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Limited Editions In Films, Music and Photography : Fact or Fiction?

With the digital revolution in photography and other media, has come a fashion of producting "special" or "limited edition" versions of the same source material. For the wannabee collector of fine art reproductions (for example) it becomes increasingly vital to understand the investment opportunities of genuine "limited editions" compared with the marketing-driven hype.

The exponential growth in digital technologies in the past 20 years has revolutionised the market for the reproduction of art through digital means. This applies to the visual arts in film of photography, as well as in music. Re-mastered versions of old - and no so old - movies, of classic albums and of archetypal images in photography are all now common currency, and the market for such images has been revolutionary.

But with this revolution has come a proliferation of terms to describe the various versions of the source material and for the wannabee collector of fine art reproductions (for example) it becomes increasingly vital to understand the genuine investment opportunity and the marketing-driven hype.

So what are the terms currently in use to define the additional value of a classic or popular image or movie? Terms used in collectible popular culture include concepts such as "special", "deluxe" or "limited edition". These terms are often market-driven, selling the same basic product by marketing improved versions of film DVDs, music and video games. That this can sometimes simply be a matter of adjusting the packaging has an implied danger of demeaning the idea of "limited edition" away from it's root meaning and value.

The term "collector's edition" is also used. This again is a term which can be applied to various media such as books, prints or recorded music and films. But it can also apply to cars or motorcycles for example. A "collector's edition" implies that the number of copies produced is restricted; but the restriction can stop at a very high number indeed, and this needs to be known and understood.

Modern technology has changed the controls available to the concept of a Limited Edition. In early days of printing and print reproduction of images, traditional printmaking techniques could only produce a small number of top quality images before wear-and-tear on the plate (especially in some etching techniques and in drypoint printing) took it's toll. This meant that longer print runs delivered passable but inferior quality images. To limit the print run was a necessity, which modern digital technology does not have to face.

Thus it is important for would-be collectors to research the provenance of any limited edition in the digital age. Naturally, some collectors have a great desire to have all released editions of a personal favourite, or a classic piece. This in itself has its own value of course. However, where the need is to understand the intrinsic, stand-alone value of an individual limited edition item, then the provenance becomes vital in assessing the investment value.

In the case of photographic reproductions, the original artist's print, carefully produced directly from his work, and printed under the artists' supervision are those which attract value over time. The most common way of producing collectable prints in the modern digital era is to scan the original negative (in the case of images from traditional photographic tools), or balancing a digital file from a digital camera, then output the image, usually retouched, on specially-selected media types using archival inks. Thus very fine quality coated papers can be used to make delicate, beautiful prints in defined limited numbers, which can be certified and verified as authentic. In this wayFeature Articles, genuine investment opportunities can be realised.

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Jimi St. Pierre in collaboration with travel and leisure writer Penny Church writes for several UK travel and leisure companies including London-based who specialise in limited edition rock music photography covering bands and artistes from each of the past 5 decades.

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