Whether you are collecting fine art or movie posters, it is useful to know why some of the seemingly same prints have different prices and demand. 

In this article, we explain the difference between the artist’s proof and a limited edition. This way, you will be able to figure out which type of print is worth more and most likely more desirable.

Print Types

This is oversimplifying it a little, but there are basically 3 types of prints in a run, with number 1 being the most desirable and expensive for a collector and number 3 being the least expensive.  

  1. Artist Proof
  2. Limited Edition
  3. General run or reproductions 

However, it isn’t always that easy to predict as there are many other factors at play like availability, a record of ownership, condition, and now many runs there have been. 

Let’s check out the difference between an Artist Proof and Limited Edition and why one is usually worth more than the other when all other things are equal. 

What is an artist proof?

In the past, when printer plates would wear down, the first prints were better quality than the last ones. Therefore, because of this, the first ones would be given to the Artist themselves.

The amount differs, but even today, most lithographic, screen prints and Giclee editions have around 10% to 15% of the initial run going to the artist. 

This is more just a habit or courtesy nowadays as modern technology now means that the last print on the run is of exactly the same quality as the first. 

If the reproduction you have bought has a notation like “A.P 35/100”, then you have the 35th print of 100 that was given to the artist. 

What is Limited Edition?

Limited Edition refers to the number of prints that were produced of a particular artwork. If you buy a limited-edition piece of art, then you should receive documentation to prove it. If that documentation says 1/100, then you got the first printout of only 100 that were printed. 

In the past, the printer would have to deface or crack the printing plate so no more could be produced. With modern-day printing techniques as they are, it relies more on the printers, artists, and publishers’ integrity. 

Generally, the more limited the run is, the more expensive it will be to collect, as it is more likely the demand will outweigh the supply. It doesn’t matter how limited a run is, if no one wants to collect it, then it will not increase in value.

So, it is not just as easy as going out and buying the most limited numbered pieces of artwork you can find; you still need to make smart buying choices. 

Artist Prints

What is a general run or reproduction?

This means there is no limit to how many prints can be made of the original or a reproduction. Therefore, supply will meet demand. So, the resale value will not increase if someone wants one; they can buy it new. 

You only buy these types of prints if you like them and want to keep them for pure enjoyment and less so as an investment. 

Do artist proofs cost more than a limited edition?

All things like being equal like they are of the same quality and kept in the same condition, then generally Artist Proofs are more expensive than limited edition items.

You can expect to pay anywhere between 20% and 50% more for an artist print. 

Why do artist proofs cost more?

There are two main reasons why an artist proof cost more. 

Firstly, if there is a run of 100. The first 20 might go to the artist then there is a limited-edition numbered run of 80. 

Therefore AP 1/20 is more valuable than Limited Edition 1/80, because there are fewer numbered AP’s than LE’s.

This difference in numbers is simpler for you to calculate the potential value of buying and AP over a LE. 

However, there is a less numerical factor that is important when trying to calculate if paying more for an AP than a LE is worthwhile. This factor is that AP prints have been “closer to the artist’s hand.” They were intended for the artist and would have likely been in their possession, and they decided what to do with them.

This helps makes them unique, especially if the artist is dead. 

Foreign Star Wars Poster

What about movie posters

A movie poster’s main aim is to sell tickets for movies, they are marketing tools. So, it is unlikely they are going to be limited to any particular number that would make them more collectible. 

What does make them collectible is if over time the majority of the posters are lost. If for example a cinema manager kept one of the original Casablanca posters used in his cinema, and he could prove it, then he has a collectible piece on his hands.

If you have just bought a Casablanca poster print from a poster store… then there will never be value to that as more and more can be printed. 

What is slightly different is fan artist prints. This is where an artist makes their own twist on a movie poster they like; they will have Artist Proofs and generally be in limited runs. So, these are collectible. 

Mondo is one such site that sells these and states, “limited handcrafted posters, made in the USA. Once sold, editions will never be reprinted.”

Also, if you are curious about which movie posters to add to your collection then you will want to read this article as it’s an eye opener.

Conclusion

Depending on your budget, it is usually better to buy an artist print over a limited edition, and it is better to buy a limited edition over an unlimited run. 

However, it all depends on why you are collecting pieces which will determine what you buy. 

I have always bought movie posters (and get them free), and I would frame them and hang them in my bedroom as a child. As I grew older and started earning more money, I became more interested in limited editions and artist interpretations of movie posters. 

I don’t buy them to profit off them as I want to enjoy them myself, but if the time comes when they need to be sold, then they will be worth more than what I paid for them.  So I like to tell myself I am investing when I spend hundreds of dollars on a particular print, piece of fan art, or movie poster.

Plus, if it is fan art, I am helping support that artist! And speaking of fan art, if you want to learn how to make your own then you will want to read this article here.

And of course, if you need some art and design education, you will want to check out our YouTube channel that has free tutorials taught by actual movie poster designers. Plus, you can learn a few techniques and start making your own prints.

This way you will be the artist that gets to keep your artist prints or give out to your friends!