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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Art of Collecting Prints

Collecting prints is an affordable way to purchase great pieces of art from major artists. However, prints are also an area of art collecting where most individuals get into trouble. This is due to the fact that there are so many fake prints on the market; prints are also being sold as original states when they are actually more recent printings. So how is a print collector supposed to filter through all the fake prints and different print states that are on the market, and why is this important?

The first thing to understand is what a print state is. An artist will create an image, and then the artist, or a craftsman, will make a plate based on that image. This plate will then be used to create a print through one of the various printing processes. The original plate can then be used over and over again to create more prints. In some instances prints made from the same plate are created centuries apart. The plate for Rembrandt’s The Hundred Guilder Print was originally created in the 1640s, and the initial prints made from this plate are considered first state prints. After some time, some additional shading was added to the plate, and a new series of prints were pulled; these are considered second state prints.

Portion of an original woodcut by Dürer plate

An early print pulled from the Dürer plate (Ivins, 10-11)

This is an important factor to consider when collecting prints, because the quality of a print, and thereby its value, will vary from state to state. The quality can vary due to several factors. For example, use and time may wear down the lines of a plate, causing print lines to appear murkier; also, a second party might rework an original plate a century after it was made, giving it a slightly “off” appearance. Practically all prints pulled from an original plate have some value, but that value will vary depending on the quality of the state. It is a factor print collectors should consider when purchasing or having their prints appraised. You would not want to pay for a second state Hundred Guilder Print and, in actuality, buy a 19th century print.

Print A was pulled from the original plate in the 16th Century.
Print B was pulled from the same plate in the 19th Century (Ivins, 20)

The good news for those who unknowingly pay too much for a later printing is that at least they still have purchased an original print. Collectors can really get into trouble when they unknowingly purchase a fake print. In the 20th century, printing techniques became more advanced, and in many instances less labor intensive. The result was that artists such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Joan Miro experimented with various forms of print making and were very prolific. Due to the fact that they were so prolific and their prints were fetching such high values, several forgers emerged who were able to create numerous fake prints that simply slid into the mix among the vast number of originals. These fake prints often feature forged markings and signatures, and can have a somewhat lackluster appearance.

Original print by Salvador Dali

Original print by Marc Chagall

Although there are numerous factors to think about in regards to collecting prints, an experienced appraisal office with a team of researchers and experts, such as MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., can help. Our certified appraisers can determine the authenticity of the prints you currently own, and serve as consultants when you purchase new prints. As stated before, collecting prints is a great way to own several pieces by major artists, but if you are worried you are not getting what you paid for, you may want to seek the advice of a certified appraiser.

Researched and written by Anja Keppeler
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 814-8510

MIR Appraisal Services is located just steps from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Center; please do give us a ring to set up an appointment for a verbal evaluation of your most prized works of art.

Ivins Jr., William M. How Prints Look. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.
Longstreet, Stephen. A Treasury of the World’s Great Prints. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.
White, Christopher. Rembrandt As An Etcher: A Study of the Artist at Work. London: A. Zwemmer Ltd, 1969.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.