Q: We’re moving and have have a collection of old pictures in frames that my great-grandfather bought for $10 at a barn sale in the 1950s. One is a print of cattle and ducks that’s signed by James M. Hart. Under his signature are the words, “copyrighted 1899 by James M. Hart.” There are some brown stains in the corner. Is it worth anything?
A: James McDougal Hart was born in Scotland in 1828. His family immigrated to Albany, N.Y., in 1830. Hart started out as a sign painter’s apprentice, then studied art in Germany. In 1854 he opened a studio in Albany. Later, he opened studios in Brooklyn and Keene Valley, N.Y. Hart died in 1901. Several of his works are in museums today. The brown stains on your print are called “foxing” and can be caused by deterioration due to age or by exposure to heat, cold or humidity. If your pictures were stored in a barn, conditions were not ideal. Some oil paintings by James M. Hart sell for several thousand dollars. But his prints, in perfect condition, sell for just a few hundred dollars. Your print would be difficult to sell since it is in poor condition.