How Do Limited Editions Work?

How Do Limited Editions Work?

If you're looking to add a flair of elegance or innovate your workplace, home, event space or collection, then a limited edition print may be the perfect piece to complete it.

While many people have the opportunity and resources to purchase copies of artwork, not many have access to the limited-edition versions.

Owning a limited edition print means you're part of an exclusive base who's will only own that print unless it gets sold. Limited edition prints exist in a specific quantity determined in advance by the artist.

Sounds, special right?

Well, owning a limited edition print will certainly set you apart from other art collectors, you know. Its rarity can add value and shine a light on the distinct elements of your collection. 


Limited Edition Prints vs. Reproduction

When visiting an art gallery or shop, for that matter, you must highlight the difference between a limited edition and a reproduction print. Sometimes buyers can get confused between the two, but there are subtle differences. 

First of all, let's focus on a reproduction print.


Reproduction Prints

When an artist has created an original version of a print, a reproduction is a copy of that. For example, an artist could spend lots of their time devoting themselves to creating a stunning painting. If the painting is photographed, photographs are scaled up to look like a painting or sold as they are, then that's a reproduction.

Another example is that an identical painting or drawing made to match the original print. Yet it's not authentic because it's a replica of the first version, and often the replica has been created by someone else other than the original artist. Most of the time, reproduction prints will be for sale in bulk for commercial purposes.

Typical examples of reproduction prints:

Vincent Van Gogh's, 'Self- Portrait, 1889' (Blue-Chip)
    Andy Warhol's, 'Paolo Uccello St. George And The Dragon' (Blue-Chip)

      Limited-Edition Prints

      Limited edition prints have been specifically created by the artist, and there are only a certain number of versions available. The print often comes with a certificate, a number on the print (to establish which quantity), and the original artist's signature to show their authenticity. 

      If you are to purchase a limited edition print, it should have:

      • Numbered prints: Usually, it will have a number to show its version, like 1/10-10/10.
      • Artist Proof: The number of impressions made by the artist, for example, 2/3. 
      • Printers Proof: A prototype of the print before it's been printed. 
      • Bon a tirer print: Where approval has been granted for the print to go ahead. Here the printer also keeps a copy to know which limited edition it is. 

      Due to their limited versions, these prints can often keep the same value or increase in price. At the same time, a reproduction print either stays the same or decreases.

      Signed vs Unsigned Prints

      If you're looking to purchase a limited edition to add value to your collection, then you will undoubtedly want to make sure it's signed. A print that the artist and printer sign will add value. The majority of the time, a signature is kept in the bottom right corner, which adds to the authenticity. 

      However, it's not uncommon to find many historical-artistic paintings, not including artist signatures. A typical example is Pablo Picasso's De Memoire D'Homme 1950 Lithograph. This came available in a first edition book of 300 lithographs, and Picasso has 9, but none of which were numbered and signed. 

      Open Prints vs Limited Edition Prints

      When purchasing a print, you will be buying from an edition. An edition is a term used to define a series of prints produced in one go, known as a limited edition. Because of this, the quantity of these prints is scarce. Most of the time, limited edition prints exist in a small number ranging from 2 and a few thousand. 

      If the limited edition collection has a small quantity, then the prints can be higher in price. The amount of the limited edition prints all depends on the technique used by the original artist. 

      When prints are made an unlimited amount of times, i.e. there's no number capped to the production process; known as an open print. 

      What is a Print Run Number?

      As highlighted earlier, limited edition prints contain a number. This number is an indicator of where that specific print stands within the edition. If you're looking to identify this in a limited edition print, the print number is in pencil at the bottom.

      The print run number will typically look like a fraction, for example, 1/25. The first nominator will signify what position it stands, and the denominator will show the number of limited edition prints made. 

      Can Edition Sizes Be Changed Later On?

      Once a limited edition is created and then sold, it cannot be changed when the collection is out on the marketplace. If artists did this, the number run would change, and the limited edition's value would decrease greatly. As a result, the artist would lose trust from their buyers and collectors.  

      However, artists can release a new limited edition series of the print using sizes, materials or canvas. 

      Studio Proofs & Hors d'Commerce Proofs

      Sometimes it's not uncommon to buy a print without a print run number. Some prints will have different types of proofs, such as studio and hors d'commerce proofs.

      Studio Proof

      Generally, a studio proof is the same as a limited edition print. The image tends to be the same, the paper and printing method. The only different factor is instead of a print run number; it will have a studio proof indicator either as SP or S/P on the bottom of the print. The main features of a studio proof print are:

      • Printed in the same way as a limited edition print
      • Printed at the same time as a limited edition
      • Signed SP or S/P at the bottom
      • Fewer versions than a limited edition version
      • They are often more expensive and exclusive than limited-edition versions

      Hors d'Commerce Proof

      Hors D'Commerce is a French term that, when translated to English means, not for sale. Artists commonly use these types of proof as a sample or to display their work. You can only get these types of proofs direct through the artist, and the majority of people who use them are dealers and galleries to showcase their work.

      Our Art Brokers

      Along with their beauty, limited edition art prints also double as a fine investment thanks to their exclusivity. If you're interested in hearing more about how this works, contact our expert art brokers to walk you through the art investment process.