Category: Collecting Art, Maps and Prints

Northern Goshawk Print, 1929-main-10427M

How to Choose Antique Prints?

How to choose antique prints? It should not be difficult.  In our opinion Antique Prints are subject oriented and you need to use your brain to choose the piece that fits you best.  Original art on the other hand is impulsive, it needs to talk to you, we like to think it is where you use your heart.  (For artwork see our article on How to Choose Artwork.)
Here are 5 tips for choosing the perfect original old print for you.
1. Identify your interests.
Look through the categories on offer. When our customers visit us at an antique show or through our website they have many categories to choose from.  Look through the titles of categories that spark an interest.  You love your garden?  Then look for the Botanical prints category.  You studied interior design or architecture in College and loved it?  Then look for the Interiors & Architecture category.
2.  Determine your project.
This is where you determine what you are going to do with the antique print.  Is it a gift for your husband, child, friend, or even better yourself?  You have an empty space on the wall you wish to fill with old vintage prints?  You need to decorate the office, living-room, bedroom?
3.  Establish a plan.
You have a project, now you need to decide how much space you want to fill on that wall or how many gifts you need to get.  Write it down so you can focus on your goal, you are about to dig in and hunt for the perfect antique print!
4.  Dig in!
Let’s say that your identified interest was Bird Prints.  You have located the category.  You have determined that your project is going to be a wedding gift and your plan is to get six of them.  Now you have to find the best antique prints.  Start looking through what is on offer.  Every time you see a fine bird print, write down the reference number or add it to your wishlist.  You are looking for six pieces, pull out or choose 12 to 15 of your favorite antique bird prints.
5.  Choosing the best antique prints.
Spread out your selection to see the big picture.  Is there is one you don’t like, or that looks strange: good! Take it out.  Keep doing this.  By process of elimination you will narrow it down to the six you love.  Problem:  you can’t decide and you have eight bird prints. Start pairing your bird prints together and choose your favorite of the two.  Before you know it you are going to have your perfect six!
See that was easy!
Keep this in mind:
You want to choose what feels and looks right to you.  We are all different and we have different tastes.  Trust your judgment.  Do the colors appeal to you?  Am I comfortable with the size of the antique prints?  Are the prints within my budget?  These are valid questions and you are the best person to answer them.

Now is a good time to look at what we have on offer.  Visit us as to shop for authentic old vintage prints, original artwork on paper and antique maps.

Rokujyo Japanese Woodblock, C. 1900

What is a Woodcut?

Here is a question that we often answer to our clients.  Woodcuts have a lot more work in them than first appears to the unpracticed eye.  Without actually seeing how the process is done, few people can grasp even the concept of how a woodcut print is made.

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has some very informative videos that explain how woodcuts are made.  We suggest you take a look.  Click here to see the MOMA Woodcut Video

3 Tips to Choose Antique Prints for a Gift

Choosing a gift is not always an easy task, especially when dealing in a domain we are unfamiliar with. We hope we can make it easier to choose antique prints for a gift by offering you some knowledge you can immediately use while shopping at antique malls, antique shows or even on the web.

As experts in original art, antique prints and old maps for over 15 years and as collectors for over 25 years we have accumulated a fair amount of knowledge in regards to determining authenticity of antique works of art on paper. We have dealt with over 100,000 different antique engravings, lithographs, etchings, watercolors and drawings some dating over 500 years. It is not as difficult as you may think to determine authenticity, however determining value is more demanding.

Your ultimate goal in choosing antique prints is getting the real thing, in a good condition and at a reasonable price.

  • So first of all, what is the real thing? An authentic antique print must be authentic, meaning it is not a recent reproduction or a restrike (ie: a secondary pull from an engraving plate that was not the original intent of the artist or original publisher.) Reproductions or restrikes are common and worth a fraction to virtually nothing compared to their original counterpart, so you should avoid these.
  • Secondly you should be searching for an antique print which is in good to excellent condition because this affects not only the esthetics of the piece you are buying but also it’s value. This means you are looking for a piece of paper that is described as such by a reputable dealer. eBay would not be such a place, you need someone that knows what they are selling and know where the print is from so you can avoid theft and misrepresentation. Each dealer will have their own definition of condition. For example, we do not believe there is such a thing as mint condition for prints. They all have some imperfection which has affected it over time. What you are looking for is basically a piece of paper with no tears, foxing, water stains or mold. If an antique print is described as good to excellent it should have none to very few of the problems we’ve listed.
  • Thirdly you should be considering price. Antique prints have the convenient nature of being printed and there should be more than one of each out there in the world and with some luck there will be several to choose from on the web. Use your favorite search engine to find, using the exact words, in the title of the print if there is one or use as keywords the words from the title provided by the antique dealer you are working with. This only works if you are shopping on line, but your iPhone or blackberry is handy for this when at an antique mall. It is important that when you shop on line you compare two identical items, they must be of the same date of printing and be in a similar condition.

There you go, in a nut shell, you have the three elements necessary for choosing antique prints as a gift, may it be a gift for your loved one or a gift for yourself.


How Old is your Antique Print?

How old is your antique print? Read on for some helpful tips to find out if it is really an old print, or a modern reproduction.

Old prints by their very nature have been printed. Printing is most commonly associated with Johannes Gutenberg‘s innovation of movable type in the issuing of his famous Bible in the 15th century. Therefore your print will be less than 550 years old (non-Western prints can conceivably be older, but this is beyond the scope of this article).

Now, how do we determine how old your print is?

Professionals have many criteria at their disposal, which include the paper on which the image has been printed, the method of printing used to print the image, printed signatures or initials and the presence of a copyright year. Each one of these takes years of experience and knowledge to address, however you can get a ball park idea by studying your prints visually and by touch.

For your date inspection, you should clean your hands and prepare a clean space free of clutter and safe of oily substances or liquids. Remove the print from it’s frame or protective sleeve so that you can touch it and have a closer look. Take notes while you go through the following three criteria so you can get an idea how old your print is.

The first criteria is the type of paper that was used. You will need to touch the paper. If it feels rough and a bit like a paper towel, fairly rigid but not crumbly then you are probably holding hand made rag paper. This paper was used from the 1450s until well into the early 1800s. A further clue is to lift it up to the light and you should see hundreds of lines in a row. These are from the fine wires that were used to hold up the paper pulp during its manufacture. There could also be a watermark, a transparent symbol or sign designating the papermaker.

If the paper is smooth to the touch, is more brittle and shows no lines up to a source of light then you are looking at a print dating from today til the early 19th century that was made from wood pulp.

The second criteria is determining the method of printing employed to make your print. This demands a much greater level of expertise which is beyond the level of this project. There are hundreds of variations of printing techniques used over the last five centuries such as woodcut, copper engraving, etching, steel engraving, lithography, wood engraving, chromolithography and off-set in chronological order. However off-set is easy to distinguish.

Use a magnifying glass or jewelers loupe to take a close look at a section of the image of your print. If you see a multitude of even overlapping circles in the image then you are in the presence of a modern off-set print. These prints were made in the twentieth century and are most often of little to no value.

The third criteria is a signature. These are mostly printed signatures. Look on Wikipedia for the artist or engraver and write down their dates. Signatures customarily have the engraver’s name on the bottom left and artist’s name on the bottom right.

Finally the fourth criteria at your disposal is a copyright year printed on the print itself. The printing of a year on prints started in England in the late 1700s, but are most commonly found on late nineteenth and twentieth century prints. You can generally trust that the date on the print is close to the year of printing.

Tip: If you have an off-set (described above) with a date in the 1800s then you have a fake.

Take all the notes you wrote down during your inspection to determine your date.

Keep in mind that these tips are very general, but they will help you get started.


Is your Antique Print in Excellent Condition?

In this article we will give you tips on how to tell if your antique print is in excellent condition.  Antiques are all unique in their condition and no two are exactly alike. Antique prints are especially fragile to the vagaries of time. Many have perished in fires, floods, under a child’s marker, were trimmed down or most often just thrown away.

Old prints that have survived could have been passed down several generations and have been stored or displayed in different environments. Unique conditions such as dampness, heat, sunlight, dust, old framing can each damage the print in different ways.

Here are the things you need to consider:

  • Dampness or humidity – Old prints hate moisture. Moisture from humid walls, damp cellars or attics destroy prints. Don’t acquire prints with water damage. Their stains are expensive to remove if done professionally (beware of quick fixes online). You should avoid water stains and its companion mold. You will easily recognize these from the discoloration or water line created from the stains. Mold appears with a dot and a ring around it.
  • Heat – Big changes in temperature change the structure of paper and can make it more brittle over time. Add heat to dampness and mold thrives. This is harder to see, but experience will teach you to get a feel for paper which has undergone many temperature changes.
  • Light – Prints left in the sun or even indoor lighting will fade over time and loose their vibrancy. Black and white prints on the other hand can sometimes benefit from sunlight by whitening the paper or killing mold. Avoid prints which have faded colors.
  • Dust – Prints left unprotected from the elements gather dust and get grimy. Smoke from fireplaces and cigarettes attacks the paper and deteriorates the print over time. Foreign material in the paper creates a phenomena called foxing. This grows and looks like mold and is not desirable. Avoid dirty, grimy, dusty prints.
  • Framing –  Today we have conservation framing techniques which most framers offer at a reasonable price, however that was not the case only 30 years ago. Was the glass an anti-UV (ultraviolet) light glass which stops the colors from fading? Does it have conservation matting and back board? It is doubtful. When you buy an antique print in a frame, ask for the seller to take it out so you can inspect it. In our business we have found that over half the prints are glued to a board. This is expensive to remove and it should be removed. There are acids in the board that are attacking the integrity of the antique print. Avoid prints in old frames, unless there is a conservation letter behind the frame describing the steps taken to preserve the print.
  • Tears and repairs – Paper can be repaired in many ways, most are not desirable. The worst is scotch tape as it has acids and synthetic solutions which irreparably damage the print. Avoid tears and repairs unless they are professionally done with conservation materials.

All of these reasons combined are why acquiring antique prints from reputable antique dealers is recommended. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about condition as it affects the price.

What is the condition of the print?
Are there any signs of water damage, mold, dampness?
Are the colors faded?
How clean is the print?
Are there any tears or repairs?

How to Find Out the Value of Art

In this article we will explain several ways  to find out the value of art.

The easiest way to determine the value of your art work is to try to sell it on eBay, however this often depends on how you present it for sale. You will also then know the rock bottom price! In all marketplaces there is the importance of presentation and circumstance in determining price. An art gallery can get more money for artwork than a thrift store or ebay, for example.

Just putting a piece of art on the market is not the best way to achieve the highest price. You are better off having some prior knowledge of its value before releasing it to be sold. Auctions are often limited in scope, some are rigged, art galleries take a fifty percent cut, eBay is a madhouse, you name it each market has its share of unknowns.

We often think that we have an invaluable piece of work and are incredulous when someone tells us that in fact it is worthless. We always hope to have a hidden Picasso. The art world could surely need a good dose of modesty. This applies to the seller and the buyer.

As international art dealers ourselves we use a variety of mechanisms to determine price. Our objective could be to always make a immense profit by buying low and selling high, but that would be very short sighted. We have found that attaining a fair price during the buying stage and selling stage is what matters most to us. So if you have spent 30 hours painting a landscape you should expect it to be worth your while, but it is best to sell several in the future at a reasonable price than just waiting for a single sale in the distant future.

If you are the owner of a piece of art and have no idea of its value, you should start to educate yourself by reading the biographies of the artist, researching their exhibits, visit any website that is dedicated to that artist, search for art sales catalogs that contain artwork from your artist. Basically have fun exploring and discovering what is known about your artist. The more you know about them the better you can represent them when you wish to sell the piece of art or if not selling you will gain an even greater appreciation for your piece art.

There are also some very useful search engines that will help you determine a general idea of the value of the works of some artists. We like to use the search engines and You have to pay to use their services but they list over 400 000 artists and the results from their art work sold at auction. A real goldmine if your focus is just on price. This is quite useful if you have several piece of artwork from a variety of artists. Artprice and Artnet’s focus is mostly on paintings and prints.

How to Identify an Antique Print in 8 Steps

Here are 8 steps on how to identify an antique print.

Secret 1: We are going to assume you have an authentic old print and that it is not a reproduction. Reproductions are usually not worth very much money because they are more recent and have been mass produced. Your first secret is that only an antique print can be considered a real antique.

Secret 2: What is the subject matter of my print? This may seem obvious, but can you describe it in a couple of words: Red Rose, Eiffel Tower, lake landscape, religious saint etc. Here you want to write down a few possible two word descriptions that describe your print.

Secret 3: Is there a title to my print? Often a title is present below the image of your antique print describing the location, people or subject depicted. This is one of your most valuable bits of information in identifying your print. Write this down.

Secret 4: Is there a copyright at the bottom of your print? If there is a copyright year then your print is probably less than 200 years old. The English had started printing copyright years in the late 1700s and this was followed by other printers in the 19th century. Take note of the year.

Secret 5: Is there any fine print on the bottom left? This is traditionally where the name of the artist from which the print was made is listed. The name is often followed by the letters del, delin or delt which is the latin abbreviation and term for “drew”. This is the artist’s name. Many classical prints of the 19th and earlier centuries carry this annotation. Don’t forget to write this down.

Secret 6: Is there fine print on the bottom right of your antique print? This is where the name of the engraver is found. The engraver was the one who engraved the image of the art which is on your print. The engraver’s name is often followed by the latin abbreviation sc. for sculptor. Write this down as well.

Secret 7: Take all your notes and start searching on the internet for the specific names you have written down. If the title is “Schonenberg Castle at Dawn” type those in Google exactly as they appear on your print and put them in quotation marks to get a search with those specific words. You may be pleasantly surprised to find another print like yours in a university or institution whom you can trust in the identification of your print.

Secret 8: Repeat your search for artist names and engraver names. In the absence of a title for your print use your second secret and search with your own description title. Don’t put these in quotation marks. This will take you more time, but you should find it in the end.

Now armed with this information you may like to search how much it is selling for. Look for your newly identified print on line!