Last week I took the family to Hunter Valley Gardens (not Duff gardens) and we walked through the Ken Duncan’s Gallery that he has up there. While looking around I saw some mounted 11 inch panoramics selling for $99 and 18 inch mounted panoramic’s selling for $199 each. All where limited editions of 2000 and it got me thinking about the difference between limited edition and open edition and the ways in which limited editions are done and thought it would make for an interesting blog post.
Now before I go any further please note that this article is my own opinion and I will make general speculations. I have used well know landscape photographers Ken Duncan and Peter Lik as examples as people know and respect their work and they have a proven track record of being very successful in this industry. So if for some reason you take what I say to heart please be mature in any post you care to give, unlike some in the past.
Anyway now that for formalities are out of the way … for starters I personally don’t do limited edition images. I have considered it, even to the point that I have put some images aside to be limited editions but I just don’t see myself taking that route at this time. Purely as a personal choice. I have lost sales in the past from people who have called me asking if I offer any limited editions. When I inform them that I don’t, they have taken their business else where.
When you decide to do limited editions from my experience of seeing how other photographers do it there are many roads. Some are a bit questionable but all with one goal. To sell your work at an increased price to open editions, that will gradually increase as the edition number closes with a sales pitch that when the edition closes the price of the work will be of greater value and that you are buying an asset. Before I touch more on that topic here are some ways I have seen limited editions sold.
1. Edition print runs offered 30 inch and higher ranging from 50 to 300 in an edition. This is the method used by Ken Duncan and most who sell Limited Edition.
2. Edition print runs offered 30 inch and higher but numbers are limited to around 300 but also limited in the size offered as well. So there might only be 50 prints offered in the 30 inch size, 100 in 40 inch etc. This is a method that I have seen Peter Lik do. Not 100% sure if that is the case still.
3. Another one I have seen is edition print runs over 30 inch of an image in numbers of around 300. But the photo is also an open edition if purchased in sizes under 30 inch. I disagree with this method. A photo is either limited edition or it’s not. I have only seen a few photographers do this.
4. The other one is limited editions of 1000, 2000 or higher sold at a lower price than editions of 300 but are also have a size capped and are not offered over 24 inch. This is another method by Ken Duncan. One could argue that 2000 copies of an image isn’t really limited edition but I guess you are paying less and still getting a great product from the photographers who’s work you admire.
With selling limited editions there is quite a sales pitch that comes with them of how the buyer will eventually own a photo that will be an investment, especially when the edition sells out. This is great if true, but in reality this is only going to be true if there is a market demand for your work when it sells out and at a higher price than what most paid for it and their is a precedence of your work selling at a given increased price point.
Now for example if you look at Ken Duncan’s Hot List of images on his website that are about to sell out. A 75 inch framed 3:1 panoramic is going to sell for $5900. Now if you take a look at the Hall of Fame – Resale prints the average price of a framed photo selling there is $7000. Now guessing that in the Hot List there are also 75 inch photo’s IF someone buys a Ken Duncan photo and decides to resell it later you could expect a minimum profit resale margin of $1100 (minus their commission for the resale). If you bought the photo earlier in the edition for a lower amount say $3400 for a 75 inch then your return will be greater but that is only a profit of $3600. Now this profit margin I would say is going to be dependent on what image is being re sold and I would guess that there are images with higher demand than others which will bring in a higher return on re sale and also it’s edition number too. This is also reflected in Ken’s hot list as some images are re selling for $22500. But someone has to buy it at that price for a precedence to be set.
Another example is you hear roomers on forums that Peter Lik will sell a framed panoramic image for $40,000 US and his sales people telling buyers that when the edition sells out it will be worth double the amount (no wonder he turns over 30 million a year) . This would only be true if someone is willing to pay $80,000 for the closed edition image. Now if there is proof that his sold out editions sell for double, then and you could honestly say this to buyers who have been happy to pay double for his closed editions. Other than that this would be salesman Bull S*$t to get the sale and I would ask for proof of resale at the higher amount as promoted.
So the profit (or acquiring of an asset) to be made to investors in buying anyone’s Limited Edition is only real if there are proven re sales to back it up. Not sure if you could list owning someones limited edition photo as an asset on your home loan application. But there are people (I would guess most) who don’t give a rats about the re sale value of the photo, they just love it for what it is and enjoy the knowledge that not everyone will be able to buy one and that the photo itself is limited.
Selling Limited and Open editions is a personal choice and main stream veterans like Ken Duncan and Peter Lik show the best way to do it and their model obviously works very well.