Pricing a reproduction run

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Susan Delaney of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada wrote, “I’m in the process of following up a commission with an order from the original customer for up to 200 reproductions of a painting, to be sold as a fundraiser for a not-for-profit organization. I’ve had the piece professionally photographed and I’m fairly confident in the giclee process, technical and quality issues, costs and project budgeting. These reproductions will be described and documented accurately to potential buyers. I’d really value guidance on my own markup and pricing.” Thanks, Susan. I bend the rules for repros for charity fundraisers. Sometimes I give reproduction rights for free after selling the original, other times I take a modest amount — often ten percent after the cost of the reproductions. The charity picks up all the printing costs. Tip: Keep your editions small. Big-volume runs cheapen your art. If the run is to be called a “limited edition,” then you need to sign, name and number. Regarding pricing, I find it best to keep them low. For example, on a recent one where the original sold for $12,000, I suggested the prints be $400 including the frame. This ensured that the repro run of 150 sold out, made a few friends and did some modest good in the community. You must know that in most areas the bloom is off the rose for both giclees and photo-lithos. It takes a pretty gung ho and active charity to sell them these days. You need to make sure the charity has enough volunteers to make things happen. While no one can be as financially motivated as those gallerinas in a Thomas Kinkade franchise, unless your work is drop dead appealing — and the charity has spotless credentials (minimal costs of fundraising) — it generally takes real community effort. A couple of years ago I received a call from a friend who said there was a pile of my reproductions on a table in a “going out of business” furniture store. I drove around and found about fifty leftovers from a fundraiser that had somehow got in there. The charity had originally asked $1800 each for them, a price I queried at the time. I bought the works for ten bucks each. Further, the loophole for investing in big-run reproductions and getting them evaluated beyond the investor’s costs has been closed in most jurisdictions. This was a rummy business to start with, and has cost a few taxpayers some anguish, as well as a loss of greenery. Best regards, Robert PS: “There’s been million-seller books and million-seller CDs. But there hasn’t been, until now, million-seller art.” (Thomas Kinkade) Esoterica: A benefit from charitable repro runs is the entitlement to “Artist’s proofs,” generally an additional 10% of the run. These can be archived by the artist or used as gifts or donations to other charities. Having them as an asset can become a taxable event which, in most cases, is minimal. My best tip: Never do anything charitable for publicity, great financial gain, or for tax reasons. Give where your heart is.   Who owns copyright? by Marlien van Heerden, Pretoria, South Africa  

original painting
by Marlien van Heerden

If I want to use my sold paintings for reproductions of gift cards, am I responsible to inform the buyer, whom I often don’t know, or do I own the right to reproduce my paintings? Your comment suggests that the buyer should pay you a percentage if they do reproductions, but is it the same the other way around? It just doesn’t feel right to reproduce their paintings? Some might experience it as a compliment but others might feel their uniqueness is lost? (RG note) Thanks, Marlien. According to International Copyright Law, the artist continues to own reproduction rights for a work of art even after the original has been purchased and owned by another or subsequent owners. The exception is where work is specifically commissioned by a buyer. Artist ownership generally continues until fifty years after the artist’s death, at which time the work goes into the Public Domain, unless the artist’s heirs or assigns extend the copyright. Technically, this is with or without the © mark somewhere on the work. Sometimes owners fail to understand that copyright does not come with their paying for the work, unless they purchase it separately. If you think someday you may want to reproduce a work of art, I recommend, at the time of purchase, informing the owner that reproduction may be a possibility. It’s worthwhile to have good quality photos taken of such a work before it leaves the studio. Later, if you have made an effort and yet cannot find the owner to inform him or her of what you’re doing (a courtesy), you still have good legal grounds to proceed with the reproductions. Certain cultures, countries and individuals pay no attention to these civilized conventions. There is 1 comment for Who owns copyright? by Marlien van Heerden
From: Sharon Williams — Oct 07, 2010

I handwrite the copyright information on the back of the painting and the dust cover, if framed. I put my contact details and any the fact that the painting is sold under condition that if I ask to borrow it for an exhibition, the purchaser will loan the painting out for exhibition.

  Printing for profit by Bruce Lawes, Oakville, ON, Canada  

original painting
by Bruce Lawes

As a fellow artist who has done my share of corporate and charitable events, I found printers are only mildly interested in your cause or motivation for your project unless there is one of two things in it for them; profit, or good will that will lead to more profit. Eight years ago I started giclée printing for fellow artists after being quoted $14,000 to print 250 canvas prints for a corporate project. I ended up buying my first printer and since then I have helped other artists have a better opportunity to make some of the profit for a change. I do not advertise but my website will outline some pricing. Tel: 905 847-9332.       Artist return clause by Judith Anderson, Richmond VA, USA  

“Old Train Car #13”
original painting
by Judith Anderson

It seems to me that if you are going to allow prints of your work for charitable sales, it would be wise to have a clause in the agreement with the charitable organization that states as follows (or something similar): “If, at the conclusion of the sale, unsold prints remain, all such unsold prints shall be returned to the artist for disposal as he/she deems fit.” Then what should happen is the artist should promptly destroy any remaining prints. This will increase the value of those sold at the benefit, and prevent your works from being devalued. There is 1 comment for Artist return clause by Judith Anderson
From: Sharon Williams — Oct 07, 2010

Thank you for your excellent advice. I have considered this kind of thing – you have solved the problem before I had to deal with it.

  Reproductions damaging when pushed as prints by Sharri LaPierre, Vancouver, WA, USA  

multiple solarplate intaglio
by Sharri LaPierre

Reproductions and “limited edition giclée prints” have done much more damage to the art market than they have ever done any good. I’m primarily a printmaker, so I hate to see all of these reproductions of paintings being pushed as “prints.” I would think it would be much safer to donate an original painting to a charity and let them raffle or auction it off to raise money. Get several artists to donate original works and raise even more money. But, to sell a photo of a painting as “original” artwork, is in my mind, a disgrace. When these photos hit the market, that impinges on my territory and thoroughly confuses the general public as to what is an original print and what is not. Original prints are etchings, engravings, aquatints, messotints, screenprints, woodblocks, monotypes, monoprints, stone lithographs, etc. There are 4 comments for Reproductions damaging when pushed as prints by Sharri LaPierre
From: Janet Badger — Oct 08, 2010

As a fellow printmaker I totally agree. The word “print” has now been degraded into meaning “reproduction” so I tend to avoid that word in my labels whenever possible. I’ll never forget someone watching me demonstrate pulling a print and saying, “I thought you just Ran Them Off!” And the concept of “limited edition”…also ruined…

From: Liz Reday — Oct 09, 2010

There needs to be more education on printmaking practices. As a former etcher, lithographer and monoprinter, it was sad to see the market for original prints diminish with the advent of giclee printing. I agree that selling original paintings is the way to go for now unless you are dealing with an educated collector. There’s nothing more gorgeous than a well done aquatint or woodblock print!

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 12, 2010

I sparked a discussion about this at our local art center: the essential difference between prints and reproductions. A hand-pulled print, even in a multiple run, is still an original one-of-a-kind piece of art. But Calling something a “giclee”, even on canvas, doesn’t change the fact that it is a photographic copy. I am a painter, and feel strongly that allowing established artists to hang reproductions is unfair to artists who are producing quality work but aren’t as well known, and unfair to art buyers who might otherwise take a second look at the original paintings of what we so kindly refer to as “emerging artists”. I have pulled my art from one gallery who routinely hangs “giclees” priced in the same range as my paintings. I am glad that this kind of practice is on the decline.

From: F.X.Rosica — Oct 19, 2010

Thank you Shari! As a fellow print maker and painter I couldn’t agree more. Giclees only help to mislead the public about art. On a recent trip to Long Beach, WA I came across a favorite painter’s studio only to find stacks of Giclees! The argument being that it makes the work more affordable. How sad is that? I wonder how many artists feel they need to mass produce their work in order to make ends meet….Is that a myth?

  Pricing guidelines for giclées by Tom Shacklady, Calgary, AB, Canada   I get asked the same question many times and it has been my experience that a high quality giclée will usually sell for 1/4 to 1/6 the price of the original (unframed). This generally works when the artist has a good cost per square inch formula for their originals. As far as edition size goes things have changed from the days when giclées were first taking over from photo lithos and artists were setting the limit at 350 – 500. Now we see them generally around 50, 90 or 130. I believe the “print on demand” nature of the giclée process has allowed for this because you don’t have to pay to have the entire edition done all at one time.   Prints as originals by Tina Blackburn   I am pleased to see that you correctly call these giclées reproductions. As a printmaker, I am always upset to see artists label their copies ‘prints’ and then number them as an edition. A numbered edition, in my understanding, is a series of original identical prints, each pulled from a plate. They are not reproductions, but originals.   Distrust for prints by Thomas Tobin, Kitchener, ON, Canada  

“Cherry Blossoms #4”
by Thomas Tobin

Many reproductions were sold as original limited runs a few years ago. In Ontario, Canada there is currently a lot of distrust of artists’ prints of all sorts. I recently saw something called an “Aunts and Uncles” edition, valued higher than the limited edition or the limited edition.The artists’ hands seldom touch these pieces.           Fifty-fifty split for charities by Patricia Lawton, Vernon, BC, Canada  

“I’ll Follow You Forever”
original painting
by Patricia Lawton

While I mostly adhere to your advice regarding giving from the heart, I hosted an interesting event last fall. For three years, I painted almost non-stop with the plans to donate to the “North Okanagan’s Hospice House.” But as I also make my living from my art, I needed to recoup something from my three years of work. What I did was to donate exactly half of whatever I could make from the one evening event. The paintings were priced from $800 to $3700.00. It was a very lovely evening with high-end nibblies and a no host bar. I feel the event was successful in that I sold paintings and our Hospice House received a lot of much needed publicity. The title of the show was “Girlfriends.” All were acrylics on canvas.   Personal nature of art by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA  

“Young herons”
watercolour painting
by Nina Allen Freeman

I am not an admirer of Thomas Kinkade’s work but wonder if he has passed that million dollar mark with any of his pieces. They seem to be designed to appeal to the masses. Could the generally personal nature of art be the reason why art and art reproductions don’t sell in the millions? We consider a good piece of art one that gives a very individual view on something. Presenting an idea in a way no else would have thought to put it, therefore appealing to a limited number of people. We all have lots of books and CDs even in the recession, but I don’t see people as avidly buying prints and visual art. Are most people not visually motivated?   There is 1 comment for Personal nature of art by Nina Allen Freeman
From: Darla — Oct 08, 2010

Unfortunately, most people are bombarded with printed visual stimuli competing for their attention. Cheap posters, mass produced “decorator” reproductions, etc. all bring down the market for original art. A painting, print or reproduction has to be VERY special for them to pay any kind of reasonable price at all. Perhaps commissioned works like portraits are doing better than other visual art(because they are so personal), I don’t know.

  Worthless reproductions by Teresa Chow, Vancouver, BC, Canada   My husband and I bought an expensive giclée painting from a reputable local artist because we cannot afford the original, thinking that it’s still signed by the artist that the giclée painting is worth something. We were very surprised when we brought the case to a local auction house only to be told that giclée and limited editions and what not is just the price of ink, canvas and or paper, it’s worthless!! The auctioneer recommends to always buy an original painting even if it’s a smaller painting because this is true investment. Not a reproduction. I understand that artists need to pay bills and to eat as well. However, in my personal opinion, this is taking the “commercial run” too far. Personally, I disagree with this spin off from some artists who are trying to make more money selling reproductions. Just look around galleries and you can see lots of them even from reputable artists. It somehow cheapens the artwork and the name of the artist. Think about it, technology is so advanced these days, buy a good quality giclée and the buyer can print additional copies and sell it at half the price — now that’s a business to consider!!!! If it is for a charity event — it’s already a gift, somehow a donation from the artist so make it worthwhile, always take the higher road. (RG note) Thanks, Teresa. In my experience, people are interested in supporting charities, and if they get a reproduction of something they admire form a reputable artist in exchange for their donation, then they are satisfied. Charity reproductions should not be advertised as investments. There are 2 comments for Worthless reproductions by Teresa Chow
From: Stella Reinwald — Oct 07, 2010

If you bought the art as an investmentv hoping to turn a profit, then you didn’t do your homework. The other side of the issue of copies in any form, is that people who personally love an image but can’t afford an original, have access to art they enjoy for the sake of the art, not the investment potential.

From: Anonymous — Oct 08, 2010

Regarding Teresa’s comment about “the buyer can print additional copies and sell it at half the price” this would of course be a violation of the artist’s copyright. See RG’s note in the first posting. I think that the giclee’s fill a niche for those buyers with less funds who really enjoy the image itself. A lot of people have no problem disposing of $100 on a tank of gas for that SUV – why not $100 for a giclee to support that local artist – at least you get to hang the reproduction on your wall.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Pricing a reproduction run

From: Gavin Logan — Oct 05, 2010

Thomas Kinkade has supported non-profit organizations focusing on children, humanitarian relief, and the arts, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, World Vision, Art for Children Charities, and The Salvation Army. He partnered with The Salvation Army to create two charity prints, The Season of Giving and The Light of Freedom. Proceeds from the sale of the prints were donated to The Salvation Army for their relief efforts at Ground Zero and to aid the victims of the attacks and their families. More than $2 million was donated as a result of this affiliation. In 2003, Kinkade was chosen as a National Spokesman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and during the 20 Years of Light Tour in 2004, he raised over $750,000 and granted 12 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions. He was or is a member of the Church of the Nazarine.

From: Jacob Fine — Oct 05, 2010

The printing arm of the Thomas Kinkade phenomenon, which at its height had 350 independently owned, franchised galleries, went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, 2010. Snow globes, puzzles, cross stitches and wallpaper couldn’t save it. One former dealer’s lawyer stated, “Most of my clients got involved with Kinkade because it was presented as a religious opportunity. Being defrauded is awful enough, but doing it in the name of God is really despicable.”

From: Ellen Springer — Oct 05, 2010

We have a lot of pictures in our house, mostly of animals and fish. We love them. None of them are painted on by hand that I know of. Arkansas

From: Helene — Oct 05, 2010

While we all need to give something, we artists are really hit on by the various charities. I gave away a lot of paintings and a few prints this year, maybe ten so far, and the requests just keep on coming. What do we artists say to these charities? How much of this can we take? Please give me some ideas.

From: Thierry — Oct 05, 2010

Helene, the requests keep coming because you keep giving. Stop giving, and the requests will stop coming.

From: Kamoos Obomor — Oct 05, 2010

Helene, have you forgotten the word ‘no’? It comes in very handy in these situations.

From: Darla — Oct 06, 2010

Helene — The constant demand is a good reason to give small inexpensive prints or sets of cards, if you want to give something but are getting too many requests. Otherwise, just say, “I can’t do that right now” or “Sorry, we won’t be donating in the foreseeable future”. And then hang up. Don’t let them pile guilt on you — you don’t have to accept it, no matter how worthy the cause. If any other stranger called asking for money or property, would you give it to them? The worst are the ones who call asking for a gift of $___ or more.

From: Thomas Kinkaide???? ugh! — Oct 06, 2010

Certainly a master marketer and perhaps public opinion manipulator, but not an artist. It is a shame that so many people thought they were “investing” in his scam. Why would you honor him in the least with a quote?

From: John Ferrie — Oct 06, 2010

Dear Robert, I am sorry to say that Giclee Prints and editioning works only cheaps art. Yeah, its ok to buy a poster at IKEA if you have to. But making an edition of art and then selling it is just not the way to sell your work these days. Now, I do a print of my invitation painting and limit it to 50 prints. I then sell them WITH a 26 page hard cover book of the collection. The price for both is $100.00. You get a print for free if a painting is purchased. I want to sell my paintings, not have my work editioned and then cheapened. I even do christmas cards for the Children’s hospital. Sold in bundles of ten for $20.00 at the end of the day, I am helping a charity. But, this does not elevate my paintings. Paint everyday and do it like you don’t need the money. Then again, I sat beside Robert Bateman on an airplane one day. I asked him about the cheesy 1000 edition prints he does of his paintings (with the gold seal of authenticity and everything). He laughed and then showed me a picture of his 6 bedroom mega-home on Salt Spring Island…He said the prints paid for that house! I just about swallowed my tongue. That is just me… John

From: tatjana — Oct 06, 2010

Helene, you asked the right question – “how much of this can we take”. Just answer your own question and decide how much you can afford. For example, I can afford to give 3 original paintings per year, so that’s what I do. It was easy for me to pick my top 3 favorite charities and say to others that I already give as much as I can afford… but may consider their charity in the future if things change (say the last part only to those that you really like and for which you won’t be bothered if they ask again).

From: Susan B Robertson — Oct 06, 2010

I transformed myself into a “giver.” For the last couple of years I have actively sought charities that I could believe in — hospitals, special needs children, etc. As well as contributing to our community, I have raised my profile locally. I always give originals. Some of them sell for more at the fundraisers than in my two galleries.

From: Dick Maher — Oct 06, 2010

The problem with reproductions is that masses of them pile up. Attempts to make them more special and unique (hand work and enhancing) have largely failed. There are still areas where people collect them, not the least of which is on cruise ships where there is free Champagne.

From: M. C. Veaudry — Oct 06, 2010

Here in France about twenty-five years ago all the artists self owned galleries hasted into prints and all the people took home was a rolled up paper at only a few francs, knocking the originals business loopy when price became the only issue for the tourist buyer who wandered through.

From: Kamoos Obomor — Oct 07, 2010
From: Thierry — Oct 07, 2010

In July, Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki’s expounded on the Master-Apprentice relationship: “I think that it is up to us to reinvent the apprenticeship of today.” How is the reinventing coming Tatjana?

From: Sharon — Oct 07, 2010

There is always a tug of war in my mind about the unfair situation of only those with plenty of money being able to purchase originals, which then are enjoyed by a tiny number of people and feeling that no one should be deprived of the enjoyment of art. Why shouldn’t a person enjoy their morning coffee from a mug with a section of a painting as the outer design? Why shouldn’t everyone be able to look at a painting that puts a smile on their face before they even get out of bed? Why shouldn’t people confined to institutions have something inspiring to look at? You have guessed by now that I am not elitist about art. I don’t work at promoting mine; the paintings are bought by people who fall in love with them and want to have that feeling in their own homes. Most get hung near their front doors for guests to enjoy. On the other hand, I would like to marry my poetry with greeting cards. One person who managed to sell virtually all of his originals and did a greeting card each year was the highly esteemed Canadian watercolourist, the late Jack Reid. I did not see this as cheapening of his art. The image always had a compatible colour of line boxing the image (on acid free paper) so it could be framed if desired. I did a workshop with Jack Reid and felt that his original art was not cheapened in any way by this. In fact, I wish more artists would do cards and that they be able to sign them to advertise their work. Sharon

From: Diana Rutherford — Oct 08, 2010

You may think I’m way over the top, slipping along the sides like a raw egg, but I believe an art object has to be relegated to the status of “holy”; (see ancient history). A gift cannot be a copy of that gift; it has to be the original. Hence I sell only originals, as I am about to do in an upcoming show at a gallery which gives 40% of the proceedings to a battered womens shelter. I happen to like drawings; so I offer many of them at affordable prices, plus some large expensive paintings. I think art is more than an image. An artist friend said, “art has to have DNA”, then he put some of his spit into the piece he was working on. Metaphysicians think that the IDEA is enough. That may work for them, but as an artist, a visual reminder is stingy & isn’t satisfying. Isn’t there enough phony stuff around already? I prefer childrens’ art, – made by hand.

From: Flavio Earnstwhyste — Oct 10, 2010

My employer is one of the largest collectors of Leroy Neiman prints. He has duplicate prints squirreled away as an investment. Anyone with office wall space has to tolerate the vast, lurid sporting images. (There is a premium on wall sized white-boards throughout the organization.) So, down in the dungeon — actually an old walk-in freezer, next to his African safari weaponry, is this treasure trove or prints that he fully exects to cash in for vast profit. To be fair, the guy has a dozen enterprises going at a time, about half of which succeed. The remainer, he makes certain his liability is minimized. However, he is absolutely on the hook for the trove of Neiman prints. It’s commonly thought that he is a canny investor, and sometimes it’s true. However, I’m not seeing Neiman prices skyrocketing. In fact he’ll be lucky to recoup the costs of the glazing in the frames he’s mounted on walls. He took the standard advice to heart. He bought what he loved. And bought, and bought. I just wish he’d stopped before he got to my office.

From: Brian Stackhouse — Oct 11, 2010

Reproduction prices should be kept low so that poor people can enjoy images they love. All else is folly.

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That includes Peter Worsley of Santa Barbara, CA, USA, who wrote, “With Print On Demand so easy, the price so low, and the quality of the best companies so good (I use Imagekind and Fine Art America for my paintings), why would anyone today bother with a print run?” And also Andrea Holbrook who wrote, “Why or what has made giclées passe’? When I’ve gone to local shows, people seem more willing to buy them as opposed to spending the big bucks for the originals. I live north of Boston.” And also Dennis Patterson who wrote, “Where I live people buy pictures of wolves. They need them inexpensive. They don’t care if they’re originals or not.”    

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