Price Discrepancies in Woodblock Prints
We own about 20 Hiroshige II prints. I appreciate his work so his prints are on my short list for purchasing. The other day I found his print "Kintai Bridge at Iwakuni in Suo Province" (Suo Iwakuni Kintai-bashi), from the series One Hundred Famous Views in the Various Provinces (Shokoku meisho hyakkei). This is one of the most famous of the series, a beautiful composition of blue and white. The falling snow, snow covered houses, and random figures add to the quiet atmosphere of the scene. This is a print that I'd love to own.
I was surprised to see the auction price, at that time of 630 Euro, about $700. The prints I have of his were about $100 each. Of course, I realized that this series was not the same as my series and was more sought after - hence the higher price point. Out of curiosity, I thought I'd do a quick search and find out the price that this print has sold for in the past. Below are the prices I found from various online gallery and auction sites.
This listing below was the site I mentioned first, at the 630 Euro price, but by the time I went back to screenshot it, it had gone up to 830 Euro. This print finally did not sell because the Reserve was not met. Note that the print is trimmed as well, perhaps that is a reason for the lower price.
This one below didn't list a "SOLD" price but you can see the estimate of 2,000 - 3,000 GPB
This one below has a competing bid of $1,580 but an estimate of $5,000 - $6,000.
Finally this one below has a price of $7595.39. I don't know if it sold for that or not.
So what are we to make of the wide range of prices for this print? An experienced collector will know that some of these prints are from the first printing back in 1859. Assuming the publisher marks are all the same (as in the print images in this article) perhaps the clues to provenance lie in some subtle bokashi shading, the type of paper, or a slight color applied to the snowy banks. It is very difficult to a novice collector to purchase with confidence. This emphasizes the importance of purchasing prints from a reputable gallery.
This type of pricing discrepancy happens across the board with Ukiyo-e prints. If anyone reading this has some input or stories of cost differences in prints they have purchased, please let me know.