The market for limited edition prints has expanded considerably over recent years as more online galleries are launched that allow investors and collectors to browse and buy great works of art from anywhere in the world at any time. What makes limited edition prints so enticing to collectors and investors is the low price point, low risk, wide availability, and the sheer variety of prints available.  Anyone with a few hundred dollars to spare can purchase a high quality limited edition print online from the comfort of their own home that, if chosen carefully, could potentially be a shrewd investment.

What many people don’t realise is that original limited edition prints are not second-rate works or an afterthought designed to generate funds.  Artists often make prints with the sole intention of creating a print as an individual work of art just like they would create a painting or sculpture.  According to print specialist Susan Pratt, director of London gallery Pratt Contemporary Art, “artists make prints for the purpose of the medium, but through that they’re discovering and their work is evolving. Artists approach it as seriously as they would a painting or a sculpture – it’s just as important."

Murray Macaulay, a print specialist and department head at Christie’s, explains that the reason prints are so popular is because they “reflect our contemporary society in a unique way. The print embodies the aspirations of our culture, accessibility, inclusively, duplication, the free market and fashion. In the last fifty years printmaking has moved from the fringes of art production, to become a standard part of most artistic careers. Not only do the best artists of our time make prints, some of the best artworks of our time are prints”.

The fact that all the major auction houses hold dedicated print sales is evidence of the significance of the market for limited edition prints and the size of the collector base.  2011 was a big year for print collectors and investors with major auction houses proving their dedication to the development of the print market by holding the first major dedicated evening sales of prints.  Taking a cue from auction house Phillips de Pury, which started evening Print Sales in April 2011, Sotheby’s New York held their first-ever evening Print Sale on the 27th of October 2011.

The limited edition print market is proof that purchasing a work of art that will be a pleasure to own and a good investment doesn’t require a huge budget.  In fact, prints priced under $1,500 offer the best investment potential because of the huge market for that exists for works at that price point.  The market for prints priced above $10,000 is smaller as a buyer with $10,000 or more to spend is likely to be more cautious with their money and will have the option of purchasing a wider variety of works including original paintings by known artists.  But below $10,000, the limited edition print market is likely to offer the best value for money.

According to artprice.com, it is generally prints bought for less than US$1,250 (EUR1,000) that age best as evinced by an average value that more than doubled between 1995-2002 and rose 40% between March 1998 and April 2003. Also according to artprice.com, “from 1996 to 2002 prints and multiples yielded a greater annual return than works on canvas -8% vs. 6.82%. This, however, is only an average and returns vary hugely from one type of product to another”.

When approaching the limited edition print market it is important to recognise that not all prints are equal.  Edition size and authenticity are two of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a limited edition print.  The best way to ensure you are buying an investment grade work is to only buy from reputable dealers who offer small edition sizes and guarantees of authenticity such as ArtCapitol.

ArtCapitol showcases great art, and prints - photography, paintings and digital art - in edition form, making it accessible and affordable for all. The mission of ArtCapitol is to help support artists creating culture we can live with, and help collectors acquire limited edition fine art online.   

Prints purchased from ArtCapitol are available at various physical sizes depending on the artist and work, and there is an edition count for each size. Once those sizes are sold, there won't be any left at those sizes. The larger the physical size the more the print will cost, and the edition count will be much less, making it more valuable for a collector who purchases the larger prints. A Certificate of Authenticity will be included with every print, signed by the artist. Each print is museum quality and is produced with archival pigments on fine art cotton rag paper.

By Nicholas Forrest

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Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London-based art market analyst, art consultant and writer. He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries, research and analysis on the current art market.