Feature: Limited Editions and Artist Multiples
April 2015

So you have an idea for a limited edition or artist’s multiple? Here’s what you should consider before embarking on what could be an expensive and time consuming venture.

If you are already working in a medium that lends itself to editioning - for example printing or photography - then it’s important that you know the difference and value of a limited edition and an original artwork. Photo editions have some other specific considerations that can be seen in the Photographers’ Gallery guide to collecting.

What about moving image work? This is less straight forward and more specialist than someone investing in an aesthetically pleasing image to hang in their home. Moving image works tend to be produced in low quantities as an edition to start with and sold to collectors at a higher price.

Editions are being bought more and more online through galleries as well as specialist editions websites like Eyestorm. Digital art has also gained popularity in recent years and is sold online through websites such as Seditions.

Editions are accessible and reasonably priced and offer artists a way of making their work available to a wider audience without compromising their studio practice.

An artist edition generally refers to a replicated artwork of a set number of pieces that are signed and numbered by the artist for example 5/50 to show the number of the individual edition against the overall edition size. If the edition sells out you cannot produce any more copies but you could produce another edition so long as it is not exactly the same. This is common in photography where the same image may be available as both an A4 and A2 edition for example.

An artist can print up to 10% of the edition as APs (artist proofs), these sit outside the numbered edition and are signed and numbered separately as APs. These are often sought after by collectors, as APs are rare and therefore more valuable. PPs (printers proofs) are traditionally used to benchmark the printing quality of each print in the edition but can sometimes be produced for archival or sales purposes depending on the agreement between the artist and printer. Step pricing can also be introduced; this is when your price rises incrementally as the edition sells becoming less available on the market. For example if you have an edition of 100, numbers 1-25 might sell for £200, numbers 26-50 might sell for £300 etc. Limited editions and multiples should be supplied with a Certificate of authenticity to prove the number of the edition and to certify its origins.

If this is your first venture into the world of editions then it would be advisable to err on the side of caution. You might decide to print on demand as the edition sells or produce a smaller numbered edition to start with.

Generally the smaller the print run, the more expensive the prints will be because there are less of them available and therefore they become more valuable. Processes and the materials used will also influence how you price the work. A digital print will cost less to produce than an etching or screenprint for example. Alongside production cost, also consider gallery costs and room in the pricing to offer discounts to collectors if you wish to have this option.

Your artistic profile and collectability should also be taken into account when pricing your editions. Research the editions market and analyse the pricing and edition sizes of your peers and ensure your pricing is aligned with how you are pricing your original artwork. Do you want to produce higher priced editions aimed at collectors or do you want to sell larger quantities of more affordable prints at fairs or online? This is down to personal preference but should sit comfortably with the goals you have set for your overall studio practice.