Business cards are somewhat of a commodity nowadays. Everyone has them, and most of them are pretty mundane. Coming from the standpoint of someone who manufactures them and genuinely appreciates creative, high quality business cards, I reluctantly concede to this reality. I think this phenomenon can be attributed to a lack of awareness about what is possible. For example, I rarely get requests for letterpress printing until I actually show people some letterpress business cards. When they see them and how incredible they look in person, they want them. When this happens, its a bit of a catch 22. On one hand, its great when someone decides to buy business cards that they love. But on the other hand, they sometimes aren’t ready to stomach the premium for such elegant business cards. The latter happens more than the former, which really sucks because we have to watch someone leave without the product that they really wanted.
The unfortunate nature of the printing industry is that high quality products are quite expensive in comparison to mainstream products. We tend to pride ourselves for positioning our products at a price point that competes very well against our competitors with the same specs. The problem is no matter how you slice it, the good stuff just costs more than the junk. So I am writing this blog post to publicize a few conversations that I have on a pretty much a daily basis at my business card shop in NYC. My hopes are that readers can come to terms with the fact that great business cards just cost more, but you do get what you pay for.
The first scenario is the most popular. I guess I can call this one the FedEx or Staples scenario. Every now and then, I’ll have a potential customer walk into our store and ask for business cards. They look through our samples and admire our workspace (we have a cool office) and ask what our prices look like. Since we specialize in high quality business cards, our product packages start at $99 for a box of business cards. Upon explaining this to our potential customer, they immediately reference FedEx or Staples and demand to know why we cant sell them for $49. Since we are talking about digital prints in this situation, I kindly explain that these chain stores typically carry minimum spec digital presses that are operated by inexperienced technicians. This results in thin flimsy cards that all have the same finish. They also have inconsistent color, and this weird semi-glossy sheen that makes them look mass produced. Our equipment is specialized, which allows it to accommodate thick, textured stock. The result is an elegant and sturdy business card that looks and feels substantial. Even though we cost $40 more, you actually have presentable cards. By comparison, the chain stores sell cards that many people are ashamed to give out. On that last point, its not my opinion, my customers have actually told me that.
The second scenario centers around thickness. Nowadays most business cards are printed on #110lb cover stock. Many printers have the capability of printing on #130lb stock, but I wouldn’t say its very common. We have decided to start at #130lb stock as our entry point in response to demand from our customers. The problem is that we carry paper as thick as #179lb. We even have the ability to double mount all the way up to #260lb, which is completely insane and impractical. But we can do it. Anyway, we’ve noticed that people tend to want the heaviest stock when they see it. When this happens, it has the unfortunate result of making the #130lb stock look insignificant by comparison, which is totally not true. Anyway, upgrading to the next tier of paper would be $165lb stock. This seemingly insignificant just adds quite a bit to the price, somewhere between $75-$125. The reason is because almost all printing equipment was not designed to handle papers that thick. We have 2 specialized presses that can. However, they are super difficult to use with paper that thick. So, the moral here is that ultra heavy paper is really cool and we love to do it, but it costs more. These costs are derived from legitimate labor and complexities in production, not because we are trying to bang anyone over the head for a few bucks.
There are actually many more stories like the two above, but we will save them for later blog posts. This post was simply about shedding light on why certain cards cost more than others. I would consider this post a success if it helps to educate just a few people on the nature of printing high quality business cards.