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Lithographs: Quick Links
Are Lithographs Valuable?
A lithograph is usually much more affordable than original art created by a well-known artist, but still has an air of exclusivity as the artwork is not mass-produced.
Important factors that have the potential to increase the value of a lithograph prints are:
- Has a limited quantity (limited edition)
- Is numbered (another sign that it’s from a limited edition)
- Is signed by the artist
- Was hand-printed by the creator of the original artwork
Lithographs usually keep or increase their value over time.
Here’s a list of some more qualities that make lithographs worth more money:
- Artist: An artist’s popularity, backstory, and death will greatly influence the cost of a lithograph.
- Materials: Generally speaking, a lithograph print made with archival inks and paper has a higher value than a lithograph made with lower-quality materials.
- Condition: A lithograph’s physical condition is an important factor. Tears/rips, water damage, fading, dirt, and discoloration can all decrease the value of a lithograph.
- Authenticity: An original lithograph print that is created directly and personally by a particular artist is worth more than an imitation or a copy (print) made by a mechanical printer.
- Provenance: A record of who the lithograph belonged to can also be used as a guide to authenticity and quality. If a lithograph was once owned by a famous collector or came from an esteemed art gallery, the value of the print will greatly increase.
- Historical Significance: First, the value of a lithograph will increase if the artwork had any importance to art history in its genre (category). But world history also affects the value of the artwork since it’s often a reflection of cultural, political, economical, social, and military history.
- Auctions: Just the sudden feeling of excitement bidders can have at an auction, especially if the auctioneer is skilled at making an auction exhilarating, can raise the price of a lithograph.
What Is the Difference Between a Lithograph and Print?
Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.
This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other.
A lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.
The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease and but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.
After some chemical processing, the drawing is placed in a press and the image is transferred onto a piece of paper, creating a mirrored picture.
The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.
For a more detailed look at how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like, check out the video below.
In the art world, when you hear the word print*, it usually means reproductions of an original piece of art that was printed using a machine (usually a high-quality printer hooked up to a computer, as Society6 and Redbubble do).
With this printing technique, the artist doesn’t print the artwork by hand at all and the original artwork can be mass-produced at a rapid pace.
* Print also includes words like art print, canvas print, metallic print, etc.
You can see an example of what art prints are in Society6‘s product video below.
How Can You Tell if a Lithograph Is Real?
A common way to tell if a print is a hand-printed lithograph or a print made with a machine is to look at the artwork under a magnifying glass.
A hand-printed lithograph will show random marks and a dot pattern created by the surface the artwork was drawn on.
How Do You Know if a Certain Lithograph Is Valuable?
If you’re really serious about knowing if a certain lithograph is valuable, find an art appraiser at a gallery, museum, or auction house (or just google “art appraiser near me“).
A certified art appraiser is trained to determine the authenticity and value of art, including lithographs. They work with other art experts to compare lithographs and to find similarities and differences that make the lithograph unique.
They’ll also look at the condition of the lithograph for any physical flaws.
If the lithograph is authentic and in good condition, they’ll do an evaluation of the market. They’ll look at former sales by the same artist, works in the same genre, the climate of the market in general, and the current demand for the artist.
All of this will allow the appraiser to give you a professional opinion of what the lithograph is worth.
So now that you know if lithographs are valuable, go ahead and buy lithographs (my two favorite spots for finding affordable lithographs are Etsy and Saatchi Art), support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!