A beginner's guide to collecting editions

March 22, 2022 / By Artchild

Purchasing a limited edition print is an affordable way to collect work from artists you love and can be a perfect entry point into growing an art collection.

A fine art print is more than just a reproduction of an artwork. It often involves close collaboration between an artist and a skilled print studio, and can utilize different techniques. Traditionally, these techniques have included screen printing, giclée (a form of high quality inkjet printing), etching or lithography, but we are seeing more digitally-native artists expand the possibilities. Today, digital art is available in several mediums and created using various techniques. This includes art created with code and other with technologies such as TouchDesigner. Digital art editions can exist in a strictly digital format through NFTs or also be accompanied by prints. These works can be executed in many ways including traditional fine art prints and pen plotting, which has seen a recent renaissance.

Typically, an edition is sold at a fraction of the price of a unique (1/1) work because it is one out of a set of multiples. Navigating where to find a quality edition can be overwhelming, so we’ve outlined some steps to help you know where to begin.

  1. Where to look

    Artsy is an amazing resource that offers different filters by price and rarity, so you can look within a budget. You can check auction houses such as Christie’s, who hold both physical shows focused on lower-price prints as well as online sales throughout the year with different spotlights on artists or time periods. Pace Prints is a gallery that exclusively exhibits fine art prints and multiples. Vetted institutions such as these listed will usually catalog important details that include where the print was made and its conditions.

    Something to keep in mind is that these traditional galleries and auction houses can come with extra associated fees which are passed onto the buyer for their services. A great way to avoid these costs can be found by purchasing art directly from artists. Many talented creatives have ventured out into representing themselves, making art much more accessible. Artists' websites, Twitter or Instagram bios oftentimes have links to shops where they make their work available. The rise of the NFT ecosystem has propelled this accessibility even further in recent years for several reasons. Artists can directly publish their work on the blockchain (known in the NFT space as "minting") and make it available for purchase and delivery to collectors in an instant. The freedom to sell directly to collectors waives the costs of gallery representation, and in the case of a stand alone NFT work, obviates the cost of materials, printing, and shipping.

    If you aren’t crazy about viewing a digital work on a screen, don’t fret. Most artists provide the option to send prints of the work you purchase. Just shoot them a message. You’d be surprised at how willing an artist you admire is to have a chat about their work with you.

  2. Knowing the technique

    The analog or digital process used to create the composition, the printing technique, and the choice of materials used, such as the paper and ink, are all important factors to consider when choosing a print because they directly impact what the final print looks like. For example, Christie’s describes how, “Warhol loved cheaper, thinner paper for his Soup Can prints from the 1960s to emphasise that they were meant to be enjoyed by the masses.”

  3. What to look out for

    Your print should be marked with the edition number from within the set, and either a certificate of authenticity (COA) or a signature to prove its validity. In the case of NFTs all of this information is imbedded in the blockchain and transparent for all to see. Collectors know immediately when they are purchasing a work how many editions exist, how many have been sold and at what price, the amount of editions listed for sale on the market, and the provenance of the work.

  4. Care for your print.

    When you add a physical print to your collection, caring for it is critical. The paper and pigments are delicate and damage caused by sunlight or moisture can’t be reversed.

    Don’t wait long before taking it to a reputable framer who can help you with choosing the best framing and mounting materials. When framing, you should never trim the sheet to fit into a certain frame, always opt for museum glass, which protects against UV rays and is best for long term preservation, and bring the COA that the framer can fasten somewhere on the back of the frame.

    Choose where to display your piece thoughtfully. Try not to hang it in direct sunlight or near any sources of heat or moisture.

While this is a far from exhaustive list on purchasing limited editions, these tips have helped members of the Artchild team to expand their art collections and enjoy the work of some of their favorite artists on a daily basis. Collecting doesn’t have to be a high stakes game. Embrace editions, have fun collecting, and hang some art on those walls!

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