Thomas Hart Benton Prints & Lithographs
A Value Guide
Thomas Hart Benton Lithographs: An Introduction
The iconic Kansas City artist, Thomas Hart Benton, is known by collectors for more than just his murals and paintings. From 1929 – 1974 Benton crafted nearly 100 different lithographs, depicting the nuances of American life, landscape, and lore.
Benton had a distinct fondness for prints. Their economical nature perfectly resonated with his aspiration to democratize art. With the Associated American Artists (AAA) handling their distribution, most of his lithographs were printed in editions of 250. Shattering the age-old belief that art was a privilege of the rich, AAA made these lithographs accessible through department stores and mail orders. Collectors of Thomas Hart Benton could acquire a signed limited lithograph for the lofty price of just $5.
Fast forward a half century: From the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, Benton’s lithographic legacy can be found in major museums and eminent private collections across the country. The prices realized for a signed Benton lithograph have risen in step to match the demand.
"For well over a generation Thomas Hart Benton was one of the most famous and talked about painters in America, and it was during that period that he made most of his lithographs."-Creekmore Fath
Thomas Hart Benton Signed Print Values:
As you might imagine, Benton lithographs no longer sell for a few dollars. As with Benton’s paintings and ephemera, the prints too have steadily increased in value over the years. On the low end, pencil-signed Benton lithographs will sell for $1500-2000 (given its condition isn’t a problem). More typically, a good quality Benton litho sells in the $2000 to $5000 range, while the best of the best can sell well into five figures.
So what determines the value? With over 10,000 Benton lithographs in existence, they do pop up at auction fairly regularly, making it easy to see the trends that drive price. Only 10-15% of Benton signed prints sell for more than $5,000.
The two factors that consistently have an influence on Benton prices are:
- Imagery featuring a steam locomotive.
- A low edition size, making the print more rare as compared to larger editions.
What are the most valuable Thomas Hart Benton lithographs?
A handful of the most valuable Benton lithographs all feature steam locomotions: Going West (1934), Jesse James (1936), The Race (1942), Wreck of the Ol’ 97 (1944), and Running Horses (1955). All five examples usually sell over $10,000 and all have had examples cross the $20,000 mark.
Most of the nearly 100 lithographs Benton produced were in editions of 250 or 300. Only 25 of them were of editions less than 190. Smaller edition sizes lead to a scarcity in the marketplace and results in higher prices. The Station (1929 – edition of 110), Coming round the Mountain (1931 – edition of 75), Frankie and Johnnie (1936 – edition of 100), Huck Finn (1936 – edition of 100), and Departure of the Joads (1939 – edition of 100) all consistently sell for over $5,000 and often above $10,000.
How Much Is My Thomas Hart Benton lithograph Worth?
One of the benefits of being a Kansas City-based auction house is the number of Benton works we get to handle. (Our offices are located just 4 miles from the Thomas Hart Benton home and studio, now a state historic site.)
From lithograph collections to personal correspondence, original sketches to finished paintings – we see a lot of Benton pieces and can easily access the current market value for your lithographs.
If you’re interested in knowing whether you have a $2,000 or a $20,000 Thomas Hart Benton lithograph, contact our auction specialist to find out. We offer free auction estimates and if you’re out of state we can help arrange shipping if needed. Contact our team at email@example.com or call us at 913-403-0032.