Buying Audubon Prints On eBay®  

With Recommendations

  by Ron Flynn

This specific article is an update and expansion of a portion of my 2004 Buying Audubon Prints and Print Condition article on this website. At the end of this article, I also provide a list of eBay sellers, that I recommend, who sell Audubon prints.

There are several other Internet auction sites besides eBay. However, when I have visited them, and searched for Audubon prints, I mostly got no hits or maybe some cheap posters. I believe that eBay is the only reliable Internet auction source for original Audubon prints.

eBay should be thought of as sort of a “wholesale” auction outlet. eBay is an open auction marketplace. However, you never get to see, first hand, the merchandise you are bidding on. Therefore, you must heavily rely on the low-resolution pictures and the description of condition, if any, by the seller.


Original Havell, Imperial Folio Quadruped and Bien Edition Audubon prints only turn up on eBay occasionally, and those that do are usually in very poor condition. There are perhaps 6-12 regular sellers on eBay who list Audubon Amsterdam, as well as 1st and later octavo edition bird and quad prints for sale. Some regularly list 5-10 or more prints each week. Others list prints less often, or in smaller numbers. Some sellers are well known large antique print dealers, using their own names or an eBay ID. Others are smaller well-established professional rare book or print dealers, and have their own businesses. Finally, there are individuals, who are mostly collectors, consignment sellers or heirs of some sort, who try to sell their Audubon prints on eBay. In eBay auction listings, sellers may make it known who they are, and what experience they have. However, none of this information, by itself, is any guarantee that the auction pictures you see, and the descriptions of condition they give, are accurate or believable. If you are the winning bidder, there is no guarantee that the print you receive is the same one pictured and described in the auction listing. One old time eBay Audubon seller, now deceased, personally told me that he didn’t have time to make images for all his Audubon eBay auctions, so he used stock pictures instead.

The feedback ratings for eBay sellers are helpful. However, I believe that a large percentage of Audubon print buyers on eBay are not knowledgeable about market value and the importance of condition in buying antique prints. The more detailed the seller’s description of condition, the better. Don’t rely on the low-resolution auction images, except to note missing corners and other paper loss, and to check the position of the image on the sheet (to determine if the sheet has been trimmed, and to make sure there is enough margin for matting). Only the most obvious flaws and damage show up on those low-resolution Internet pictures. Some sellers give very detailed and accurate descriptions of the prints they are selling, and I have a high confidence in bidding on their auctions. However, other sellers list every one of their prints as being in “excellent” condition, without any regard or mention of a fox mark or finger smudge or other flaws. Another “trick” is to describe a print as being in “excellent” condition apart from say a little foxing, minor offsetting, some soiling and maybe a small tear in the margin. Well, if a print has several flaws or faults, it’s not in “excellent” condition no matter what.

I’d be very cautious of sellers who describe their prints as “excellent”, “super shape”, “fine condition” or similar terms, but do not include a real condition report. If you are interested in an item that is described this way, use eBay’s “ask seller a question” feature to get a condition report from the seller. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, don’t bid on it, or any other auctions by that seller. One eBay seller used to list all of his Audubon octavo bird and quad prints as being “2nd State”. However, he never revealed the edition or year the prints were published. In my article Print States Versus Editions, on this website, you can learn about print states and how meaningless 2nd State is to print authentication. That seller is a professional dealer. I believe the only reason for using the 2nd State term was to confuse and mislead buyers.

Several of the high quality Audubon reproductions (Amsterdam, Loates, Abbeville and Leipzig) are regularly sold on eBay in various numbers. There are many more “fake” originals, cheap reproductions and poster type prints offered as “originals” or being vintage, antique or very old. If one is a knowledgeable Audubon collector or has read about authentication of Audubon prints (see my Modern DEF Review and Is Your Audubon Print an Original articles on this website), these auctions can be easily recognized for what they are. If you haven’t educated yourself about Audubon print authentication, you should not be bidding on them on eBay.

Some sellers have a strong following on eBay. It seems that their auctions bring higher prices than auctions for the same print by other sellers. I believe the major reason for this is confidence in the seller, more than differences in the actual condition of the same print. These few professional antique print dealers (who sell more than just Audubon prints on eBay) work very hard to provide an accurately described product, and super communication and service to their buyers. Their efforts pay off in higher prices and an excellent reputation and following.

Some eBay sellers guarantee the originality of the Audubon prints they list. This guarantee is meaningless unless backed up with a money back refund policy. The amount of money you have to bid in order to win an original Audubon print on eBay is large enough so that you don’t want to risk losing that money to fraudulent sellers. Unless you know a seller or are confident with the seller’s reputation, I would avoid sending money orders or personal checks. Use a credit card or PayPal to purchase your auction winnings. If something goes wrong, you at least have the protection provided by PayPal or Federal laws governing credit card use.

I would avoid buying matted or framed prints on eBay. Unless you can be certain that the work was done very recently, using the highest quality archival materials, you will probably wind up discarding the matting materials and having the work redone. More importantly, there is the likelihood that the matting is covering unseen flaws and damage, either pre-existing and covered up by the new mat and frame or actually caused by the use of older non-archival materials. 

I generally would avoid bidding on eBay "LIVE" auctions. Small to medium sized auction houses, with only a general knowledge of Audubon prints, do most of these type auctions. Images and condition reports are poor, while rules and terms and conditions of sale are lengthy, and often confusing or unclear. Most of the auction houses on eBay LIVE do not ship the items themselves. You must usually make your own packing and shipping arrangements with "recommended" private carriers, often at very high rates. Some of the larger auction houses have begun using eBay LIVE, and images and condition reports have gotten somewhat better. There is usually a hefty buyer’s premium added on to your final eBay LIVE winning bid. eBay LIVE bidders are penalized by paying a buyer's premium that is at least 5% higher than if you went to the auction house website and registered and placed an absentee bid there.

When bidding on antique Audubon prints on eBay, be mindful of the print’s condition and general market value. Avoid getting into a bidding war with another buyer, and running up the price above actual retail. If you are a careful eBay buyer, you can purchase original Audubon prints in as good or better condition than you would find at many retail dealers, for 50%-60% of dealers’ retail prices, or less.


Recommended eBay Sellers – (listed alphabetically)

CIRQLAR – P. Scott Francis
ewosobe – Robert Braun
princetonaudubon – Princeton Audubon (formerly congogrey) - Warren Baggett
tcgfineart – Taylor Clark Gallery
tmontew – J.J.Audubon Gallery  

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Copyright © 2008 by Ron Flynn



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