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The Philadelphia Print Shop Currier and Ives

Currier & Ives Best 50

[ History | Current listing ]



In 1932 a jury of twelve Currier & Ives experts and collectors selected a group of what they considered to be the "Best 50" large folio Currier & Ives prints. For fifty days running, these prints were illustrated and described in the New York Sun. This publicity created much interest, and subsequent newspaper sales, so that the following year the "Best 50" small folio prints were also selected (four medium folio prints were included in this list). These two lists created an instant market for the 100 prints chosen and the lists have been reprinted in almost every general book on Currier & Ives published since.

In 1988 a new, more democratic process of selecting the "Best 50" was sponsored by the American Historical Print Collectors Society (AHPCS). "The Best 50 - Revisited" was begun by a panel of experts who selected the "Top 100" of both large and small folio prints. These prints were then presented in a ballot to the entire membership of the AHPCS, which then selected the "New Best 50" large and small folio prints. A handsome book, Currier & Ives. The New Best 50 (available from our bookstore) was published in 1990 with all the new "best" prints illustrated in color and with an analysis of the differences between the original and new lists. Listings of the Original Best 50, Top 100, and New Best 50 are included as appendixes in this guide.

The prints from all four lists are very collectible and usually command a premium price. They are all wonderful prints, generally considered to be the best of the Currier & Ives oeuvre. While among the over 7,500 original Currier & Ives prints there are many others that are just as wonderful, there is always an added value in acquiring one of these "Best 50" prints.

Current listing

Large folio:

None currently available.

Small folio:

Star of the Road
"The Star of the Road." N. Currier, 1849. Small folio. 8 x 12 1/2. Some wear and a few repaired tears in margins. C:5701. Original Best 50: #6. $475

Midnight Race on the Mississiippi
"Midnight Race On The Mississippi." Currier & Ives, 1875. Small folio. 9 x 13 1/4. C:4117. New Best 50: #9. $1,800

Wild Turkey Shooting
"Wild Turkey Shooting." Currier & Ives, 1871. Small folio. 9 3/8 x 12 3/8. C:6677. Original Best 50: #14. $750

Home on the Mississippi
"A Home On The Mississippi." Currier & Ives, 1871. Small folio. 8 1/2 x 12 1/2. C:2876. Rubbed spot on publisher imprint at left and a few short repaired tears in margins. New Best 50: #25. Appears on the label of Southern Comfort. $1,100

Skating Scene - Moonlight
"Skating Scene - Moonlight." Currier & Ives, 1868. Small folio. 8 x 12 1/2. C:5546. New Best 50: #19. Light spots and pinhole in margin. Wide margins. $2,100

Homestead: AutumnSpacerHomestead: Winter

Homestead: SpringSpacerHomestead: Summer

Set of four "American Homestead" prints: Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. New York: Currier & Ives, 1868-69. Small folio. Ca. 7 3/4 x 12 3/8. Lithographs. Original hand color. Very good condition.

The firm of Currier & Ives gained its reputation for producing two types of prints-"rush" prints that provided immediate visual reporting of major newsworthy events, and "stock" prints depicting every subject relating to American life: sports, games, home life, religion, entertainment, views of cities, and so forth. The latter prints, which included generic scenes of American "homesteads," were amongst the most endearing and enduring of the firm's work. The most famous series of such prints the firm made was the "American Homestead" set of four seasons. These prints are in some ways the archetypal Currier & Ives images, expressing the qualities for which their work is best known. As Frederic A. Conningham says, it is "Undoubtedly the most popular set of small folios ever published by Currier & Ives." (Currier & Ives Prints. An Illustrated Check List.) Evidence of this is the fact that these are the only complete series of prints to make the New Best 50 Currier & Ives small folio prints. They are a wonderful example of the work of "America's printmakers." $4,200 for the set

"American Homestead Spring." Currier & Ives, 1869. Small folio. 7 7/8 x 12 3/8. Light stain in title area. C:170. New Best 50: #45. $875

"American Homestead Winter." Currier & Ives, 1868. Small folio. 7 7/8 x 12 3/8. Short expertly repaired tear in left margin; faint scratch in stone visible from barn to copyright text. C:172. Original Best 50: #23; New Best 50: #5. $1,500

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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated November 24, 2015