The Complete Guide to Buying Signed Limited Edition Prints

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The Complete Guide to Buying Signed Limited Edition Prints

Collecting Limited Edition Prints is a past time enjoyed by people all over the world. Some collect for the reward of owning exclusive pieces of art, others do it for the potential profit they could make in the years to come.

Regardless of the reasons, choosing a Limited Edition Print can require special attention. This guide shall successfully show buyers how to find the print they’re looking for on eBay, and how to be certain of its authenticity.

How Prints Are Made

· A Print is created when an artist etches a design into a surface, creating a print block to work with. The most commonly used surface for this process is wood, but other materials such as stone and metal are often used. With the design completed, the artist covers the surface in ink and presses it against a final surface (paper, canvas etc).

· This process can be repeated many times over without risk of losing quality from the print. The artist decides on the amount of prints he wants to create prior to the process, and once the target is reached then the print block is destroyed.

· The number of prints created by a single print block is known as the Edition. Each print is signed by the artist and given a number to identify its place in the Edition. Limited Edition Prints, also known as LE’s, are highly sought after pieces of art. Their unique selling point is the fact that a set number of them exist, and no more will be created.

Printing Techniques

There are many ways to create a print, and it is important to take note of the process before making a purchase. Modern techniques use digital printers, but for this guide shall focus on Woodcut, Linocut, Engraving, Etching, Dry Point, Lithography and Screen-Printing.


  • Developed in Europe, mid-14th century.
  • Sketch carved on a plank of wood.
  • Ink is held in the carvings.
  • Paper is placed and rubbed on block with barren or run through press.
  • Colour prints are made by using separate blocks for each colour.
  • Colour Prints can also be made by continually carving into the block and applying different colours to each carve.


  • Originated in Germany, 1905-1913
  • Image is cut into linoleum block.
  • Raised areas represent mirror image of print.
  • Linoleum is inked with roller, and then impressed onto paper or fabric.
  • Pressing can be done by hand or with a printing press.


  • Introduced in America, 1792.
  • Drawing or design made onto metal (usually copper) plate. This is done using a tool called a burin.
  • Engraved plate is inked and wiped, leaving only the engraved lines covered in ink.
  • The plate along with paper is then put through a high-pressured press.
  • Difficult skill to master.


  • Originated in Germany, 15th Century.
  • A plate (usually copper, steel or zinc) is layered with a wax base.
  • Drawing is made on base using an etching needle. The etched lines expose the metal.
  • The plate is soaked in nitric acid ferric chloride. The acid only affects the exposed metal.
  • The plate is then run through a high-pressured press, similar to the process found in engraving.
  • Very popular process due to the ease involved in drawing on the wax.

Dry Point

  • Originated in Germany, 15th Century.
  • Similar process to Engraving, but uses a very sharp point for the design as opposed to the blunter burin.
  • High-pressure printers can quickly destroy dry point designs, so this process is only suitable for a small number of Prints.


  • Invented in Germany in 1796.
  • Uses limestone or metal plate.
  • Process is similar to etching and involves coating the plate with a wax base. Design is carved into the wax and an acid burns the design into the plate.


  • Introduced to Western Europe from Asia in the late 18th Century.
  • Paper or plastic stencil is created from a drawing.
  • The stencil is fixed to a screen, which is placed on top of the fabric or the paper that the image will be printed onto.
  • Ink is spread across the screen using a rubber blade, and transfers the shape of the stencil onto the fabric or paper below.
  • This process is very popular today due to the ease involved in creating a print.

Choosing a Print

Limited Edition Prints are much harder to find than regular Prints, and they can expected to be considerably more expensive. Before beginning a search spend some time thinking about the Print and its themes and characteristics. Does the Print belong to a specific time period in history? Or perhaps it is the work of a well-known artist and highly sought after. The sheer number of variations and styles in Limited Edition Prints means there is something for everyone.


  • Buyers should become familiar with the Prints they are looking for. Read up about the technique, time-period or artist.
  • Visit museums and galleries.
  • Start off by buying some inexpensive Prints, and gradually work up towards the more costly ones.


  • A Certificate of Authenticity is a document provided by the seller to guarantee a Prints identity and authenticity.
  • Always request a Certificate of Authenticity when purchasing a Limited Edition Prints, as this may be the only proof of the Print’s origin.
  • If the Print has had multiple owners then request a Provenance to document the Print’s history.
  • All Limited Edition Prints should be signed and dated by the artist. This can be done anywhere on the piece of art and is known as the Artist’s Proof.


  • Find out as much as possible about the condition of the Print. Request photos etc. Prints created on paper can be very delicate and need adequate attention to maintain their value.
  • Ask to see any framed Prints without the frame as this can conceal tears or damage.
  • Inspect the Artist’s Proof.

Buying Limited Edition Prints on eBay

With an idea of the Limited Edition Print that is of interest, head to to begin the search.

  • First, click on the Search By Categories tab located beside the search bar. Once this is done this click on See All Categories.
  • This will bring up to the Categories page.
  • Scroll down to the Arts heading and click More.
  • Click on Prints to be brought to the relevant page.
  • Enter Limited Edition Prints into the search bar and press enter.

The more information about the desired Print, the easier it will be to find it. Add extra details e.g. Artist, date of creation, style and printing technique used. If experiencing trouble finding a specific Print, try using eBay’s search tips. Additionally there is a Wish List option that lets eBay’s online community aware of any Prints that are not listed on the site.

The Listings Page

The page containing the products for sale is known as the Listings page. Some information about the listings page:

  • The number of listings allowed per page is 25, 50, 100 and 200. To change the number of listings click on the Items Per Page box found at the bottom of the page.
  • Listings appear as Bid Now, Buy It Now or Best Offer. These are the three different options available for buying products.
  • By default listings are sorted by Best Match, meaning the products most suited to the search are shown first.
  • Searches can be edited to show Lowest Price first or Highest Price. This is done by clicking the Sort box found at the top of the page.
  • The table on the left controls search filters such as Item Condition and Item Location.

The Product Page

Clicking on the title of a listing will load up the individual Product Page.

  • This page contains all information relevant to the product, pricing, postage and the seller.
  • The Description box details the product and its condition.
  • Postage and payment details are found beside the Description header. This contains the information on the price of postage and the location of the seller.
  • The estimated delivery time and delivery service being used is also contained in the Postage and payment section.
  • A photograph of the Certificate of Authenticity will also be found on this page. If there is not one, make sure to contact the seller and request one before completing the transaction.

About the Seller

When purchasing items on eBay there are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Every purchase should be accompanied with a quick search on the seller’s history. It’s an easy way to see how they’re rated by other eBay users, and if their products are as described and sent on time.  
  • If there is not enough detail about the product, contact the seller and request more information. This is done by clicking Ask a Question, which is located underneath the description box. It can also be used to request more photographs of the product.
  • When buying a more expensive item, it’s always a good idea to check that item’s current retail price. This is an easy way to work out if the starting bid or Buy it Now price is fair.
  • Any issues with a seller should be reported to eBay. To do this contact eBay online on the Resolution Centre page. This is found in the Customer Support drop menu, on the top right hand side of the page. The Customer Support page can help with any problems that may be encountered.
  • PayPal handles all the transactions done on eBay and eBay users are protected by the Buyer Protection Programme.


eBay is an excellent place to search for Limited Edition Prints, due to the large number of Prints available. It is also unique in that Prints can be found on the site that wouldn’t be available for sale in a store or a museum.

However it is important to be sure of a Print’s authenticity, and never completes a purchase without proof of the Print’s identity.

Creating an impressive collection of Limited Edition Prints requires time and money, so be sure to study up on the style or era of interest.

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