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Printing and Cutting Retail Worthy Cards

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Red Wizard
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Joined: 09/11/2012

Hello All,

I am hoping to self-publish small runs of card games to sell at local retail outlets, conventions, street fairs, etc. I am hoping to purchase a printer capable of printing high quality images on 275-300 gsm cardstock. Hoping to spend $1500-$3000 on a printer. I realize this may be low but I am not looking for a printer with extremely high output but one that can handle the cardstock and print reliably and effectively.
I am also looking for the best means to cut said cardstock? I have been considering a craft die cutter but am uncertain if they can cut cardstock of that weight without crimping the edges. Does anyone have any experience with Ellison Die cutters? Can they handle this type of card? My budget for cutters is somewhere in the $750-$1500 range.
Also does anyone have good sources for cardstock that can be purchased in smallish quantities and comes in 11x17.
I realize this may not be the most cost effective way to get my games printed but it is important for me to be involved in the production process and I am hoping for a local branding of "Made in Portland' to help sell my games locally. I am planning on doing small print runs, releasing ever expanding and changing games and building a market with a grassroots approach. Thanks all for any specifics you may have for me.
Tim Eisner
Weird City Games

questccg
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Joined: 04/16/2011
Durability

Red Wizard wrote:
I realize this may be low but I am not looking for a printer with extremely high output but one that can handle the cardstock and print reliably and effectively.

Everyone seems to forget that having a *good printer* is not enough for cards... They get shuffled and shuffling is hard on cards. Look at why casino's often change their cards (not to damage and mark cards).

My cards (Quest Adventure Cards - First Edition) were printed then sealed with plastic on BOTH SIDES. They are high quality and will not wear out from rubbing (because of the plastic).

Just something people forget and that you need to keep in mind. POD services maybe can offer more durable solutions to cards (in their process - clay coated cardstock, special type of printing, etc.)

I had a professional printer that prints magazines and all kinds of products and the tests we made were to print and coat the cards with a spray. Those cards were not durable, so they offered me the option to have them plastic coated something they do for high-end business cards...

questccg
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$4,500 is a LOT of cards selling...

Red Wizard wrote:
I am hoping to self-publish small runs of card games to sell at local retail outlets, conventions, street fairs, etc. I am hoping to purchase a printer capable of printing high quality images on 275-300 gsm cardstock. Hoping to spend $1500-$3000 on a printer.
*Snip*
My budget for cutters is somewhere in the $750-$1500 range.

$4,500 dollars is quite a bit of money. If your game costs $20 for a POD (including shipping), that is 225 copies of a game. That's quite a bit to SELL... If you want small runs, you might consider a POD (Print-On-Demand). You might make smaller margins but your RISK is a lot lower: you start making money the minute you sell a game.

Otherwise you have to factor in the cost of the equipment and having to sell over 200+ copies before you make a dollar.

I have the same issue but with artwork (not the printing). I have to make it *profitable* to have my artwork done... I don't want to be in the hole before I even sell one copy of my game...

Red Wizard
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Joined: 09/11/2012
Good points

Quest,
Thanks for feedback and input. Yes the plastic coating is a problem I am struggling with right now. It seems difficult to replicate professional quality cards without a very large outlay for machines. Which as you say is not necessarily the best idea when I haven't even sold any games yet.

I have received a grant for small business development for my games company and must spend the money on assets. I have thought this over a great deal and card printing seems like the production area that I can get reasonably close to with the budget I have. I am not sure what else I could buy that would be worthwhile for game design and publishing. I am continuing my research and as it seems very difficult to find a printer for under $5000 that can handle 300 gsm cardstock I may just back off a little and buy a decent printer that can do good prototypes.

I am also wondering about printing sticker paper and attaching that to chipboard to make hex tiles, chits and tokens.

Thanks,

Tim Eisner

guildofblades
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Card Printing

Hi Tim,

It s extraordinarily diffcult to get a printer sub $5K that can print 300 GSM cards.

When we began doing POD cards, we found a Xerox model that could do it. The challenge, however, was that it could not do it within machine specifications. That meant we ended up with all kinds of headaches getting the company to properly service the machine, even though we had our purpose specially documented in our contract, they would continually try and squirm out of it. That machine cost almost $8K and it was not a production level machine. We still operate that machine, but when we plan to begin POD card and board game services up again, we will be doing it with a machine that is within spec and can do the same job much faster, but costs almost $40K.

Card printing is the actual lesser of your concerns. There are NO good die cutting machines for which to do de cutting of cards in an on demand capacity which are not grossly labor inefficient. The machine we had last been using was a Grande Mark die cutting machine together with some custom dies. It got the job done with fairly good die cutting quality, but was far too slow to be practical. We've been designing and building our own custom die cutting machine and when its done, we'll begin card printing service again. Of course, we are now at 3.5 years and counting on trying to complete that machine.

For very small numbers, the Grande Mark will get the job done. But over time, given the work you will have to do to complete each game to make it ready for sale, you will end up regretting going down that production process.

Ryan
Guild of Blades

yodazhang
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Joined: 12/24/2013
Printing Cards

The smallest printer I know that is capable of printing good quality playing cards would be the Xerox 7800. This costs about $8000, but can print 350gsm stock in full color.

Now, for cutting the cards you have two options:

1) Guillotine-cut and then corner-round. You need a good guillotine (at least $3000 for the smallest one that cuts precisely) and a good corner rounding machine ($2000 for a small one).

or

2) Die-Cut. A small cylinder-die-cutting machine costs around $5000. Then you need a tool for each card-size you want to make. The good point here is: You can also make a tool for a tuck-in game box, so with this you can also make good quality card game boxes.

Now, how much work involved for making 1 game?

- Print 4 sheets of 12x19" cardstock on both sides (3 sheets for the cards makes 52 poker-sized cards, 1 sheet for the box)
- Die-Cut all four sheets (appr. 2 minutes)
- Sort the cards, assemble the box, pack it in the box.

If you make more than 1 game at a time, the printing-time gets shorter, but the die-cutting and assembling still stay the same. So a lot of handwork. Only suitable for very small quantities.

Oh, and two more things: If you want the same quality as high-end producers do, then you need to finish the printed sheets with liquit coating. This machine is around $14000. But only useful if you print a lot of sheets. I wouldn't recommend normal lamination, since the foil is too think and tends to split from the prints. The un-laminated cards are still very good and useable when printed with the Xerox.

Shrink-wrapping: Invest around $1500 for a small shrink-wrapping machine (manual) and a hot-air gun. Takes around 1 minute of time to shrink-wrap a cardgame.

Or, you can order small quantities of your card-games from www.yodagames.de.

It really depends on how many games you need to produce, and how often and how many different games you want. Just add all the machine-cost together and then calculate how many games you have to sell to pay for the machines.

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