Month: February 2013

What is a giclee?

Giclee (a french word pronoucne zhee-clay) is a fancy form of ink jet printing that can be used to make high quality reproductions of paintings, posters and photographs. Numerous famous have made giclees, including photographers Richard Avedon and David Bailey and painter Stephen Holland. A photographer can scan an original negative or transparency and make a giclee from that.

What does a ‘plate signed’ print mean?

For a print, plate signed means the artist put his ‘signature’ on or into the printing plate and the resulting prints have his printed faux signature. The signature is part of printed graphics. Some might call it a faux or pre-printed signature.

This is as opposed to ‘hand signed’ print, where the artist autographed the finished print by hand.

Hand signing a print is a relatively recent thing , starting in late 1800s. Original Rembrandt and Durer prints are not hand signed. Durer prints often have his monogram as part of the printed graphics.

In modern times, the artist’s hand signature on an original print shows that the print was personally approved as finished by the artist. The artist signs it when it’s all finished and meets his or her approval. Prints that didn’t come out right go unsigned and are often literally destroyed and tossed in the trash. This explains why art collectors pay more for a hand signed original print by a famous artist. The extra price is not just because it’s autographed, but because the autographed indicates the print was personally okayed by the artist.

When in doubt assume a trading card isn’t a proof

1880s Allen & Ginter blank backed 'card' handcut from a lithograph album page

Not a proof: 1880s Allen & Ginter blank backed ‘card’ handcut from a lithograph album page

The trading card hobby puts a premium on proof cards. Proofs are pre-production test cards the printers use to check graphics and text before the final print run. Vintage card proofs are often blank backed, sometimes on different stock than the final cards, often with hand cut borders and little pencil written crosses on the borders. Proofs can sell for good money as they are rare and offer a look at the creation of the cards.

The collector should be aware that many cards resembling that proofs aren’t proofs. The manufacturers sometimes accidentally printed cards with blank backs and inserted them into the packs of gum or tobacco. These aren’t proofs, but printing errors.

There are also ‘cards’ that were long ago scissors cut from vintage advertising posters, tobacco albums and kids’ notebooks. As these cutouts have hand cut borders, blank backs and different than normal stocks, they are often mistakenly called proofs.

Collectors will also come across printer’s scraps, often of T206 baseball cards. These scraps came from a printer’s rejected sheet, often with poorly printed images, bad color registration and other graphics problems– which is why it was rejected, or scrapped, by the printer. These rejected sheets were rescued from the trash bin by workers, often to be taken home for the kids. The individual scrap cards that we see today were hand cut from the sheets. As the cards are hand cut, often oversized and usually with printing defects, they are often mistaken for proofs. As with the above mentioned blank backed cards, scraps are simply factory mistakes.

misprinted 1909-11 T206 baseball card.  Commonly referred to as a 'scrap.'

Not a proof: misprinted, funky cut 1909-11 T206 baseball card. Commonly referred to as a ‘scrap.’

As you can see there are lots of non-proof cards that resemble proofs. When in doubt it’s best to bid on an unusual card assuming it isn’t a proof, because it likely isn’t. Scraps and other printing mistakes are collectable, but are much more plentiful and inexpensive than genuine proofs.