How are value and price of antique or rare maps determined?

There are numerous factors which affect the value of antique maps – all those you might suspect and many you might not. Like most antiques, antique map prices are usually governed by factors of rarity, condition, desirability, and aesthetics. The best maps have high rankings in all of these areas, however, it is not uncommon for one factor to dominate all others.

For example, take these two equally fine maps: an 1849 Mitchell’s Map of Texas is not particularly more rare than an 1849 Mitchell’s map of Switzerland, however, the first may sell for as much as 1000 USD while the second will rarely sell for more than 150 USD. This happens because maps of Texas are highly desirable and have a large collector base while maps of Switzerland, particularly American maps, are difficult to sell. Conversely, that same 1000 USD map of Texas may be rendered all but worthless by a hugely disfiguring dampstain and unprofessional backing on wood or cardboard.

Other factors unique to antique maps can also hugely affect value. Maps that fall into this category include maps that depict special regions of the world at important, brief or transitional moments. Two excellent examples are maps that depict Australia as New Holland and maps that depict Texas as an independent republic (c. 1863 to 1845). Cartographic errors are also factors that can increase the value of an antique map. Some of these include the depiction of California as an Island (c. 1600 to 1720), the indication of a huge lake in the Carolinas, the Mountains of the Moon in Africa, assumed Northwest Passages, and the presence of certain mythical geographical features such as Aurora Island (near the Falklands) or El Dorado in the Amazon.

How the map was printed and presented also factors heavily in value. Generally speaking there are three was to present flat maps: atlas maps, folding maps pocket or case maps, and wall maps.

  • Atlas maps are the most common and are generally speaking the least valuable. Most atlas maps are in very good condition due to the fact that they have been bound between protective covers for most of the lives. However, there are several problems common to atlas maps. Most were issued with a centerfold and this commonly exhibits wear, damage, and discoloration. Atlas maps, especially those at the beginning and ends of the atlas, also frequently suffer from soiling, creasing due to improper folding and earmarking, and water stains due to storage in damp unfavorable conditions.
  • Folding maps include maps that were folded into books, case maps, and pocket maps. Maps that were folded into histories, travel guides, and specialty books are the most common type of folding map. These are often reissues of atlas maps that have been printed on thinner paper or slightly modified to deliver the book’s message. Pocket or Case maps are independently issued maps and are, in most cases, far more valuable than atlas maps or standard folding maps. These maps are usually folded into cases for easy transport. They are often printed on very thin paper were sometimes split into sections and mounted on linen for easy folding and unfolding. Though often in rough condition due to the rigors of their use and the stresses of being folding for hundreds of years, these maps are frequently much larger and more valuable than their atlas counterparts.
  • Wall maps are enormous maps usually produced for presentation or classroom settings. Most are stored rolled on large wooden dowels. A good wall map can fetch a very high price but is often very difficult to sell as its size alone makes it a specialty item. Also, because of the production techniques and storage problems common to wall maps, they often suffer severe damage and almost always require professional restoration prior to being placed on the market. Good restoration can add quite a bit to the total value of an antique wall map.

 

In addition to the factors above, map connoisseurs are fortunate to have access to roughly thirty years of auction history and dealer catalogs through various subscription based services. Many dealers, such as ourselves, also provide a range of fee based appraisal services.

Related Products:
Basic Antique Map Appraisal

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66 Responses to “How are value and price of antique or rare maps determined?”

  1. Billy says:

    I have a 1948 map of “The Grand Trunk Canadian National Railway System” that is approx. 4 feet square and canvasses the entire continental U.S. and Canada. My question is: Are mid-20th century maps valuable? From what I can ascertain, the value of old maps drops off sharply around the 20th century mark. Would a proffesional appraisal be worth my while?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Billy,

      Thank you for your message, you are our first real comment! As for your question, while your map may have value to railroad collectors or special interest groups, as an antique map it has little or no value. Older maps of the Grand Trunk Railway, from the 1880s shortly after the railroad was built do have some value, but even then they are not significant pieces. I would advise holding your map as it may acquire value in the future. Do not pay for a professional evaluation, I would feel guilty taking your money.

  2. Billy says:

    Thank you. I appreciate your valuable insight.

  3. BRENDA PERRY says:

    I HAVE A BRASS WALL WORLD MAP 1628 SHOWS DRAKE,MAGELLANUS,OLIVERUS VOONAERNOORT,THOMAS CAVENDIFH, IT SHOWS THIER TRAVELS AND COURSES THEY TOOK AND WHERE LANDED, CALIFORNIA IS AN ISLAND
    CAROLINIAS ARE AS A LAKE. FRAMED IN THE ORIGINAL WOOD FRAME. PLEASE INFORM ME IF AN APPRAISAL WOULD BE WORTHY.
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Brenda,

      This is one of the most common maps people write to me about – often thinking they have found something wonderful. These were made in the mid to late 20th century are are nothing more the kitsch reproductions of older maps. Seventeenth century cartographers did not print maps on brass. As a antique map, it has no value and it would not be in your best interests to pay an appraisal fee.

      Kevin

  4. Dale says:

    I have an old wall mount, retractable school map case filled with maps dating from 1904 – 1909. 7 of the maps are from the McConnell School Supply Co in Philadelphia. Probably not worth much I’m sure. But, there are 3 other maps from a company in Kansas City, MO – Jos. F. Dreisbach & Co that are very interesting.

    The first one is a 2 county (what appears to be) a plot map of Shelby and Monroe Counties in Missouri. The map is dated 1909

    The 2nd map is of Missouri and is titled:
    MISSOUIRI
    Showing Post offices
    with the intermediates distances on Mail routes
    1909

    The last one is the most interesting. It is not a map, but a “pictorial” chart that is titled:

    “Effect of Alcoholic Drinks and Narcotics on the Human system”

    It has pictures showing a “healthy” person to “The moderate drinker” to “The Cronic Drunkard” to “Delirium”!
    It goes on to show healthy and diseased brains, stomachs, lungs, liver, arteries, intestines, etc.
    The colors are vibrant!

    At the bottom it gives facts and figures on annual consumptions and so forth.

    One final note is the paragraph on the lower right corner. The language used then is interesting:

    “Half the idiots of the world are children of drunkards. More than half the insanity is due to alcohol, while it produces four out of every five of our paupers….”

    It’s a fantastic piece!

    I’ve been surfing the web, trying to find something on Dreisbach mapping co or something similar to this, but I have had no luck at all. I’m curious to the value and am searching for an insurance value.

    Can you give me advice on what I might have or do next?

    Thanks.

    Dale

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Dale,

      I can’t do an appraisal on these items for you as it is part of our fee based services. However, most 20th century maps are of little interest. Your Alcoholism chart, on the other hand, sounds hilarious and may have some value.

      Best,
      Kevin

  5. natasha says:

    I have a map that say from an original of moses pitt 1681 i dont know anything or what the value would be

  6. fred pickett sr. says:

    sir i am trying to find some infomation on a pocket map,my grandfather left to me.it is a new sectional map of arkansas, published by e.h.ross, st. louis.inside the cover it has .e.h.ross. western map emporium. it says its 30″x40″ in pencil very lightly 1871-73. i would like to know if this map worth having an apprazial done on ? it appears to be all original,cover and map,and in fair to good condition.i just dont want to waste time or money if it is not valuable.thanks fred

    • Kevin Brown says:

      It is not an exceptionally valuable map, but is it worth an appraisal, that’s up to you. Do you want to sell it, or just know what it is worth for insurance purposes? It is not so valuable that it needs special insurance. If you want to sell it, an appraisal will help you get a sense of its true worth.

      Kevin

  7. Wendy Erich says:

    I am wondering if my map should be restored or not…it is in very poor condition. It is a 24″ x 30″map of the Province of NJ, divided into East and West, commonly called the Jerseys with a cartouche of Wm Faden Charing Cross 1777. At the bottom it says Fac-simile of Map now in possession of Chas. D Deschler, M-or? of NJ, Photolith by J Bien NY.. On the lower right, about 8″ from the bottom, is is signed in ink by H? Woodward? Woodbury? It is backed onto canvas and badly water stained and discolored. with disintegrating edges. It came from a sea captain’s house in Maine.
    Thanks for your suggestions,
    Wendy

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Wendy,
      If you can send photos of the map to me at info@geographicus.com, I can give you a better opinion on it. What you have is a late 19th century reproduction of a very important map of New Jersey. While the original is a 35,000 USD treasure, your repro is unlikely to be worth more than a couple of hundred dollars. Nonetheless, the map has decorative value and you may fine restoration to be a good investment.

  8. ALLAN GERRITSEN says:

    I HAVE A MAP OF NEW JERSEY WITH ASSUMED PRINTING BY J.WARREN ARNOLD,CAPE MAY,N.J. It is a map showing n.j. divided into east and west and it has measurements in links and chainsand refers to survey map of 1777. Would appreciate any input or value….THANK YOU aLLAN GERRITSEN

  9. Jenni Buechler says:

    My map from John Cary 1801, A New Map of the East India Isles Dec 21, 1801, has not color. What is the importance of color when valuing antique maps ? Would this one be of more or less value due to it’s lack of color?
    Thanks for allowing my question,
    Jenni in Virginia

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Jenni,

      All Cary maps were issued with color. I have never seen a black and white copy. This suggests that your map is either A) a reproduction or B) has been washed or beached to intentionally eliminate all color. This is usually done when a map has significant discoloration or other damage that disfigures the whole. Many restorers are able to refresh the color but apparently your map did not get this far along in the process. Since Cary maps from the Atlas are not excessively valuable and were initially colored by the publisher, I suspect that the lack of color work will significantly reduce the value of your piece.

  10. lawrence says:

    I have a map made by the Olmsted Brothers on December 1st 1898 and its the Metropolitan District of Boston and it was made for the Metropolitan Park Commission I’m just wondering if may have any value. I was given it by my grandfather when i was a little boy and he told me to hold onto it because 1 day it’d be worth something. So i did and now i must finally find out . Any help would be greatly appreciated thank you .

  11. lawrence says:

    Well do you think this map is worth the appraisal fee or just a waste of time ?

  12. David Pelovitz says:

    I have a map that of the King’s troop movements for the battles of Princeton & Trenton from 1777 by Wm. Faden. I was told many years ago by an art (not a a map) appraiser that it was an original. I am wondering if there is anything I can look for to determine if it is in fact an original before I have it appraised.

  13. Katherine says:

    Hello, I have a 1742 Atlas, original, 15″ x 22″, published “Par le Rouge Ingenieur Geographe du Roy, a Paris.” In French. 53 siege and battle maps of European cities, “pour servie a l’Histoire des Guerres de 1741.” However, there is a dampstain clearly visible on the upper few inches of most pages. To what extent would you expect such a stain to lessen the value of the Atlas? I am wondering if it makes more sense to have this appraised, or to simply retain it as a family heirloom. Thank you.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      It depends on the overall rarity of the book, the extent of the damage, and if it can be repaired. Generally speaking water damage that intrudes upon the printed area of each map significantly decreases the value of an atlas – and I do mean significantly.

  14. Terri says:

    Hi, your websire its the first I came across regarding antique maps. I have an original Map of the Eastern Portion of The British North America including The Gulf Of Lawrence ,New England States.Compiled from the latest survey of Charts
    by Henry F Perleyfor the report of MIchael B Andrews. To Hon Thomas Corwin. Secretary of the Treasury. 1853
    Do you think this is something I should have appraised? If it is not of great value I would like to have it professionally matted and framed for a wall hanging. If this is the case,do you recommend a special way to mat and frame this so I can preserve it well?
    Thank you~~

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Terri -
      You are welcome to have it appraised if you wish but just as a heads up, maps from this report are not exceptionally valuable. As for framing and conservation, maps from the Andrews Report, which suffer from poor initial production quality, as well as a century or more of folding, tend to be brittle and highly acidic. There are many approaches to framing and preserving such a document and much of this will depend on the map’s current condition. Should the condition be good and the map stable, I see no reason not to frame it as is – as long as you follow basic conservation framing procedures. However, if it is ripped, torn, fragile on the fold lines, or splitting, you may want to look at having the map professionally flattened and repaired by an expert restorer. Since the paper is very thin and the map quite large, you’ll most likely need to consider some sort of packing material, Japanese tissue or linen, to stabilize the document. If there are major discolorations, this can be cleaned by the restorer as part of the restoration process. Unfortunately restoration is not cheap and, in this case, may well end up costing as much as the map is worth.
      Kevin

  15. Jeff Jarvis says:

    I have a map titled

    “Map No2, From the Northern Boundary of California to the Columbia River for explorations and surveys made under teh direction of HON. JEFFERSON DAVIS, SEC OF WAR and Lieut R.S. Williamson, U.S. Top. Eng. …..”

    It is dated 1855. Interestingly, it shows John C Fremont’s trails and some notable features (Klamath Lake, the Deschutes river and the Emigrant trail over Mt Hood)

    I currently have it matted and framed. I like it as I am collecting maps of showing the progressive understanding and development of the NW. I don’t really want to sell it but would like to know something about its origin.
    Jeff

  16. Ashley says:

    I have a set of maps from Mexico, 1965. I am sure they aren’t worth much money, and would like to use them to decorate, but I don’t want to start cutting apart something that is either A) valuable or B) could have some sort of educational/sentimental value if donated.

    Does anyone ever want map sets? Do you know of anyone who would appreciate such an item – museums, schools, etc.? Thanks for your time.

  17. Derek says:

    I have 7 maps of 7 different Midwest states. They are made by the National Map co. Indianapolis. They are based on the 1925 Census and show rail, townships, counties, cities, towns, ect. but not roads. they include colored outlined counties and colored townships. also they have indexes of all the towns with populations. they all has a lable that says they are coated with cellulose washable finish by the national map company itself. Im just wondering if they have value.

  18. Harry says:

    I have a Richard Blome:  A New Mapp of Europe . . . 1669 in colour in good condition. There are lines from where it has been folded but the map on a whole looks in good condition. Could you help me regarding this specific map? It was done by the French kings geographer for the prince John of York aswell as many others.

    Thank you

  19. Ciara McCaig says:

    Kevin,
    I found what I assume is a reproduction of a map of North America and Central America in the back of a junky antique shop in Mountain City Tennessee. I bought it simply because I was entertained by the idea of California being an Island and the general fact that the map has so many errors. It was commissioned for William Duke of Gloucester but there is no date. Should I go for the $50 fee when I spent less than half that on it in the first place?

  20. john doty says:

    i have an old book of maps called ” Hammond’s handy atlas of the world” and was wondering if it was worth anything .its a 1910 issue

  21. Lorand says:

    Hello,

    I have a small map from Romania that represents an underground mine signed 1909 and two hand drawings of a certain sector of that mine, one from 1881 and one from 1883. The writing is in Hungarian. Do you think this is something I should have appraised? thank you very much

  22. Jeremy says:

    I found a Map frim 1918 tucked in the back of a book today its fairly large all coloured, the map is of glacier national park

  23. Patricia says:

    I have a map by Michael Mercator (circa 1567-1600) Dutch engraver and grandson of Gerardus
    Mercator. He was the engraver of the famous Silver Medal of 1589 given to Sir Francis Drake. The only map that he was known to produce was one of America that was included in the 1595 volume of his grandfather’s Atlas. The map I have is entitiled America Siue India Nova, 1595 of the Western Hemisphere. It is framed and has markings of what looks to me like a part of slave routes, but I am not sure. Is this something that you feel worthy of a good appraisal?

  24. Susan Tomkins says:

    Hi Kevin
    I have two (perhaps niche market) maps I’d like your comments on. I’ve not managed to find mention of either.
    1) A touring map issued by The Savoy Hotel, London, showing southern England places of interest and suggested 1-3 day tours from London. It’s quite decorative with little drawings for many of the areas shown. It is undated. The mapmaker – Alfred E Taylor.
    2) Street map of London titled; Metropoliton Conference: ‘Map of Collection and Delivery Bounderies for passenger train parcels.’ I folds into red cloth covers with street-index book attached. Dated 1st January, 1880. Mapmaker; B R Davies, who I learned something of from your website, thankyou.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Neither of these will have exceptional value unless they happen to be productions of mind-boggling beauty. Off hand I am not familiar with either so to provided any real information we would have to research them under our paid appraisal services.

  25. Steve says:

    I have two maps that are hand drawn from the civil war ,James river defense and the Mobile Bay area.They are glued back to back on a scrap book page and they measure around 8×10. I would like to seperate them. Can you give me a rough cost to have this done and is it worth it?
    Thanks
    Steve

  26. James H. Jordan says:

    I have a folded map that is in a frame it reads,” PLAN of THE OPERATIONS of GENERAL WASHINGTON against the KINGS TROOPS in NEW JERSEY.” from the 16th of December 1776 to Janurary 1777 by William Faden Is this worthy of appraisal?

  27. John says:

    I have an old mine hand written “map” that shows all areas of the mine. It is on canvas “hardback” paper and shows areas and dates in some sections stating “Robbed (date x/x/xxxx)”. Is there any value to these types of mine plans? It appears to have been done professionally by a mine engineer. It measures appx. 4′x6′

    • Kevin Brown says:

      It really depends on how old the map is and how important the mine is. In general, no, but sometimes yes. You’ll need to look into a professional appraisal.

  28. Summer Matteson says:

    I have a map with the title “Missionary map of the world showing the prevailing religions” published by August R Ohman 1906 on cloth with Protestant Missionary Socities printed on it. Is this worth having appraised? Thank you for your time

  29. Pamela Miller says:

    I have a 3rd Edition of “Spruner’s Historico -Geographical Hand Atlas. The binding is in a state of deterioration but all the plates are intact and in good, maybe excellent condition.

  30. Ron Rockstrom says:

    Have two Swedish language maps depicting in round globe style the world……north american side and the asian/europe side. dates show 1896……..the maps are in good condition and have been mounted and framed by Thompson Art Gallery in Phoenix. Where does one find out the value, if any of something like this?

  31. sharon says:

    Hi I have a map of the plan de la ville Gilbraltar by Pierre Hussan (1678-1733). It is around 17 x 36.5 cm in size and appears to be in original color but printed using the copper plated method. It has a fold to the centre of the map and is made of very thin paper with brown staining to the back of it. There is a signiture written on the back Dupy 1957 and the numbers 6270. I have it in a frame with Gibraltar Museum 1957 written on the back of it. What I know of it is that it was produced shortly after the combined British and Dutch forces seized the Rock of Gibraltar on the 24th of July, 1704, during one of the actions of the War of the Spanish Succession. The movements of the fleets are indicated on the map. Although the British and the Dutch were allied in the battle, the British Admiral, Sir George Rooke, took possession of Gibraltar in the name of Queen Anne, whose government ratified the occupation. During the whole of the 18th century numerous attempts were made by the Spanish to regain possession, but they all failed. This, despite the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 (one of the series of treaties which ended the War of the Spanish Succession) by which Spain ceded Gibraltar to England. The Treaty of Utrecht, as a result of the War, was one of the most important treaties in British history, and contributed greatly to the expansion of the British empire. I know there are very few maps of these in color, there is one at a museum in morocco but I cannot find one that has the original colors like mine. my question is could this be a valuable or original map?. It appears to have all the good signs of authenticity

  32. Stefanie says:

    We have inherited a school atlas from 1826. We were told it may be a lithograph. Does this bring the value of the book up? Is there any way for us to find that out on our own?
    Thank you!

  33. Kevin Brown says:

    No genuine 100+ year old maps were issed in copper and gold. This is a reproduciton of no value.

  34. Kevin Brown says:

    You need to pay for an professional appraisal.

  35. Kevin Brown says:

    Ben -

    If you are not an expert on this you should not attempt to make money importing maps. If you are an expert, you don’t need to ask these kinds of questions. If you want to become an expert, all encouragement, but expect it to take a few years before you are making money on this sort of venture.

    Kevin

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