Trash or Treasure: Washington, Lincoln items always good bets

Judy Tikkanen with Abraham Lincoln picture.
Judy Tikkanen with Abraham Lincoln picture.
Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

Americans may disagree on 21st-century politics, but most have a soft spot for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Images of the two have been proudly hung in homes throughout the country for centuries.

Judy Tikkanen is a fan of both leaders and recently brought in images she acquired that depict the pair. “I got them at a church rummage sale about eight years ago,” she explained to appraiser Brian Thomczek at the recent session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. “I think I paid about $50 for both.”

Portraying two of the country’s arguably most popular leaders, the works are images of the country’s first and 16th presidents. At the bottom of each are the words “Print lithograph, Forbes Litho. Manufacturing Co.” Lincoln’s also includes “from an original untouched negative made in 1864.” Both also include copies of their signatures beneath the image, surrounded by dates they were born and the dates they died.

Internet research revealed that the company was founded by William H. Forbes with a main office in Boston and satellites in New York, Chicago and as far away as London. They were known for work in lithography, embossing, type and block printing, plate printing, photography, and photolithography.

In the 1920s, they also printed portraits of 16 American luminaries, including Theodore Roosevelt, George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Sitting Bull, among others. It was known as the “Famous American Series” and included a numbered portrait distributed through Post Cereal and an autobiography on the back.

Thomczek said he didn’t think her portraits were a part of that series, but said that the word “lithograph” indicates that they are not original art work, but prints.  “Unfortunately, prints are worth less,” he added. He said that they probably dated to roughly the same time period, something later confirmed by the website run by the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection (, which has a duplicate of the Lincoln image in their collection and dates it from 1925-1935.

 “The good news is that they are definitely worth more than you paid for them,” Thomczek added.  He valued the pair at $200-$300 for the pair.

 Tikkanen said she couldn’t resist them when she saw them at the sale. “I’d never seen these images before anywhere and I just couldn’t let them go. They look so nice hanging on the wall. They hang in the hallway outside our bedroom and we see them every night.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item: Presidential portraits

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Owned by: Judy Tikkanen

Estimated value: $200-$300 for the pair


















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