Determining the precise value of a letterpress and other print shop equipment can be a difficult task. We will discuss the value of a press, but the same information can be applied to other print shop equipment.
Numerous factors will determine how much a buyer is willing to pay for a press, the greatest of which may be the intensity of the buyer’s desire to own it. Still, there are more concrete considerations that will affect the value or perceived value of any letterpress. While we cannot say with certainty how much a press is worth in a growing and fluctuating market, we can offer a few guidelines and thoughts.
Some price guidelines
Presses that are not considered collectable are becoming more rare these days, partially due to the success of auction services like eBay. Yet there are presses, such as various models made by Kelsey and Chandler & Price, that are still relatively common. A Kelsey Excelsior 5 by 8 or 6 by 10 may sell for $400 to $500 and up. The popular Chandler & Price Pilot which a short time ago would cost from $500 to $800 and up, have now become rare at that price. Prices currently vary from over $1,000 - $2,000 and up.
The size of a press usually has little bearing on it’s price. Some of the smaller, older presses bring far higher prices than larger ones, sometimes simply because the smaller ones are easier to collect and relocate. Larger presses, such as the Challenge Job or the Chandler and Price Gordon, are sold for seemingly-low prices ranging from $200 to $500 or more, because the cost of moving or shipping these heavyweights can add considerably to the price. A professional mover might charge three to five hundred dollars to move a 10 by 15 press just across town. If it has to be moved into or out of a basement or second story location, the price would be considerably more. These presses are sometimes offered free to anyone who will pay for their relocation. Presses may bring higher prices and are more easily sold in locations that are near an active printing community or a metropolitan area.
Presses sell for higher prices if they are especially desirable to collectors. Contributing factors:
- Age. Older models are usually rarer. For instance, the Excelsior Hand-Inking Model 1 and the Model 2 1/2 are both early versions of the relatively common Excelsior line that fetch high prices.
- Condition. Presses with original paint and detailing are highly sought-after. A press that has been repainted may be less desirable to a collector, but this too is changing as more people are restoring old, rusty presses for use and collecting.
- Completeness. Best if the press has all its parts, but some parts on the more popular and available presses can be easy to replace. Frequently missing parts include removable items such as the chase, rollers and/or roller cores, ink disc, and springs.
- Operability. Presses in working condition are generally more desirable. Parts that are broken or welded can be difficult to replace, depending on the press.
- Rarity. Unusual presses, even those in less-than-good condition, are often sought by collectors, sometimes just for parts.
- Size. Larger presses that may be difficult to move or disassemble can be a burden for the buyer and can be therefore less desirable. However, the exception are the older more rare presses or iron hand presses such as the Columbian, Albion, and Washington style presses. Interest in these presses has increased and buyers will pay the price to move these presses great distances, although the price of moving them will be taken into account in the price of the press. Condition, location and details as described above are still factors.