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Prints Buying Guide

Tags:  prints | art | lithographs | etchings | woodcutsWrite a guide!

Liven up any room with the perfect prints. Whether you're a serious collector or a casual buyer, make a statement (or just a great investment) with the impressive selection of unique lithographs, etchings, woodcuts, and vintage prints you'll find on eBay.

Choose the Type of Print You Want


Choose the Type of Print You Want

Prints are made with several different types of media, including metal, wood, stone, and silkscreen, each with a distinct look and feel. Artists often produce a run of many prints from the original media, unlike with paintings. These runs are either limited to a certain number or are open-ended. If you're looking for a collectible, you may want a limited edition piece, while others may be fine with an open-ended edition.

The artist usually signs and numbers limited edition prints, while open-edition prints may or may not be signed or numbered. Generally, the smaller the number of runs and the lower the number of the piece within the run, the more valuable the print. Consider whether to look for an original limited edition print or a reproduction of a more rare work.

  • Antique: Antique prints are particularly attractive to collectors. They're often illustrations from old and rare books on topics such as architecture, botany, birds, history, and geography.

  • Etching/engraving: Find original and reproduced art as etchings, a method of printing where an image is created using a sharp object, often a diamond stylus on a metal surface coated with wax. The surface is then treated with acid, which eats away at the metal areas that have been exposed.

  • Giclees: For a high-quality reproduction that will hold up well over time, consider giclees. They're created using a digital image of a piece of artwork, which is then printed onto canvas or watercolor paper using a high-resolution inkjet printer that produces very rich color. When shopping for giclee prints, inquire about the printer used and the expected longevity of the piece. Some contemporary artists, especially digital artists, use giclee to create original works as well.

  • Heliogravure: Found in both original and reproduced art, heliogravures use photographic transfer to create etchings on a metal surface.

  • Lithographs and serigraphs: Lithographs and serigraphs are two of the more traditional methods of printing and reproduction. If you’re looking for older reproductions, there’s a good chance they were created using one of these techniques. Lithography involves treating a stone or metal surface, often with a grease pencil, so that ink will adhere only to certain parts of the surface. The image is then printed onto wet paper from the stone. Serigraphy, one of the first means of printing and reproduction, involves using stencils to force a special paint through a fine fabric screen, originally silk but now usually polyester or nylon, to create an image.

Whatever type of print you’re interested in, be sure to check the listing for the dimensions of the piece, its condition, how long the colors are likely to hold up, and whether there’s a good return policy.


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Research the History & Authenticity of Prints


Research the History & Authenticity of Prints

Whether you’re looking to add a new piece to your collection or just want to spruce up your living room with a bold print, it’s helpful to research the print to learn more about the artist and determine the piece’s provenance.

History

Provenance is a document detailing the past ownership, condition of a print, and where it has been displayed. The more complete the history, the easier it is to establish the print’s authenticity. While it is easier to track down the history of more contemporary works, it can be difficult for older prints.

Although a full history that goes back to the artist is ideal, an incomplete history does not mean the work will not be considered authentic. Over time, paperwork is often lost or destroyed, or buyers wish to remain anonymous.

If there is an incomplete provenance, make sure a third-party expert has evaluated the print and confirmed its authenticity, or at least attributed it to the referenced artist. Experienced and trusted art dealers will always provide an expert’s authentication (this is different from the certificates of authenticity that are commonly found in the collectibles world, which are not generally used with prints).

About the artist

A catalogue raisonne provides a comprehensive listing of an artist’s works, detailing the ownership of each piece, images of the piece, and its current condition. When an expert determines that style and other factors make it probable that a print was created by a particular artist, but it cannot be confirmed, it is then “attributed to” that artist.


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Find Prints on eBay


Find Prints on eBay

Go to the Art portal, click Prints, and start searching for item listings on eBay.

If you can’t find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell sellers what you’re looking for by creating a posting on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and get notified by email when a match becomes available.


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Buy Prints With Confidence


Buy Prints With Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that you don't receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover your purchase price plus original shipping. Learn more.


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