My Audubon Bird Print
How Much is My Audubon Bird Print Worth?
© March 2005 by Terrance M. Wright - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The question, ‘How Much is my Audubon Print Worth?’, is the single most common question I encounter when interacting with Web visitors to the JJAudubon Gallery & Collectors web site. It is quite natural to want to know the value of an article, especially if one is not familiar with art markets or the individual item itself. The answer to this question is always a resounding ‘it depends’. The value of a print depends on numerous factors. Some of these are who made the image and when, its aesthetic appeal, whether the print is an original, a restrike, a facsimile or a reproduction. Is the print from a limited edition, or an open edition? What is the condition of the print; is it in mint condition or torn and tattered? Has it been altered in any way? Is it nice and bright or greatly faded? Do you need to sell it immediately or can you afford to hold out for a long while? And, do you intend to sell it on eBay, to a dealer, on consignment to a Gallery, or to a private individual? When one has all this information in hand, a fair indication of value can be estimated.
Step one in any valuation is determining exactly what item you have. Fortunately, for Audubon materials, this is fairly straight forward, even for a novice. This site contains numerous research materials related to original and limited edition facsimiles of Audubon’s works. Monumental exceptions such as the original watercolor paintings by Audubon are so scarce as to be excused from this discussion. But, back to determining what you have. Read the articles on this site about original and Limited Edition prints to determine where your item came from. While not 100% ironclad, you can be fairly certain that items not described on this or similar sites have little monetary or collectible value. Items such as open edition copies of Birds of America book plates, prints, posters, calendars and the like are very common and of little monetary value (although they may look very very nice.) If you find you have a more common open edition item, one very quick test is to check eBay to see what similar common items are fetching. For purposes of this article, we will suppose that you have one of the original or limited edition prints as verified using the information contained on this site, or elsewhere.
Once you know what type of print you have, for example an Amsterdam facsimile, write a short description of the article. Describe all text on front and back of the sheet, including plate numbers, titles, legends, attributions, copyright marks, etc. Note embossed seals, watermarks and insignias appearing on or in the paper and include the full text in your description. If you know how old the item is, or even how long you have had it in your (or your family’s) possession, include that information in the description.
Next, consider the print’s condition. This is very important in determining value. Write down a list of any detractors, such as folds or creases, alterations such as trimmed edges, smudges or dirt, spots, tears, wrinkles, buckling or water stains. Note where each is located and its size. For example, is the defect in the image or in the margin (and therefore hidable behind a mat?) and is it 1/8” in diameter or 2” across?. Descriptions such as ‘excellent condition’ or ‘average condition’ are of little assistance in determining a print’s value. Measure and write down the dimensions of your print. Even if you don’t know what it should be, this is important information.
After collecting print information, consider your goals in evaluating the print. Are you trying to determine value for insurance purposes, or do you want to dispose of it? What is your timeline for disposing of the print? Are you willing to do some work to sell it or do you want a fast and easy transaction? What is the minimum you are willing to dispose of it for (your purchase price, for example)? Besides demand for an item, provenance and condition, the price realized for a print depends on whether it is a wholesale transaction, auction, fine art gallery consignment, or private sale.
When you have all this information, it is advisable to contact a reputable art dealer familiar with Audubon’s work and obtain a written appraisal (check our links section for a list of Audubon dealers.) This is usually required for insurance purposes, in any event. With your inquiry, include all of the information outlined above. And, include digital photos with your email whenever possible. Consider though that dealers are probably flooded with similar requests, often and mostly, concerning items with no tangible value. Their time is valuable and they may charge a fee for these services. I am happy to entertain queries of this nature when the proper information is supplied, but can only provide an opinion, not an appraisal. Fortunately, with the materials on this and other sites, and by visiting the various galleries on line, the novice collector can obtain a pretty fair idea of market value by themselves.