Artist’s, Publisher’s and Printer’s Proofs

Notes from Bruce Hamilton on Artist’s, Publisher’s and Printer’s Proofs (written sometime between 2001-2004)

“The whole arena of proofs has been one of confusion and misdirection. In the book trade, pre-publication copies are not usually called Publisher’s Proofs. Often they are given away in unnumbered, unknown quantities at book fairs or through the mail for promotional purposes, may be indistinguishable from regular editions, and wont command more money on the secondary market. Another Rainbow’s first book with Publisher’s Proofs was The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck by Carl Barks, that we put out in the early 1980s. There were approximately 250 Publisher Proofs total and though Another Rainbow’s contract with Disney did not allow their sale, when our former partner, Russ Cochran, sold his businesses and inventory to Diamond, he turned over his copies (probably 50 or more), so, because they had no agreement with Disney, Diamond immediately started to sell them. No price differential was established, so there would be no point today in asking a premium for that book or for Mickey Mouse in Color.

When it comes to lithographs, however, that’s different! For decades, maybe a hundred years, publishers gave Artist’s Proofs to the artists or sold them – always for premium prices – the quantities not expected to be more than 10% of the marketed editions.

When Another Rainbow began its lithograph program, we faced a dilemma: the artist, Carl Barks, and his wife expected proofs, our printer wanted proofs and we, as publisher, intended to keep a few, but our license did not allow us to sell any without paying Disney royalties. So, we assigned Barks some, gave the Black Box a few and saved a small number ourselves, all in very small quantities. Barks sold very few and the printer didn’t sell any until a single buyer came along from Europe who bought a quantity years ago. We, of course, as long as our license was in effect, never sold any, but did give a portion away (such as to the Walt Disney Company). Because of these restrictions, we didn’t attribute values to them on our secondary Market Update reports. Over the years, a few Publishers’ Proofs surfaced on the market, mostly ones that were consigned to auction houses by Disney executives who “cashed in” on prints given to them by the company. Predictably, the results varied widely, as uninformed consignors, uninformed auctioneers and unknowing buyers all blindly stumbled around.

Now, however, the situation has changed. When we gave up the license after Carl’s passing, we were now free to sell proofs with Disney’s full knowledge. ………..Artist’s Proofs have the highest values, double the price of Gold Plates! Publisher’s and Printer’s Proofs are 50% above the Gold Plates.