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Not All “Limited Editions” are Equal

by Mike Wilcox (09/19/08).

An often perilous venture for collectors is that of the “Limited Edition.” The whole term “Limited Edition” has fallen on hard times of late, debased by its use to include mass produced collectibles from stuffed toys to Elvis memorabilia. Few of these items even retain their original retail value, let alone increase in value.

The term “Limited Edition” in its true sense got its start in the Fine Art prints market, where an artist would offer high quality lithographic prints of his original work. The number of prints are limited generally to less than 500 copies, including the artist’s proofs for his own use (designated AP), plus printer’s proofs (designated PP). In a very small number of editions, there is an additional series called “hors de commerce” (designated HC). All of the artist’s proofs, printer’s proofs and hors de commerce are all separately numbered and signed by the artist ( e.g. Fred Jones- 37/500, 7/10 etc.)

While all of these features are no guarantee of a good investment, they do help authenticate what you have is indeed a limited edition item. Values for limited editions, like all things collectible, are driven by the market, and what’s sought after today might not be in five years.

In the case of some items changes can be dramatic. For example, in the recent past it was possible to stuff $100,000 worth of a popular line of fluffy toys in a large pillow case, now the vast majority of these stuffed animals (see image above) sell for less than fifty cents at online auctions.

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