Well, here it is September… we blinked and the summer flew by, and now that kids are back to school we can start thinking about the fall. And why not spend a little time thinking about one of my favorite parts of the fall… holiday cards! I know, I know, too early! But I’ve had this post on my mind for a while, so I wanted to get it up on the blog.
I should start by saying I love that you’re thinking about doing holiday cards this year. Some people say it’s a dying art – that Facebook and social media in general have rendered the holiday card superfluous. Well, I disagree. I adore each and every card when it arrives in my mailbox – I love the joy they spread, the feel of the paper in your hands, the fact that after the season is over you can punch holes in them and stick a binder clip through the holes and voila, you have a coffee table book you and your family will love browsing every holiday season.
I’m not kidding, your kids really will sit around and look through the books…
This is a completely unposed shot I snagged with my phone last December of my 9 year old and a handful of neighbors hanging out one afternoon in my living room. You can tell it’s unposed because there’s a sock on the coffee table. And one neighbor is looking through US Weekly instead of the holiday card books. Because dudes, this really happened. I really came upon them exactly like this. And I believe in keeping it real, people. Coffee table socks and all.
But I digress. I started this blog post because I have no skin in the game – I completely honestly and truly don’t care who prints your cards for you (I just want you to do a card because I adore them). I always recommend working with any of my card partners (because, let’s be real here, they’re the companies who’ll put my website on the back of the card AND send me a little check after you place your order to thank me for referring you) but it really doesn’t matter to me who you choose because I love all of them. And most of all I just love cards. ANY card you make is a wonderfully perfect card, really and truly.
And because I’m a little obsessive, I’m going to take some time and write up some research for you. Do with it what you will. I’m going to do it for my three partners, Tiny Prints, Minted and Mango Ink, and I’m going to divide my research into Philosophy & Design Process, Papers and Pricing. And away we go!
PHILOSOPHY & DESIGN PROCESS
Tiny Prints: With thousands of customizable card designs on their website, it can be a quick and easy to drill down and find exactly what you’re looking for at Tiny Prints. I’ve found that they offer the most variety when it comes to layout options if you prefer to design the card yourself online. They explain that they “curate our collection from designs created exclusively for us by the industry’s top artists. You get the most trend-forward cards… We’ll worry over every dotted “i” and every crossed “t” and won’t stop until your order is flawless.”
Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to dig through everything they offer, and some of my clients have told me that they freeze up a bit when they’re confronted with so many options, but most of my clients who’ve worked with Tiny Prints in the past tell me: “they’re easy-to-use”, “fast to get the task done”, and they have “a great selection”.
Minted: Minted also has thousands of card designs on their website, and while it seems to me that they have fewer layout options than Tiny Prints, they call themselves a “haven for paper connoisseurs”. They also describe themselves as “a marketplace of independent artists”, explaining that they “source creative content from a global community of independent artists, then sell the best… directly to consumers. An early pioneer of crowdsourcing, Minted has held art and design challenges monthly since April 2008. Challenges are open for both submission and voting, the ‘crowd’ curates Minted’s product selection by rating products, and Minted utilizes analytics to evaluate votes… Minted produces and sells winning designs, paying the designer a commission on every sale.”
My clients who’ve worked with Minted in the past tell me some of the same things about all the options and their analysis paralysis I mentioned in the Tiny Prints paragraph, but in general, my clients tell me: “they have a great selection”, “I love their other products”, “I love their designs”, and “they’re easy-to-use”.
Mango Ink: Mango Ink is a boutique-style card company with a clean and simple style. They’re located on the west coast, and are owned by husband and wife Heidi and Ryan Miller. They’ve been in business 10 years, and their philosophy is completely different than the big box companies like Tiny Prints and Minted, in that they’re essentially your personal card designer. You start by finding a card you like on their website and placing an order, and they’ll change it to fit your personality. They think of the designs on their site as “ideas”, and they want you to find some element or elements you love and then have them to make it just right for you. They’ll “work with you ’til it works” and they tell me “nobody’s stuck, ever.” Their turnaround time is also extraordinarily quick in the busy holiday season.
My clients who’ve worked with Mango Ink in past years tell me: “they’re helpful”, “responsive”, “super easy”, “better quality”, “different”, “committed to making the card perfect for me, no matter how many tries it took”, “the paper quality was amazing”, “nice and patient”, “their website is a lot less overwhelming”, “terrific”, “creative in their suggestions”, “responsive to requests at the height of the busy season”, and they make “great quality cards”.
I’ve learned a lot about card papers doing this research – very interesting. I’m going to try to simplify for you. So to start, you know when you get the cards in the mail there are the thin ones, the ones that feel like they’re printed on photo paper (and on the back they look like a photo with the printer’s name stamped diagonally across it? They kind of curl up when you put them on the mantle?) Those aren’t the ones we’re talking about here. Those ones are less expensive than the ones I’m reviewing here, and are available to order on photo websites like Shutterfly and Snapfish or from stores like CVS and Walgreens.
So the papers I’m comparing about are the ones that are thicker – the primary “signature” paper offered by my three card partners. There’s also Double Thick, which is fun and really substantial. Minted even offers a TripleThick option, which is completely unbendable.
I’ll cut to the chase here – there’s one that’ll blow you away. It’s smooth and the photos look insanely crisp, bright and beautiful on it. You kind of want to caress this paper, trust me. It’s the 130 lb Smooth paper offered by Mango Ink. I highlighted the price for it in blue in the pricing table below. (For me, the one discount paper listed below (the Tiny Prints 100 lb Studiobasics paper) isn’t quite thick enough – it feels a little flimsy. It isn’t as flimsy as the photo paper I described above, but it isn’t that thick card stock I’m looking for.) The 110 lb – 130 lb papers offered by Tiny Prints and Minted are matte, and although they’re nice and thick to the touch, I just adore the way the photos look on the 130 lb smooth from Mango Ink.
For the pricing section, I’m going to attempt compare apples to apples, so I’m going to price 100 of their full priced cards*. (That being said, Tiny Prints has, in past years, offered my clients as much as a 40% off coupon. In 2014 Minted offered my clients a 30% off coupon – in 2015 so far they’ve offered my clients only a 20% off coupon, but they say that they “have a very special offer coming soon” – so I imagine they might increase that discount as the season goes on? Not sure. Mango Ink has an ongoing, always-valid offer of 35% off for my clients. More info about coupon codes for all of these offers is up on the holiday cards page of my website. If there isn’t a current coupon listed, email me and I’ll see if I can get a coupon for you from my contacts at these companies. There are always sales running, but suffice it to say we can usually get you substantial discounts off these prices during the holiday season.
*pricing data collected September 2015
||Discount Card Paper (4″x9″ flat card)
||Unit price when you buy 100
||Standard Card Paper (5×7 flat card)
||Unit price when you buy 100
||Thicker paper (5×7 flat card)
||Unit price when you buy 100
||100 lb Studiobasics semi-glossy paper
||110 lb, 16 point Signature Matte or 120 lb, 11 point Signature Semi-Glossy paper (they don’t have any 100% recycled paper available)
||$1.69-$1.89 depending on quantity of photos and design chosen
||220 lb Premium Double Thick Matte
||$2.78-$2.88 depending on quantity of photos and design chosen
||No discount papers available
||120 lb Signature paper or 130 lb 100% recycled Premium Paper
||$1.63 for Signature or $1.80 for 100% recycled Premium
||240 lb, 35 point, DoubleThick
||No discount papers available
||110 lb Matte (100% recycled) or 130 lb Smooth paper
||Double thick 38 point savoy cotton
So there you go. My takeaway from this pricing research is that after you apply the various discounts, these three vendors are priced nearly exactly the same. The one priced the highest (Tiny Prints) offers the 40% off discount, the mid-priced one (Mango Ink) offers the 35% off discount, and the lowest (Minted) offers the (currently 20%, but perhaps as much as) 30% off discount. So at the end of the day you should choose the one you like the best, and not choose based on price, in my humble opinion, since they’re so similar.
So there’s my research, do with it what you will. I hope it’s helpful!
And don’t forget to send me a copy of your card :)