‘Buy what you like’ is the comforting mantra trotted out to anyone wanting to start an art collection. A more prudent approach is to find a piece you like that also has long-term investment value. But where to begin without breaking the bank? Curator and dealer Caroline Wiseman advises you to consider artists’ prints. ‘An original print is conceived, executed and overseen by the artist using techniques like etching or screen-printing, to achieve effects you can’t replicate in paintings or drawings,’ she explains. ‘An original print is not to be confused with a giclée print, which is a mechanical reproduction of an artist’s work.’

Japanese Anemones by Joanna Wright
Japanese Anemones screenprint, Joanna Wright, £350, Kittoe Contemporary.

Original prints are produced in editions ranging in size from 25 to 250. A work from a smaller edition (under 100) will have more value than those from a larger print run. The size of the edition is marked by the artist on the bottom of the artwork. Condition is important: tears, fading, foxing (mould), trimming (where a piece has been cut to fit a frame) or inept framing can all affect value, while a signature will always add value.

When it comes to artists, prints by Royal Academicians are a safe investment. ‘You can buy works by Royal Academicians such as Chris Orr or Eileen Cooper for a few hundred pounds. They have a reputation, so if you’re looking for something that will keep its value you’re always better off buying a work by an RA, or a known artist. An artist’s membership of the RA is for life and means their work is shown at the museum. It’s increasingly difficult for artists to show work in galleries, so that exposure is key.’

Home etching by David Hockney
Home, from illustrations for six fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, etching, David Hockney, est £8,000-£12,000, Phillips.

Twentieth-century masters such as Picasso, Chagall, Matisse or the prolific Miró all produced prints (these are not always signed). Prices for their work has remained static for the last decade, says Caroline, so now is a good time to buy. However, prices for David Hockney have soared in the last decade. ‘I recently sold a rare Hockney etching for £12,000, which has probably shot up to £20,000 now,’ she says. Other names to look out for include Albert Irvin, Tessa Newcomb and Anne Desmet.

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Albert Irvin RA
Keppler I, screenprint with woodblock, Albert Irvin, £3,000, Advanced Graphics London.

Artichoke Print Workshop in London is a studio where artists produce prints for clients including the V&A and the British Museum. Art presses such as Paragon, Advanced Graphics and Counter Editions also produce and sell exceptional-quality works by a wide range of artists.