A Guide to Investing in Limited Edition Prints
The recent interest in art as an investment has exposed a lack of knowledge of, and appreciation for, original limited edition prints which have proven to be a very good investment providing that you the do the appropriate research and follow certain criteria.
Most artist’s produce limited edition prints at some stage of their career which means that there is a wide variety of works to choose from. Genuine fine art editions provide collectors and investors with the benefits of purchasing artworks by leading artists but at a lower entry point than a painting or drawing. Unfortunately, the wide variety of printing methods and the technical jargon associated with the different printing processes can make the limited edition print market very daunting for the uninitiated.
As the name implies, limited edition prints such as woodcuts, etchings, collagraphs etc. are created using a process to reproduce an image create that an artist has created. The defining factor of an original limited edition print is the amount of involvement by the artist in the making of the plates and the printing process, which can vary significantly between the different techniques. The various production methods range from almost fully automated machine produced prints to almost completely hand produced prints. In order for a print to be considered an original print the work should have been produced from a surface, such as a copper plate or woodblock, that has been worked on by the artist.
Another determining factor in the legitimacy of a limited edition work is the size of the edition. As a general rule you should be looking for an edition of less than 100 although if the artist is very well known and highly desirable (eg. Banksy) then an edition of up to 250 may still be a good investment. It is also very important to make sure that once the edition is complete the plates used to make the print are destroyed which means that no more prints can be produced at a later date which would increase the overall edition number and decrease the value of your print.
Because the plates of genuine fine art limited edition prints are produced by hand by a master print maker, the image that is being produced is unique to that particular edition and is not a copy of an original work although most will be either based on, or in reference to, a particular original work or body of work by the artist. The hand made process used to produce these works also means that each print in the edition, although of the same image, will be slightly different from the next as the colour is applied by hand.
One should also make sure that the print has been produced by a reputable and well known print maker or print house, and that each work comes with a certificate of authenticity, is individually numbered, and signed by the artist. Each print should also have an embossed mark on it which is called a chop mark and is basically the logo of the print maker or publisher.
This is by no means an exhaustive overview of limited edition prints but should provide you with enough information for you to be able to ask the right questions and undertake the appropriate research so that you can make an informed and confident decision when entering the limited edition print market.
More information on the different printing processes can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printmaking
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.