Limited Edition Prints – good idea or not? – Part two

The time when limited edition prints makes perfect sense

In the first part of this two part article, we looked at some examples of how the Limited Edition Print can work, along with some of the pitfalls. If you haven’t read it yet, the first part can be found here.

In this second part, we look at two situations where a limited edition print makes sense and could be the only way to go!

Demise of an artist

There is a time that comes to us all, no matter how careful we are nor how well-known – yes, the inevitable end point. When an artist passes away, it is most often the case that the value of their work increases. This is due to the now definitive known number and limited supply of original work created by the artist. The artist themselves can produce no more.

This is a time when a limited edition of prints, or other artwork, does make perfect sense.

For instance, the artist is no longer able to produce endless new variations of their best work i.e. slightly different views onto their best subject. Whether that is St. Paul’s cathedral or a red pepper matters not. The artist or photographer cannot create another view onto the red pepper! Additionally, if the artist/photographer creates the copies or prints of their work, by definition, after death they themselves cannot produce any more copies or prints!

It should be noted that other printers could make new copies or prints from the original negative or artwork but, if there is any honesty in the new version, the fact that it is not produced by the original artist should be made clear.

So, after death, the number of works produced by the artist themselves is finite and limited. This is a scenario when limited editions of artwork or prints is a very viable and often the best and only way for the artwork to be sold.

Demise of the printer not the artist

A similar situation can occur when the artist actually uses somebody else to make the copies or prints of the work. If the favourite printer passes away, then all the work they produced on behalf of the artist becomes finite. Of course, the artist or photographer can find someone new to print fresher copies of their work, and who knows, they might be better than the first printer. What a conundrum for a collector!

Unfortunately, death sometimes doesn’t stop ‘original’ work being ‘discovered’, sometimes long after the death of the artist or printer. Whether the newly discovered work is actually original from the artist or new creations can be the source of many a lively debate and for a very valuable piece, often a court case as well! However, let’s leave that to one side, pay our respect and move on from the untimely demise of the artist.

Destruction of the original

If the artwork is copies of and original, such as prints from a photographic negative or even a positive, when the original source is destroyed then limited editions of the print do make sense.

The destruction can be accidental i.e. fire destroying the artwork. However, in very rare examples the destruction of the original can actually be part of the finished work.

What do we mean by that? Well, if ten copies are made from an original negative and then the original negative is divided and cut into ten pieces. Then one tenth of the original negative can be attached to, or be part of the sale of each individual print in the edition of ten prints. By physically cutting up, or destroying, the original negative, no more copies can be made from that original. This is not widely practiced, so an extremely rare occurrence.

A sort of Summary

The limited edition print(s) makes perfect sense when the artist has passed away or when the original artwork is destroyed. Other variants of the limited edition print(s) are, most often, a marketing tool used in the sale of the artwork. The viability of that tool can be open to debate. Sometimes it may be to the benefit of the buyer and other times it can be to the benefit of the seller. Ideally, but rarely, do both parties benefit.

Our opinion is that, aside from death or destruction, the limited edition print(s) is of limited benefit and a marketing tool, in the same way as a “Summer Sale” is a marketing tool. Of course, this is just our opinion. Your opinion may vary! Why not let us know, either in the comments below or by private message here. We would like to know your experience of limited edition artworks or if you think they are worthwhile. We could be persuaded to see the complete benefit of limited edition prints, so get writing to us!

By the way, this is a two-part article, you can find the first part of this article here.


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