When a particular print edition is numbered by the artist, any impression without a number is probably not a valid reproduction and not from the original edition, which means that impression may be unauthorized. The numbering of prints is normally limited to fine art prints that are marketed to collectors.
Signatures count for a lot at a print market since they add to the artwork's authenticity. The value of a signed print is usually two or more times higher than the value of an unsigned print, so if you have a choice, it's always better to go for the signed version.
Every Artwork in the Edition Is Identical
A common misconception is that editions are numbered in the order that they are printed. This is rarely the case, as artists will often number their works at random when they are signing and dating them.
The only real difference between the two is the restricted quantity of prints bearing the AP designation and not the quality of the print.
Signing and Numbering the Print
The standard is to sign the print at the bottom right hand corner below the impression, the edition number on the bottom left hand corner and the title, if any, in the center.
The most definitive method of determining whether a print is an original or a reproduction is by examination of its production process. All reproductions are made by a different process than originals; reproductions are photomechanically produced and originals are not.
Even though artists proofs are often presented as a gift, time and again, they're often sold. They are typically bought by collectors. Due to their scarcity, they're often deemed more valuable than a limited edition print and, often costlier.
A high resolution signed limited edition print is worth a lot more than a standard photograph poster stuck to a canvas! When buying a limited edition print, the artist or printer's proof versions are deemed rare and so are likely to hold more value. Their scarcity makes them more sought-after!
A/P stands for 'Artist's proof' and is a small number of prints that are the first ones printed deemed good enough by the artist. Usually the number of A/Ps is about 10% of the size of the main edition, and this mini-edition can be numbered or not.
A common way to tell if a print is a hand lithograph or an offset lithograph is to look at the print under magnification. Marks from a hand lithograph will show a random dot pattern created by the tooth of the surface drawn on. Inks may lay directly on top of others and it will have a very rich look.
An original reproduction or print is defined as a print coming directly from the plate (or other matrix) that the artist created. These prints are numbered showing that this edition printed directly from the plate or original piece of art is limited to a specific quantity and not mass produced.
Print run numbers can be understood simply: the smaller the number, the more valuable it is. It is considered that the first impressions in the print run are the closest to the original idea of the artist; thus, they become more expensive.
Signing fine art prints only became standard practice in the 20th century—and many historic prints lack their artists' signatures. In these cases, you should ask the gallery or auction specialist for other signs of authenticity before you make your purchase.
Most modern lithographs are signed and numbered to establish an edition. An offset lithograph, also known as a limited edition print, is a reproduction by a mechanical process, in which the artist has in no way contributed to the process of making an original print: that is, he has not designed the plate.
A limited edition print is a copy of an original, photographic print, or traditional printmaking artwork that is created a set number of times, as opposed to an unlimited run. Artists can charge more, increase interest in their artwork. Buyers can own a special artwork for a fraction of the original's price.
Set up a signing with the artist so each print is hand-signed, dated and numbered somewhere on the front of the print. Authenticate the print with a detailed sales slip noting the number in the run and print type. Frame the prints according to sales instructions and deliver immediately to your buyer.
A closeup of an "E.A" marking on a print. E.A. stands for “épreuve d'artiste,” meaning Artist's Proof in French. H.C. stands for hors commerce, or “not to sell.” Similar to an artist's proof, this proof was set aside from the editioned prints.
Limited edition prints tend to be more valuable than open editions, but once you set the size you will not be able to change your mind and create more images, even if they sold more quickly than you thought.
Signed in the plate means that the artist has signed their name in the matrix (wood, metal, stone, etc) so that it is printed within the art.
An artist's proof is an impression of a print taken in the printmaking process to see the current printing state of a plate while the plate (or stone, or woodblock) is being worked on by the artist.
Printer's Proof (P/P)
They look exactly the same as any other print in the edition, except that they are labelled with P/P. The number of P/Ps depends on the number of printers involved in the printing process as every printer gets one proof.
At it's simplest, we define an original print as an artwork that has been manually printed by the artist (or with some processes, printed under the artist's direct supervision). It is not a reproduction. The artist will have created an image on block, stone, plate or screen from which the final print is produced.