Open edition prints are fine art painting reproductions that do not have a limited print run. This means that the artist or company that owns rights to the painting may print as many reproductions as they want for resale. Prints may come in different styles, such as those printed on fine art paper or giclee prints, which are reproductions printed on canvas instead of paper.
Fine art prints may be open or limited editions. The difference between open and limited editions is that limited edition prints have a predetermined number of prints that cannot be exceeded. If the limited edition for a print run is set at 500, no more than 500 prints can ever be made, although there are exceptions for certain circumstances, such as art with a limited edition run of giclee prints but an open edition run of paper prints. Open editions can be printed thousands or even millions of times if the artist desires.
Open edition print runs can benefit the artist by not limiting the amount of income she can make from a single painting. Artists who are popular among mid-level or low-level income demographics may choose open print runs because they cannot charge as much per single print or painting as an artist popular among those with more disposable income.
The problem with open edition print runs is that because an unlimited number of prints can be made available, the value of each print is low. If a painting can only be produced 300 times, a higher price can be charged because only up to 300 people in the entire world can own a print of that art object. Limited editions are generally numbered in order to track the edition, and lower numbers carry a higher perceived value. Open editions are not usually numbered because when a particular print was made during a print run does not make it more valuable.
Open edition prints may be reproductions of fine art paintings or photographs. Sculptures may also be produced in limited or open editions, but they are not considered "prints" because the reproduction process is done through casting rather than printing. Some books are also released in limited edition printings, especially art books, but most books are considered open edition because reprintings are generally based on reader demand rather than the creator's decision to print. Instead, books may have first, second and third editions and beyond, each of which refers to a fresh print run, generally of a few thousand books each, with first editions being more valuable than later editions.
Regardless of the lower monetary value of open edition prints, if you are buying art for your personal enjoyment, the type of edition should not have influence over your selection. If you are buying fine art as an investment and your personal appreciation of the piece is secondary, limited editions or original artworks are generally a better investment than open edition prints.