I provide a certificate of authenticity for each limited edition archival photograph I make. Each certificate has a registry serial number with a holographic background; a matching serial number is affixed to the back edge of the photograph. The certificate is printed on heavy paper with a decorative border. A sample is shown below.

Certificates of authenticity are issued by artists, galleries, or art experts who have knowledge of the origin of an artwork. The documents vary based on the creator and circumstances. This article describes the certificate of authenticity I issue for my artwork.

Why a certificate of authenticity?

To sell limited edition art in South Carolina (where I am based), New York, California, and many other US States where I have collectors, this is a legal requirement. It is routine for artists, galleries, and art dealers worldwide to use certificates of authenticity for photographs and other limited edition art. This document provides collectors with peace of mind through information about the artwork. If you ever sell or transfer the artwork (for example, to an heir) the certificate of authenticity will be important.

What is on the certificate of authenticity?

  • My name as the artist (A. K. Nicholas.)
  • The title of the artwork you purchased.
  • The size of the image.
  • The approximate size of the paper.
  • The year I created the art and the year you bought it.
  • The media (archival photograph, pigmented ink printed on 100% cotton matte art paper, 300 g/m2).
  • The number of photographs in the edition, including unnumbered proofs, if any.
  • The specific photograph number of the photograph you own (this corresponds to the photograph number written on the lower left front border.)
  • My catalog ID for this edition.
  • The registry serial number for your artwork.
  • A visual reference of the artwork.
  • My signature, attesting to the following:

The fine art photograph you own belongs to a strictly limited edition, hand signed and numbered by the artist, A.K. Nicholas. The master digital file is in the artist’s custody. No additional multiples of the same image, including proofs, have been or will be produced in this or in any other edition.

Some of the above is to comply with legal requirements while others are provided for your convenience. I have made minor changes to the format and . Although the basic format has stayed the same, some earlier certificates did not include all of this information.

What to do with the certificate

Keep your certificate of authenticity in a safe place, along with the purchase receipt. If you ever transfer ownership the artwork (through sale, gift, or inheritance,) the certificate of authenticity should be handed over to the new owner, along with a copy of your purchase receipt. This helps to establish provenance (a history of the artwork to its origin.) The new owner should also receive a receipt, bill of sale, or other documentation of the method they acquired the artwork.

What is not on a certificate of authenticity?

The certificate does not contain any pricing or shipping information. These details are found on your purchase receipt.

Certificate Design

The appearance of A. K. Nicholas’s certificates of authenticity depend on when the artwork was purchased. Example designs and dates appear below.