For art collectors there is nothing more infuriating than finding a piece of art that you’ve been looking for, only to find out that it’s a reproduction. Consulting a qualified appraiser is the surest way to determine whether or not your treasure is a reproduction. However, here are a few quick ways to spot a typical reproduction:
Identifying a Reproduction
1. Determine what material the art is painted (or printed) on. If it is cardboard, fiberboard, poster board or paper (usually gray-colored material that’s thin and stiff but lightweight as well), then the work is probably a reproduction. Most original paintings are done on canvas, wood or masonite panel.
2. Hold the picture up to the light. Sometimes, reproductions will use canvas to replicate authenticity, and it can be difficult to tell the difference. When you hold it up to the light and look through the painting from behind, however, check to see how evenly the paint has been applied. On reproductions printed onto the canvas, the “paint” seems to be applied evenly, and there is no overlapping. True paintings, however, will have a base coat laid down with colors painted over it. If there is overlap, then the painting could very well could be an original.
3. Look closely at the back of the painting or original print for copyright information and locate any labels that would indicate if the painting is a lithograph, print series or edition.. If you see a copyright symbol and date in small letters, it’s a clear indication that you’re looking at a reproduction. If the work is an original print or print series, in most cases the artist will have a signature and a number, such as 2/30.
4. Use the magnifying glass to examine the differences between the printing pattern on a reproduction versus an original. Reproductions will often be printed with a dot matrix pattern or parallel lines. You will not see the dot matrix pattern on an original painting, of course–it was created with brushstrokes.
5. Check the brushstrokes and texture. Manufacturers sometimes add a clear coat to the top of the printing as well as mechanical brushstrokes, which often don’t match the painting. Real brushstrokes follow the flow of the piece. A brushstroke will leave a thickness of paint on the canvas for oil and acrylic works, while a watercolor painting will leave an impression on the paper. Use a magnifying glass to see any evidence of texture. Texture will reveal that the painting is an original work.
Determining the Worth of Prints and Reproductions
Some pictures are reproductions, which mean that they are photographic copies of paintings, often of famous paintings from museums. These are sometimes called ‘art prints’ or ‘posters’. Some are of high quality and are almost identical to the original. The majority of reproductions of famous paintings have little value. This is partly because so many copies of this picture have been printed over the last 180 years. Some reproductions of paintings do have commercial value, particularly if they were published as limited editions. Supply and demand may mean that they increase in value.
Some pictures are artists’ prints (sometimes called original prints), rather than reproductions. This means that the picture is not a copy of a painting. Artists’ prints are not one-off pictures, but a limited number of copies exists. Methods of making artists’ prints includes engraving, woodcut and etching. Artists’ prints are not necessarily worth more than photographic reproductions. Signed limited edition reproductions of paintings by famous artists can fetch considerable sums, while amateur artists’ prints may have no commercial value.
Limited edition prints are produced in limited numbers; this scarcity of supply can make them sought after by buyers. Some prints are produced in editions of less than 50, while some are from editions of 200 or even more. The number in the edition is often written by hand in pencil underneath the picture, or it may be printed at the bottom of the picture and be hidden by the frame. Limited editions are usually signed by the artist, which can help increase their value, particularly if the artist is famous. Some prints which are not limited editions are valuable, while some limited editions are out of fashion and are not sought after by collectors. Old cinema posters, for example, were not published as limited editions but can be highly valuable (if they are advertising famous films, are visually appealing and are in good condition).
The value of a reproduction can also depend on the type of reproduction or print, for example:
The value or price of a lithograph depends on the quality of the artwork, the quality of the paper and how successfully the print was made. The reputation of the artist who produced the print has a bearing on the price and so does the reason the print was made. Many lithographs were produced in order to inform the general public of how things looked before the camera was invented, and many of these series of illustrations are now quite valuable.
Serigraphs can be even more valuable due to the extensive process of creating this type of print. It can take a serigrapher up to 6 months to produce 1 run of as many as 500 serigraphs of the same image. The paints, sometimes over 100 colors, are applied in single applications. One paint color must then dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before the next color paint can be applied. Serigraphs are also produced in much smaller numbers than lithographs, and they are as costly to produce, and as close to the actual original painting as you can possibly get. Andy Warhol was famous for his serigraphs.
Giclee printing is a fairly new process believed to have been first used in the late 1980s or early 1990s on IRIS inkjet printers. Not as laborious as printing serigraphs, prices for giclee prints averaged from $50 to $1,000 in 2010, depending on quality, size, paper used, framing and other factors.
To determine the value or price of a print or reproduction it is advised to seek out a qualified, fine art appraiser. At MIR Appraisal Services our qualified appraisers and researchers provide accurate valuations based on comprehensive research and examination.