have any Value??

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have come across a collection of prints that I'm trying to find the value of.I have this print I found here:
    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O692704/the-peaceable-kingdom-print-jeavons-thomas/
    and another here;
    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O692705/belshazzars-feast-print-horsburgh-john/
    But I haven't found out any sort of a value.All the prints I have seem to be around 150 years old give or take 20 years.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have one of the 5 prints that Borax gave out in 1904, the American Girl Series, #2. Do you have any information about these prints? I can't find them anywhere, only the ads for them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. i have in my hand a Vintage Historical Print of the The American's Creed by JR Rosen, boston. inherited with my grandmother. need more info bout this. it's in good condition...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have an antique print,and Wonder what the value is "ball park"?
    This truly superb Art Print, distributed by House of Art New York in the 1920's, is preserved beneath glass in a vintage wood frame. The stunning reproduction features ST. VERONICA'S HANDKERCHIEF, that classic 1874 painting by Austria's celebrated Old Master, Gabriel Von Max.
    An ancient historical manuscript known as Acts of Pilate mentions a woman named Veronica who repeatedly cried out in Jesus' defense at the trial presided over by Pontious Pilate. This woman was believed to be the same one who rushed forward to wipe Jesus' bleeding brow with her handkerchief during the arduous trek to the Crucifixion. Her handkerchief came away slightly bloodied from contact with Jesus' face, then an exact image of his face miraculously appeared at the center of the cloth. The alleged handkerchief itself was locked away as a Holy Relic in the Vatican as early as the 8th Century.
    The subject of Gabriel Von Max's haunting painting is the remarkably serene visage of Jesus at the center of a slightly bloodied square of cloth.
    House of Art was the distributing branch for Reinthal & Newman Publishers. Reinthal & Newman, which published Art Prints from 1920 until 1928 when the Publishing House permanently closed its doors, pioneered a lithographic technique so uniquely accurate that paintings were reproduced with perfectly matched colors and tones.
    This meticulous technique was particularly vital for the reproduction of so-called "Trick Art," like ST. VERONICA'S HANDKERCHIEF. Von Max ingeniously applied 14 different shades of paint to his canvas to achieve the optical illusion whereby Jesus' eyes appear to open suddenly, startling the onlooker and perhaps restoring a measure of faith. Like the original painting, this Print successfully achieves the same illusion: gaze at the closed eyes of Jesus and witness them suddenly open to return your gaze!
    The frame is wired on the back for convenient wall display.
    The Print measures 8-1/2-inches by 11-3/4-inches inside a frame which measures 10-1/2- inches by 13-1/2-inches. It is a substantial piece, as well, with a satisfying heft of 2 entire pounds.
    As with the original painting, the artist's signature appears in the top right corner of the Print as "Gab Max." And the lower left corner of the Print reads, "A-33 (c) The House of Art New York."
    The condition of this quality estate find is EXCELLENT, although there is age-related wear to the brown paper backing as shown in the photo below. And there a few minor scuffs along the edges of the frame - nothing which merits particular mention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a nice art print, but as an art print, which in the end is a reproduction, it has only what we would call "decorative" value. That doesn't mean it has no value, just that the value comes from what it looks like, not from any "collectors" value.

      Delete
  14. I have an engraving of "The Enraged Musician" by William Hogarth. The framing says it was distributed by 70 Galleries in England. It has a no. 33 and it says it is an early 19th century print of the original painting completed in 1744. It has water damage and a slight tear in lower left hand corner.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I NEED THE PRICE FOR THE ANTIQUE PRINT

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have a print titled "Hope". Names on the bottom of picture are Reinthal and Newman. Looks like original frame. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  17. i have a version of THE AMERICAN'S CREED by J.R. Rosen of Boston... the picure is embedded meanning as you rub the pic you feel everything--- Then on the back is taped a small inlet listed as A DECLARATION OF FAITH by INLAND LIME AND STONE COMPANY DIVISTION OF INLAND STEEL COMPANY MANISTIQUE, MICHIGAN---- IS THERE ANY VALUE? THANKS

    ReplyDelete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As indicated above, we do not give values on this blog. Sorry.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, I failed to read this before I ask. Tried to delete.

      Delete
  19. Hello
    My name is ulf, i am from norway, i found an old print, from reinthal & newmann. Its a girl in a white dress, on a chair, in front of a fireplace, reading a book. I cant put a picture of this print in this comment box, but if you have an e-mail adress, i can send it to you
    Ulf Roger Holm

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think it is an original print by reinthal & newmann.

    ReplyDelete
  21. i have a Mt. Olive framed print from J. A. Olson Company manufactured in Winona, MS in 1953 with a few chips on the front of the frame, the original paper torn but taped on the back and the stamp of proof located at the bottom right corner. How would I find the value of this? The old building burned in 2015 but the headquarters was in Chicago..so not sure about that one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This blog is not really the place to discuss specific values on particular prints, but I can tell you that this print would have "decorative" value only.

      Delete
  22. I have a George Fredric Watts "Hope" signed by Reinthal and Newman print. Original frame. Wondering when the print was made and of its value. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    ReplyDelete