Idea of Pricing

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Doctor G

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I am not looking for anyone to tell me what I should price my pens for. It’s just that before I got into pen turning I never bought or looked for pens in the $50, $75, $100, $500 or up range. From what I’ve surmised slimline pens with nice wood turned or acrylic blanks would sell for $20 to $25. As someone who has turned bowls previously I’m an absolute newbie to pen turning. My question is could someone give me a rough idea of what kind of pen kits and blanks could sell for the above prices? That would give me an idea of whether I would be capable of making pens like that after I gain experience.
 
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magpens

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In my opinion, you are not going to make any money by selling pens for $20 - $25 .... not even slimlines.
I base this on a materials + kit cost of $8+ and then your time.

In my experience, people who buy hand-made pens are looking for something special.

My best sellers have been priced at $70 - $110, and that's based on a kit + materials cost of about $20 or so, probably even more.
They take me about 4 hrs to make (I am rather slow and meticulous) so even at that selling price this is not "get-rich-quick" by any means.

A significant part of your cost which I have ignored is the site-cost for your display/table and that depends a lot on the venue. . During this time of Covid a lot of shows have been cancelled so I have left this cost out of the consideration.

Will be interested to read the feedback from others.
 
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I haven't had a chance, yet, to sell a whole bunch of pens. I have some pens that won't leave my table for anything less than $50.00 and those are the ones in the middle of the pack as kits (i.e. Cigar pens, Cosmopolitans etc.). I could be way off but like I said, I haven't sold a lot yet.

PSI has a pricing tool on their site by each kit but I never go by the highest price, they're usually way off. I go to the middle of the pack and adjust to that. The other question is what venue are you selling too, Etsy, Ebay etc? I've found on Etsy and Ebay many pens are way under priced and the maker is barely covering their costs. People leave out the cost of wear and tear on their equipment let alone component parts (like band saw blades). Lathe's don't last forever and it's always nice to have the cash in your business to replace it with the funds you've gotten from selling your products. That's how I run my small business.

I sell more knives than pens and here's how I price them. I take all my costs, knife blank, scales, epoxy, pins, sandpaper, finishes-you get it, add those all together and come up with a cost per knife less my labor. My labor I figure at zero, some will disagree but in my eyes, it's still just a hobby. I take that final cost per knife and for wholesale I take that cost and multiply it by 3, for retail it's 5 times.
As an example, if I have a blank that costs, say, $20.00 and all the other stuff added up equals a cost of $5.00 then my cost for that knife is $25.00. Based on my calculations my wholesale selling price is $75.00 and retail would be $125.00. I spend around 10-12 hours per knife, sometimes more, you can figure out my labor return. Hope this makes sense.

I don't sell through Etsy as I've found it to be a format that doesn't match my philosophy on selling. When someone on Etsy sells a nice slimline pen for $20.00, in my opinion, they're underselling the market and hurting every other turner. Don't be afraid to charge a price you're happy with. Barry Gross made a statement about pricing, darn wish I could remember it, but basically he states don't under sell your product just to make a sale.

Mals info above is spot on.

Hope this helps.
 
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1080Wayne

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I totally agree with Mal . I start slims and Euros at $50 , Sierras at $60 , and go up from there . Don`t know about Mal , but I guarantee not all of my customers are millionaires .

Many people like to buy a pen with a story attached , whether it be that the material used is exotic from the other side of the world , or that it relates to a childhood experience , such as their favourite climbing tree at grandma`s house , or a baseball bat . Others prefer the colour and flash of plastic .

Some will say that their local markets will not accept those prices , and I`m sure that is generally true , but most communities have some individuals capable of conspicous consumption , although they may not flaunt it . Others prefer to give away the pens they make , getting as much pleasure from the giving as from the making . We are all different .
 

Kenny Durrant

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Some take the cost of materials and then double that. Then they charge $20 per tube for labor turning and add the two together and that’s how they get their cost. I just try to compare my pens to others that’s out there that I think is on the same level and try to be competitive. The thing I noticed first when I first started was there’s a ton of people turning pens. The two things I try to accomplish is to make something different to set myself apart from the rest and I want people to notice that my pens aren’t store bought as soon as they see them. Try to think like the consumer. Why pay more than a few bucks for a pen you can get at a store and why pay more for something you can get cheaper just around the corner. I’ve sold a few slimlines for $75-$100. The reason why was there wasn’t anything else like then at the time. As I mentioned before it’s getting harder to separate yourself from the pack because tools are more available and people are just getting better.
 

mmayo

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My pens range from $25 saturns to $175 premium 22K gold and rhodium fountains. A bolt goes for $50-$60. Triton convertibles with fountain and rollerball sell for $125. I don’t really care what others do where they live, this works for me here.
Make them as perfect as you can and as pretty and unique as you can. Stand by your work completely. Life will be good.
 
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Penchant 4

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Cannot recall the actual name of the person, but someone with what could be termed long experience at selling turned items; said that a turner should make a minimum of $1/minute at the lathe. This did not include any other time, nor did it include materials, consumables, etc. It was strictly charge for time turning.
 

jttheclockman

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No one can tell you what to sell your pens at and would be foolish to try. As you see people are giving you their results and theirs alone. But quality of the pen plays a HUGE part in pricing as well as blank used weather segmented, special wood, cast by owner and the like. The reports you see are for off the shelf blanks and that is all. Location plays another big role as well as type of kit or if it is a fountain pen, rollerball, or ball point. My point is there is no formula and those that use hours and $$ per are just ball parking it. Take that same pen and sell at a highend show and it can double or triple and yet time never changed. Here are some past threads on the subject and have at it. Good luck you will figure your price point out and go from there.
https://www.penturners.org/search/43610/?q=what+to+price+pens+at&o=relevance
 

dogcatcher

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The final answer is "Charge whatever the market will bear." Non of the magical formulas can account for local markets. At some places/shows, the market is ripe for picking, others you have to sell for less to get sales.
 

sorcerertd

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I am not anywhere near as experienced at making or selling pens as many others here are, but here's my little bit of experience. There was never thought of selling pens when I got started, but they piled up pretty fast and so did the cost of making them. I still consider it a hobby and just want it to be self supporting going forward. So far that's been working.

I started selling on Etsy, because it's easy and has a lot of traffic. The fees do eat into the bottom line some, but I can live with that for the convenience. As of 10/13, it will be 1 year since I opened the store. I have no intention on making a living from selling pens (or any hobby/craft items), but I also don't want to be known as a place to get cheap pens.

That being said, I do have very basic slimlines and similar Cross style pens at $26, my lowest price for now and I'm not planning on doing anything for less. The pens that I have sold the most of are more expensive, in the $45-55 range and I'm working at making that my lower price range as I progress. They are more unique, even if it is just a couple basic straight cut segments with a soda can glued between them. As has been stated, people want something different and even my short time selling has shown me that is an accurate assessment. The cost of materials was pretty much the same for me on the higher priced ones, sometimes even less using cut-offs and such, but it took me longer, so I charge more. To me, it makes sense to match your pricing to your skill level, giving yourself a "raise" per hour as your work improves. When I get to the point where I am able to do some nicer segmenting and more elaborate designs, spending multiple hours just creating the blank, let alone carving and finishing it, I will definitely charge a lot more for them. Artisans would not price pens for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars if people were not buying them at that price.
 

MRDucks2

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Washington, IN
During my first year of pen making I had a lady order 4 pens for the men in her family. These were lower cost single barrel pens, not the bottom price but not far up. They were also a shorter pen than many. I cautioned her and recommended a cigar type pen, but they were about $15 more per pen.

She had me make the originals and asked to deliver them to a gathering we would both be attending. There she showed one to one of the guys she actually bought it for to see what he thought. He picked it up, looked at it and tossed it across the table saying he would never use a little pen like that. She asked if I could credit her what she paid and make the cigar pens I had recommended. I did and provided her the pens as Christmas was approaching. When I sent her the bill for the additional $60 she sent me half the amount and indicated she didn’t feel the difference in the pens was enough to justify the price difference.

Fast forward 6 months when she and her husband stopped by my house from a road trip. They had stopped in Nashville, Indiana and went to some of the shops. One had pens. She was happy to report that the pens there were double my prices and weren’t near as nice. She still didn’t give me the other $30.

Sisters are like that.

Point is, as Zig Ziglar told all of us listening to his cassettes when driving around in the company El Camino... “Perception is everything” when it comes to sales.
 

PaulWitmer

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Jan 13, 2014
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Barrie ON Canada
Pricing is always a hot topic. My price may be totally different than someone else's, and that's OK. The one important aspect that everyone has also mentioned is that your time needs to be accounted for. Even as a hobby, which I consider what I do is, I need to be able to keep the hobby running itself. I treat my hobby as a business to ensure it funds itself. That in mind, I have not ever have to use personal funds for my hobby.

Cost of materials is self explanatory. Consumables need to be added as well as wear and tear on the equipment and accessories that are used. I guess-timate the cost of my rather fixed costs (electricity, heat, rent, etc) and include them in my product costs. That being said, I sell my products from $28 for some plain slims up to $275 for my premium roller ball / fountain pens with high end finishes. My average pen sale as been going up over the years to the point that I rarely sell any lower priced pens now. The average pen I sell now is in the $75 - $100 range. I try to keep my pens reasonably priced (in my opinion).

In the long run though, you need to charge what the market will bear.
 

DrD

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Just as a for-instance. I have included 2 shots of a cross refill ball point I've been working on for 3 days now. I'l assemble it tomorrow using a titanium gold cap, clip and nib (taken from a Slimline). The body of the pen is Liquid Copper Acrylic (BHWAA D) and the section is translucent gray also from BHW.
This will be taken to a show soon and will be priced at $116.00, and I fully expect it to sell for that price.
DrD
 

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magpens

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Beautiful pen, Don !!!

Thanks for showing !!!

And thanks for the discussion re pricing ... I hope you will let us know the actual sale outcome, please. . Very interesting topic.
 

1080Wayne

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Just as a for-instance. I have included 2 shots of a cross refill ball point I've been working on for 3 days now. I'l assemble it tomorrow using a titanium gold cap, clip and nib (taken from a Slimline). The body of the pen is Liquid Copper Acrylic (BHWAA D) and the section is translucent gray also from BHW.
This will be taken to a show soon and will be priced at $116.00, and I fully expect it to sell for that price.
DrD
It will sell , Don , but I would suggest changing the price to $120 . Pricing in 1 $ increments on items worth over $100 is akin to dime store pricing . Your preferred customer is intelligent enough to know that there is no significant difference between priceing something at 99 cents and priceing it at 1$ . I use 5$ increments on anything between 25 and 100 .

The other consideration is your local and state taxes , whatever they may be , which I assume you may have to collect and remit . I would have the posted price inclusive of all taxes , and make that very clear . The advantage is that you don`t have to worry about small change , and a few extra pennies accrue to you .
 
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ConnectJLD

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Oct 26, 2020
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Round Rock, Tx Area
I am not anywhere near as experienced at making or selling pens as many others here are, but here's my little bit of experience. There was never thought of selling pens when I got started, but they piled up pretty fast and so did the cost of making them. I still consider it a hobby and just want it to be self supporting going forward. So far that's been working.

I started selling on Etsy, because it's easy and has a lot of traffic. The fees do eat into the bottom line some, but I can live with that for the convenience. As of 10/13, it will be 1 year since I opened the store. I have no intention on making a living from selling pens (or any hobby/craft items), but I also don't want to be known as a place to get cheap pens.

That being said, I do have very basic slimlines and similar Cross style pens at $26, my lowest price for now and I'm not planning on doing anything for less. The pens that I have sold the most of are more expensive, in the $45-55 range and I'm working at making that my lower price range as I progress. They are more unique, even if it is just a couple basic straight cut segments with a soda can glued between them. As has been stated, people want something different and even my short time selling has shown me that is an accurate assessment. The cost of materials was pretty much the same for me on the higher priced ones, sometimes even less using cut-offs and such, but it took me longer, so I charge more. To me, it makes sense to match your pricing to your skill level, giving yourself a "raise" per hour as your work improves. When I get to the point where I am able to do some nicer segmenting and more elaborate designs, spending multiple hours just creating the blank, let alone carving and finishing it, I will definitely charge a lot more for them. Artisans would not price pens for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars if people were not buying them at that price.
"To me, it makes sense to match your pricing to your skill level, giving yourself a "raise" per hour as your work improves." That is kind of where I am at. About 10 years ago I bought some stuff and made about 30 pens or so as gifts etc and have not done anything much since most of the years since until last summer I made probably 200 keychains to hand out as gifts at an event. Now I have been making pens again and hope to sell them for enough to fund it's self (Materials, wear and tear, etc ) and make enough to have a little extra. My goal is... as my skill level rises is to hopefully be able to sell most in the $25-50 range.
 

ed4copies

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Racine, WI, USA.
The first pens I made took two hours. When I stopped doing shows, I could make a "plastic" pen in about 20 minutes, so I made 8 pens in that two hours--AND their quality was better--experience was the difference.

I give a 90 minute presentation on selling pens. Lesson one: pick a location that HAS money. Demographics are available online. Then offer pens at every level from $25 to $500 or more. Realize many will be gifts, so people want to spend $50, $100, $200, $250... etc depending on their financial wherewithal and the "dearness" of the recipient. Also realize you will seldom sell the most expensive thing you offer, but midrange increases as top end increases.

If you are selling on-line--research the successful sellers on etsy--the site tells you who sells the most, look at THEIR pricing, pictures, text and do likewise.
 

jtillery

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Dec 16, 2016
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Justin TX
The first pens I made took two hours. When I stopped doing shows, I could make a "plastic" pen in about 20 minutes, so I made 8 pens in that two hours--AND their quality was better--experience was the difference.

I give a 90 minute presentation on selling pens. Lesson one: pick a location that HAS money. Demographics are available online. Then offer pens at every level from $25 to $500 or more. Realize many will be gifts, so people want to spend $50, $100, $200, $250... etc depending on their financial wherewithal and the "dearness" of the recipient. Also realize you will seldom sell the most expensive thing you offer, but midrange increases as top end increases.

If you are selling on-line--research the successful sellers on etsy--the site tells you who sells the most, look at THEIR pricing, pictures, text and do likewise.
Out of everything I read- this made the most sense "Lesson one: pick a location that HAS money"
 

PreacherJon

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Aug 28, 2019
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119
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Ohio
I don't sell much anymore... I do offer Rollerball pens pretty inexpensive for preacher and missionaries. I put it out there for someone to sponsor a preacher/missionary to buy a pen for them... After it is made, I send it directly to the recipient with a letter of thanks for service. I will only charge about 80 dollars... that covers pretty much all my cost, for materials, tooling and shipping. For these I don't charge for my time. When I do sell these pens... Usually Zen and Jr. Gent and Statesman... they will sell for $125 and up. But, I just don't sell like that anymore... it started to take the fun away and it became a job, not a hobby.
 
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