What is a Certificate of Authenticity?
A Certificate of Authenticity or CoA is a supporting document included with artwork detailing information about the work, the artist, and ensuring its legitimacy.
Does my artwork really need a Certificate of Authenticity?
Including a Certificate of Authenticity with the purchase of your artwork lets the buyer know they are getting the real deal, and not some bootleg copy. A CoA adds an extra level of value and professionalism to your work. It's also an opportunity to add any disclaimers to protect you and your work (i.e. "the artist retains the copyright of the image and reproductions cannot be made without consent from the artist.") Legal mumbo jumbo aside, at the very least a CoA is an important piece of paper that rarely leaves the artwork's side. It's the perfect place to ensure your buyers have a method to contact you again should anything happen to artwork or they become interested in purchasing more.
Even if you're not interested in selling work or displaying it in galleries, CoAs are excellent for record-keeping. After creating a piece of art, affixing a CoA to the back or keeping one filed away with basic information like the title, medium, and date created will ensure you won't forget that critical information should it become important later on.
Is a Certificate of Authenticity just for original art?
While I would argue a CoA is critical to include with original artwork, it is also important to include with reproductions. Whether your buyer is an original art collector or a casual print buyer, they still bring your work home with them. A signature on the bottom corner or the back isn't always enough to help them find you again, especially if you go by a different brand name than how you sign your art. Including a business card with the sale isn't enough either. Business cards are imbued with a magical magnetic field that draws them toward a garbage can faster than you can ask, "Who made that lovely art on the wall?"
What information should I include on a Certificate of Authenticity?
The sky is the limit when it comes to the information you can include on a CoA. At the very least I'd include the title of the work and the artist's name. A good place to start would be:
Title of Artwork
Year of Creation
Statement of Authenticity, signed by the artist
After the basic information about the piece is written, the fun begins! Other information you can include on your CoA:
Edition Number (if it's a limited edition print)
Paper Type/Weight: This works great for both original work and reproductions.
Care Instructions: Keep away from direct sunlight & humidity. UV protectant glass.
About the Artwork: Share the story or inspiration.
About the Artist: Include a short bio.
Website, Social Media, and/or Contact Information
Photo of the Artwork
Here's an example of a Certificate of Authenticity mounted on the back of one of my art prints:
What Type of Paper Should I Use?
After you've decided all the important information to write on your Certificate of Authenticity, you may find yourself asking what kind of paper you should print it on. While regular printer paper could do the job and fancy textured art paper might be a bit much for something mounted on the back, I've found that a simple, smooth cardstock fits the bill for me.
Elevating the paper of your CoA adds an additional layer of professionalism and attention to detail that your buyers will appreciate. I've chosen a white 65lb. cardstock that ensures it won't dogear or wrinkle easily without too much extra cost. Ultimately the paper type of your Certificate of Authenticity comes down to branding more than anything else. This is an excellent opportunity to add a soft pop of color, an aged parchment texture, or something traditional that suits your work and style.