The Exclusivity of Limited Edition Fine Art Prints

Can you purchase fine art photography prints that appreciate in value? Yes, but you need to know what to look for when buying from a gallery or private collection.

As an art connoisseur, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to invest in photography prints. Certainly, you can purchase limited-edition fine art prints solely because you appreciate the work or artist and want to add the piece to your collection but you could both add to your collection and invest in an asset you can pass on for generations. Yes, it's possible to purchase photo prints that appreciate in value over time - but you need to know what the difference is between limited and open editions as well as between editions and reproductions.

A blue water abstract photography image featuring interesting patterns of the reflections on the surface of the water off the coast of Maui, Hawaii.

Water has always been something that has relaxed me for some reason. Photographing water also has the same effect on me and it's something I'm just drawn to with my camera. I captured this on a whale watch off the coast of Maui and while I was supposed to be looking for whales, I found myself mesmerized by the movement and reflections in the water and had to capture this.

Collector's Edition of 100

What's the Difference Between Editions and Reproductions?

Prints are produced in series called editions. Whether it’s a limited edition or multiple editions, the prints are made from a single plate and numbered sequentially. Limited-edition fine art prints retain their value due to exclusivity. You can expect to pay more for prints from editions.

Reproductions, however, are copies of the original work and more like a facsimile. These are easy to create, especially in today’s digital age. Reproductions aren’t worth as much as original artwork or editions but if you're just looking for a wall hanging you like to look at a fine art option.

As an example, the Mona Lisa was created as one piece, and the artist did not create any duplicates or a plate from which to make them. Because of that, you are not able to purchase a piece of limited-edition fine art based on DaVinci’s masterpiece. Anything you do hang on your wall based on it is a reproduction.

As you'd expect, reproductions are practically worthless in resale value, aside from any nice framing. If you're serious about treating your art collection as an investment, only purchase photography that are editions of the original and not simply a reproduction.

A lone Hawaiian sea turtle floating in amazing emerald colored Maui water.  Ocean fine art photography by Hawaii artist Andrew Shoemaker

A lone Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle) I came across in the middle of crystal clear turquoise Maui waters. So peaceful to observe as they glide so gracefully through the water.

Collector's Edition of 50

What Is the Difference Between Open and Limited Editions?

As the description connotes, limited-edition art prints are limited to a certain number of pieces that are produced, and each is numbered as part of the collection. The original or plate may even be destroyed following the run to ensure there are no future editions.

As a buyer of fine art, you may want to ask the artist or gallery if you’re purchasing a limited edition or, if it’s an open edition, what run it is. Limited-edition fine art prints tend to be more valuable since it is understood no further pieces will be created.

Alternately, an open edition means artwork can be created again and again. These could be produced as a second or third edition. Such open-edition prints may be signed by the artist to create better value, but they are, of course, not numbered.

What Are Limited-Edition Fine Art Prints?

One of the best ways for an artist to reach more people at a price point that works for collectors is with limited-edition fine art prints. Limited-edition fine art photography, for example, creates scarcity for buyers and entices them to invest now, lest they miss the run.

Artists may choose to take some of their best photography or art pieces and make prints of them in a limited number. For emerging artists a print run usually ranges between 200 and 500, while an established artist could limit the run to as few as two. Regardless of the size chosen, it is usually less than 1,000. For limited-edition fine art prints, the prints are never released again, therefore ensuring the value of each piece.

In a limited-edition run, each print is numbered, representing its place in the edition as well as how many were printed, such as 2/100. This can often be found in pencil in the corner of the print, on the back of a photograph, or on the frame of print. The artist may sign each piece as well, which can add to the value of limited edition prints.

The prints in a limited run may vary in size, with a set number of 5x7, 16x24, or larger. Each run will have its unique counting system since they are limited by the print as well as the size.

What Gives Limited-Edition Prints Appreciation Value?

As a collector, one of the questions you might have is what gives fine art limited-edition prints their value. There are a few factors that come into play:

  • Is it a reproduction or an edition of the print?
  • How many prints were in the edition?
  • How many editions have there been or will there be?
  • Is the artist recognized in the fine art community?

As a general rule, the smaller the number of prints in the edition, the higher the value. That’s because these limited prints are perceived as closer to the original artwork and the artist’s intention.

If an artist wants their work to increase in value and become collectible, a smaller edition is preferable.

a sea cave packed with Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles) at sunset and incoming waves coming over the turtles on the island of Maui.  Photo by Andrew Shoemaker

One of the most epic moments that I've captured and this image is super special to a lot of collectors. Really blessed to have experienced this magic

Collector's Edition of 50

Invest in Limited-Edition Fine Art Photography

Having something that’s limited makes it a more cherished piece, especially when it comes to fine art. That’s why I have a number of limited-edition photography prints to add to your collection from my various travels. Resurrection is available in a numbered edition of 100 and showcases a stunning sunset view of a secluded beach I enjoy in Hawaii. I hope you’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

a panoramic view of a vibrant orange, red, and blue sunset at Secret Beach in Makena Maui

I remember standing here at secret beach just before sunset and thinking if the sun drops right in that little hole on the horizon, it's going to be epic. The rest is history

Limited Edition of 100

A long exposure panoramic photograph captured at the beautiful Lanikai Beach on the island of Oahu.  Pastel colors at sunset here make this photograph special

One of the most peaceful zen type of an image that I've created, a long exposure at Lanikai Beach on the island of Oahu just has a surreal look. The water color and pastel tones here at sunset are just really special

Collector's Edition of 50

panoramic photo of the Na Pali coastline on the Hawaiian island of Kauai featuring a rainbow, dramatic clouds, and vibrant blue water

The Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai is just an awesome sight! I had the pleasure of photographing this from a boat and was very blessed to have a rainbow here in the scene as well. One of my personal favorite scenes right here on planet earth

Collector's Edition of 50