Once dismissed as merely an afterthought, antique city maps are now the hottest segment of the collectible antique map market.
Antique city maps provide a window into the past, illustrating detailed layouts of cities from hundreds of years ago that are often entirely different than what they have become today. Often hand-colored, the maps themselves are now viewed as unique works of art with significant historical value.
However, most antique maps of cities have often been regarded as less desirable than vintage maps of countries or empires. As Jason Miklian, owner of Miklian Antiquarian Maps, notes “traditionally, maps of New York, London, and Washington DC have been popular, but other city maps have languished.”
But demand has skyrocketed in the last year, particularly maps of cities from the Americas or Asia. “18th and 19th century maps of cities including Beijing, San Francisco, Havana, Tokyo and even Lima and Buenos Aries are now extremely popular,” Miklian said. “In particular, it’s been a challenge to keep any maps of Asian cities in stock.”
The city map trend falls within the overall resurgence of interest in late 19th century vintage maps. During this period, many cities were mapped for the first time, particularly cities in the New World. With prices for originals at times as low as a reproduction poster, many start their collections with pieces from this time period.
In addition, city maps also often give a unique local and regional historical interpretation of contemporary areas, especially in cities such as Dallas, Denver, Toronto, Mexico City, Chicago and others in the Americas that have grown exponentially since the 1800s.
While antique maps have long been heralded as a stable, safe investment with considerable appreciation potential, they also have new relevance in the internet age. “With the art of the printed map perhaps drawing to a close, this will make those few pieces of history that were created that much more valuable and unique,” Miklian said. “Human interest in exploration and discovery is timeless, and maps are proof of mankind’s wonder of the world we live and travel around.”