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December 20, 2007 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What is the deal with sites like,, etc.?

Have you ever bought anything from or It seems like there's a slew of these sites and they sell basically the same things for the same prices and have the same pretty budget web design. Sets off my scam alarm, like a magazine subscription on eBay. There's a 'print' I want to buy [1] from them but its like $250 on all the sites, plus framing is another $250. $250 seems like a hell of a lot of money for anything from a site called "All Posters Dot Com", certainly for a poster. Also, $250 sounds like a lot of money for a frame, but I vaguely remember hearing from people who have lived lives that have included the need to frame things that "holy crap, framing is way more expensive than you'd think."

What's the story with the product quality? $250 for a actual nice print of something seems cheap. $250 for some crappy poorly-registered cmyk-process on normal glossy poster paper sounds like I don't want to buy that poster any more. Any advice or experience would be appreciated.

[1] Note: I do not know the definiton of this word in this context. Aren't all posters 'prints'? I do not believe there's a huge warehouse in Mountain View where the staff meticulously hand-screens your order when it spits out of the shopping cart software. But how cool would that be?
posted by jeb to Shopping (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've purchased from and everything went fine. It's been over a year. I'm not sure exactly what you want to know about the prints.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:57 PM on December 20, 2007

I've made several purchases from, and not had any problems whatsoever. Well, only the problem that the pictures are tiny, and it's not always obvious what size the poster is going to be, but that's easily solved with a lower screen resolution and actually reading the page.

So, no problems with the posters themselves, or the shipping, ordering or payment processes. I also get spammed quite frequently with emails offering between 10 and 25% off the posters.
posted by Solomon at 4:06 PM on December 20, 2007

I occasionally have things framed, and yes, you could easily spend $250 to have something poster-sized framed. You could also spend $100, if your needs were simple. I would be spending it at a local frame store, mind, where I could pick out the mattes, framestock and glass in person, see them against the print, and consult with a professional. And, you know, support my local framer. I can't imagine that is the preferred method of framing things unless you just don't have a choice in the matter.
posted by mumkin at 4:07 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought from allposters, and it was fine as well. One item was an art print, and it was on a heavier, nicer paper stock than the posters. (I think I remember something about art replications as "prints" and stuff like movie posters as "posters".)

And yeah, framing is ridiculously expensive. Still, you might want to check out a local shop or two to see if they can beat $250. It will probably help you on the shipping cost too...
posted by synapse at 4:07 PM on December 20, 2007

I have not ordered from any of those sites, but I don't really understand why you think they are a scam. (Though I have to admit, I don't think the eBay magazine subscriptions you cite are a scam, either.) Have you ever had anything custom framed before? It's expensive because it's labor intensive, and the materials aren't cheap. $250 is not completely unreasonable for a large custom-made poster frame of good quality. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a rip-off.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:12 PM on December 20, 2007

You could spend $250 framing a postcard and still have something very unimpressive in your hands. Anything other than the most basic framing is expensive.
posted by fire&wings at 4:19 PM on December 20, 2007

IMO, if you are going to spend $500 for framed art buy something original or at least a limited edition print which will increase in value. Buying a $500 poster print of a Degas is like burning money even if it is impeccably framed. Unless they specifically say the method of reproduction involved it is a gamble.
posted by JJ86 at 4:25 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought something from, and everything went well.
posted by jayder at 4:34 PM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: MegoSteve the very common ebay magazine scam works like this: you pay a crazy low price in a dutch subscription auction, (sometimes) 6-8 weeks later your mag starts coming, maybe once or twice, then it stops. Now you are outside of eBay's 90 day arbitration window and you're probably not out enough money individually to bother about it, but the 60 other 'winners' of your dutch auction are each out $50 as well.

I guess 'scam' isn't the right word for what I'm worried about with these sites. Do you ever look at something on the web and it makes you feel like "hmm...maybe I don't want to spend $500 here without a second opinion?" Specifically, I thought maybe they just sold really crappy record-store-at-the-mall style posters for insane prices, figuring that they only needed to move a couple of each one to make it worthwhile. Like I said, I'm less surprised at the framing cost, because I do remember people saying custom framing was expensve, but still...if they are just charging $250 for it because people are accustomed to paying that, but then slapping the poster into a $15 office depot frame, I'd rather know that before paying the $250.
posted by jeb at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: JJ86-- thats what I keep going back and forth on. And the fact that no method is listed makes me assume the worst. The counter argument to me is that you should think of it less like investing in value-accreting art and more like buying a decoration or any other homegoods: the cool vase or rug you buy isn't any more or less 'burning money' and it certainly isn't going to gain value, but its pretty and its nice to have in your house.
posted by jeb at 4:37 PM on December 20, 2007

All these sites are trying to expand into the higher-end print space, because it's much more lucrative. From looking around on these sites, it looks like the really expensive stuff is serigraphs or hand-colored prints or lithographs. All of which are "not just posters".

Do you have a link to what you were looking at?

Also, I got the magazine subscription I bought on eBay.
posted by smackfu at 4:39 PM on December 20, 2007

I would never pay $250 to have anything other then a seriously unique print framed. I had friends years ago who ran a frame shop and they literally laughed all the way to the bank with markups in excess of 500%.

I'm all for supporting local businesses, but not if it means actively being ripped off.

That said I do most of my framing through American Frame. You have to measure carefully and build it yourself, but you can have a good sized piece custom framed for tens of dollars versus hundreds. I just ordered this print. To have it framed at American Frame with a two inch mat will run around $120 bucks or so. Picture is even cheaper, though I haven't ordered from them yet.
posted by wfrgms at 4:41 PM on December 20, 2007 [9 favorites]

I ordered one print from though didn't have them frame it. When it showed up it was a nice art print rather than a cheap-seeming poster.
posted by kbuxton at 4:53 PM on December 20, 2007

Response by poster: for the archives: M. Pilgrim on and
posted by jeb at 4:55 PM on December 20, 2007

I've had no problems with I just buy the prints and frame them myself.
posted by 4ster at 5:39 PM on December 20, 2007 and are run by the same company (I believe bought a few years ago) -- that's why they share a similar catalog and pricing. (You can guess the focus of each by their title.) They are not a "scam". Maybe if you gave a URL of the print you are looking to buy someone can tell you if it's worth the $250 you mentioned.

If you do decide to order from or, you should use one of the many coupons listed on coupon code sites to save a bit of money.
posted by jca at 6:09 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought from, just a poster, though, and it came as advertised. No framing ...
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:16 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought from both, and the prints were good quality, etc. My view is that your best bet is to purchase the art from them, and get it framed by a local shop. Framing is something best done in person, I think.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:28 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought several prints from I've been really quite happy with the stuff I've gotten (use coupons, btw. has a shitload of them). Most I've had framed, though some not. And the ones that I've not had framed, well, they're still sitting in the little tube thing. It's an utter bite in the ass to go get stuff properly cropped, matted, framed, etc. *Especially* if it's a weird size.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2007

I've bought prints from one of them in the past, no prob -- though not for $250. They were just regular, cheap prints as you'd expect. Nthing "what's the link?"
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:05 PM on December 20, 2007

We've gotten three things from, all framed, and honestly, we love them. Two prints and a large poster, and everything's perfect. Honestly, the large poster actually came with a slightly wonky cant to the frame, and they replaced it instantly -- shipped a new one out to us within two days, and had us ship the original one back to them in the same box. Went perfectly.
posted by delfuego at 7:12 PM on December 20, 2007

I guess 'scam' isn't the right word for what I'm worried about with these sites. Do you ever look at something on the web and it makes you feel like "hmm...maybe I don't want to spend $500 here without a second opinion?"

Yeah, I hear what you're saying. The problem is that they look like they were all designed by the same HTML-template software that churns out the generi-web pages for domain squatters. But they're legit.

The problem is compounded by the fact that, with a URL of, you know some marketing asshat told their design team: "I want to be THE portal for art purchases!" So you get this impersonal, jack-of-all-traits-master-of-none look.

Another example,, has a similar look-and-feel to it. And there you're talking thousands of dollars for the print, the frame, and the shipping. If I didn't know any better and just stumbled across the website, there'd be NO WAY I would ever doll out that kind of money, yet my SO has purchased two or three paintings from them without any problems. And in those cases, the paintings were from an artist in Russia, and took weeks to ship.

Blame their marketing department.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:51 PM on December 20, 2007

Yep I've used them... 5 posters came in 3 deliveries and took a while, but got to my house in UK from Holland or somewhere in the end.... it's certainly not a scam.
posted by tomw at 2:04 AM on December 21, 2007

I can't comment on the posters, but I heartily second for cheap framing - I framed a large, irregular-sized print for maybe $30, and literally every person who visits my apartment comments on how great it looks. Just triple-check all your measurements, and you should be good to go.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 8:10 AM on December 21, 2007

I purchased three M.C. Escher prints from a year or two ago and was quite happy with what I received. For what it's worth, check out their glossary so you can be informed on the definitions of print vs poster, etc.

As far as framing, I ended up paying about $150 for all three at a local framing store for the cheapest frame they had - thin black metal cut to specifications plus custom cut glass. Two of these prints were decent sizes, about 22"x26" the other was about half that size. I put all the frames and prints together myself. So if you want a better frame, expect to may much more.
posted by pontouf at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2007

I second the suggestion of buying the print wherever, then buying the frame at American Frame. It's a bit of work, since you have to install the hardware yourself, but that 30 minutes will probably save 50%. I just did this and the hardest part was removing the protective cover from the plexiglass.
posted by smackfu at 10:27 AM on December 22, 2007

For the record, I've gotten wonderfully cheap magazine subscriptions from ebay ($10 two years of the New Yorker/$3 for New York) with no problems at all, but the last two times I ordered subscriptions it *was* a scam. So: not all magazine subscriptions on ebay are phony. I've also ordered framed prints from and was happy with them but now go to the guy down the street who is cheaper and cute too.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:27 PM on December 24, 2007

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