The Audubon Abbeville Edition and Print Prices

by Ron Flynn

I am writing this short article primarily for those of you who, over the past 4-5 years, have expressed an interest in the Abbeville Edition, and wanted an Abbeville Price Guide. Believe me, I surely did want to publish one. However, for those past 5 years I contacted dealers and searched the Internet, and couldn't find enough retail prices to put together an Abbeville Price Guide. I only found small numbers of prints for sale by various dealers over that period of time. Finally, in the late summer and early fall of 2006 I began finding dealers who were advertising larger quantities of Abbeville prints for sale. Two dealers sent me tentative price lists for all 435 Abbeville prints. In late fall of 2006, Bill Baird of Auchmeddan Online (http://www.auchmeddan.com/) sent me a lot of retail and eBay price data for the Abbevilles. A big thanks to Bill. From late 2005 through most of 2006, eBay seller CIRQLAR sold prints from about 2-1/2 complete Abbeville sets on eBay.

I have now published an Abbeville Edition Price Guide. The Abbeville Price Guide is now available at http://www.audubonprices.com/. While some of the information below is included in the new Abbeville Price Guide, I believe that  Abbeville collectors will find the rest of this article useful and informative.

The National Audubon Society in conjunction with Abbeville Press published this edition in 1985. It was printed in Japan to commemorate the two-hundredth birthday of John James Audubon. This edition consisted of 350 sets of facsimile reproductions of all 435 Audubon Havell originals. The 435 different prints were bound into four volumes for about 300 out of the 350 sets published, and the remaining 50 or so sets were sold as loose sets. For a detailed review of the Abbeville Edition prints, please read my article  Modern Audubon Birds of America  D.E.F. Editions - a complete review -  on this website at http://www.auduboninfo.net/DEF/def.htm     

Before discussing the values of Abbeville prints, there are a few factors that directly or indirectly affect their market value. There are quite a few different modern Audubon DEF (double elephant folio) editions, all described in detail in the above-mentioned article. Of all the modern DEF editions, apparently only the Amsterdam (1972) and Abbeville (1985) editions have sold out their total publications. I say apparently because from what I hear from dealers, and see for sale on the market, there are still quantities of unsold Loates and Leipzig edition prints from the original publication. Another little known fact is that the last 10 bound volume sets of the Abbeville edition were not sold until late 2005. I knew that Abbeville Press had the 10 unsold sets, and a dealer friend of mine notified me in writing when he bought them. Only the Amsterdam and Abbeville editions, along with the new Audubon Centennial Edition, offer facsimile prints of all 435 original Havell prints.

Since the Amsterdam and Abbeville editions have sold out, the only way to buy individual prints is on the secondary markets, from sets that have been broken or disbound. The publishers and associated dealers are selling all of their new DEF editions at retail. From the time of initial publication, it could take from 10-20 years for any of these editions to sell out. A few prints from the new DEF editions (not sold out and selling at retail) have already turned up at auctions, and in secondary markets. They sell for a fraction of their current retail prices. The point I want to stress is that among all the modern DEF editions, the Amsterdam and Abbeville editions are unique. They have many similarities, and print for print their values/prices tend to parallel each other, though not at the same level.

There were five different original Audubon publications. The Havell, Imperial Folio and Bien editions had only one publication or edition. The octavo Birds of America and Quadrupeds of North America each consisted of many different editions. As a researcher and compiler of Audubon print prices, I can tell you for certain that print for print, values and prices for 1st edition octavo bird and quad prints are ALWAYS higher than the same prints of 2nd and later editions. This is natural, and caused mostly by the laws of supply and demand. When collectors are given a choice, most would prefer to own 1st edition prints. This is true in collecting Audubon prints, books, and many other fine art or collectible objects.

Well, the Amsterdam edition was 1st, and the Abbeville edition was 2nd or later. The Amsterdam edition was the 1st reproduction of all 435 original Havell prints. The Bien edition was supposed to be a complete reproduction, but it was never completed, due mostly to the outbreak of the Civil War. The Amsterdam edition is very popular with collectors, because it is the 1st complete reproduction edition of the original Havells. Print for print, prices/values of individual Amsterdam prints are generally higher, and often dramatically higher, than the same Abbeville print. Another reason for this is that there are only 250 sets of Amsterdam prints, while there are 350 sets of Abbeville prints. The overall print quality of the Amsterdams is technically poorer than the Abbevilles, but the Amsterdam paper is more authentic. Still, the Amsterdams maintain higher values/prices, though when it comes to the very least popular lower tier prints, there is very little, if any, difference between the two editions.

Of the 435 Abbeville prints, about 300 or so would be considered lower tier prints. These are the least popular of all the Abbeville prints. Over the years I have found that these prints, when I have seen them for sale, are generally listed for $100-$150 each. However, some have retail prices of $50-$75 each. At the other end of the price spectrum, maybe 30-40 of the Abbeville prints would be considered upper tier, and have the highest retail prices. Some of the upper tier prints for the Amsterdam edition are listed in this article, Top Amsterdam Edition Prints on this website. These same prints would be upper tier prints in the Abbeville edition also. I have never seen an Abbeville print priced above $3000. Upper tier Abbeville prints would retail mostly in the $1000-$2500 price range. The remainder of Abbeville prints would be priced in between the above two groups. If you find Abbeville prints for sale at retail, that you want to buy, first ask for a 10%-15% courtesy discount.

Prior to late 2005, Abbeville prints on eBay were unheard of. Since then, I mentioned above that my friend CIRQLAR had sold over 2 complete Abbeville sets on eBay. A fair print for print general comparison between Amsterdam and Abbeville prices can be made. Most of the Abbevilles offered on eBay had a starting price of $24.99. Most of the lower tier Abbevilles sold on eBay from $24.99 to the $75.00 price range. However, a number of the prints with a $24.99 starting price did not sell. They had to be re-listed at a lower starting price. Upper tier Abbevilles generally sold in the $500-$1000 range. However, one of the top 10 most popular of Audubon prints in any edition, the Abbeville American Flamingo, sold on eBay for $438.00.

I hope the above information, along with my Abbeville Price Guide, will provide Abbeville collectors with the necessary information to begin buying and collecting prints from this edition.

    

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