Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2010 Issue

Too Good to be True

It looks good from a distance


By Bruce McKinney

On eBay a month or so ago I ran across a Currier & Ives print of West Point, an original folio print printed in 1862. The print was interesting, its size unusual. It was described this way:

Original 1862 Currier and Ives Lithograph West Point. Original Lithograph Currier and Ives of U. S. Military Academy, West Point (from opposite shore). Great condition Measures 18" W X 15" H. Writing on Lithograph. "Entered according to act of Congress 1862 by Currier and Ives, in the Clerk's office in the district court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

Another similar Lithograph from West Point 1862 is selling for $2,300 on line. "New York, Published by Currier and Ives 152 Nassau St."


In the Currier & Ives Catalogue Raisonne by Gale Research [1984] its number 6945 described as "View of West Point" . Publisher: CC. [the work of Charles Currier, brother of Nathanial Currier]

Four images were provided, none showing the entire piece. I've been buying on eBay for seven years and become accustomed to accurate descriptions and sellers who are quick to remedy problems although they rarely occur. I sailed on into this transaction expecting more of the same.

The lithograph was offered with a starting price of $250 and I didn't bid. Later I bought it on a Buy-It-Now basis for $275.

When it arrived the frame was loose in the box, surprising for a glass item to be casually packed. I could hear broken glass and decided nevertheless to open the box, assuming and expecting if the print was undamaged I'd keep it. I usually reframe images anyway and invariably replace used den glass. The glass was therefore unimportant.

The image I found had scratches, whether from broken glass irrelevant, because the image was neither original nor even anything serious. It was a very poor copy and obviously a modern reprint.

I then contacted the seller through eBay and was asked to submit a claim to the Post Office as the package was insured. I did as requested, obtaining a form for Domestic or International Claims with the Postal Service, which I then sent to the seller [who was the ensured party]. He responded saying that I would be paid when he was paid. I then filed a claim with eBay. There were two issues:

The image was a fake. The seller could claim he didn't know this but I found a printed statement to that effect on the back of the image. This was easy to see because the tacks securing the back were loose as if they had been recently removed and reinserted. Opening the back took perhaps 30 seconds.

The second issue was that the frame was barely packed. A few sheets of crumpled paper was all the protection provided and the box much larger than the framed image. No one ships a glass frame this way.

In filing a claim with eBay I initially found it hard to understand how to proceed. My son Tom however could see what I couldn't. Under HELP there's an option for RESOLUTION CENTER. I started there. With some trial and error I was eventually offered a phone number that was good for 15 minutes. I called and found that while eBay was careful about its time it wasn't careful with mine. I was on hold for a long time.

It was then explained to me by someone, who seemed trained in calming frayed nerves, that I would have to wait seven days to allow the seller to resolve the issue. I could then contact eBay again, re-explain the problem and fax a copy of the Post Office claim form I had obtained. I made a note on my calendar.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000

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