Customized from Collections = Access
Ok, so you might not really make a buck, but the effort to reproduce aspects of your collection for sale to the public is worthwhile. This kind of distribution is an important form of collections access. Considering these ideas now is also timely, with Christmas not so far away. One of our earlier blogs recommended ordering customized temporary tattoos, designed from collection motifs, as a saleable item with great potential for popular appeal. Reproductions can radically expand the reach of your collection while promoting your institution’s mission.
Vendors in the exhibit hall at the recent American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference in Richmond offered several additional ideas for collections reproduction. These included ceramic and brass ornaments, holographic rulers, magnets, key chains, and glass paperweights. In addition to working with specialized product companies, you can use popular photographic reproduction services, such as SnapFish, to create posters, note cards, puzzles, mugs, and even t-shirts from your collection images.
One especially eye-catching product at the conference was a small stuffed doll that could be based on a character from your area’s local history or a person or animal figure from your collection. Lead time is 5-6 months (this product would not be an option for the upcoming holiday season.) and a development fee only applies if the prototype is created and the customer declines reproduction. Creation Station LLC will create in small batches and wholesale costs per item usually range from $2.50 to $9.00.
Among the lowest-cost customizable items at the AASLH conference were bookmarks. An order of 100 costs $124, for a wholesale price of $1.24. By ordering a larger amount, the price per bookmark decreases dramatically. Digitization technologies have made reproduction of this type more possible for small institutions to afford. One North Carolina business, Spoonflower, located in Durham, is worthwhile contacting for textile projects. The company uses digital images to custom-print a range of fabrics, with a cost of $15-$25/ yard for most textures. Best of all for small institutions, there is no minimum order, so try it out and test the market for limited edition items. Another company, Historical Documents, has a large minimum order of 1,000, but then the cost of individual items is only $.60-$1.50, depending on packaging. Find some interesting or colorful images from your collection to digitize, and then contract to make postcards, calendars, posters, or other prints.
Customizing products could be an affordable experiment in product production for your institution, and a way to turn an aspect of your collection into teacher’s gifts and stocking stuffers. So, gather your elves ‘round and see what you can come up with!