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It’s All In the Marks: Currier and Ives Prints

by Mike Wilcox (03/26/13).

The size of this Currier and Ives print, not the markings, tell the story of its value.

To well-seasoned or novice collectors, determining a maker or origin of a piece can be very confusing if it is outside their normal area of interest. Any markings that can be found can often help unravel the mystery—if you know what the marks mean.

If you don’t, however, they can lead you well astray of the truth. In this series of Q&A articles, I’m going to answer the questions I hear most often regarding marks on antiques and provide a straight path off an often-twisted trail.

I was given this Currier & Ives print while helping out with a neighbor’s yard sale. Its title is “New England Winter Scene.” I was quite excited, as I’d heard Currier and Ives prints were quite valuable. The print measures 5 7/8 inches by 8 inches, is on a heavy, grainy paper and appears to be marked just like it’s supposed to be. It has “painted by Geo. H. Durrie” on the lower left and “entered according to act of congress in the year 1861 by N. Currier in the clerks office of the district court of the southern district of New York” in the center. “Lith. Currier & Ives N.Y.” are written on the right. I would like to sell it, but don’t want to advertise it as an original unless I know for sure.

Sometimes the markings being as they should be are not any indicator of originality. Other things have to be taken into consideration. Based on your images and the information provided, your print it is a reproduction and not a genuine Currier and Ives lithograph.

The key here is not the information printed on the lower margin, the type of paper or the artist. George Henry Durrie (June 6, 1820-Oct. 15, 1863) was indeed the original artist for 10 of the most popular Currier and Ives prints, including this one, all but one being winter scenes. Four prints based on his originals were published between 1860 and his death, with the remaining six issued posthumously.

Durrie was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and both he and his brother John (1818-1890) studied with the well known engraver and portrait painter Nathaniel Jocelyn. Early in his artistic career, Durrie’s work consisted mainly of portraits commissioned in the New Haven, Connecticut area. He later turned to genre scenes, specializing in winter scenes about the 1850s.

The key to the puzzle here is this print’s size. All of Durrie’s winter scenes for Currier and Ives were published as large folios. As a large folio for this lithograph, the image size alone measures 16 3/8 inches by 23 5/8 inches. The Currier and Ives lithographs have been extensively reproduced in a variety of sizes for most of the 20th century for use as calendars, greeting cards, postcards and decorative prints, for which values tend to be very modest compared to the originals. In the current market, small-sized copies of Currier and Ives’ New England Winter Scene, like yours and set in a nice frame, often sell for less than $75.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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