Tips For Buying Japanese Woodblock Tips For New Collectors

27 August 2018
 Categories: , Blog


If you love Japanese woodblock prints and have decided you want to start your own collection of them, then these tips will help you with the buying process:

Tip: Buy the Highest Quality Japanese Woodblock Prints You Can Afford

If you want to build a valuable collection of Japanese woodblock prints, then it is important you purchase the best quality pieces that appeal to you and you can afford. Purchasing high-quality art ensures it holds its value as time passes. Additionally, higher quality works are beautiful in their own right and really stand out against cheaper works once you have developed an eye for Japanese artwork. 

To familiarize yourself with classical woodblock print masters, spend some time online looking at images of prints made by the masters Hiroshige and Hokusai. Once you are familiar with their works, more contemporary prints will stand out because they look completely different.

Tip: Know the Four Factors Affecting the Price of Japanese Woodblock Prints

There are four factors affecting the market price of woodblock prints. They are:

  1. condition
  2. materials
  3. authenticity
  4. provenance

If you purchase a print with damage to the paper or ink, then your piece will always have a lowered price due to its condition problems. Likewise, if the print is made with bright inks on shiny paper, then this is a telltale sign the print is modern and not an antique and thus will always have a lower value.

If you want to purchase an original work by one of the masters, then it is vital you know the provenance of the piece and it should be authenticated by an expert in antique Japanese woodblock prints.

Tip: Know the Most Common Subjects in Antique Japanese Woodblock Prints

While contemporary Japanese woodblock prints can have any image imaginable, antique prints will always contain one of the following subjects:

  • landscapes
  • theater scenes
  • flowers
  • animals
  • beautiful women
  • historical event scenes

In addition, classic works were made on thin papers and printed with soft ink colors. This means if you find a print with bright colors or on paper where there is no absorption of the ink through to the back, then the work is contemporary and not antique.

Tip: Understand What the Phrase "In the Style of" Means

Finally, when you are shopping for a Japanese woodblock print, it is vitally important you understand what the phrase "in the style of" actually means. These artworks are created to pay homage to the original artist and are not made by them. You can identify these prints by familiarizing yourself with the Japanese characters for this phrase and watching for it on prints you are interested in purchasing.

Contact a dealer, like Asian Arts West, for more help.