An Artist’s Proof is just that: an image made for the artist by the printer. AP’s, Artist Proofs, are usually produced in smaller numbers than the general edition, are marked as AP’s, and may be signed and numbered as well. Because the number of Artist Proofs is smaller and because the APs are “closer to the artist’s hand,” signed APs tend to be more valuable than the prints of a signed and numbered limited edition.
In the early days of printmaking, printer’s plates would wear down over time. Because of this, the first prints off the printing press were the highest quality and were designated “artist’s proofs”. The artist’s proofs were considered to be the best prints within the edition and often the artist kept them.
Technology has changed quite a bit since the early days of printmaking. Today, all prints within a run of offset lithographic prints or Giclee prints will be identical in quality. However, the tradition of having a special edition within the edition has stuck around. Today the value of owning an artist’s proof does not relate to quality, it relates to the importance of owning a rare portion of an edition. Most offset lithographic editions and Giclee editions include less than 20 percent artist’s proofs. Because the art world loves rarity and since there are fewer artist’s proofs than regular prints, they are preferred by many collectors.
A bit of history with Moss Artist: In the early years, (1974-1984) of publishing Moss works, the artist proofs were an essential part of planning each edition. The proofs were noted with an AP on each of the proofs but were not numbered. The reasoning could have been an issue with the process, although to look at each proof in my collection, you can’t really see significant differences in the prints. During those years, the proofs were actually used to determine how the edition was printed and the artist would approve or disapprove until the printing was an expression of what she intended the print to be.
The process of printing has become so automated and precise that colors may be tested and approved but the artist proofs offered for sale look exactly like the edition and we the entire edition of proofs is held by the artist in her private collection until she agrees they may be sold. Think of the proofs of today as being a tiny edition of twenty-five, signed and numbered prints, within any given edition, considered the cream of the edition and available for sale at the artist’s discretion. P Buckley Moss artist proofs are typically two and one-half to three times the value of any print from the matching edition. The line of value progression would be Original work, Artist Proof, Print. The perfect collection would be a collection containing an array of all of the categories in which the artist has published. Some collectors are only interested in original works while other art collectors seek a mix of all mediums.