Prints are sometimes perceived as mass-produced replicas of great artworks that aren't very valuable or worth investing in. However, this could not be further from the truth. Prints may be as expensive as any other type of artwork, and particular prints have been known to fetch seven or eight-figure sums at auction.
In fact, prints are some of the most valuable art objects in the world. Some famous print auctions include:
In 2014, a print by William Blake sold for $924,000 - a new record for the artist.
In 2012, a print by Joseph Mallord William Turner went for £1.4 million - a new record for the artist.
In 2005, a print by James Abbott McNeill Whistler went for $3.8 million - at the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a work of art.
These records will likely be broken soon because prints are becoming more popular and valuable every year. In fact, prints are expected to account for 10% of all art sales by 2020.
So, prints are an important part of art history and can be valuable today. If you own a print, make sure to take good care of it!
Print collecting is the auctioneer's version of "having your cake and eating it too." Prints, by definition, are less costly than paintings. Prints are multiples rather than one-of-a-kind works of art, thus they are obviously less valuable. This also implies that the condition is critical. If a print is not appealing to potential buyers, they will pass it up just as they would if it were ugly or flawed in some way.
However, prints are popular items with which to start or expand an art collection. They can be had for very little money (or even free) from artists' estates or museum shops. There are many printmakers who specialise in this type of artwork, so finding good deals is not difficult.
Also, prints can be useful when building a collection because they allow you to see how various artists style their work. This helps you determine which styles you like best and gives you an idea of what other artists are interested in creating. It may also help you identify flaws in technique that could use improvement. Finally, prints are easy to display together on a wall or table, allowing you to showcase your growing collection.
In conclusion, prints are an affordable way to begin building an art collection or adding to an existing one. They can also be sold if you ever want to move out of artist housing. However, prints are generally less expensive than paintings, so only buy them if you can afford to.
Some antique photographs and prints are extremely uncommon and precious, but age is not a guarantee of worth. There are hundreds of 19th-century prints for sale, many of which are little ornamental bookplates (pages taken out of books) that may be worth a small sum if the topic is commercially appealing. But many other prints from this period are simply old pictures of people in costumes or landscapes that have no value as art.
The secret to determining image quality and value is understanding how and when these photographs were made. Was it during a famous artist's career? Long before cameras were common place? After they became popular? These factors all influence price.
Images taken between 1770 and 1870 are called "antebellum" photographs because they were taken before modern photography techniques were invented. These include ambrotype portraits, panoramas, and daguerreotypes. They are rare because very few artists were willing to take these photographs until technology improved. By 1840, photographers had figured out how to make pictures using chemicals instead of silver nitrate, so photographs become much more common and there are often several different exposures of the same scene taken at different times with different settings to create positive images instead of negative ones.
Photographs taken after 1870 are called "postbellum" because they were taken after the Civil War ended in 1865.
In the art world, the larger the work of art, the more valuable it should be. So, if you want to sell your prints for $500 or more, they should be large. People are willing to pay a premium for size, but not so much for quality. So unless you have a very rare form of cotton that only grows in one region of Pakistan, don't expect to recoup your printmaking investment.
If you're just starting out, $100 is a good target price to shoot for. You can always raise the price later. And even if you sell only one print per year, you're still making money.
Of course, if you print at higher quality standards, then you'll be able to charge more. But remember, people are willing to pay a premium for quality too. So don't undercut yourself by printing at low prices.
The rule of thumb is: set a high target price, and don't worry about losing money.