Setting Bid Prices for the Art Show

by Paul Bielaczyc

Hey guys. Paul here. I thought I would write a quick how-to-price tutorial for those artists who haven't been in many convention art shows.

What the prices mean

Most art shows have three prices for each piece hanging in the art show: Minimum Bid, Quick Sale, and Sunday Sale. For JordanCon, you can set these prices when you submit your art via our online art submission form. (And of course you can always mark a piece as "NFS" or "Not for Sale.")

The Minimum Bid is the lowest price that someone can offer for your work. Once someone makes a Minimum Bid, the Quick Sale and Sunday Sale prices are scratched out. After a Minimum Bid has been placed, your piece is now only available as part of the silent auction, with people writing bids on the bid sheet to purchase it, The highest bidder wins at the close of the silent auction (Saturday at 7 PM).

The Quick Sale price is the price that allows a customer to buy the piece outright, without bidding or competition in the silent auction. For those familiar with eBay, it is the "Buy It Now" price.

The Sunday Sale price is the price you will accept for an instant purchase on Sunday, but this only applies if the piece didn't get any bids on Friday or Saturday and it was not purchased at the Quick Sale price.

As an artist, how should you set your prices?

Over the years, I have seen various artists try different approaches to pricing. I will present a few of these, and you can choose which one fits you best, or just price however you like.

Low Minimum Bid, high Quick Sale price, mid-range Sunday Sale price

I typically view the three prices in the following way. Since I sell my artwork at a bunch of shows, both in art shows and at vendor tables, I have no desire to lose money selling something at a low price, and I don't mind taking art home with me. I am just going to take it to the next show and sell it there. So my Minimum Bid is usually about 20% less than what I would sell it for at my Dealer Table, to encourage bidding. My Quick Sale is about 25% more than what I would sell it for at my table, so if someone really wants it, I make a little bonus. And my Sunday Sale prices is pretty much on par with what I would ask for it. So if I sell a matted print for $30 at my table, I would probably put it for sale at Minimum Bid: $20-25, Quick Sale: $35-40, and Sunday Sale: $30-32. If I were selling an original piece and wanting $1000, I would sell it for MB: $750-800, QS: $1200-1250, and SS: $1000.

Super-low Minimum Bid, high Quick Sale price, any Sunday sale price

Some artists put a crazy low price on their Minimum Bid to encourage heavy bidding, and hopefully the bidding will result in a good selling price. I have seen some artists even put stuff for auction at one penny! I tried once to price all my big (normally $75) art at $5 to encourage a bidding war. I ended up selling a bunch of art for $5-$10. It's my opinion that art show bidding has dwindled in the past 5-10 years, and that this method just doesn't pan out any longer.

Low Minimum Bid, high Quick Sale price, super-high Sunday Sale price

Some people make their Sunday Sale super high, in the hope of forcing the bidders to bid early if they want something. I think this is a reasonable approach.

Low Minimum Bid, high Quick Sale price, super-low Sunday Sale price

Still other artists just don’t want to take anything home (this is especially true for mail-in artists), so they set their Sunday Sale price very low. They hope to sell their stuff on Friday or Saturday at decent prices, but if not, then they would rather not deal with hauling art home. They just eat the loss. This is also true for artists that work very few art shows. Why hold onto a print for 6-8 months until the next show, when you can sell it and not have to take it home or store it?

I hope you've found these observations useful. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email us at artshow@jordancon.org. Remember to get your art submitted using the online form and we’ll see you at JordanCon.