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Discussion on identifying print 'batches' ...

Posted by Dave Bull on November 26, 2006 [Permalink]

Mokuhankan prints are all issued in 'open editions' - that is, there is no intention to limit the number of prints produced, and no customers are being encouraged to believe that their print is (or will become) 'rare'.

In actual practice of course, the number of prints produced is a finite number. Resources (and customers!) are both scarce at present, so the prints are being printed in quite small batches. If it should happen that we never really get enough air under the wings for a full take-off, then those batches will end up being the full 'editions'. If, on the other hand, we do get this thing up and running in a big way, further batches of all the prints will be run off as necessary.

This brings up the question of how collectors can identify the prints they have purchased from Mokuhankan. Here is a quote (reproduced here with his permission) from a recent email I received from one of the earliest Mokuhankan customers:

Your sales and inventory page prompted me to order this print. If sales do not take off I am assured of owning a fine rare print. If they do pick up I will own an early copy of a popular print. ...

I tell you this half in jest. I am not really shopping for resale value, but many people do. Some justify buying a print by pretending to know what it's worth and how valuable it might become. I have read your thoughts on editions and I agree with you. ... But, I guess you also know that adding pencil stuff (even on the verso) will definitely increase sales. I suppose you might have considered a compromise position that would allow you to keep your print run open, but also feed the collectors and retailers with a notion of scarcity. Simply dating the print will give them satisfaction, if you were to indicate the month of printing and the size of the print run, they would be even happier. I do not think it is the sequential numbering of prints that attracts buyers, but the certain knowledge of the size of the pool of copies. People, and some dealers, imagine a print without pencil to be a worthless investment, because they assume there are thousands of copies in the cupboard or in circulation. Of course this is rarely the case, but they think it's easy to knock out a few thousand to have on standby. And let's face it we are competing with machines that do make thousands of copies.

So, going by this suggestion, I should put some kind of marks, numbers, what-have-you, on each print, to show that it came from a particular batch at a particular time.

I have no strong feeling either way on this, except that I am extremely allergic to putting any kind of numbers on the prints that could possibly be taken as an attempt to increase the monetary value of the print. "You like it? You buy it!" is the way I want to run things here ... nothing more, nothing less.

But I do have to admit that it would be kind of interesting for future print owners to be able to tell just what kind of Mokuhankan print they have in their hands. Collectors in our own day get great pleasure out of knowing such details on the - just for one example - Hasui prints they own.

So let's put the question out there for discussion/comment. Please let me know your thoughts on the issue of Mokuhankan including more information on each print ...




Added by: Marc on November 27, 2006, 11:11 am

Hi Dave,

As a shin-hanga researcher, I feel that the more information that is available, the better. In your inventory/sales displays, you show production dates / numbers and subsequent sales. I can't help but wish that current day collectors had such information available for the production of Watanabe, Hasegawa, Doi, etc.

Some sort of marking identifying which production batch a particular print belongs to would help future aficionados.

For Mokuhan-kan, I'd like to have on-line listings for the carver and printer for each batch. Also, if Mokuhan-kan prints ever become popular enough to wear out the old block-sets, documenting the re-carved blocks would be great.

Unfortunately for a guy who is "extremely allergic to putting any kind of numbers on the prints that could possibly be taken as an attempt to increase the monetary value of the print", this information will inevitably be used by future collectors to assign relative monetary value to prints. Certifiably earlier prints will be worth more to future collectors. That puts you in a bind. If you completely document your production, you'll be playing into the hand of the people who have the point of view that you so much object to.

On balance though, I really think that the more information the better.



Added by: Gary on November 28, 2006, 1:05 am

Simply be up front with the print history: who designed it, carved it, printed it, published it, and when. Solid ethical ground. Informative, not manipulative.

Added by: Tom Kristensen on November 28, 2006, 6:42 am

In the Japanese tradition it is common to decorate the print with production information. Given that you are happy to have the inventory information available to people on the net, why not let the print also carry some information? It is interesting to know the date of production, the size of the print run and the printer. If this helps to promote sales, so much the better.

Added by: Viza Arlington on November 28, 2006, 8:10 am

The little print that I purchaced from you came with a paper that talked a little about the print, perhaps you could include the date of production, the size of the print run and the printer here. Buy the way I love my print 'Plum Blossoms in Moonlight'. Some people will read about the print then through out the info page with the rest of the packaging and proudly hang their new print on the wall. While other folks will carefully archive both the print and info somewhere safe and away from light. Once a year or so they will bring it carefully into the light with white gloved hands and cherish it. It takes all kinds, so maybe some kind of compromise would be nice.


Added by: Michael Kohne on April 20, 2007, 1:40 am

I'd think that just adding a 'date of printing' along with the information you already have available should be sufficient. It may, someday, play into the hands of those obsessesed with money. But then, so what? As long as you don't let your self be changed by worrying about such things, does it matter what others will someday do?


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