Ansel Adams Original Signed Print Value

What you need to know to value, buy or sell an original Ansel Adams photograph.

How much is a signed, original Ansel Adams print worth?

Auction prices have ranged anywhere from $722,500 for an oversized 39 x 52 inch print of Clearing Winter Storm done in the 1950s to around $1,000 for a small initialed print or a print of a less popular image.

Ansel Adams original prints for sale in the April, 2020 Photograph Auction – bid online or in person in New York April 4.

What Determines the Value of an Original Ansel Adams Print?

As with all photographs there are several factors that determine the value. First there is the subject – some images are just more popular and desirable than others. One of his most desirable images is Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 which Heritage Auctions has sold for up to $50,000 while one of his more atypical images like Graduation Dress, Yosemite Valley, 1948 pictured below can be had for $2000.  

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Size is another factor – the larger the print the more valuable. A 16 x 20-inch print is going to sell for more than an 8 x 10-inch print of the same image. 

Condition – Ansel Adams was a master printer and collectors expect his prints to be in pristine condition.  Probably more than the work of any other photographer, the smallest imperfection can affect the value. 

Print Date – For example Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico was taken in 1941 but Ansel Adams made prints almost up to his death in 1984. Collectors will pay more for an earlier print – sometimes twice as much for a print made in the 1950s instead of the 1970s.    

Ansel Adams Original Print Value – Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Heritage Auctions has sold ten prints of this image, with a price range from $2,625 to $50,000. The prints sold within months or years of each other, so what determines the value?

The signed gelatin silver pints of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico that we have sold are 16 x 20 inches and have varied in price from $27,500 to $50,000 depending on print date or if there were any condition issues.  

ansel adams

We have also sold copies of limited-edition collotypes (a type of high-quality photomechanical reproduction). These were made in two sizes and signed by Adams, 39 x 47 inches which have sold in the range of $3,884 to $9,375 in an edition of 50 and a 15 x 19 inch one that sold for $5,079 in an edition of 350.   

How to Choose the Best Original Ansel Adams Print to Collect?

First find an image that you really like. After all, you are going to live with it for many years.  If you are going to hang it on the wall keep it out of direct sunlight. Framing it with UV glass will also help.

Try to buy the best print that you can afford.  In other words, look for something that is in excellent condition.  If you are buying a small 8 x 10-inch photograph it is worth the extra money to buy one that is signed by Ansel Adams rather than printed and initialed by Alan Ross.   

Where to Buy Ansel Adams Original Prints

Buy from a well-known auction house like Heritage Auctions.  If you see something on eBay that looks too good to be true, then it probably is.  There are unscrupulous people trying to pass off photo-mechanical reproductions as gelatin silver prints and I have even seen faked signatures. 

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Posted by Nigel Russell

Director, Photographs

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