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Limited Edition

Limited Edition.  A controlled quantity of an object whose production and sale to the public will not exceed the number stated when the object is first offered on the market. The size of the edition is sometimes stated on the object – on medallic items if may be a part of the edge lettering – and often has a serial number which should not exceed that edition size. No one, however, has the insight to know for certain exactly how many of any collectible item will sell, least of all the publisher who must set the edition limit.

Establishing a limited edition quantity is difficult, no amount of market research will reveal what this size should be, and it is often a no-win situation. Under estimating market demand – and setting too low an edition size – will result in lost profits. Overestimating the demand – and setting too high an edition size – results in unsold remainders. If the former happens an unscrupulous published may want to supply the demand and create duplicate numbers, or create a slightly different new edition, both of somewhat questionable ethics.

In theory unsold remainders preclude any limited edition item from advancing in value (anyone who wants the item or set can obtain it easily). In reality, however, it sometimes creates greater demand because they are available, advertised and promoted to new buyers.

Collectors prefer small editions, making any piece they own as rare as possible. Publishers like large edition sizes to maximize their profits. While setting edition sizes as an estimate at best, a crystal ball game, and no amount of logic will dictate a limited edition size for any particular item, integrity is more important than size.

With the rise of mass manufactured collectible items (plates, medals, figurines, chess sets, et al since the 1960s), a new concept of limited edition arose: the cut off date. As many people who wanted the item could order by a certain date – that gave the maker the exact number to manufacture – and the size of the edition. This curtailed any remainders overhanging the market.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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