A Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) is a document that certifies that an artwork is an authorized reproduction on original. It helps to prove that they artwork is not a forgery or unauthorized copy. There are many different styles and formats that are used in the art world. While different artists and photographers use different styles of certificates, there are some elements that appear on most of them. These include the title of the work and the name of the artists. If the artwork is a part of limited edition run, it is common for the certificate to show the total number of prints in the series and what number this particular print is in the set.
An authorizing signature is also common. This can be from the artist himself, the publisher, the gallery or auction house that is selling the work, or from an appraiser. If the print has been manufactured by a third party, this companies information can be listed as the workshop or atelier. It is also common to include the medium of the image. Some common mediums include Giclée on canvas and lithograph on paper, especially for reproductions of paintings. There are also a wide range of specific papers and processes that can be listed for artworks by photographers, digital artists, or print makers. See the example below from my Giclée on canvas print “Kiss” to see what a CoA looks like.
Some items that can be commonly found on a CoA include (fig. 1):
- The name of the certificate
- The title of the image
- The number of the print
- The number of prints in this size or sub-edition
- A description of the print
- The medium of the print
- The size of the print
- The total edition size. This includes all sub-editions.
- The numbering breakdown. If this print comes in multiple sizes of sub-editions, this area lists the total number of editions in each category.
- The release date
- The workshop, atelier, or printer’s name.
- The Artists name
- Signature of the artists, publisher, or gallery that authorized the certificate.
Numbering Limited Editions
Limited edition prints often come in different sizes of images. In this case the different sizes are called “sub-editions” as they further divide the total number of prints in to editions of each size. In the example above, you can see that the total edition size is 295. There are two sub-editions for different picture sizes and one sub-edition for Artist Proofs (a term which can have different meanings. In this case “Artist Proofs” means that the prints have been further hand painted or embellished by the artist.) The total number of the sub-editions add up to the total edition size. Aside from different image sizes, sub-editions can also be used for prints on different materials (paper vs canvas), Printers Proofs, and not-for-sale proofs. The not for sale prints are usually given as gifts to people involved in the publication process, or used for marketing purposes.
Getting Specific: Printers and Inks
Some artists, photographers, and print-makers will get very specific about the methods used to create their images. Some will even go so far to include the type of ink, brand of paper, and model of printer used to create the picture.
A certificate of authenticity can provide valuable information to a prospective art buyer. It also helps to verify that the reproduction in question is authentic, and not a counterfeit. Shawn Mackey’s limited edition prints on canvas come with a certificate of authenticity.