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How to Determine the Value of Hiroshige Print

Determining the value of a Hiroshige print requires persistence.
money Japanese symbol image by michele goglio from Fotolia.com

Utagawa Hiroshige was a Japanese landscape artist (1797 to 1858) also known as Ando Hiroshige. He was a master of the woodblock print, the ukiyo-e, and was a prolific artist. The Lawrence University website reports that he may have 8,000 prints to his credit; a Princeton blog reports more than 5,000. Hiroshige did series and sets, like “Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido” and “One Hundred Views of Edo.” You can determine the value of a Hiroshige print with some study, comparison research and an artistic eye.

Measure your print to determine the size. The oban is the common Japanese art size, about 15 inches by 10 inches. The chuban is 10 inches by 7 inches. The aiban is about 13 inches by 9 inches, and not a common size. Hiroshige prints are often yokoban or landscape style on the page, but they may be tateban, or vertical.

Look at the condition of the print. Vintage and antique woodblock prints by Hiroshige usually have significant damage. List all damage, including discoloration, foxing (speckles on the paper from age), tears, fading, wrinkling and bug and water damage. This information will be important if you want to sell your print, and it also helps establish the value.

Attempt to identify the print by name. If you can determine the series it is from or the name of the block print, you can compare the size and characteristics with original issues and reissues. If your print is an original issue (made from the original woodblock during the lifetime of the artist), it is more valuable than a reissue (later impression from the original woodblock) or a copy or reproduction that uses new cut blocks.

Compare the print with another from a book, museum or art gallery. Look at the key block lines or the basic drawing of the design. Look for variations in thickness and shape to decide if yours is a copy. Look at a side-by-side comparison on a website to see the nuances in an original and a reproduction (see Resources).

Study the calligraphy on the print for differences in style, thickness, slant and flourishes of the strokes between a book copy and your print. Because the calligraphy is difficult to duplicate, this is a key to originals and copies.

Examine the paper. If the paper looks old, and if the printing shows through the back, it may be an original.

Look at values of originals and reissues, copies and reproductions online. Visit an art gallery and ask what it would cost to purchase a Hiroshige print (an original and a reproduction) in the size and style of the one you have. Check online for prints of your landscape scene sold in the past six months. New prints are available at $30 and original prints with damage and of a common scene are often available for about $400.

Find a sold print in similar condition and the same scene and size as your Hiroshige print. Compare the condition of your print and the one recently sold, and subtract or add value to determine the value of your print. Comparing art is somewhat subjective and works best with practice. Ask for help from an art gallery or an art appraiser if you have difficulty.

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