How to Authenticate Currier & Ives Prints

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A series of original prints produced between 1834 and 1907 have made Currier & Ives one of the most-sought after brands among collectors of Americana. Original prints in good condition are worth several thousand dollars but a vast number of copies made during the 20th century have flooded the market, making it difficult for many collectors to judge the authenticity of their prints. There are several telltale characteristics that will mark a “Currier & Ives” as just another modern reproduction.

Things You'll Need

  • Print
  • Magnifying glass or photographer's loupe
  • Reference book
  • Examine the bottom, top and sides of the print for copyright information or any notes from the manufacturer indicating the print is a reproduction.

  • Examine the print through a photographer’s loupe or magnifying glass. If you see a field of small dots, then the print was photographically reproduced through the dot-matrix process and is a copy.

  • Examine the thickness of the paper. The paper should be thick, with a matte (not glossy) surface. Prints on glossy or thin paper are reproductions.

  • Look up the print in a reference book and measure the print area for the proper dimensions. Most originals were issued in only a single size. The standard sizes for original prints are small (8” by 12-1/2”), medium (10” to 14” by 14” to 20”) and large (over 14” by 20”). The standard references for Currier & Ives prints are Frederic Conningham’s "Currier & Ives Prints: An Illustrated Check List" (which gives the standard “C” numbers used by collectors to identify the prints) and" Currier & Ives: A Catalogue Raisonne," published by Gale Research. These books list information on approximately 7,000 original prints.

  • Examine the quality of the print impression and color. Currier & Ives issued only lithographed prints, which were created by pressing a sheet of paper across a lithographer's stone and coloring by hand. The colors in the print should be bright and vivid. Hold the print up at an angle. If the characteristic sheen given by an application of gum Arabic can be seen, you probably have an original.

References

  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images
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