Should prices be visible?

Hi all. I sell primarily through art shows, and I’ve often wondered
whether I should have prices marked visibly on each piece, primarily
cuff bracelets. I don’t do it because my setup would make it
difficult, short of a putting a visible sticker on the outside of
each piece, rather than on the inside like I do now. Aesthetically,
this would suck.

Part of me would rather have the piece in the customer’s hand before
I mention the price (mostly under $500), to let them start to fall in
love with it before worrying about how much it costs. But if the
prices were right out there, everyone would know what the cost is
before they can really see the detail that makes a piece worth it. It
might cut down on the questions, but it might also reduce the
opportunies for dialog.

I realize that, now, I force potential customers into the awkward
position of having to ask for a price. I can tell myself that anyone
bold enough to wear one my pieces has the confidence to ask for a
price. But then I wonder how much business I might be losing because
people are uncomfortable asking.

I’m considering a couple of small booth signs that list price ranges
for various categories, as a potentially happy compromise.

So, to all you art circuit sloggers out there, how do you handle
this problem? And when any of you are on the customer side of the
counter, how do you feel about having to ask for a price? Thanks!

Allan Mason

I prefer to have my prices showing. I base this on the fact that
when I go shopping I like to know the prices of the items before I
the salesperson to take it out of the case.

If I am displaying a cuff bracelet, I put a tiny tag right next to
it. I keep the print small–but large enough to be easily read. I use
these small tags in addition to small tags on the piece itself, just
so that they go back to the same spot in my case.


Hi Allan,

I was dealing with the same dilemma…I figure if they don’t ask to
see it, they’re probably not that interested. I’ve had people ask to
see something, handle it, say they like it, ask quality questions
about the piece then walk away. I’ve also had someone walk up, look
at something in the case and buy it on the spot with zero questions.
It’s a crap shoot. You’re right about getting it into the hands and
letting them “play” with it. There’s nothing like the feel of a nice
heavy piece. To me, price is just another way to engage the customer
into a more detailed conversation.

I try to keep a clean look when it’s in the case so I hide the tags
whenever possible.

Good luck,
Scott Verson
Metal & Stone Design

Hi Allan,

I price every item I have for sale, I never use stickers because as
you have mentioned they can interfere with the appearance of the
piece. I tie tags using the thin white cotton they are sold with, to
each item. I also write the price on both sides of the tag so it can
be seen in either position.

If I come across a booth where goods are not priced, I will just
simply move on without asking. In my mind I think well they must be
far too expensive if the owner is not prepared to show a price on

Lorraine Allan
G&S Lampwork

I think there was a discussion about this a year or so ago. I,
personally, won’t ask a price…I think if an item has no price
showing then it must be too expensive for me. I group jewelry
together by style/price and have 1 price for the grouping printed in
black numbers onto a 1/2" transparent acrylic cube. I use a label
machine for the price.

Donna in VA

I think you get less enquiries if people cannot see the prices but
I’m not sure this equals less sales. I would suggest it depends on
the level your competitors are selling at at the events you attend.
I sell in the lower end of the price range and find that people like
to know the price and will be afraid to ask in case it is too
expensive. However, in the UK there is an antipathy to buying hand
crafted items as most of the public think that it should be cheap
becaue you made it yourself.


i agree stickers of any sort suck but i have used polymer
clay,sculpey fimo-,any bakeable polymer to create a cylinder that is
a virtual stamp.On one end of it one cantaper to a depth yu
desire,then deboss or emboss a makers mark, and price.

then using a simple geometric form of your choosing and small
size,yet large enough to be visible from about three feet,cut out
with a template or however you want to achieive uniformity, a number
of the tags…placed in front of a piece or a display of equally
priced bangles for instance, they are not only innocuous, but can
coordinate nicely with your display.It not only emblazons your
brand/makers mark in their minds but clearly states what your price
is. I usually go for a basic colour that coordinates with the
display- with an embossed white though, you may want to go over the
lettering with a sharpie or some pigmented ink that accentuates the
stamp making it easier to read.( i generally deboss the things so
they are raised though). I think the movable type systems are tacky
as well, this allows you complete freedom and many more choices in
coordinating with your pads,backgrounds, etc…they do not need to be
attached to a piece either, although a nice thread does the trick if
you remember to take a coffee stirrer and punch a hole in the tag
before baking it off, or leave a section of bamboo skewer in the tag
while baking to avoid a hole, if you want one, from any possibility
of closing ( if you want to leave it in the tag while baking, i give
the section of bamboo an ultra- light swabbing of pure silicone
liquid ( though syrup is more descriptive!) so the product shrinks
away from the tag rather than sticks to it and deforms your desired

you can make a number of cylindrical stamps very cheaply,customized
and for many purposes (like karat,materials, makers mark,and
different prices)-so you have what you need when you need to say
something without having to repeat it to hundreds of people in a day!
The resulting tags are virtually unbreakable,waterproof, and quickly
reproduced in whatever colour works for you,once you have a set of
stamps made.Too bad they can’t be used to mark metals,but can be used
on metal clays if you also. create a set of texturing stamps… just
one potential solution that has worked well…


I’m a firm believer that everything should be tagged (with a real
price, not something you are going to discount all the time), but I
think your thoughts on opening up a dialog are on the mark. Unless a
customer is making me nervous (i.e. I feel like I’m going to be
robbed) I always want to pull a piece out, let them handle it, see
how it’s made, etc. My stuff is more expensive than most, but if the
customer can’t see why, the price is meaningless. Actually, as I said
in a different post, pricing is not really an issue. If you are
presenting a customer with value, they will buy the product, whether
the value be in the workmanship, the quality of the materials, or any
other perceived value. If the way they are going to find out about
and see the value in your product is to be engaged in a conversation
with you while they handle the piece, then that’s the way you should
go. Besides by posting your prices ranges somewhere, you are
predirecting people into one place or another.

Most studies done show that people will spend more money than they
tell you they are willing to spend if they are simply helped along.
Actually most people will tell you purposely they want to spend less
than they are planning to. It’s up to you, as the salesperson (or in
your guise as a salesperson when you’re not making the stuff), to
get them up to the price point they would be happy to spend. How
better to do this than to start with no preconceived notion of the
budget? I never ask how much a customer is looking to spend until it
becomes apparent that they are going to buy something from me and
we’re just simply getting down to brass tacks on designs and
If they want to offer the to me, I’ll listen
to it, but just because they say they want to spend under $1000, I
don’t stop showing them pieces that are more than that (I may not
show them the $5000 pieces anymore, but I’ll still go up to
$1500-2000), because if something moves them enough, they will often
pony up the extra money.

And incidentally, just because a person can’t afford a $10,000 piece
doesn’t mean they don’t want to hold it and appreciate it for what
it is. One of my favorite things to do when people bring their
children (well girls, mostly, as they usually are more into it) into
my shop is to take out the most expensive ring in the case and have
the kids try it on. It’s an experience they never forget. And someday
they will be my next round of customers!

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

I realize that, now, I force potential customers into the awkward
position of having to ask for a price. 

I think it is embarassing to some customers if they ask to see a
piece, then are horrified by the price. I, personally, don’t like to
ask. either, unless I’m feeling very flush. So I put visible prices
in my case. I don’t like the look, but I feel it is necessary.

I’ve tried writing them with a silver pen on iridescent glass blobs
(people thought I was selling the blobs), tiny tags on threads (they
are hard to read, and get tangled, look messy) and now use those
little snap-together cubes in black with white numbers (my display
is all black inside the cases). It is a time-consuming PITA to put
them out with each piece when I’m setting up, but I’m convinced it
is a good idea. (A side effect-- my prices used to all end in zero
or 5, but I’ve had to make them all different numbers because there
aren’t enough zeros and 5’s in my set!)


I can give you the viewpoint of one consumer - put the prices on the
items, and make sure they’re visible. You aren’t going to fool
anyone, and I, for one, hate to have to ask how much something is. I
want to consider in my own mind whether the item’s price is
reasonable to me before enquiring further.

I’m sure that some vendors have lost sales to me because I couldn’t
see the price and wouldn’t ask, especially if I had to wait for
someone to ask.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ

My art show setup has almost all prices visible, but that is partly
because I am a production caster, and so my prices are in the lower
range, and thus it is to my advantage to show my prices off. For
your cuffs, I’d suggest having a price sticker on the inside center,
and being very fast to hand them the bracelet to try on.( Maybe even
before they ask for it. You can tell when their eyes really stop to
look seriously at a piece. Say,“Would you like to see this?”, as you
are already handing it to them.) They will check out the price, but
the beautiful piece will already be in their hands, to admire
closely. If you don’t like stickers, you can use permanent marker,
and remove it with rubbing alcohol after a sale.

Another option is to have a small sign near a grouping of work,
indicating that the collection of cuffs is priced form $200 to $500,
or whatever.

As a shopper, I have to admit that I like to see prices displayed.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA


For me, it really all depended on where I was showing my work. When
I did outdoor shows, or shows where admission was free, I had better
put out prices on every piece of work. People just assume that the
work is out of their budget if they had to ask. It also seemed to
make shoppers less defensive.

When I did shows that required an admission fee I could get away
with having fewer items priced, but I still felt that I had to put
out prices. Basically I priced major items in a category and left it
to the client to use logic to figure the price for other items. For
example, if I had many earrings of a certain style I would price the
lowest priced item, the highest priced and a medium priced and let
the shoppers fill in the blanks.

I learned very quickly to never put out prices at shows in New York
City. I found it was counterproductive. Sophisticated shoppers
complained about the practice and the most irritating simply wanted
to try on the most expensive items as if you were there solely for
their entertainment. I also felt that it was a security liability.

I should say that for the most part I worked shows alone, so it was
important to me to let people determine for themselves if I was in
their price range or not. The above advice may not be as valuable for
those who have a lot of help in the booth.

Hope this helps,

As an exhibitor and also as a customer, I prefer to have the prices
showing for each item or as you mentioned a sign with a range of
prices. I believe most people are intimidated if they have to ask.

Holly Swanson

Allan -

As a buyer, if I can’t see the price I don’t ask. So I admire, then
leave. As the saying goes, “If you have to ask, then you can’t
afford it.”

This is an interesting topic for me and a subject of debate within
my artisan’s co-op. Most of the artisans feel that to see prices in
the jeweler’s cases is declasse. However, my take on it is, I’m
concerned that unless a customer really likes a piece, they might not
want to bother a sales person to unlock a cabinet on their behalf.
Also, in my experience working the sales floor, I’ve had customers
want to look at seemingly inexpensive pieces of my fellow jewelers,
and blanch a little when I actually tell them the price. This is of
course their problem, not mine, but perhaps that might put them off
wanting to ask to have other cases unlocked for them. In the case of
the other artisans (textiles, potters, glass slumpers, et cetera)
they don’t have to keep their wares locked up, and a customer can
walk right up to something and check the price without having to
bother anyone on the sales floor, which is something they can’t do
with the jewelery, just reach in and fondle stuff. Lastly, this
isn’t as big a deal with craft shows, but in the case of a co-op, I’m
not always there to hawk my work, and I have to depend on the sales
skills of another artist (often not even a jeweler) to put my wares

This past season, I tucked my price tags away, but this coming
holiday season, I’m going to look into some inconspicuous price
displays. Actually, I’ve seen some high end stores here in Boston
have small price displays in their windows. I might be wrong, but I
think even EB Horn has their prices right out there for the world to
see. True, the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” tactic can
work…but there’s also the “You too can afford gorgeous handmade
jewelery, don’t be shy, it’s not as pricey as you might think”, which
I think can work well too.

I think there was a discussion about this a year or so ago. I,
personally, won't ask a price...I think if an item has no price
showing then it must be too expensive for me.

If you had a retail store you could not take the time to make sure
all tags were readable by your customers, Some items do not allow
for tags to be visible. It is not realistic for a store with 5000
pieces of jewelry to have all tags readable by a glance.

20 years of retail suggests to me that anyone interested in
purchasing something that that appeals to them will ask the price.
Common sense. This is business for some people, not some game to
play. If something does not have a price tag, and you liked it and
you did not ask the price, you did not like it enough or you know you
cannot afford it already. When I go to gem shows, not everything has
a price marked. I have to ask.

If I did not ask prices on gems or jewelry, I would have no
inventory. Sometimes not asking a price can be more expensive than
asking for a price.

Richard Hart

I realize that, now, I force potential customers into the awkward
position of having to ask for a price. 

I think it is embarassing to some customers if they ask to see a
piece, then are horrified by the price.

Perhaps because I have a retail jewelry store my perspective is very
different. People come in and ask prices and no one is shocked or
embarrassed at prices of pieces they cannot afford. The usual comment
is " I knew I had good taste" which is interesting as one customer
says that about a $150 piece, and another about a $4000 piece.

I wonder how many of you are uncomfortable or have a preconceived
notion about how people respond to your prices. I am proud of what I
make and what I charge, I am confident in the value represented in
materials and workmanship, and when I am showing my work I feel like
it is a privilege for me to show my work, but it is also a privilege
for the person I am showing my work to to be able to see well
designed and well crafted jewelry. I had a customer who pleaded
poverty for weeks wanting a piece I make, while I was making a few
pieces in her price range, I made a piece that was 2 1/2 times the
price of what she wanted, she came in to see the pieces I had made
with no obligation to buy, she saw the more expensive piece in the
case, and left with that one Passion for what you do inspires people.
It changes the boundaries that people have about what they can
afford. It has happened to you when you are inspired by something or
someone and buy something more expensive than you planned. Think
about the things that were a stretch to afford, and how you treasure
amd admire those things. Part of that is your commitment to yourself.
Exhibit passion, inspire people, make sales. If you are selling your
work, you must have some faith in yourself. Don’t pertend to hide
yourself from who you really are. It might not be humility, but fear.

One last reality, as I age, I cannot read a price tag in a display
case, so sometimes it might not matter if the price is visible, it
just ain’t large enough! This is the reality for myself and a lot of
my customers, they ask me to read it to them.

Richard Hart

Alan - As long as prices are marked, that’s what is most important
(and required by law in many locations). If I can’t easily read a
price or price code, I do find it helpful to have items grouped in
small groupings of similar pricing. But I don’t mind asking about
pieces that interest me. I expect, along with that, that the artist
won’t mind talking about the piece (method of manufacture, stone
types, etc) while telling me the price. Often that combination is
what will sell the piece and just a price will not.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA

Hi Allen,

For what it’s worth, my reaction to a booth where nothing is priced
is that the seller is going to quote me a price based on their
impression on what they think they can get out of me, rather than a
fair price based on the value of the article. I don’t bother to ask,
I just walk away.

John Fetvedt

Hi Allan,

Sure, there’s something to be said for letting them “start to fall in
love with it before worrying about how much it costs”, but I’m still
a believer in letting the prices show. When I was a kid, doing odd
jobs in my grandfather’s jewelry store, one of those jobs was tucking
the price tags under so they couldn’t be seen. As a customer now,
though, I don’t like to have to ask for a price. If they love it,
they love it, it shouldn’t matter the price. It’s an awkward position
the customer then gets in, though, when they ask for the price & find
out it’s more than they can afford. I don’t want to be in that
position when I’m shopping, so I just won’t ask, and I’ll go on to
the next place. I therefore don’t want to put my customers in that
position, either. Some people don’t mind asking, but they usually
also don’t mind if the price is showing. As for how to show the
prices, perhaps you could put a little tag in the display in front of
the piece, if you can’t either put a sticker where the customer will
see it, or use a string tag. Maybe a combination of a string tag,
stuck to the piece with one of your stickers, stuck in the back as
usual, but then the string allows it to reach to the front. Oh, and
as for your concerns about reducing the chance for dialog, I don’t
think it does. Sure, it eliminates the need for them to ask about a
price, but they can still ask about how a piece is made, what it’s
made of. If they are someone who doesn’t want to ask about prices,
then they probably will be less likely to start a dialog if the
prices are hidden. If you see someone’s eye lingering for a moment on
something, you start the dialog & tell them about it, take it out,
show it to them & let them touch it. Show that you’re interested in
educating them about your pieces. Be proud of the work that goes into
them & offer that up yourself. Whenever people come into
my booth, I make sure they know that everything is hand made- the
chains, the findings, the filigree - all made by me, by hand. They
are usually pleasantly surprised, since many artists don’t make the
chains & such. They then appreciate the work that went into a piece,
and understand better the prices they see.

Designs by Lisa Gallagher