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Skinner expert appraisers and auctioneers discuss antiques, fine art, and collectibles. Keep up on market trends and get collecting tips from antiques experts. Discover the stories behind the art and antiques Skinner offers at auction.

Guide to Collecting John James Audubon Prints


Audubon, John James (1785-1851) Fish Hawk, Plate 81. [from] The Birds of America. London: R. Havell, 1827-1838. Sold for $43,050

Five of the entries on the list of the top ten most expensive books ever sold are copies of The Birds of America by John James Audubon. The double elephant folio sold for $10.3 million in 2010.   A giant in both price and volume – the complete work measures 39.5 inches by 28.5 inches and contains 435 plates.

There’s a good reason that the book commands such high prices. Audubon created a genre of illustration that didn’t exist before. He depicted his birds life-size,  exhibiting normal behaviors in their natural habitats. His abilities as an artist and high scientific standards are perfectly captured in his illustrations, and people of all ages and backgrounds are drawn to these lifelike images.

Audubon, John James (1785-1851) Great Horned Owl, Plate LXI. [from] The Birds of America. London: Havell, 1827-1838. Sold for $12,300

Thankfully, for those of us who don’t have an extra $10 million lying around, individual prints from inside the book are often available at auction. In each Skinner Fine Books & Manuscripts Auctions, we offer large Havell and Bien Audubon plates, 19th century octavo-format sets of The Birds, individual octavo plates, and quadruped plates in octavo and folio formats. We also sold a complete folio edition of Audubon’s Quadrupeds.


3 Tips for determining the value of Audubon prints:

1. Size matters!

Audubon, John James (1785-1851) Common American Skunk, Plate XLII. [from] The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, 1839-1844. Sold for $1,560

Knowing the edition is critical. Prints from the first edition were published by Havell and should measure approximately 30 x 40 inches. They were printed on watermarked wove paper by copperplate engraving and are hand-colored. These prints came out in the 1820s-1830s. Bien, a publisher in New York, printed a selection of plates by chromolithograph in the 1860s. These are nearly the same size but have a different paper and imprint. The octavo plates, by comparison only measure about 10 x 6 inches.

2. Understand condition issues

Prints should never be mounted onto board, as acid can leach into the paper and affect the color. Exposure to direct sunlight fades the colors and can brown the paper. Folds, tears, or worn corners also affect the value of a print. Remember, prints are multiples – most collectors want to find and purchase the copy in the most pristine condition possible. These plates are nearly 200 years old, and much can happen to compromise condition. Even so, some examples are still in excellent shape.

3. What’s your favorite animal?

Audubon, John James (1785-1851) Raccoon, Male, Plate LXI. [from] The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, 1839-1844. Sold for $5,100

The subject matter of an Audubon print also helps determine the value. Larger birds tend to bring higher prices than the smaller songbirds. Great Blue HeronAmerican Flamingo, and Wild Turkey are three of the most valuable prints of The Birds of America. However, some of the smaller birds can also bring high prices at auction, including the Carolina Parrot, Robin, Mockingbird, and Ruff-Necked Hummingbird. The charm of the composition also affects value and the attitude of the animals. There’s something about the look of Audubon’s quadrupeds, the mother skunk defending her cubs  looks defiant, and the presence of the Audubon raccoon is arresting and familiar to anyone who has interrupted a midnight garbage raid.


If you have any Audubon prints that you would like assessed, please send an email with photographs, measurements, and a description and we will be happy to help you in any way we can. Collectors should set up lot alerts on the My Skinner section of the website. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the next great thing!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

African American History from Middle Passage to Present Day Highlighted in Skinner Auction

BOSTON, February 12, 2018. Significant and wide-ranging participation by museums interested in adding to their public collections led the Skinner February 9th auction of the Collection of Avis and Eugene Robinson. More than twenty-six cultural and educational institutions, in this country and abroad, vied to bid on items from the collection of artifacts, documents, and photographs chronicling the full scope of African American history from enslavement to emancipation, from Jim Crow to Civil Rights to the present day.  In all, the collection formed a rich mosaic portraying the complex, often painful, often triumphant history of a people.… Read More

The First Paper Currency of Panama

1941 Panamanian Banco Central de Emision 10 Balboas Arias Seven Day Issue, Pick-24a, PMG Very Fine 25 NET (Lot 1560, Estimate: $6,000-8,000)

1941 Panamanian notes are some of the most collectible and widely sought after pieces of world money in the numismatic community,

so much so that the 20 Balboa note is featured on the back cover of an issue of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money. While this issue is relatively modern, its story is what makes any survivor a rarity of increasing value.… Read More

Raise a Glass: Mid-winter Fine Wines and Spirits Auction at Skinner Brims with Splendid Choices

The Fine Wine & Rare Spirits auction will take place February 15, 2018, at Skinner, 63 Park Plaza, Boston. The live auction begins at 6 PM, supplemented with real-time online bidding. A select number of wines will be available for sampling prior to the sale; please contact the Fine Wines department at 508-970-3246 for tasting information.

Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 1990, 6 bottles (Lot 274, Estimate: $900-1,200)

Department head Marie Keep notes that wines and spirits are unique among Skinner’s many offerings because they are consumables.… Read More

On the Money: Skinner’s Coins and Currency Auction


Offering an intriguing variety of coins, paper money, and other numismatic treasures

Coins and currency combine historic interest, aesthetic appeal, and very often intrinsic value as well. The examples in this sale span centuries and continents. Many items are fresh to market from long-treasured family collections.

Among the notable lots being offered are rare Panamanian banknotes from the short-lived 1941 administration of Arnulfo Arias.… Read More

Skinner South Florida Events

Jewelry History Symposium

Kaitlin Shinnick, Senior Specialist in the Skinner Fine Jewelry Department, will lead off the two-day Jewelry History Symposium this week in Miami. The conference is organized by the Original Miami Beach Antique Show and held at the Miami Fair Expo Center, the two days prior to the opening of the show. Kaitlin will open the conference with what everyone wants to know, “What’s Hot at Auction.” Skinner is a proud sponsor of this fantastic event, for more details and a list of presenters visit the show website.… Read More

February Consignment Days

New York City and Providence Consignment Events for Fine Jewelry, Silver and European Decorative Arts


Tuesday, February 13 | Providence, Rhode Island 

Fine Jewelry 


Fine Jewelry experts from Skinner will be on hand to provide free verbal evaluations for single items and collections as well as accept consignments for their spring auctions. Call us at 617.874.4313 for more information.




Wednesday, February 14 | New York City

Fine Jewelry 

Skinner New York

415 Madison Ave #1418 New York, NY 10017

10AM – 4PM

Fine Jewelry experts from Skinner will be on hand to provide free verbal evaluations for single items and collections as well as accept consignments for their spring auctions. … Read More

Pre-Auction Wine Tasting Events | New York & Boston

Pre-Auction Wine Tasting Events

Thursday, February 8 | New York | 5:30PM

The Cosmopolitan Club The Sun Room 122 East 66th Street New York, NY 10065


Monday, February 12 | Boston | 4PM

Troquet on South 107 South Street Boston, MA 02111


Meet the specialists from the Fine Wines Department and taste highlights from the two pillars of our upcoming February 15th auction – Winter’s Collection and The Nantucket Cellar.… Read More

Power to the Past | A Lecture by Eugene Robinson


Reception and Lecture by Eugene Robinson





In his nearly four decades at The Washington Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s award-winning Style section. He has written books about race in Brazil and music in Cuba, covered a heavyweight championship fight, witnessed riots in Philadelphia and a murder trial in the deepest Amazon, sat with presidents and dictators and the Queen of England, thrust and parried with hair-proud politicians from sea to shining sea, handicapped three editions of American Idol, acquired fluent Spanish and passable Portuguese and even, thanks to his two now-grown sons, come to an uneasy truce with hip-hop culture.… Read More

5 Tips for Bidding with Success in Online Auctions

Famille Jaune Bowl, China, with lotus scrolling alternating with four characters, (Estimate $200-300; Sold for $24,600)

Believe it or not, Skinner held its first online-only auctions in 1999. At the time, bidders experienced a platform built on an emerging technology.  Fast-forward to 2018, and it’s hard to find a collector or even occasional buyer who hasn’t participated in online auctions.

The main feature of an online-only auction is that bidding takes place online over an extended period of time – as a bidder, there is no need to spend hours in a saleroom waiting for the lot(s) you are interested in to come on the block.… Read More

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