Rules for numbering prints

Sherry Lee

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 25, 2002
Phoenix, Az.
I didn't think numbering prints would be a big deal until we got into it.....

These are actually photos:

1) Some of the prints he is doing up in different sizes......does the number stay the same for each size, or does it change for each different size despite it is the same photo? i.e. 1/250, 2/250, etc.

2) Some of the prints he is doing in different methods.......i.e. one photo he is doing some in sepia, some in b/w and some in color.........does the number stay the same for each photo despite the different coloring, or does it change for each different tone despite it is the same photo?


Thanks again for your help!
I have been cynical about numbered prints since very early in my business career.

I ordered a print and it came in something like 250/500. I ordered another one six months later and received 750/1000, though the print was identical.

I don't see the point in numbering photographs, especially if they are going to be published in different sizes and tonal variations.

That wasn't what you asked, Sherry, so sue me.
Unless all the the prints of a series are printed at the same time they can be considered "monoprints". Each print due to the nature of being done at a different time will be slightly different.

Monoprints are not normally numbered,
Ron, shouldn't this kind of topic be on the Warped so we can take it seriously?

Photos? Numbered? And the buying public believes it?

When he signs them, is it with a pencil or one of those gold or silver pens that have that pixie paint in them?

Ron, I'm with you on this...... BTW I still have that very valuable Bev Doolittle # 563,967,735/654,978,463 and re-marked in printer ink....
Well, this is very interesting!

My experience (limited to many others here, that's why I come to y'all) is that customers DO take this s/n scenerio quite seriously. The buyer of something signed/numbered are thrilled with their purchase! I guess the exception now is the framer that has seen the 'fraud' (too strong a word?) associated with the custom.

If I were to put out a bin with a few s/n prints and a few just signed, trust me, the s/n would go first.

So......your observations I'm sure are accurate and I can see your point, but I don't think I'll be the one to burst a lot of bubbles!

Baer....the pen used is bubble gum pink with the shiniest of glittery specks!

Sherry, you are just taunting me now.... how did you know that is what I sign and number my . . ah, hem . . . lithos with? I LOVE that Pixie sparkle.... it sets off my eyes while I cash those big checks..... :D

In this day and age, if you're selling S/N anything, more power to ya.

Last year on the ship, I was astounded at WHAT was selling and for how much.

Hope the heat is abating a bit down your way. Still love those new "rubberized" freeways.
Sherry, if you're determined to get involved in this, and your good name is going to be associated with it, make sure the photographer destroys the negative, transparency or digital file as soon as the 250th image is made - if that is the size of the edition.

It would be a darned shame if the edition sold out quickly.
That's the problem Ron. Photographers think that an "edition" is structured by the image and SIZE.

So 250-8x10s, 250-9x12, 250-10x13, 250-11x14, . . .

OH WAIT!!! I forgot the A/P, P/P, H/C, O/P, M/S, M/M, and as long as we're talking photos here
there is the Glossy edition, The Satin Edition, Matt . . .
Oh my guys!!

I understand that the neg., etc. must be destroyed after '250' in this case. I just didn't know about if you change size, hues, etc. if it changes the 'edition'!!

And the artist/photographer must keep a log....he's doing that.

Baer, what ship were you on? Was this a famous Park West auction? "1 of 5,000" of their auctions?
Sherry, don't know about Park West, or who it was even doing the auctions . . . . oh wait a minute, it was the same group that does all of the Holland American Lines......

The framer was in Miami area, and two people who we kept in touch with have since threatened litigation. They didn't recieve their art for over 5 months, and it wasn't the 5/450 that they had "bid" on. Can you say 689/950?

The cruise line was Windstar, and it was the Windsurf crossing Lisbon to Ft Lauderdale. They only do the "auctions" on the Surf. 300 passenger instead of the little ones of 126 passenger.
I've framed quite a few pieces of art purchased on cruise ships.
Some of it has been damaged and one piece wasn't even what the person thought they were bidding on.
Many of them think they are making an investment. It seems this is the way it is being presented to them.
A couple of pieces I framed were purchased blindly. That is a price was set and they bought it without knowing what it was!

It amazes me that people will purchase "art" in this way when they would never do the same on dry land.
Oh, and it was pointed out to me that since it is done in international waters it's unregulated.
What a scam!

I won't complain as long as I get to frame the art. In fact next summer I'm thinking of running a special just for cruise art. Might as well capitalize the trend!
There is such a looseness of definition used for signed and numbered editions. Digital imaging and its multitude of imaging methods opened the door for artists to have signed and numbered editions without having to print the entire edition at once.

One often used method by artists is to use color copiers to print and test market their work by making, say, ten copies, signing the copies and numbering them 1-10/50. They take the prints, often on whatever copier paper the quickprinter has in the machine, mat them and shrinkrap and have an investment of around $ 2.00 ea. They then sell the work at outdoor fairs and the like for $ 25.00 and up...a boon for artists who are willing to employ these methods, but appalling to print tradtionalists. If these prints sell, they then go back to the toner machine and print a few more. If they have any integrity they stop at the number they chose at the beginning...that is, stop numbering. Nothing stopping them from creating another signed un-numbered edition and sleeping well at night.

"Shoot, Harry, we sold them all? Who wudda thunk?
Run 10 or 20 more copies and put a little AP over the 50 and charge them double!"

Definitions are loose, but I don't consider any limited edition over 100 "limited". Anything over that number vastly lowers the value and uniquness in my book.

With the old methods, the artist either printed the edition himself, had an apprentice, or employed a tradesman to do the printing. The artist would be present for the first pulls off the stone, plate or press and personally approve (AP - artist's proof) a number of prints until satisfied with the quality. The artist then ran the edition or gave the go ahead to the tradesman. After being printed the stone was wiped clear, the plate scratched or woodblock, etc. destroyed.

In the above method, each print was truly an original and editions were often in the 30-80 range. The artist's proof prints were usually of inferior quality because they were just that...test prints...yet they often commanded a higher price, mostly out of ignorance of what they were. The best quality prints were quite often the prints made after about a third of the edition was printed...after the imperfections on the plate wore off and the person making the prints "got it down to a rythm". Late numbers in an edition were often of less quality and less valuable to a discerning collector because the plate began to wear down and lose it's crispness or any number of other factors (such as the artist left the printer and wasn't overseeing the whole process).

There have been many efforts to adopt strict quidelines (wow! sound familiar?), but to my knowledge there is not one set of standards accepted well enough by artists, printers, or collectors to create a concrete definition of a "limited edition print" in an internal market.

I'm not an authority on this topic (at least in this forum!) and would appreciate any input and correction where wrong.

Dave Makielski

"You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails".
I put the date with my signature on my monoprints. It seems to be just as good as a/p or whatever. And, it is more valuable if I get famous, since "early works" are considered rare. It usually looks something like this: 04/10/26
Well, I could write it out, October 26, 2004, but the numbers look more "professional"

how about 26/10/04?

In a few years, I can write 10/10/10!

People like some sort of "documentation" on the image, and the date it was made is a nice piece of information. For instance, something of mine numbered 82/12/25 would be of interest to a serious collector, because of the significance of the date in my biography.

(If you want to know the significance, read my biography ;) )
Dave, you're pretty much got it covered. Let me just lend a little "old" ink to that and we're good.

Good stone is pretty good up to about 180 with a careful smooth print master.

Steel, zink, or nickle are good for about 250.

glass etchings, weirdly enough are good for about 600-700 depending on the pull rate. The slower the pull, the blurier the edition due to glass heal.

A/P - - Artist proof, as Dave says. For Artist approval only.
P/P - - Publisher's proof, usually prior to A/P
P/G - - Copies given by the artist to publisher and staff as a thank you. Most think this is P/P.
O/P - - Open publication. Means just that.
M/S - - Master Seperation color prints pulled of a single color from a multi-color print.
H/C - - Horst d' Commerce = Not for sale. or Sample Only. Unless there is money involved.
M/M - - More Money. Honest to gosh, I saw this on a run that smelled like a fresh Xerox.

My Chagal is marked 147/225 US. I think there was a FR, UK, GR, SP, IT, and a few other countries too. No one ever proved that they were fakes and his heirs never said a peep. Who do you think got the money. I would have bought the piece (The Lovers) even if it was a poster. It's on Arches 250lb.

Hanna, it might help if you add 1/1, which is the proper way of denoting a mono print.