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Why buy an artist's limited edition print?

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Collecting and buying limited edition prints can be a very enjoyable and relatively inexpensive way of owning the artwork of an artist whose work you admire, owning it in the knowledge that there is only a limited number and so there is rarity (based upon the edition size).

When buying, things to look out for are:


That it is signed along the bottom edge by the artist and also that it is numbered and titled.


Artists are creatures of habit when it comes to them signing their work and they should have a regular and recognisable signature by which their work can be identified.


There are two numbers to watch out for which traditionally are handwritten and appear like a fraction, on top of each other - these are the number of the actual print you are buying (on the top) and the number of prints in the edition (on the bottom). For example, 1/50 is the first print in the edition of 50 prints.


It is considered that special numbers in the edition are slightly more sought after by collectors, such as the first (e.g. 1/50) or last in the edition (e.g 50/50). Other print numbers can also have great significant depending on the print (though this can be subjective too). For example, for a print of artwork of a bouquet of a dozen roses, number 12 in the edition could be deemed as more sought after?


1/1 is a single print meaning there is only one print in existence.


Letters instead of numbers on prints - sometimes an artist will use letters instead of numbers to denote something about the print. For example A/P indicates that print is an Artist's Proof, meaning the artist was happy to sell the print but that it was either not made into a limited edition in its current state, (i.e. it has been altered in some way thereafter, because it's a proof), or the artist decided not to continue with the edition for some reason. Usually these prints are more rare.


A limited edition print should be of high quality and a faithful reproduction, inkjet printed with an excellent likeness to the original. A reputable artist will produce quality prints guaranteed with long-lasting inks for up to 80 - 100 years.


Limited edition prints are also called giclee prints, not to be confused with original prints.


Artists' Original Prints are prints made by 'the hand of the artist' via an art printmaking process and are not the same as limited edition/ giclee prints which are essentially copies of an original artwork. Examples of original prints are linocut, etching, screenprint, monoprint and lithograph etc when each one is pulled by the artist (or their assigned assistant).


Giclee prints are high quality inkjet manufactured prints that can be made unique, if the artist changes, paints or draws over them - thus making each one a unique item.


There can be more than one single limited edition which offers buyers a choice of size and prices.



Lightfastness and longevity - if you value your print, look after it. Displaying it is very sunny conditions everyday will eventually effect the inks, nothing is totally lightfast even under museum quality glass.


Paper and edges - a reputable artist will have taken the time to consider the best paper and edges to compliment and represent their work. For example a print of a watercolour/ink painting may look its best with a textured print paper resembling watercolour paper along with a hand-torn edge. Hand-torn edges give limited edition prints a unique, less mass-produced feel ideal for watercolours and ink artworks.


Keep the receipt/artist's certificate - as a collector of a genuine limited edition art print, it is both a fascinating record of your purchase and proof of your ownership too and will be a more attractive when and if you sell it to a future buyer/collector. The print certificate confirms all the information about the print itself and the receipt, when and what you paid for it.


If you love the artist's work, chances are that other art-loving buyers will do too, but its eventual resale value will depend upon the artist's name and reputation, its scarcity and the condition that you have kept the print in as well as current fashion / tastes.


Hopefully you have found this information helpful. Wishing you a very happy time collecting limited edition prints.


See more of Nichola Campbell's limited edition prints here.



Field of gold






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