Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sky's the Limit!

A recent post by Lori Woodward on Fine Art Views got me thinking about limited editions.  In the post, Lori asks the question, “Does limiting editions create value?” You can read the post here.

Her conclusion and mine are similar. In my experience, both with over 25 years in the printing industry and as a professional artist selling prints of my original paintings, is that limiting editions, for most artists and photographers, does NOT create value (or increase sales!)

Before I go into my reasons for not limiting editions, let me say that there are a few occasions when limiting an edition makes sense.

My Top Three Reasons for Limiting Print Editions:

  1. When the artist has achieved “star” status – originals selling in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, when the demand for the artist’s works outpace his or her ability to produce it or when the artist is a celebrity, like Grace Slick, Tony Bennett or Tony Curtis. In cases like that, a hand-signed and numbered limited edition print has perceived value and may increase in value over time.

2. When the prints are made to be sold to raise funds for a non-profit, such as a Museum, and only a specific number of prints will be made.

          3. When the prints ARE the original, such as in works created using the computer as a medium, or hand-pulled original prints such as monotypes, serigraphs, etc.

My Top Three Reasons for NOT Limiting Editions:
1.  Bookkeeping. Because giclĂ©e and photo prints can be printed on demand, the task of numbering them becomes more difficult without a good system in place for keeping track of the numbers.

      2.  If you limit the edition and the print is popular, once you sell out the edition you can’t make money on that image anymore. Why limit the income you can make on an image?

3      3. Unless you are a top-tier artist whose new works are sold for $$$$ before the paint is dry, people buying prints from you are not likely looking at the purchase as an “investment.” They like the image and want to hang it in their home.
Don’t Limit, But Do Sign!

A signed print holds more appeal than one that is not signed by the artist. A while back I took an “unofficial” poll of people who bought prints. Most people said they liked it when the print was signed – that it meant more to them and had more value than if it was not signed. A few said that given the choice between a signed or unsigned print, they would choose signed and might even pay a little more. Very few said they would pay more for a print because it was a limited edition, unless “the artist is well-known/famous.”

If You Are Set on Limited Editions:
1       1. Do keep good records! An Excel spreadsheet is a good way to keep track of which print numbers have been used.

       2.  Make sure you know from the outset whether you will have separate editions for different sizes or whether your edition includes all sizes.

3         3. Include a Certificate of Authenticity with each limited edition print, stating the type of print, title, original medium, number and size of edition. At Fine Print, we give Certificates with each custom print order which document the type of print, expected longevity, and proper care. The artist can then fill in their name, title, original medium and edition. Our certificates can also be used for open editions.

       Kate Dardine is a professional artist and the marketing director for Fine Print Imaging and Colorado Frames. You can see her work at