Does anyone know how this started

I have been around printing since 1964 when I started in a vocational class in letterpress printing.

No one has told me how this came about, but as an old person, I would like to know.

A plumber, an auto mechanic can charge $50 to $100 just to talk to you about what you want before charging hundreds of dollars for a job.

A printer can ask $35 for a box of standard black ink business cards etc, and the customer will get very upset and tell you the fellow down the street does the same printing for only $15.

Did giving away printing start long before I got into, with people giving away printing just to get work?

Had a plumber come to home Thursday he wouldn’t come unless I paid him $65 for driving to home.

Do people feel that printers should get paid?

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Recently I called a plumber to scope my drains and see if the cast iron had rotted out, thereby causing settling of the concrete slab. I tried to cancel the appointment after finding another plumber who would do it for half-price. The dispatcher cancelled the call but he showed up anyway and said he would do it for free. The second plumber said he did that in the hopes of building goodwill with the expectation I would use them if the inspection revealed the need for expensive repairs. I honestly felt bad not paying the plumber, but feel more comfortable now, having considered the second plumbers explanation. Oddly, the plumber who did not come out to do free work is actually the only one who sounded a little pissed. Was it because he did not get the chance to do free work?

Why don’t people value the work of the printing craft? You can buy a Brother ink-jet printer at Wal-Mart for $25 that will churn out at least 100 good quality pages before it runs out of ink. For the average person, this is their baseline.

Putting image to paper isn’t why customers choose letterpress. They want that look and feel of letterpress, they want to support a local business, and they want unique designs, they want that plaid shirts & etsy brand of roll-up-your-sleeves je-ne-sais-quoi that is letterpress sells itself as these days.

If you’re not offering anything over and above what can be achieved with a disposable printer and a pair of scissors, you might want to reconsider your business model.

Keeping this with the plumbing analogy: if there were a drain unclogging robot that could be bought for $25 on Amazon, you can guarantee that the number of clogged drain calls to the local plumbers would plummet.

Expanding on what Keelan posed, I can get 500 cards online for $18 or less with my graphic on them. I did this until I decided to go to a local printer, and pay much more for frankly a better card. I could see how the good cards were treated better by the people who had them, there was a tactile difference. Most people don’t care. I bought a press accidentally and make my own now.
People will pay a blacksmith a large sum for a handmade knife, I can pretty much charge what I want for one of my Daguerreotypes. People don’t appreciate the work that goes into printing, ESPECIALLY now that there are computer printers that can do it. I am in Il, and know of ONE print shop at a living history museum, and it is always overshadowed by the smith next door. Printing isn’t loud, or flashy. Print is subtle, and most consumers don’t appreciate not only how well printed things not only look better, but they feel better. They smell better. If people don’t know this they will ALWAYS go the cheaper route.
But y’all know this.

I’ve read the above posts, and can’t disagree with what has been said. In today’s world, printing has for the most part become a simple commodity…. one that any dufus with a computer can do on some level or another.

That does NOT mean however that printers must be low paid. Fine letterpress printing is not cheap to produce, and should be priced accordingly.

Where folks in our community make their mistake is by trying to compete at the lower end of the printing world: business envelopes, cheap business cards, forms, and low cost invitations. Any shop that tries that business model is doomed right from the start unless they are able to produce large quantities of products. Most small letterpress shops can’t do that.

I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now, and I’ve both failed miserably, and succeeded beyond anything I imagined possible. I first failed bacause I adopted the above mentioned business model, and the offset-press/ Itek platemaker shops simply beat my pants off in terms of price and quantity. It was painful, to say the least.

But after that defeat, I turned toward producing extremely high quality, unique, and or technically difficult to produce materials that people were willing to pay for. It took several years before I had built up a good customer base…. but after that, money was no longer an issue. I didn’t get wealthy, but I certainly didn’t starve, either.

Letterpress can produce a wonderfully beautiful product that folks will pay a realistic amount of money for, but only if you play to the strengths of the process. By that, I mean abandoning the areas where you can’t compete against the new high speed equipment, and embracing products that letterpress can do well…. items where the tactility, dimensionality, and perfection are actually important.

I wasn’t talking about today world of FREE computer printing. I was referring to over the past 50 plus years in this industry, people have felt printing should be cheap.

I was wanting to know where people came up with the idea that printers shouldn’t charge for their labor.

Aaron the average person does not care about the effort, skill, history etc. They just want it good enough and cheapest. I think you were away from the trade for a time then came back to the changes that were gradual but anyone with open eyes would have seen it.
I started as a diemaker in 72 bought my first die cutting press in 90 started letterpress printing in 93 and now looking at digital printers. Skipping offset entirely but will keep letterpress going only for the clients that are willing to pay a fair price for it.
Why would you do something for 50 years for low pay unless you loved doing it and didn’t care about the pay?

What hurt letterpress….
Offset press then
Computer then
Graphic software then
Digital printers then
The internet…

The internet is the only reason many people here are able to make a living running these old presses.