If you wanna know your stuff
Limited edition prints
Limited edition prints are produced in limited numbers; smaller print runs make the image more exclusive causing the market price to rise over time, if demand outstrips supply. Edition sizes can vary but the Fine Art Trade Guild recommends that edition sizes should be no more than 850 prints in total although, in 2008, this was considered a large edition, the trend being for many smaller edition print runs. Most limited editions are signed and numbered by the artist with a commitment that no other reproduction of the image will be made unless stated on the certificate of authenticity.
Open edition prints
An open edition print can be produced in any quantity and the image may also be used in other ways, such as on tableware, mugs, bags etc. Open editions tend to cost less than limited editions and are much less likely to increase in value. Americans call these ‘posters’, a term increasing in use worldwide, though ‘poster’ was traditionally a term for advertisement artwork.
Giclée prints are made using digital printing technology, usually inkjet. The technology enables users to produce small runs of prints. It also allows retailers to offer ‘print on demand’ services, where buyers select an image and it is printed out there and then. Digital print technology can be used by artists to create original prints Giclées are not always reproductions.
Whichever type of print you buy, you should expect it to last. The Guild print standard requires paper to be at least 250gsm, with an acidity level of between pH7 and pH10, to minimise discolouring. Colours should be relatively lightfast, scoring 6 or more on the Blue Wool Scale, the industry-standard measurement in the UK, or its equivalent. Reproductions should normally be close facsimiles of the original work. Printing should be clear with a good depth of colour. An artist’s signature endorses the visible print quality.
The art market is as fickle and hard to predict as any other. Reputation affects value, so research the artist’s past achievements and recent prices. Rarity is also an important factor, as is condition. Look for a certificate of authenticity with a full disclosure of relevant information. A professional gallery owner will give good advice.
When buying secondary market or antique prints, condition becomes an issue. If prints have noticeable damage or have been exposed to adverse conditions such as damp, the value might be affected. Visible damage such as these can put off collectors. If the colours are faded, the value may be considerably diminished. Always check the print carefully.