Tips for Starting Your Antique Map Collection

Antique Replica of the Caribbean via

Antique Replica of the Caribbean via

History buffs, scholars, and geographic enthusiasts all see the immense value in wall maps. More than just an educational tool used in classrooms, maps can be used in the home to represent an individual’s interests and create unique talking points when visitors come over. For those with an eye for the truly unique, a collection of antique wall maps is a great way to show the world your interests while diving deeper into your love of history.


Starting an antique map collection is no easy task. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to starting your collection, but it makes sense to adopt a singular approach so you end up with a grouping of maps that makes sense and is applicable to your area of interest. So, where do you start?


Follow Your Interests

If you’re into maps in the first place, you no doubt have a favorite region of the world or an interest in a particular period of time. Before you begin seeking out wall maps to add to your collection, think about the type of collection you want to build. One idea would be to create a collection based around the changing boundaries of the New World. Your collection would works from early cartographers in North America, following the formation of individual countries and states through the 17th , 18 th , and 19 th centuries.

Or perhaps you’re a scholar and fond of particular cartographers. In this case, you could collect antique wall maps depicting various regions around the world as explored by one individual. Examples of other concepts include battlefield maps from certain wars (i.e. Civil War) or transportation maps from subway, highway, or railroad systems.


Catch a RAASH

No, we’re not talking about the itching skin condition. As a collector of antique wall maps, you should familiarize yourself with the primary factors affecting the value of the maps in your collection. This will help ensure you pay the right price for maps when purchasing, and enable you to provide accurate values to your insurance provide so you can protect your collection.

RAASH stands for rarity, age, aesthetics, size, and historical importance. Many antique wall maps were produced in low volume, making them difficult to find. Age can make a map rare, even if a large volume was once produced. Generally speaking, the older a map is, the harder it is to find because copies have been lost over time.

Aesthetic quality speaks to the visuals on the map. Some old navigational sea maps, for example, have large images of sea monsters or ships on them. This gives the map great display value. Maps come in various shapes and sizes. In most cases, the larger an antique map is, the more you’ll find extra details included in the imagery. Finally, historical importance can have a tremendous impact on value. Older topographical maps tend to have high values, especially if they are the first maps representing a particular area. Battlefield maps from wars usually have a higher value as well.



Antique maps can be hard to find, but that doesn’t mean your collection has to consist of the originals. If you want to create a collection that has antique flair, without antique pricing, reproductions of wall maps from antiquity are widely available. However, if you want the originals, you need to know how to spot a reproduction to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of. These tips will help you spot reproductions:

  • Size: Research the original size of the map you desire, a reproduction is often larger or smaller than the true size of the real map.
  • Folds: Antique maps were produced on copper plates and folded into a volume. A real map will show plate marks and visible fold lines. Reproductions have photographic images of folds, but you cannot actually feel the fold line.
  • Color: Early maps were often colored by hand, meaning you should be able to discern brush strokes.
  • Legends: Reproductions often have modern dates and the name of printing houses on them.
  • Paper: Early maps were made on paper with a high rag content. If you cannot see chain marks, watermarks, and similar features, it’s likely a modern reproduction.

You now have all the information you need to start your antique map collection. Remember, the key to building an interesting collection lies in pursuing your personal areas of interest. You’ll see these maps more than any visitor to your home, so select maps that speak to your hobbies and educational interests.


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