What is a Certificate of Authenticity

Limited Edition works of art are valuable because the number of prints produced is limited to a small number. The limited number available, combined with the reputation and popularity of the artist, means that the piece can increase in value over time. There are many high-quality Open Edition Art Prints that are very desirable and attractive pieces but once purchased, they cease to have any real monetary worth. Limited Editions, on the other hand, have the potential to increase in value because of their rarity, but the owner of such a piece must have proof that it is indeed a Limited Edition, in the form of a Certificate of Authenticity, otherwise the work would have no more worth than an Open Edition print of a similar quality.

There are some easy steps to follow to ensure a Limited Edition is authentic. If you cannot satisfy yourself on all these points then you should consider it a risk to buy the art work.

  1. Ask questions about where and how the seller acquired the work of art before you buy it. All reputable galleries and publishers would be happy to supply these details.
  2. View the Certificate of Authenticity before you buy the art. If the art is for sale online then request that a copy of the complete certificate (front and back, if appropriate) is emailed to you. All reputable galleries and publishers would be glad to comply with such a request.
  3. If the wording on the Certificate of Authenticity contains any conditional statements, for example “in our opinion…” or “thought to be…” then this is an indication that this piece of Limited Edition art is probably not genuine.
  4. A Certificate of Authenticity is unacceptable if it does not show adequate contact information about the publisher – Full Name, Postal Address AND Telephone Number are required as a minimum; website and email address are optional depending on the age of the work of art.
  5. Do not accept as genuine a Certificate of Authenticity that contains any incomplete or illegible sections.
  6. Limited Editions by famous artists are documented in books called Catalogues Raisonné. So if you are considering buying a Limited Edition by a well-known artist and a Catalogue Raisonné exists for that artist, then the relevant catalogue number for the work of art must be noted on the Certificate of Authenticity.


A legitimate Certificate of Authenticity will always be supplied with the art work and will always originate from either the artist or the fine art publisher of the piece. Be very cautious about buying a Limited Edition work of art if a Certificate of Authenticity is not available or if the seller suggests posting it to you at a later date.

Unfortunately, there is abuse in the Certificate of Authenticity business but if the certificate is supplied with the art work from a reputable gallery or publisher or, of course, directly from the artist then you can have confidence that it is valid.

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