We Buy Prints
We are always looking to buy Japanese prints and drawings in very good condition. Even if you’ve had an offer from another dealer, give us a call and perhaps we can do better. Please see our list of artists for an idea of the artists we’re most interested in purchasing.
To give you an accurate idea of a print’s value, we need an image either via email or regular mail. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you send a photo via regular mail and wish to have the photos back.
What determines the price of a print?
1. Is it an original print or a reproduction?
There are many factors affecting the value of a print. Most importantly, it must be an original print that was printed from the original blocks during the artist’s lifetime. There are many thousands of reproductions that have been produced since the Meiji period (1868-1912) of famous and rare designs. This was to make available to everybody the images that are difficult to obtain due to cost and availability. One can still purchase woodblock-printed reproductions on the streets of Tokyo for about $20! The value of such a reproduction is purely decorative, and should not be confused with the value of an original work.
2. Desirability, Rarity and Condition
Edo Period (1600-1868)
Well-known designs by great artists like Hokusai, Sharaku and Utamaro will command the highest prices, sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars. Great works by Utamaro were expensive even one hundred years ago! Desirability, rarity and condition all play a part in determining the value of a print. Due to the fragility of the paper and the sensitivity of the pigments to light and moisture, most Edo-period (1600-1868) prints have lost their original colors. Even a few years spent hanging on the wall in a bright spot can noticeably drain the colors from a print. A premium is paid for prints with fresh colors and clean paper, as this represents most accurately the original intent of the artist. The exact same design by Utamaro can have a value of $20,000 if in mint condition or $200 if in very poor condition. In general, images of beautiful women and landscape prints are more valuable than kabuki actor prints. Artists like Kunisada designed thousands of kabuki actor prints, so they are much more available and often very modest in cost.
Meiji Period (1868-1912)
There are many prints from the Meiji period still available. Unless it is a very well-known design by an artist like Yoshitoshi or Kiyochika then the value is most often in the hundreds of dollars. Prints from this period often present a very good value for the beginning collector.
20th Century Prints
Prints by 20th century artists must be in near-perfect condition. It is sometimes difficult to tell if fading has occurred in 20th century prints, especially if the colors were muted to begin with. This is when an experienced eye is a must. As a general rule, Hasui prints dating from before the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 have a higher value than later designs. Some Hasui designs have been reprinted many times, so the date of publication that can usually be estimated by the publisher’s mark also affects the value.