Rowlandson Caricature Portfolio, ca. 1800

Value (2010) | $35,000 Auction

I'm a book collector. I look at books every day for the last 50 years. I think this is a book. And it came to me from a friend as a gift. It has prints in it, and I understand that they're Rowlandson prints or lithographs, but there's no identification in it as a book. And I've researched it and researched it and researched it. I can't figure out a thing about it.

Okay, well, as you say, it contains prints by Rowlandson. And here's his name on the cover. The cover was added by a collector, okay? It's not something that was issued with the prints. And let's open up to just a nice example of a Rowlandson print. There are lots of prints in here. There are 56 prints in here, if I remember right. And here is a very nice example of Rowlandson print. Thomas Rowlandson was one of the most famous British caricaturists. He lived in the late 18th, early 19th century. He started as a young man as an artist doing portraits and things like that, and he inherited a pretty large sum from an aunt. When he did that he became a gambler, and he lost the entire fortune from his aunt. It was something like £7,000, which back then was a lot of money, and he kept gambling. I mean, he got hooked on it. And in order to pay off his debts, he discovered that if he made drawings he could give them to the people he owed money to, and he would get off the hook. Then he started selling them, and then people started liking his stuff, and he started making prints. So he became a print maker, and he did etchings. These are all etchings. He did them for a number of different publishers. He did prints for magazines, he did prints for books, but he also sold them as separate prints. Now, back then people actually had portfolios of them. The reason I pulled out this print is down here it says that there is a folio of caricatures that they would lend you for an evening. So you could go into a print seller and borrow the portfolio, take it home, show it to your friends. Maybe you'd like them and you'd want to own some of the prints themselves. So that's what people did. Collectors started collecting them and putting them into bindings like this. So what this is is it's not a book, it is a portfolio of prints by a collector. Rowlandson is very, very well known for different styles. This is a very good collection of early Rowlandsons. A lot of them are quite rare, and early states. And here is one of my favorites. This is showing a print sale. Of course, as a print seller, that's what I like. This is one of the most valuable ones in here, because it's a very scarce print. And you can see down here, the collector who had it actually wrote on it that it was scarce. These are put together in date order, and they are, I think, from 1786 to about 1816. But really what Rowlandson is best known for, I think, are his just gentle social satires. There are just some wonderful images in here. And here is one that is a great example of his social satire-- The Bassoon with the French Horn Accompaniment. And it's a couple lying in bed snoring away. It's wonderful. It shows all the elements of Rowlandson that made him popular. It shows a lot of the accoutrements of the day-- the candles, the plates, the gun. And this just wonderful humor to them that's soft but still making fun. These prints are quite rare. The ones that survive often come in a collection like this. That's what protected them, was the binding. Individually they have quite a good value. They range anywhere from maybe $400 for a small one to... something like this is probably around $2,000. The Print Sale is probably the most valuable in the group. That one sold for around $3,000 at auction a couple years ago. Now, there are 56 in here, so taking them individual prices, which is really where the value is, this portfolio is worth about $35,000.

Pretty expensive. Thank you very much. That's very interesting.


I learned a lot.

Appraisal Details

The Philadelphia Print Shop West
Denver, CO
Appraised value (2010)
$35,000 Auction
Billings, MT (June 26, 2010)

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.