Chiura Obata Woodblock Prints, ca. 1930
What I have are two wood-block prints by a UC professor named Obata. My grandmother had another painting by this artist, and I got interested in the artist and so I ran some searches and saw them and I thought, "What a great opportunity," so I bought them.
And how much did you pay for them?
Well, I ended up paying $500, which...
For the pair?
Each, which at the time seemed like a lot of money.
Well, you're right, these are by Obata, Chiura Obata, who did teach, as you mentioned, at UC Berkeley. He came to California as a young man and studied art and studied in Japan as well and became extremely proficient. He was a watercolorist, and these are two prints from his High Sierra series. The series itself is called the "World" series. But the most famous prints are these, from the High Sierra, where he spent a lot of time. He used to go up there sketching and do watercolors on this scene. And, in fact, these wood-block prints started as watercolors and he took them to Japan in 1928-- they were taken to Takamizawa, one of the great color printmakers in Japan in '28-- and they did them as this "World" series from the watercolors. And if you see the original, you'd swear that they were identical. So Takamizawa, the printer, did a great job in reproducing these as wood-block prints, and the story is that only a hundred sets were done, and they were signed and sealed by him. They certainly did an overrun, some other prints as well, and that's what these are, because these don't happen to be signed and sealed by Obata. Affects the value to some degree, but they are genuine, because you were showing me that you have the original folders they came on with the printed title and the Takamizawa seal. So there's no question that they are genuine. A very strong print here of this Mount Johnson with an unknown lake. This is called Silence and that is called Struggle, as in this pine trying to struggle along through the rocks on the way towards Johnson Pass. So two wonderful Sierra views. Do you have any idea of what they might be worth on the market?
Well, I know what I paid for them, and that's... that's about it. I hope they're worth more than I paid for them.
Well, they are worth more than you paid for them. That's certainly true. As a pair, I would say that in a retail establishment or even at auction, that they would be between $4,000 and $5,000 for the pair or $2,000 to $2,500 each. They're of equal value, because they came from that same series in 1930.
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.