How to Identify Currier & Ives

By Chelsea Fitzgerald ; Updated September 15, 2017

Nathaniel Currier and James Ives were two businessmen who printed over 7,500 lithographs from 1857 until 1907. Their prints were valued for the way they reflected everyday life in America, with scenes about everything from farming, religion, ships, hunting, winter scenes and city life. Reproductions of these famous prints are found on everything from drink coasters, soaps, dishes, playing cards and calendars. The originals are prints only. Whether you have just started collecting the prints or inherited one, there are ways to detect authentic prints from the reproductions.

Look underneath the image of the picture, if it has wording such as "reproduced by," "reprinted by" or "courtesy of," then it is not an original print.

Hold the picture at an angle, according to the Currier and Ives website. The prints were individually hand-colored before being available for purchase. Often, the artist used gum arabic on the colors, this varnish will have a sheen to it, and if the print is held at an angle the shine of the varnish will appear.

Examine the print under a magnifying glass. Reproductions will have the tiny dots of the print in a uniform pattern, often geometric or a dot with a semi-circle surrounding it. The authentic prints will have no uniformity under magnification.

Measure the print. Currier and Ives only printed three different sizes of folio, the small ones being 8 by 12.5 inches, the medium prints were 10 to 14 inches by 14 to 20 inches, the large folios measured over 14 by 20 inches. If your print does not fall into one of these groups, it is most likely a reproduction.

Contact an art curator or a specialist in rare art; they will be able to examine your print and tell whether it is authentic and what it is worth.

About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.