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How Much Do Letterpress Business Cards Cost?

by | Jun 3, 2016 | Corporate Stationery, Letterpress

That’s a great question!

There’s plenty of letterpress eye candy out there, but not a ton of answers about how much that eye candy costs. You might even be frustrated by round-about answers from printers who want to see your art before committing to a number.

Today, you’ll have your answer!

But first, a little history.

A lot has changed in the world of letterpress printing. Presses that were once the center of every print shop in America suffered neglect and were often scrapped in the name of progress. New, more efficient technologies (like offset and digital printing) replaced them. Then, sometime in the last decade, our tastes changed and these beautiful old machines found a new home. The mechanisms that were once used to deliver a “kiss” print were perfect for sculpting texture into thick paper.

Supply and demand are definitely in play here. Demand rose first, driving the prices up, then supply caught up and prices levelled off. They look like they might even coming down some.

All that said, letterpress is not what most people would call a “budget option.” Some options are much more affordable than others, though you may sacrifice quality or service to save.

What are my options?

A fair, but loaded, question.

There are a million ways to configure a letterpress business card – various sizes and paper weights, embellishments like foil stamping or embossing, edge-painting and a ton more.

If you’re looking for letterpress business cards, you have (by and large) two options: templated cards and fully-custom.

Fully-custom letterpress business cards

While the sky’s the limit with custom business cards, many printers have a standard configuration. The figures below come from the published price lists or pricing calculators of several shops and the figures provided to me directly be a few fellow printers.

The one thing to note about custom business cards – The price doesn’t include design. This is commercial printing for designers – you’re expected to have camera-ready artwork at these prices. That means that your cards have been properly designed in a vector-based program (in almost all cases) and is colored correctly with Pantone colors. Some shops offer in-house design, but you’ll pay more for it.

For many print shops, a fairly standard business card is 2 letterpress colors on one side of a heavy paper (40-45 points thick) that contains some (or 100%) recycled cotton. That’s what these numbers will get you:

Qty:   100 250 500
Printer A $233 $310 $400
Printer B $443 $551
Printer C $300 $345 $420
Printer D $409 $500 $652
Printer E $304 $383 $500
Printer F $180 $305 $490
Printer G $385 $600
Printer H $197 $275 $415
Printer I $265 $340 $470
Printer J $290 $442.50 $765

That means the average price per card for an order of 100 is $2.72. For 250 cards, it’s $1.49. And for 500 cards, it’s $1.05.

It may be sticker shock if you’ve ordered from the more popular online shops or even your local print shop – there, you may have spent just a couple cents per card. This is apples and oranges. Very nice, super high-impact oranges that make people want to rub them against their faces.

Where was I?

Letterpress business cards from templates

Some printers offer pre-designed cards. Often, ordering them is as simple as adding a design to the shopping cart and entering your text at checkout. Some of these designs are very nice and may suit you well.

Again, 40ish point thick stock (Crane Lettra is a common one) is the name of the game, though these cards are each 1-color only.

Qty:   100 250 500
Printer A $170 $205 $245
Printer B $100
Printer C $150 $270
Printer D* $250 $350

That makes for an average of $1.35 per card for 100, $0.81 at 250, and $0.96 at 500. I thought that was peculiar that the per-card price actually goes up from 250 to 500. You’ll also notice, one printer only offers quantities of 100 and two of them start at 250.

*Printer D’s cards were on a paper half the thickness of the others

What does it all mean?

Let me ask you this:

Why do you want letterpress business cards?

Do you want to stand out compared to your competition? Do you want to leave an impression on your contacts? Do you want to attract a higher-quality client? Do you want to close bigger deals?

Then you’re going to have to invest in your presentation.

Letterpress is not the affordable choice. It’s an investment in your brand. In the way your business is perceived.

As a guideline, it’s a safe bet to expect to invest at least $1 per business card. If you have a complex job or one with embellishments, they’re going to cost more. That means three or more colors, foil stamping, embossing, die-cutting and other less-standard options.

You may also notice, the more cards you buy, the lower the per-card cost (most of the time), so buy as many as you can use and afford at one time.

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