Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

On inflation

December 17th, 2008 by

The economy’s in the shit.  Interest rates are as low as they can go and just as soon as OPEC can get their shit together inflation’s gonna hit like gangbusters.  As the price of everything from a gallon of gas to a gallon of milk starts to skyrocket, we can take solace that some things appear to be inflation resistant.

Like say, tattoos for instance.

In the fifteen-or-so years that I’ve been actively aware of the tattoo industry I have not seen any appreciable increase in the price of tattoos.  The $180 first tattoo I got in ’95 still wouldn’t cost more than $200 today.  In this time I’ve witnessed an increase in the expectations of the consumer, both in quality and cleanliness, that has been absorbed by the industry without fail or corresponding increase in revenue.  I believe there are two main reasons for this.

1.  While there are tattooers who charge in excess of $300 per hour, the going rate for tattoo work has been $100 an hour for at least the last twenty years.  A hundred bucks an hour is a lot of money either way you look at it, so successful tattooers, not to mention custom artists, aren’t starving even though the cost of living has been driven way up in the last few years.

2.  As the popularity and subsequent social acceptance of tattoo has exploded, so has the number of tattooers.  This influx of talent has done a great deal to promote competition in the field, both to improve the craft and fight rising prices.

What does this mean to you?  A couple a’ things.

First, the next time you get a quote for a tattoo that you think is a tad high, don’t bitch.  Nothing is more offensive to an artist than some jackass saying that their work isn’t worth the money and while tattooers tend to be hardier than your average artist, it still sucks when we know you’re just price shopping.  Second, you can bet your sweet aunt Sally that as soon the recent tattoo fad is over (TV shows and tattoo-themed clothes, cell-phone covers, cigarette packs, you name it) so too will the price-lowering competition.  A lot of tattooers are currently enjoying an artificially high income based largely on a media glut of all things tattoo than on their abilities.  As the masses get their fill of this new curiosity and the pickings start to get slim, you’ll see what I think is going to be a rather nasty backlash punctuated by the closing of many a new tattoo parlor.

When this culling begins the wise consumer will already have found a dedicated, talented tattooer who has devoted their life to this artform, not just the cheapest guy in town that can do a tattoo without totally fucking it up.  I believe that this sort of thing will be a boon for tattooing in the long run but that there will be sacrifices made on both sides of the machine if we want to keep the clean, professional, affordable tattoo within reasonable driving distances from most.  Support your local tattoo shop folks, or it may not be there when you need it.

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