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Read This If You Sell Limited Edition Prints

April 17, 2012 Legal, Negotiating & Sales 4 Comments

Written by: Charlie Borland

Many fine art and landscape photographers sell limited edition prints that are signed and numbered. I have not done this but have always assumed that if I purchased a print form a photographer and my copy was for example, number 88 of 250, that there would never be anymore prints ever printed after 250.

Apparently the William Eggleston Trust might have seen it differently. One of their collectors says they have ‘repackaged’ the same images in a new format and new framing and are selling those as a new product.

From Photo District News:

A major collector of William Eggleston’s work filed suit against the photographer yesterday in a U.S. District Court in New York City, accusing Eggleston of devaluing his vintage dye-transfer prints by selling new, large-scale pigment prints of those same images. The suit by Jonathan Sobel, a collector who owns more than 190 of Eggleston’s works, was prompted by a March 12, 2012, auction at Christie’s of 36 new digital pigment prints of Eggleston’s work. The sale brought in more than $5.9 million.

It seems to me that the image is whats in limited edition not the ‘package’ that includes the image. What do you think?

Source: Photo District News


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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. I don’t and won’t do “limited editions” for a variety of reasons. That said, strictly speaking an edition is a group of prints/copies made at a given time under given conditions. Editions of books that sell quickly are routinely reprinted in new editions. That does not alter the number of subsequent value of 1st edition copies. In a digital age editions are more analogous to books than to intaglio or lithograph prints which are the origins of the limited edition notion. In those cases the edition was limited by the number of times a print could be pulled before the original (the plate or the drawing on the stone) deteriorated.

    The contemporary idea of an edition that is printed over time but limited by a hypothetical maximum number that may or may not ever be printed is both a distortion of the meaning of “edition” and marketing flim-flam. Like the word “art”, “edition” has devolved to mean whatever the artist and gallery owners want it to mean. Buyers need to educated the the fact that “limited edition” is not a guarantee of anything except an inflated price tag. Sign and date your prints. Sequentially number them if you wish, but don’t play these games.

  2. Drake Fleege says:

    I too, do not sell limited editions for my own reasons (all valid to me!). I agree with signing, though I do not date the prints. Thanks for sharing this article Charlie. Have a great Earth Day.

  3. Brenda Tharp says:

    Thanks for sharing this topic, Charlie. I have been ‘caught up’ in the limited edition issue off and on for years – some of the galleries I was trying for representation with are big on limited editions – most of them in fact, and I agree it’s a marketing flim-flam (good word, Mr. Bullard!) Some of them are asking for a limit of 25!! One that I know of does a limit of 7 of one particular artist. Come on, man, that’s crazy – unless those prints are going for many thousands of dollars, no one can make a living selling a limited edition of 25 unless they are very very well known. So where does that leave the rest of us?

    In my own shows and open studios, although I haven’t done one in many years now, I signed and numbered originally, and then began to simply sign them. Christopher Burkett does not do limited editions – or at least didn’t the last time I viewed his work in Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. Galen Rowell had done limited editions, but then got in a ruckus when he ‘repackaged’ an image by printing it in a different size, with a new ‘edition’ – as I recall, though my memory of that might be a bit fuzzy now. And another photographer whose name I’ll leave off this post does limited editions of 750! I wouldn’t call that limited personally.

    In the end, it’s a highly personal thing, I guess, but I rather prefer the unlimited edition idea, keeping a steady price on the images even to the last one of the ‘edition’.

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