Today, I’m here to urge artists to do something: create limited editions.
Most articles I write are for the viewer, but today is for the artists, with some peers explaining their thought process. Since there are non-Magic artists who will also read this, enjoy.
Those freelance insurance rates aren’t going down, and the competition for the best paying jobs is only getting harder. Instead of trolling upwork.com today, consider this: Magic: The Gathering is built on a system of scarcity and your business can take better advantage of that.
A few artists have good examples, which I’ll get to, but the most of the field isn’t playing up the unique, critical advantage being a Magic artist has over tabletop games or other licensed brands. A limited edition piece, creating rare art, even scales of scarcity can easily be done for a massive profitable advantage during the holiday season.
Explain Like I’m five
What makes something a limited edition, in terms of books or art, is the limited nature and the promise that the edition is true to the number. This means the run cannot be over 500 pieces, and fewer than 100 is even better. Being shifty by running a limited edition, then running another limited edition is deceptive in that the first version is no longer unique or trusted. I highly suggest you hand sign and number the edition, as annoying that may be, to create that scarcity. Some players like “their” number and will request it if you can add a comment field to your online store.
Size and scale is an easy example of what to do to make something limited, you don’t want to carry around tons of 30x40” prints; they’re almost as unwieldy as playmats. I suggest carrying one that is dinged up in a tube, with clearly marked AP ? for an artist proof, saying you can order them in person and, “I’ll ship it to you after the show and I’ll sign up to 20 cards for free if you’d like.” It could be a great tactic.
What makes editions move from acceptable to great are the details, from crispness of edges to the quality of paper, striving to make the print run as beautiful as possible, connecting form and function, traditional craft and state of the art technology. Card artworks with only digital finals are losing money here because $10 prints aren’t enough to help your budget. Having a unique size and quality print run often is unique enough to impact sales and the difference in time is nearly zero.
Mega Unique - Monotypes
Artists Jason Felix and Seb McKinnon have made digital mixed-media originals. What they, and Dali and Picasso before them, do is print the art out on some medium, ideally a canvas sort of feel, then touch up the piece. Normally the lightest and darkest areas need a little paint to make them work as intended, and make them unique. Adding a hand-done signature makes this a collectible item, and if you limited them to 1-5 copies, then they are an established art item, a monotype, and scarcity is regained.
Of course, marketing them takes some time, but I think we’re about a year away from these. The painted “recreations” have been around a few years, and while some artworks have demand, like Rishadan Port, far and away people want something easier, faster, and cheaper than a fully hand painted copy. The reasoning follows that any number of recreations can be painted, but monotypes are unique and won’t be recreated as money is short and a tax bill is looming.
I can write more on them. And you can ignore me. I find it best to write from sources, established artists who are ahead of the curve. They have proven examples with some nuances to learn from.
Jenn Ravenna (@JennRavenna)
Her The Eldest Reborn limited edition prints were $110 and she only made 50. Jenn then decided once it sold out to have a slightly smaller size for half the price. She then dropped the priced farther for a slightly smaller print. These options of choosing size and price is brilliant.
Noah Bradley (@noahbradley)
Always pushing Magic in untraditional ways, Noah has pushed limited editions to their peak. Only making ten copies to be able to afford a giant print. His whopping 23x55” prints are enormous and sit at the top end at $850. For reference, limited edition prints for band posters are regularly a few hundred dollars, with more prominent bands being even more scarce and expensive.
He explained why only ten:
Alayna Danner (@Windrune)
Alayna took a play out of Terese’s playbook and made her panorama a limited edition. Notice her main aspect; it’s the paper. The quality will always be the most important part.
Donato Giancola (@donatoarts)
His basic land panorama is his newest in the line of limited prints. He has the 200/1000 options with price differences, per usual.
More commonly, Donato has the difference be about double the cost for ¼ of the print run in a larger size.
Donato also pre-framed lithographs already mounted of some of his artworks sold at conventions only. I own one of Cartographer and it’s a print run of 10. If you see him a Illuxcon or a Grand Prix, you’ll find he has those as well and they're often an affordable $100 or so.
Terese Nielsen (@tnielsenart)
Terese started the panorama prints of basic lands and she has had a sale or two in the past. To note from her, she also had promotional photos of her signing the limited print runs. It takes mere minutes to have ongoing social media imagery to promote a limited run. They need not be perfect, just honest in making them hand-signed.
Terese has print runs of 500 copies on her slightly larger 13x22” prints and a special run of 250 for her judge promo ones, shown below.
Integrate these into your convention offerings immediately. You can start with only part of your print run, say, #1-10 out of a run of 50 for the year, for each Grand Prix you attend, like Randy Post. Or you can sell half online and half in person during an event, with the event ones being 10-15% cheaper. The key is to keep them limited. Selling out is a good thing, not lost sales. You will always have open editions for people who just want the artwork.
If you need help with these things, get a hold of me. I’m easy to find and creating printers proofs is all part of previous jobs I’ve had. In an ideal world, you would prepare the print run about six weeks before a card’s release.
I briefly touched on how to integrate into a marketing strategy for a Grand Prix. This is the checkmark to begin getting into scarcity and some artists are beginning to grasp it. Start small and just start. The fans are already asking. Be ready with a product they want before they ask the next time around.