Collecting fine art, including fine art prints can be a fun and rewarding experience. Savvy investors know that along with gold, fine art can make the best investment in any economy, and this is especially true in a bad one.

Fine art prints allow investors the luxury of collecting works that are less expensive. However, a real fine art print (kept in good condition) holds its worth relative to the work of a particular artist.  Thus collecting the prints of an emerging art leader or star or a real blue chip artist can be an excellent investment in a recession when money is tight but needs to be kept secure.

What’s a Fine Art Print?

There is a difference between a fine art print and a print for decoration. A hand signed Warhol of a limited edition print of Marilyn Monroe, Poppies or a Campbell’s Soup Can is worth a lot more than a poster or even the best possible archival Giclee or reproduction, even if it is officially created by the Warhol foundation. That’s because the artist himself should be involved in the issuance of the print since the artist is the only person who has the right to say the print matches their unique artistic vision for it. It’s like the difference between making the recipe of a famous chef vs. having the chef prepare the recipe for you.

There are many factors to consider when collecting fine art prints, and some of them are also important when collecting any fine art. To be truly classified as a fine art print the image or artwork itself has to have a certain quality, usually the artist has a style all of his or her own, plus the work has to be a fairly limited edition, and should be numbered and signed or at the very least initialed by the artist. Very recently, due to wonderful technical advances, archival prints that are reproductions of an original painting or drawing are now being considered as true fine art when they meet the above criteria. Partially, artists have fine art photographers and the acceptance of these prints by their market to thank for this development. Fine art digital prints are currently so accepted by the art market that at a recent PMA attendees were informed of a 26 x 90 inch Epson print, which sold for sold for $1.2 million.

Consider the Quality of the Artist

Whatever the medium of the print, the first consideration is the quality of the artist’s work. The best archival print in the world by a lousy artist won’t grow as an investment. It’s a nice thing to have if that print is an archival reproduction of a painting by one’s child created in kindergarten. The original that was made with poster paint on newsprint will fade and deteriorate over time. Still, although have such a print may well be a great investment of time and money for its sentimental worth, is not going to increase in market value outside of the original family.

Watermill Sunset

Judy Rey Wasserman’s Genesis Series 

First and foremost  the buyer should like the art that is collected. If the art doe not communicate and even move or inspire, do not buy it. The art world is full of Emperors who are not wearing any clothes but are highly touted by galleries and critics. The more a collector learns, the more savvy the collector, but one should always trust one’s own gut feeling.

The best artist to collect is an one who is emerging with a look that’s all their own or even one who is on the begging curve of a new movement. For instance, find and collect the next Andy Warhol (Pop), Donald Judd (Minimalism), Dali (Surrealist) or Jenny Holtzer (Word/Text) and watch the value of your collection grow astronomically! The chances of achieving this are better than winning the lottery. Damien Hirst’s dentist showed up on the list of Art Review’s 2005’s most important people in the contemporary art world. Why? Because he traded his dental services for art work when Hirst was just starting out.

Another way to create a collection is to buy the best work that can be afforded by a living established and respected artist. The value of an artist’s work usually (but not always) increases posthumously. That’s because from the supply of art from that artist is complete and thus limited.

Always keep in mind that Unique styles are what differentiate good or competent artists from great ones.

The Print’s Quality

A fine art print should be highly archival to be worth anything, even if it shows the work of a budding new Rembrandt or Monet. If the print is not created with highly archival inks and media (paper, canvas or other material) then very shortly work by even the best artist will be worth zilch. This information applies to any kind of print, including but not limited to etchings, silk screens, digital giclees, etc. Collectors should always inquire as to the archival properties of any print before making a purchase.

There are artists who do competent jobs out at fairs and shows selling works made on non-archival media with standard ink jets. Artists even sell color photocopies of their works, already framed to unsuspecting collectors at fairs. I’ve seen it done! At first, that photocopy looks sharp. The photocopy will fade within a year, even if kept in the most archival quality conditions. It is perfectly legal for an artist to sell such work as a print, because a photocopy is a print. It’s not an archival fine art print, but it is a print. Let the buyer beware.


Every buyer of a limited edition fine art print deserves a Certificate of Authenticity. Certificate of Authenticity should have the name of the artist, print, issue number of this specific print (and that should match the hand numbering on the print itself), date of issue, total number in the edition, physical dimensions of the print and it should be signed by the artist (hopefully) or the fine art printer, especially if the print is new. Older prints should have a COA issued by an appraiser who is an authority on that artist or by the artist’s foundation (such as the Warhol foundation), which includes all known provenance information for that print.

This certificate helps establish that the owner has an original print. Unfortunately, forgery and theft in the art world are not all that rare. Whoever holds the certificate holds strong proof of ownership of the original work. When one buys a car one gets title of ownership and when one buys fine art the buyer receives a certificate or some sort of legal and approved authentication. For a new work, the buyer should demand a COA, or walk away from the purchase. In today’s digital age of computers and copy machines, a COA should look professional and even artistic.

If the buyer is not dealing directly with one of the artist’s dealers, galleries or the artist herself, it is wise to do some research through the artist’s real representatives or the artist herself or through a reputable dealer or gallery to ensure that he print is authentic. The buyer would be wise to save the receipt along with the COA. It is further a proof of ownership and documents the price of the work at the time of sale. Keep these documents stored where other important documents are kept.

UnGraven Image Fine Art Publishing issues a Certificate of Authenticity that even has a special code known only to the publisher, seller and buyer. A different code is issued for every single print. A record is kept every print’s owner, their current address, the code, etc. This record is updated regularly, placed on a duplicate disk and stored in a bank safe deposit box. The code and record keeping for provenance further protects the owner against any forgery or theft since one must know the code to prove ownership.

Although pices for art, including prints, have fallen due to the recession, they have not fallen nearly as much as those for most other investments. The fine art print market is a strong market currently according to statistics collected by Informart magazine, Artexpeditor and sales information from the auction houses including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Although there are no guarantees when investing in a work of art that the art will increase in value over time, there continue to be methods to use that allow an investor to collect wisely.

Next Week- Part 2

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2 Replies to “Collecting Fine Art Prints Tips — Part 1”

  1. I love other peoples art work I am a big fan of color but i don’t have to have color black and white is okay to .
    WE can improve our own artwork by looking at what other people do in the way oif arttwork.

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