Last week, I worked with Sunnie, Richard, and Patrick on an unusual task: make money with fandom. We thought of many different ideas: I suggested 3D printing things using ITP’s printers and selling them to people; we brainstormed workshops and other things to which we could charge admission; I tried to convince Richard to make use of his artistic skills and sell people commissioned drawings. There were many events that weekend that we thought we could take advantage of: Tompkins Square had a Halloween Costumed Dog Parade, and there would be a pantsuit rally for Hillary Clinton. We also brainstormed internet exchanges for funds, such as selling on Etsy or Redbubble. We soon found ourselves short on time, though, and fell back on an easy plan: make something in person. Sell this thing in person. ??? Profit. (Hopefully?)
It was a plan that was more financially sound than that of the Underpants Gnomes. At least there was a financial exchange embedded in our plan. We considered selling the stickers on coffee cups and selling the coffee– I found graphics for Star Fox coffee and made one for Super Smash Bros coffee, knowing that people regularly played Smash Brothers in the Tisch basement.
We decided that this was potentially illegal and dangerous. Why not sell the stickers directly, and skip the coffee? Can’t poison anybody with a sticker.
I compiled a few graphics with the suggestion of the others on fandoms that might sell. Sunnie was particularly in favour of the political stickers, so I made “bad hombre” and “nasty women” stickers for the Hillary Clinton fandom. In November, a new Gilmore Girls series would come out, and a trailer had just been released for it, so we included Luke’s diner stickers. Finally, I decided to include Nintendo Switch stickers and Overwatch stickers. The Nintendo Switch trailer had only come out that week, and Overwatch was still a fairly new fandom. All of these stickers would have limited availability outside of our little sticker printing enterprise; it was unlikely that anybody had these stickers already.
Richard bought the sticker paper and Sunnie and I headed to Bobst library for colour printing. To my great relief, we could load our own paper into the laser printers, and they came out perfectly. Richard cut them out, and it was off to the races.
The four of us each received a subset of the stickers to sell, and we had different strategies. The first dollar we ever made– the minimum amount we had to make for this assignment– was actually made by selling to my friends. The assignment had stipulated that we shouldn’t sell to people we already knew, but they wanted the stickers and who am I to deny them?
The remaining $12 that we had made was sold to actual strangers though. We largely did so at the Tisch building, so outside of a fandom context. The four of us didn’t quite agree on a pricing strategy, and I believe Richard was most successful with his pay what you can policy. I had settled on a dollar for the big stickers and 50 cents for the smaller ones; Sunnie gave them away for 50 cents for as many as you liked. Patrick haggled with people to sell them in bulk, since we ended up with many left over.
Selling was a fun experience, with some unusual experiences. For me, some notable events included:
- Surprising two game center librarians by offering them Overwatch stickers for sale, as they were playing Overwatch at the time. “Oh my god!” they reacted
- Richard sold political stickers to a girl, who explained the joke to another girl, who promptly bought them as well
- Having good conversations about Gilmore Girls (Rory should end up with none of the love interests, imo) with various customers
We learned that fandom is enough to sell people on things they should normally be much cheaper (each sticker cost a few cents for their material), and it was interesting to see fandom play out in real life, outside of the context of fandom-specific events. The most prominent takeaway, though, was that many people do not carry cash or change with them any longer (or claim not to, such that they don’t have to buy a sticker.) We offered to Venmo people, but people were less willing to do so for small (less than a dollar) amounts. Next time: consider selling more expensive things for fandom. Then they might have the cash on hand for it.
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