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Author Topic: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?  (Read 3688 times)

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« on: April 17, 2017, 11:18:43 AM »

Ok, not sure if this makes sense, have not encounter it anywhere before, but here it goes:

Say you started selling an edition limited to 50, sold one or 2-3 already... can you decide to re-limit it to, say, 9 (and raise the price accordingly)?

My thinking is that it wouldn't harm the original buyers, as it would make their pieces more valuable. The only problem I see is if one day a buyer of, say 4/9, comes across a print labeled 1/50.

Thoughts? Anyone done this?

BartvanderWolf

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2017, 12:04:46 PM »

Ok, not sure if this makes sense, have not encounter it anywhere before, but here it goes:

Say you started selling an edition limited to 50, sold one or 2-3 already... can you decide to re-limit it to, say, 9 (and raise the price accordingly)?

My thinking is that it wouldn't harm the original buyers, as it would make their pieces more valuable. The only problem I see is if one day a buyer of, say 4/9, comes across a print labeled 1/50.

Thoughts? Anyone done this?

Hi Slobodan,

Interesting question. My first feeling is, don't. While I do understand why you'd want to do it, I would hesitate to change the rules during the game, even if it would not hurt the existing buyers. These things tend to develop in unexpected ways, and as I see on Wikipedia, there is possibly a legal risk; "In the United States limited editions are regulated under state consumer protections laws."

While undoubtedly intended to protect against the opposite, i.e. printing more than agreed, I'm not sure if/how the jurisprudence has developed, especially because different States seem to have different laws in this respect.

Cheers,
Bart
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Otto Phocus

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2017, 12:07:53 PM »

I am not in that sort of business, but is it reasonable to expect that if people won't buy a copy of x/50 that they would decide to buy the same product if it were x/10?  I wouldn't.

I would imagine that if a seller has a x/50 run and only sold 2-3 that there is not that much interest in the product.

But I agree with your concern with an earlier buyer having item 3/50 and another buyer having the same product now labeled 4/10
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JayWPage

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2017, 12:12:07 PM »

I think one can take issue with the whole idea of how a "limited edition" often plays out in fine art photography. It starts with numbering the print as 1/50 or 1/100 or what ever, unless you have actually printed 50 copies, really you are only indicating your intention at that time to print only 50 copies. I think you can equally say there is a problem if you die after printing only 9 copies and they are numbered 1/50, 2/50, etc. up to 9/50 and in fact they are actually much rarer than indicated.

Wouldn't it much more realistic to just number them as No. 1, no. 2, etc. and state your intention to print only 50? In fact, if there is a chance that you may have to change printers and move to a different ink set at some point in the future before you print the 50 copies, shouldn't you refer to it as an "Open Edition, limited to 50 copies".

But then that wouldn't really be catering to the market would it...
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DeanChriss

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2017, 12:13:32 PM »

The only problem I see is if one day a buyer of, say 4/9, comes across a print labeled 1/50.

That's one of many things I considered before deciding not to go down the path of limited editions. To go the other direction (increasing the number) lots of people offer a different size, different paper, slightly different processing, etc., to create another "edition", which can have a different maximum number. While that may be legal it seems a bit shady to me, and thwarts the whole idea of something being limited in any meaningful way. I don't think it helps in the situation you describe. You could make another edition with only 9 prints maximum, but with the other edition still out there with copies left to sell I'm not sure how a price increase could be justified.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2017, 01:12:05 PM »

... You could make another edition with only 9 prints maximum, but with the other edition still out there with copies left to sell I'm not sure how a price increase could be justified.

As Jay mentioned, the thing is that there were never 50 copies printed (well, in my case), just a promise there won't be more than that.

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2017, 01:19:43 PM »

I am not in that sort of business, but is it reasonable to expect that if people won't buy a copy of x/50 that they would decide to buy the same product if it were x/10?  I wouldn't.

I would imagine that if a seller has a x/50 run and only sold 2-3 that there is not that much interest in the product...

Different markets. Thus different scarcity preferences, among other things. Say one edition was intended for the art-fair crowd, which is defined by geography, local purchasing power, demographics, etc. And another edition (rarer) is for, say, a world-wide, upscale online platform.

Stephen Ray

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2017, 01:43:29 PM »

Did you initially print 50 and number them or are you really producing editions of one-offs? What exactly are the attributes defining your edition of 50?
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BrownBear

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2017, 02:08:25 PM »

Interesting question.  I talked it over with a painter friend who makes an honest (and good!) living with his brushes, including not only large commissions, but original works and prints.

He has in fact re-limited certain print editions that didn't sell well.  But after lots of consulting with his agent and several marketing specialists and brokers in the art world.  He handled it with a carefully worded and attractive "letter" to the original buyers on high grade card stock, telling them that in fact their #3 of 50 was now #3 of 10.  The point of the card stock was so that it could be included in the framing behind the print by the owner, a form of verification of the new numbering.  By his account all owners have been delighted.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2017, 02:33:28 PM »

Did you initially print 50 and number them or are you really producing editions of one-offs? What exactly are the attributes defining your edition of 50?

No, there were never 50 copies printed. What defined an edition of 50 is a mark on the back of the print as x/50. I often verbally explained to buyers that it means the promise of not more than 50, and that, in practice, it might be much less, in case I stop printing in the future, for whatever reason. All of my limited editions were either large-format canvas, aluminum or plexi prints, and printing immediately all 50 would be prohibitively expensive (e.g., an aluminum edition of, say, 36"x48" would cost about $17K-$18K to print)

Wayne Fox

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2017, 03:08:50 PM »


Wouldn't it much more realistic to just number them as No. 1, no. 2, etc. and state your intention to print only 50? In fact, if there is a chance that you may have to change printers and move to a different ink set at some point in the future before you print the 50 copies, shouldn't you refer to it as an "Open Edition, limited to 50 copies".


When you label a print 1/50, etc. you are stating your intentions to produce just 50, and doing it in a way which is transparent and non debatable.  I”m not sure how you sell a print labeled 1, and then also make some type of statement that you only intend to print 50.  Why not just label it 1/50?

Labeling simply by the number printed offers no “value” proposition to the buyer.  And in fact, the two terms “open” edition and “limited” edition are polar opposites.  you can’t have a limited open edition.  It would also be difficult to change an open edition to limited edition. 

I’ve struggled with this as well, since the entire concept of limited editions seems artificial, yet quite accepted. (and created in the world of non photographic art).  If you don’t offer limited edition work, most art shows and festivals won’t accept you.

I see no issue changing the limit as long as all the current owners are notified and supplied documentation as to the new status of their purchased piece.  I'm puzzled by the logic, but I have on one occasion been questioned by a buyer about purchasing a piece and making sure it was the last piece produced ... so even though a few were sold, his would be labeled 5/5.  I thought about it, but the math didn’t make any sense, because he wasn’t willing to pay enough to offset the future sales potential of the piece.

BrownBear

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2017, 04:00:13 PM »

I left out one more important point from my successful painter friend:

Reducing a "release" comes with a peril.   In fact he's only done so twice and regrets both.

His reasoning? 

Unsold prints in archival storage are an investment against eventual discovery and demand. As his "value" has gone up over the years, so have his prices. He reports significant contacts from clients in search of particular prints from the past. He's only too happy to have them in his archives, ready for contemporary sales. Sales of course made under his contemporary pricing structure. He's currently getting 10x what his earlier prints fetched, and only too happy to sell old prints at current rates. In his final words "If collectors are going to profit from the increased worth of my work, why shouldn't I?"
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Stephen Ray

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2017, 06:26:31 PM »

Some of my personal rational on Limited Editions -

1) Why the edition number?
If I were the artist, my number would be rather few. I don’t have 13 galleries to justify 950 plus 50 artist proofs. If I did, I would reevaluate how I arrived at 1000 in the first place;-)

2) What exactly is the product description on the website or in my handouts?
If I were the artist, my edition would be a single print product. A different print product would be a different edition. 

3) Size(s)? How many of the edition are small, medium, large?
If I were the artist, my edition would only be available in a finite number of the separate sizes.

4) Is print pricing “tiered” or incremental? How is this calculated?
If I were the artist, my edition would be priced incrementally whereas tiered charts present unjustified price leaps.
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Cornfield

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2017, 05:29:17 AM »

I think issuing limited edition prints is purely for the photographer's ego.  There may be a select group of photographers in the world who's work is sufficiently in demand by buyers and collectors to justify producing editions.  I doubt any buyers of prints from an average photographer/seller takes any notice of edition numbers.

If a photographer is prepared to produce a limited number of prints (printed in one batch) and then destroy the original file, there may be some merit in this.
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Farmer

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2017, 06:18:33 AM »

A different perspective.

I am a buyer of art.  Photos, graphic prints, embellished graphic prints, original paintings, and sculptures.

Scarcity of an item does impact its value in terms of the marketplace, but also for the purchaser (it's nice to know you have either the only one or one of just a few).  Not everyone feels that way, but if buyers of art are honest then anyone beyond a poster has some ego factor involved (and that's not a negative).

So I pay a certain price for a photo, or a graphic print - I pay more for an embellished version (which realistically is unique because no two embellishments will be identical).  I pay more if these are limited editions (and the degree of limit affects that, too).  I pay more for original works and the most for unique original works (non-unique original works include, for example, my two Nanimal sculptures that just turned up - they are hand produced but based on an original moulding but limited editions - in a way, they're a little like embellished works but higher on the chain).

So, re-numbering?  I wouldn't do it.  It affects the provenance of the work (because it may call into question the different numbering of two pieces which otherwise appear to be the same) and that tends to devalue all of them.  What I would consider is making a new edition, much more limited, that is valuably different in some way.  Perhaps a higher quality substrate or some embellishment.  That provides you with a higher value item if you believe there is a market for it without muddying the waters for the already sold pieces.

If I were a collector of your work and had the lesser value item, I may be tempted to "upgrade" or simply add the higher value one, too.  Once people have 3 or more of an artist/photographer, it's reasonable to say they're collecting it and as a seller you can leverage that to encourage them to grow that collection (rather than venture somewhere else).
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Phil Brown

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2017, 08:26:23 AM »

I think issuing limited edition prints is purely for the photographer's ego...

I appreciate the sentiment. However, 99% of art fairs stipulate that prints have to be limited editions. Furthermore, scarcity and value (or perception of) are known concepts in economics. And, as Phil demonstrated in the post above, (some) buyers do pay attention.

BrownBear

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2017, 12:13:11 PM »

If I were a collector of your work and had the lesser value item, I may be tempted to "upgrade" or simply add the higher value one, too.  Once people have 3 or more of an artist/photographer, it's reasonable to say they're collecting it and as a seller you can leverage that to encourage them to grow that collection (rather than venture somewhere else).

That's an extremely valuable insight not only about serious collectors, but also a source of inspiration and strategy for marketing.

We're somehow more likely to buy paintings or sculpture than photos.  I've never quite sorted why that would be when we value photography so much. Saying that, we have one particular painter we especially like.  To the point that we have 14 of his pieces on the wall.  Our favorite sculptor suffers in comparison, as we have only 4 of his works.

But here's the point- Both make sure that we are among the first to see their newest work.  As marketers they know we're more likely to buy, even if we already own "lots" of their work.  They'd have our attention if they showed up with limited edition prints or castings. But unlimited reproductions?  Meh.  Maybe for Christmas gifts or something, but we wouldn't be displaying them.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2017, 01:17:13 PM by BrownBear »
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calindustries

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2017, 01:28:27 PM »

This is the tricky part of photography, and more-so if you are working digitally. Back when I was wet printing it was obviously harder to "exactly" replicate, especially when there was a fair amount of dodge/burn/toning being done. In fact, the way I was taught to edition back in art school was to do ALL the printing and then go through and, obviously weed out any print that is different (and I was taught that ANY difference was unacceptable, ever so slight). THEN you could mark your edition all at once.

This get's much more muddied in digital age when most of your post work is done before you push it through your printer (or digital-C print, etc) and make it much easier to get a homogenous group of prints, and make it much easier to go back and replicate prints without as much work.

That being said, I think that an edition is an edition, completed up front, regardless of the cost (and sorry, as much as this is a financial burden, I don't think an intended edition is an edition until all prints are done and signed off on).

As a majority of my work is on the commercial/editorial side and not in prints, I don't come across this issue very often myself any longer. I do, however, when selling prints that are not editioned sign them as A/P (artists proof). I know it doesn't mean much, but I think it gives the buyer a sense that it came through my studio and has met my approval.



When you label a print 1/50, etc. you are stating your intentions to produce just 50, and doing it in a way which is transparent and non debatable.  I”m not sure how you sell a print labeled 1, and then also make some type of statement that you only intend to print 50.  Why not just label it 1/50?

Labeling simply by the number printed offers no “value” proposition to the buyer.  And in fact, the two terms “open” edition and “limited” edition are polar opposites.  you can’t have a limited open edition.  It would also be difficult to change an open edition to limited edition. 

I’ve struggled with this as well, since the entire concept of limited editions seems artificial, yet quite accepted. (and created in the world of non photographic art).  If you don’t offer limited edition work, most art shows and festivals won’t accept you.

I see no issue changing the limit as long as all the current owners are notified and supplied documentation as to the new status of their purchased piece.  I'm puzzled by the logic, but I have on one occasion been questioned by a buyer about purchasing a piece and making sure it was the last piece produced ... so even though a few were sold, his would be labeled 5/5.  I thought about it, but the math didn’t make any sense, because he wasn’t willing to pay enough to offset the future sales potential of the piece.
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Wayne Fox

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2017, 01:31:24 AM »


That being said, I think that an edition is an edition, completed up front, regardless of the cost (and sorry, as much as this is a financial burden, I don't think an intended edition is an edition until all prints are done and signed off on).

While I agree that in principle this is what the term sort of implies, and while it sounds good in theory, the idea of printing all of the prints of an edition up front is both economically and logically a non starter, unless you want to sell very small editions. this creates a new challenge of having to be incredibly prolific if you want to have any success because then your images sell out quickly. As mentioned if you want to participate in any art festivals or other venues (which work with artists of all mediums) they generally require your work be limited edition. 

Printing hundreds of prints before you even know if the public will agree with your opinion regarding desirability would be incredibly expensive, and then storing perhaps thousands of prints ... not sure how you would do that.

There seems to be an illusion that this is the creation of photographers, but the concept of limited editions is something that is widespread in the entire art world, including painters, sculptors and most other art mediums.

BrownBear

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Re: Re-Limiting a Limited Edition?
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2017, 11:59:37 AM »

Printing hundreds of prints before you even know if the public will agree with your opinion regarding desirability would be incredibly expensive, and then storing perhaps thousands of prints ... not sure how you would do that.

That was the dilemma of my painter friend setting out on his career. He does small editions (20) but is incredibly prolific. So he has ended up sitting on LOTS of prints for a lot of years.  And having a whole lot of money tied up in them.

As I said before, he has simply raised the price of his stored past editions in pace with his current runs.  And they continue to sell, even increasing in pace.  There are so many now that he stores them in two large oak map cabinets.  Very nice, BTW.

He has brass plaques labeling the two map cabinets now. They're named Piggy Bank One and Piggy Bank Two.  He's looking forward to the day there's a Piggy Bank Three.

He made a lifetime career commitment to his painting.  He recognizes that he won't be painting at the same pace in old age, but is counting on the Piggy Banks to help support his declining years.  Seems that the commitment part is certainly working out for him.
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