Broken Heart Gallery – A Photobooth Photo Seller’s Perspective
Following a high level of interest in my last post about the above item, particularly with reference to the asking price, I thought I would share with you some thoughts from the seller himself, Mr Albert Tanquero of Broken Heart Gallery, Chicago. Not only is Albert the seller of many of the most highly desirable photobooth photos you can find online, but his customer service is second to none, with every photo arriving with a hand printed card and hand written personalised note.
Hi guys. I’m the seller of this photobooth photo. I bought it for a considerable price at a NYC photo show. If it sells for the starting price of US $399.99, I will be able to make a reasonable profit from that one photo. To give you perspective on how expensive it is to try to sell amazing images, I will share some of the travel costs incurred to find my photos and expenses related to fees on Ebay and Paypal.
Some time ago, I flew from Chicago to New York City and paid for two nights in a hotel to be able to attend one of the best vernacular photography shows in the USA. My flight cost me US $450.00, a room for two nights was US $500 and the entrance to the show was US $30. Additionally there was the cost of the cabs to and from the airport, US $160. Of course there is also the cost of meals, buses and trains, etc. Add all that up and that’s a high outlay just to get to the show.
When photos on eBay are listed for what might appear to be outrageous sums, it is frequently because the cost of obtaining the item was very, very high. If I had bought this photo at a flea market for a dollar it would have been listed for US$ 5.99. (See examples of other current listings, below, which have that starting price).
So what does it cost to sell the photo? Between eBay and paypal (which eBay owns) 15-18% of a sale is taken in commission. So say the clown photo sells for US $399.99. I have to spend to up to US $72.00 just to sell it. I will also accept checks as payment (cutting out the Paypal part of the fee) but that creates more work as I have to go to the bank and then wait for it to clear. I don’t want to make it seem like there aren’t times I sell $1.00 photos for $30.00. It happens, but good photos have gotten much harder to find. That’s the problem I guess. So for me the photo shows have become one of the few places I can still buy quality images but at a much higher cost.
Another consideration is that, when I sell on eBay I’m providing a curated experience. My time sorting through hundreds of inferior photos, my skill, and my eye are valuable parts of the equation. No one selling snapshots on eBay is getting rich. We do it because it’s a great way to connect lost photos with artists, collectors, enthusiasts.
And one last point…images like this one are used in blogs and other sites online for free, and generally without permission. Not everyone who blogs about my photos actually buys them, like Katherine (mostly) does. Everyone that comes into visual contact with images, that I worked very hard to find, get to enjoy them for free. Why wouldn’t I ask a lot of money for things that are expensive to obtain?
I really appreciate you thinking about the seller’s side of the story.
Thanks Albert and Katherine for sharing this. It was very insightful! I think it’s true that many buyers don’t think of where their photos have come from. In the end, sellers and buyers are both collectors in their own right, we’re on the same team!
Well said, Meags. Thanks for commenting!
I always accept the pricing the sellers post. There have been times I’ve paid more than I would have thought I’d be willing to part with, but the images meant that much to me. I’d have never seen them if they hadn’t taken the time to find them and post them.
What I find fascinating is when people complain about the shipping. Yes, it’s nice when it’s free, but I often wonder how they do it. The seller provides a nice protective sleeve for the image, packages it well, and then spends the time actually shipping it. Their cost in product and time seems to me to be worth something. And yes, sometimes they pocket an extra dollar for themselves. Having sold some books on Amazon I can honestly say that often the shipping cost doesn’t begin to cover the hassle.
Thanks for your comments! I agree with the willingness to sometimes flog out more money than is rational. Occasionally an image just speaks to you and you cannot let it go! Sellers offer a valuable curated experience and, as Albert has shown, the hidden costs can be high. If you really want it, you just pay, whatever the price.
Your point about the shipping is a very good one, too. Posting an item is most definitely a hassle for the seller, even if it is part of the job. Packing an item securely, in good quality materials and getting it to the post office is very time consuming and fiddly. I am always happy to pay a dollar or two (or three) more than the postage cost. However, there are still sellers out there who manipulate the system and wonder why I get upset if the postage cost in stamps is $3.95 and they have charged me $14.00 just because that was the automatically generated price on the listing – which often has no relationship to reality at all.
Oh yeah, I hear ya! There was an image I recently wanted that was a glass neg. They wanted $25 for shipping. Ummmm NO. Then there was a seller who wanted a huge sum because they were sending the item in a heavy frame. I wrote and asked if they’d keep the frame, which was obviously not original to the image (image probably 1890s, frame art deco). They seemed stunned but said yes because they really liked the frame. I told them good because I was just going to toss it and didn’t want to pay the postage.
I hope you got the postage for free after giving them back the frame!
Ultimately I didn’t buy it. Price went too high and I wasn’t going to be part of the feeding frenzy.