Written by Jessica May
We receive countless calls each week from people who own prints and have no idea if they are “worth anything”. Like any other medium, some prints are extremely valuable and are bought and sold for large sums of money, but many of them only have nominal decorative value. In most cases, there are some steps the owner can take before considering an appraisal. Do a Google search. If you know who the artist is or can read a signature and/or title, type them into Google and see what turns up. Because most prints are part of an edition, there is a good chance that a gallery or dealer has listed others from the edition. If this is the case, then you can hopefully obtain current pricing for these prints. You can also search websites that report the art market, such as Artnet.com, Askart.com, or Artprice.com. All of these websites compile auction results so that they can be searched by artist. Each website charges a fee for use, but they are very good resources. They all also have separate areas on the website where dealers list works that are for sale. If you do not know the artist and/or cannot read the signature on the print, it can be worthwhile to get in touch with a local auction house or one that specializes in prints, such as Swann Galleries. They will often be willing to look at a digital image of the print and, if they can identify it, provide a pre-sale estimate. A pre-sale estimate is usually a range of prices that they think the piece would sell for if they offered it in one of their auctions. If the auction house is unable to identify the print or cannot provide a pre-sale estimate, that usually indicates that the print is more decorative and not appropriate for one of their sales.
Although we routinely appraise prints, if you are looking to sell the piece or just get an idea of value, an appraisal may not be what you need. You may be able to acquire the information that you seek with just a bit of work on your end.