During an economic downturn fine art, especially easily transported two dimensional art, such as paintings and prints remain a solid investment value Investing in prints by known and emerging, but soon to be significantly recognized artists are generally a low cost entry into art collecting. Although there are no guarantees when investing in a work of art that the art will increase in value over time, there are ways for a collector to invest wisely.

Print collectors need to know and understand specific concepts of collecting art and prints.

The Importance of Provenance

There are two art markets, primary and secondary. The primary market sells works that are brand new, while the secondary market deals with works that have been owned.

Van Gogh never made money as an artist, but his paintings were documented, both in his letters to his brother and others and also by his brother. Modern and contemporary artists who believe in themselves and their work begin to keep records of their work fairly quickly, or they find someone to do this for them, such as a gallery owner or dealer. Aside from problems caused by wars, looting, natural disasters and theft, the whereabouts of most valuable fine art is known. There are companies and web sites that keep records of fine art provenance that most dealers and galleries have access to for a fee. This includes prints. Following the trail of a work of fine art’s ownership is termed provenance. Keeping records of the trail prevents forgery and also helps museums and curators know who to ask for a loan of art for a special exhibit as well as informing dealers and buyers as to whom to approach to buy particular works.

For artists whose work will appreciate over time, keeping records of provenance is very important. Good artists do care about their works, reputation and their collectors and agents. If a gallery, dealer or web site happily takes a buyer’s credit card or cash and does not note down the buyer’s information, print name and number (at least on a formal bill of sale), plus inform the buyer of the need to contact someone upon the work’s changing hands, well, that says a whole lot about the seller’s belief in the value of this art. This goes even triple for original paintings!

Artists and publishers know about the importance of this and keep records about their works when editions are created with respect for the real fine art market.

Types of Prints

There are many types of prints including lithographs, etchings, silk screens and the newer Giclees. All photographs are prints. Large scale fine art photography is often printed on the same presses as are Giclees, the difference being the the colors of the black pigments used and the paper type.

Another term for Giclee is digital print. This type of print is quickly becoming more accepted and valuable. However, the collector needs to take serious precautions to discover the inks and media used to create a print, especially a Giclee or photograph. Since these are easy to produce some artists are knocking out copies — and seeing them– on regular printers. Personally, I know one who uses a color copy machine and signs and frames the works. While these prints appear fresh, they are not worth owning as within 10 years they will fade badly even in the best conditions.

However, a true Giclee created with pigment inks will last for generations to come. If the Giclee is a limited edition signed print from an artist whose value rises the work will rise in value along with the artist’s paintings.

In the world of Modern Art, Andy Warhol’s silk screen prints demonstrate the investment value a print can have. Although in the recent boom times dealers drove the prices for these up, even inflated them, anyone who bought one of Warhol’s prints early on made one of the better investments available in the Twentieth Century that has held it’s value today better that almost every other investment.

The trick is to find an emerging Warhol — someone with a new way of creating art, a real theory and unique style.

Prints as an Investment

Many people have bought fine art as an investment and made money. Some people managed to get on the cutting edge, in at the very beginning with a new artist or a new movement and they made a lot of money. A dentist was recently listed in Art Review‘s 2005 list of the most prominent people in the art world. Why? Because two artists who traded their work when they were emerging artists for his dental care have become highly successful!

There are some other artists who many have paintings that are worth a lot of money, but really their print editions are so large that investing in them is plain silly. People who own those prints have no market for them and I have seen then sold for less than half of the original price on Ebay. Do not buy a fine art edition that has more than 700 prints in it, whether it is a reproduction print or an original print. Some artists and publishers try to get around that by calling editions of the same image by different edition names, such as Centennial Edition or Anniversary Edition. It should really be named the “Taking Advantage of Our Previous Collectors” edition.

Changing sizes is another way to hedge on the real number of prints. That one is tricky and something the buyer and the artist, even good, honest artists have to take care to research and properly represent. A good question to ask when considering purchasing any print is, “How many signed and numbered prints of this image are there in total?”

Genesis Aleph

by Judy Rey Wasserman

Edition of 125

Limited  Edition signed and numbered print Available at Art of Seeing The Divine

The general rule of thumb is all signed prints for any image should not exceed 750. Warhol got around this by using his black photographic silk screened image over different colored backgrounds. The smaller the print’s edition the more valuable it is within that artist’s same sized works. For instance Artist XYZ’s a single print from an edition of 125 signed 11 x 14 inch prints is generally worth more than a single print from the same time period from an signed edition of 500.

Sometimes posters for a specific event are also sold as fine art prints. Often some are signed by the artist. This is different from the print edition and does not count against the rarity of the original prints. Usually the posters either commemorate an art show or are used to raise money for a charity or non-profit even. A true fine art poster should be published with archival media. Sometimes posters are just posters, and as such, cannot be relied on to last for generations, even with proper care. As with all editions, a limited edition is worth more for the collector than a similar quality work in an unlimited or larger edition.

Often fine art editions have a separate category called, “Artist’s Proofs”. These groups of prints, which are always in relation to a print edition, never a stand alone edition are a remnant of the old tradition of the print publisher giving artists a small number of prints of any edition. Artists proofs were then sold by the artists themselves. They were thought to be more valuable since they were almost always signed and had been in he artist’s very own hands. Also, they were usually amongst the earlier prints (thus they were proofs) so the image might be clearer and the lines or images finer. There was a time this term made sense.

In today’s world of contemporary prints, the term “Artist Proof” is a marketing ploy to entice a buyer to pay more for the same item based on an often fictitious or at least scurrilous title. If a publisher offers “Artist’s Proofs” for sale, then probably the item is not fine art in the first place. By definition the artist is the person selling the proofs, not the publisher! If the artist is the publisher, or hires the publisher then by definition, all of the prints are really Artist Proofs.

Prints or posters based on fine art images, which are not signed by the artist and/or are issued in large numbers or unlimited editions may be great decorations but are not fine art that anyone should collect and hope for an increase in value. For instance, currently there are lovely Giclee on canvas prints of Renoir’s work. There are also posters of his work, some are even certified and in “fine art” editions by museums. The Boston Museum is selling beautiful archival prints. They are a great decoration, but they are not a great fine art investment.


Fine art prints can provide an introduction to art collecting as well as a lower cost way to collect the work of an artist. A print collector needs to carefully research the value of collecting an artist just as a painting collector would. In the secondary market provenance is always important. In the primary market finding an artist whose work will appreciate is always key to a good art investment.  Generally, finding the work of an emerging artist whose work will become renowned is the best investment one can make. Next, in a down market, find a private seller who needs to sell a work by a well renowned artist, but get that work professionally appraised and authenticated before buying it!

For the first article in this two part series see: Collecting Fine Art Prints Tips for 2009 — Part 1

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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com.

Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory is based at the intersection of ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge contemporary science. It shows us a new and enhanced spiritual and science-based way to see the world. It is a life changing vision that can even become an actual new way of seeing that is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Can this be true? See for yourself.

Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com.

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