At top antique fairs we have attended, such as the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in London, items must usually be at least 100 years old to be classed as antique. However, original prints made before about 1960 may be considered to be antique if they were not mass produced. In contrast, vintage prints are usually considered to be those made between 1960 to 1980.
Have you wondered when an antique print you've seen was made? Here are our tips for dating antique prints. We would need to write a book to cover all the nuances, but these tips are a good starting point.
Prints mostly had thick ink lines as most were made with woodcuts
This was the Renaissance era so prints were often about religion or classical subjects such as ancient Rome
Not many prints from this era were colored
The paper was usually very thick and uneven as it was hand made in small quantities
Here's an example showing the imperial baths in Rome. Click the picture to see more:
Prints of animals, plants and travels were popular and more realistic
The paper tended to be thinner as it started to be machine-made
Copper plate engravings were still common, but more expensive prints were produced by lithography, aquatint or stipple engraving
Coloring was still mostly done by hand
The most common print methods were lithography (speckled appearance) or steel plate engravings (much finer lines than copper)
Plate marks were less common as lower printing pressure was needed
Printed color became much more common from about 1860 onwards
The paper tends to be smoother. One reason is that color lithography printing had been mastered and required smooth paper.
You can use the filters on this site to find prints by date.
If you have an antique print that you'd like to know more about read about our antique print appraisal service here.