Turning Archive 2004

Gold vs. Titanium Pen Kits - Sales Philosophy?

Joe Pack
>I recently found the need to visit an orthopedic surgeon for an old knee problem (old injury AND old knees). While we were talking, I admired a burl pen he had. He indicated how much he enjoyed it, but pointed out that he was very disatisfied with the way the clip was wearing...the gold plating was all but gone, and the metal was starting to pit.

I told him about the differences between the gold, titanium, platinum, chrome, etc. platings and how they wear differently. One thing led to another, and I ended up with an order for a titanium or platinum (my choice) rollerball before I left.

This encounter, the disappointment with a hand-made pen that was wearing too quickly, made me start thinking once again of the dilemma I face when making what I think are pretty darn good pens for sale at craft shows. Knowing my crowd pretty well (80% blue collar, 15% "professional" with lots of money or credit, 5% who don't blink an eye at ANY price), I pretty much find a price point beyond which sales almost disappear - $20 for a slimline, $30 for a larger pen. In order to sell at or below this price point, I have been making mostly the "upgrade gold" kits, knowing they would wear eventually. My preference, though, is to make titanium or platinum kits that will survive without wear for much, much longer. The problem is that, to the customer's eye, they look they same, so it is hard to justify the extra $5-$10 per pen for titanium. Most people just will not pay for the titanium because they don't see the difference. On the other hand, I am not going to sell titanium for the cost of gold plated.

So, do I offer gold plated pens, which will wear more quickly, but cost less (the price point) or do I offer titanium which wear much better, but cost more to produce? I figure I need the same amount of profit to make and sell each pen. Only the materials and final cost are different.

I am curious what the rest of you do about this.

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