Size and Price
Pretty much everywhere you look, bigger art costs more than smaller art.
The 20×200 project is about making art affordable. To that end, it sells art in three editions, differentiated by size. These editions are:
- small: roughly 8×10, edition size 200, price $20
- medium: roughly 17×22, edition size 20, price $200
- large: roughly 30×40, edition size 2, price $2000
I think that’s pretty interesting, and I learned a lot of interesting stuff by browsing back through the various offerings and noting how many of each size sold.
At this point, I don’t have any conclusions from all this. Just an interesting observation.
Here are my Cost of Goods Sold for three sizes of print, printed on my HP Z3100 on Crane Museo Portfolio paper:
- 6″x9″ : $2.11
- 14″x21″: $6.64
- 20″x30″: $12.87
That’s just the cost of consumables. I’ve not included wear and tear on the printer, nor have I included the cost of the time it takes me to sit down, load paper, push buttons, pack the print for shipping, etc. When I add in my costs for my time, I get a price scale that looks like this:
- 6″x9″ : $19
- 14″x21″: $24
- 20″x30″: $30
Now, what’s interesting is that when I add in the cost of my time, I get a price for the smallest print which is not very different from the cost 20×200 charges for their smallest print. But when we bump up the size, the 20×200 price jumps by a factor of ten. My price jumps by about $5, because that’s the difference in cost for me to crank out the larger print. It basically boils down to more ink and more paper. And when we take the next bump in size, the 20×200 price jumps by a factor of ten again, and my price jumps by about $6. The 20×200 price is now about 67 times more expensive than what I plan to sell a 20″x30″ print for.
If you go and look at the 20×200 web site, they’re not just offering big prints for these higher prices. If you believe what they’re saying about how many prints they’ve sold in the various editions (and I see no reason not to believe them), they’re actually selling them at these prices.
Now, I understand that they’re using product differentiation to sell similar but slightly different products at a set of prices that span a wide range, and they’re doing that so that they can snap up what in the pricing world is called ‘consumer surplus’. I understand that if someone has $2000 in their pocket to spend on one of my prints and is willing to spend the entire $2000 to get that print, and I sell it to him for $30 I’ve essentially left $1970 in his pocket instead of putting it in mine. Let’s ignore that problem for a second. It’s an interesting issue and I’ve not fully thought all that through, although I’d point out that there’s nothing stopping me from selling that guy 67 different prints at $30 and having a very happy customer.
No, there’s a different question on my mind, and it comes from the fact that 20×200 are using the same reproduction technique I’m using (inkjet printing) and if their volume is larger than mine, their COGS is certainly lower than mine. It’s not like their costs to produce that large edition print are a factor of 100 higher than their costs for the smallest print. My question, really, is this: why are people willing to actually pony up $2000 for that large print? Is it just that they’re unaware that the cost to produce the small print is 2 bucks (about 20% of the sales price) but that the cost to produce the largest print is something like $13 (and thus less than 1% of the sales price)?
I suspect that some of this has to do with tradition. A big painting costs much more than a small painting because it takes the painter longer to make the large painting than the small one. And buyers haven’t really come to grips with the fact that when it comes to buying SOME kinds of art, the cost of goods sold is now very low, and so they haven’t really adjusted their expectation of price.
When I started making big prints, a lot of my photographer friends told me the advice they got in school was “If you can’t make it better, make it bigger”. They told me bigger isn’t necessarily better. They told me that smaller prints suited their artistic vision, and that size wasn’t important. And then they went and sold different sized prints, and guess what – they priced the bigger prints higher. On the one hand, they’d say that size didn’t matter, and then on the other hand, they’d say that size mattered a whole lot.
I find all this fascinating and confusing, and looked at from a purely production side point of view I don’t see a whole lot of reasons why a 20″x30″ print ought to be priced at 100x the price of a 6″ x 9″ print. What would happen if 20×200 inverted their pricing, and sold the smallest prints in the smallest edition size and the highest price, and the largest prints in the largest edition size and the lowest price? Would it suddenly become very fashionable to have very small prints on your walls?