As a tech enthusiast, you would be familiar with the fact that keycaps can be varied in different shapes, styles and materials. However, why are keycaps so expensive? In fact, the price for these tiny items can sometimes be exorbitant. While the budget keycap set in the market usually costs around $20-30, some top-tier ones […]
Why Are Keycaps So Expensive? Understanding the Cost of Keycaps
As a tech enthusiast, you would be familiar with the fact that keycaps can be varied in different shapes, styles and materials. However, why are keycaps so expensive? In fact, the price for these tiny items can sometimes be exorbitant. While the budget keycap set in the market usually costs around $20-30, some top-tier ones can go up to $100-400. This article will help you to answer this question.
Factors Influencing Keycap Prices
As one delves deeper into the alluring keycap universe, they would discover that some keycaps command astonishingly high prices. Some significant factors that can be good answer for “Why are keycaps so expensive”.
Keycaps worldwide are made from two main materials: ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate). ABS is generally less expensive than PBT, making it a popular choice for budget-friendly keycap sets. The lower material cost contributes to the affordability of ABS keycaps.
PBT is a more expensive material compared to ABS due to its superior durability, resistance to wear, and higher manufacturing standards.This table will give you a brief description of these materials.
|Cheaper and popular
|Wear out overtime
|$1223 per tonne
|$2320 per tonne
Not typically these two materials, keycaps can be produced from various other types of materials, play a crucial role in customizing mechanical keyboards to suit individual preferences. These materials offer distinct characteristics, influencing the keycap's texture, durability, and overall feel during typing.
Plastic keycaps: $5-$80+ (Material: ABS or PBT, Profile: Cherry, SA, XDA, etc.)
Resin keycaps: $10-$100+ (Handcrafted, detailed designs)
Metal keycaps: $15-$50+ (Materials: aluminum, brass, copper, etc.)
Wooden keycaps: $20-$60+ (Natural and warm feel)
Polymer clay keycaps: $10-$70+ (Made from oven-curable clay)
Air-dry clay keycaps: $15-$50+ (Air-dried clay, sculpted over ABS keycap blanks)
If you want to look in more detail about each material and which one would exhibit the best performance and the differences between them, you can find this post about a variety of materials would suit you with an enormous amount of related information.
The manufacturing process can significantly impact the cost of a product due to various factors. Labor-intensive methods, intricate handiwork, or stringent quality control measures can increase labor costs.
Highly automated processes might reduce labor expenses but require substantial upfront investments. The efficiency of the production process and material usage can also influence overall costs.
Additionally, factors such as energy consumption, equipment, technology, and location play roles in determining the final cost of the product. Striking the right balance between cost, quality, and efficiency is essential in selecting an optimal manufacturing process.
Not only varied in materials, but keycaps also can be produced by numerous methods, especially Double Shot or Dye sublimation, which you might have come across in the products’ description. Let’s come closer at each production method.
Feel and sound
Thicker-walls keycaps frequently give a deeper sound when typing and feel more solid when bottoming out. Thinner keycaps, in contrast, frequently feel lighter and produce a higher-pitched typing sound. Thicker and more solid keycaps tend to create a deeper and more satisfying sound, preferred by many enthusiasts.
Additionally, the keycap profile can have an impact on its sound and feel. When compared to shorter, cylindrical keycaps like those in Cherry profile, taller, spherical keycaps, like those in SA profile, frequently produce a deeper, lower-pitched sound.
Consequently, keycaps with a unique or premium sound profile might be more expensive to manufacture and, subsequently, have a higher cost.
In general, the material used is one worth-considering factor for the durability of the product. It is common knowledge that keycaps manufactured from PBT are more durable than the ones from ABS.
Moreover, while PBT keycaps are famous for their incredible durability, ABS keycaps tend to develop grease shine overtime. Therefore, those are the reasons why PBT always costs more than ABS.
Furthermore, some keycaps may have additional coatings or finishes to enhance their durability. For example, UV coatings can protect keycaps from fading, and textured finishes can resist wear. These additional treatments can contribute to a higher cost.
The other main reason why these tiny items can be expensive is its variety of customization options. Keycaps can be customized to suit the user’s taste, offering an unique and interest-oriented appearance.
The customers can require the artisans to produce their keycaps with specific material, printing process to fit their own mechanical keyboard.
Here are three most expensive types of customized keycaps:
- Artisan Keycaps: Artisan keycaps are often considered the pinnacle of custom keycap craftsmanship. They are meticulously handcrafted by skilled artisans, and each keycap is a unique work of art. Prices for artisan keycaps can range from $50 to several hundred dollars per keycap.Hope that our website about artisan keycaps can satisfy your interest with a multitude of eye-catching keycaps.
- Metal Keycaps: Keycaps made from premium materials like aluminum or zinc alloy are generally more expensive due to the high-quality materials and manufacturing processes involved. Prices for metal keycaps can range from $30 to over $100 per keycap.
- Limited Edition Keycaps: The exclusivity and collectible nature of these keycaps attract enthusiasts and collectors willing to pay a premium. Prices for limited edition keycaps can vary widely, but they often start at $50 and can reach several hundred dollars or more, depending on their rarity and popularity.
Availability affects the cost of keycaps due to limited supply and production scale. When keycap sets are produced in smaller quantities, the cost per unit tends to be higher due to reduced economies of scale.
Additionally, niche materials or unique designs with limited availability can result in increased material and design costs. Limited production runs may involve more manual labor, increasing production costs further. The scarcity of certain keycap sets may create higher demand, leading to price inflation in the secondary market.
Finally, keycap sets with limited availability may be perceived as more exclusive, allowing sellers to command premium prices based on the prestige associated with owning such rare and unique products.
Take the GMK brand for example, this manufacturer often produces keycaps with specially customized designs and attractive color combinations. Keycaps enthusiasts who want to own the artifacts from GMK would have to pre-order them.
Brand and Prestige
It is undeniable that before purchasing one keycaps set, you would definitely check out whether the brand has a good reputation. This means that this manufacturer can bring about high-quality keycaps that can enhance the sensation and sound of typing, giving the user a more pleasurable experience.
In fact, some enterprises such as GMK, HK gaming, YMDK and Drop are brand names that are famous for their top-tier keycaps, and have had millions of positive reviews and evaluations.
Copyright and Trademark
Copyright and trademark can affect the cost of keycaps due to licensing fees and legal compliance requirements. Manufacturers may need to obtain licenses for keycap designs that incorporate copyrighted or trademarked material, resulting in additional expenses.
Designing original keycaps that avoid infringement requires more time and effort, contributing to higher production costs. Keycap sets that are officially licensed or involve collaborations with popular brands or artists may have higher costs due to the added value associated with such arrangements.
Additionally, keycaps with copyrighted or trademarked designs that are highly sought after may command a higher price due to their limited availability and exclusivity.
Are expensive keycaps worth buying?
Deciding whether expensive keycaps are worth buying is a matter of personal preference, needs, and budget considerations. If you are looking to enhance your typing experience and value premium aesthetics and craftsmanship, expensive keycaps can be a worthwhile investment.
These keycaps often feature high-quality materials like PBT, known for their durability and longevity, ensuring that your investment will last. While the initial cost may be higher, the long-term satisfaction and enjoyment they bring can make them a valuable addition to your keyboard setup. However, it's important to assess your budget and priorities to ensure that the expense aligns with your needs and preferences.
What is the most expensive keycap set?
Expensive Keycap sets often come from specific famous brand names including, GMK, Drop, RAMA Works, etc.
This table can include some other keycaps sets which are sold at a very high price.
|MASSDROP X XDA HASBRO SCRABBLE KEYCAP
|1.0 X GSK x SINGA UNIKORN Flamenco Red - Reseda Green Keycap
|GMK Darling Base & Novelties & Spacebar Kit Keycaps Mechanical Keyboard
|Dwarf Factory x Faze: Naruto Shippuden Artisan Keycaps
|Sasuke Naruto Shippuden Keycap Limited Edition Artisan Handmade Dwarf Factory
Besides, not just about keycaps, you can also check out the review of top 10 most expensive keyboards in the market which will give you a closer look at each special and distinctive functions and features.
What is the ideal budget for keycaps?
Normally, not everyone can afford these high-priced aforementioned keycaps sets and there would always be some users looking for budget keycaps.
The ideal budget for different kinds of keycaps depends on your personal preference, keyboard layout, and desired quality.
These are some criterias that you would consider when purchasing cheap keycaps but with great experience.
Assessing your needs and preferences
When buying keycaps, it's essential to consider your keyboard's compatibility, the material used, and the keycap profile. Ensure the keycaps are compatible with your keyboard's layout and switch type.
Keycaps can be made from various materials, such as ABS or PBT plastic, each offering different characteristics in terms of texture and durability. The keycap profile affects the shape and height of the keycaps, which can impact your typing experience.
Additionally, consider the color, design, font, and legends printed on the keycaps to match your aesthetic preferences. If you desire a unique touch, look for keycap sets that offer customizability or additional novelty keys.
Researching keycap price ranges
The keycap market offers a wide range of options, from budget-friendly sets to high-end artisan creations.
To research keycap price ranges, explore mechanical keyboard communities like Reddit and Geekhack, where enthusiasts discuss group buy prices and keycap sets.
Keep in mind that keycaps' cost can vary based on the materials used, the complexity of the design, and any special features or customization options available.
Setting a budget range
Setting a budget range before buying keycaps is essential to maintain financial discipline and avoid overspending. It allows individuals to focus on keycaps that fit within their allocated budget, ensuring a more efficient and satisfying shopping experience.
With a predetermined spending limit, they can make informed decisions, prioritize their preferences, and avoid impulsive purchases. Moreover, a budget range helps individuals find the best value for their money, making sure they get quality keycaps without unnecessary financial strain.
Exploring keycap options within your budget
This strategy allows you to be more intentional with your purchase decisions. By setting a specific spending limit, you can focus on keycap sets and designs that fit within your financial means. This approach helps you avoid the temptation of overspending and guides you towards finding the best keycaps that match your preferences while staying within a comfortable price range.
Ultimately, exploring options within your budget ensures a more satisfying and stress-free shopping experience.
Where do you find the best prices for keycaps?
Facing the enormous availability of websites selling mechanical items, customers are usually strugglingly wonder which one to shop. These sites we recommend below are famous for its variety of products from numerous brands and its coverage worldwide.
Everyone would have heard about this name once as Amazon is the biggest online retailer all over the world and a well-known cloud service provider.
This site is a multinational technology enterprise that concentrates on e-commerce, cloud service, online advertising, etc.
In terms of keycaps, this website offers a wide range of products in different designs and color combinations.
This second website, Drop.com is a company selling mechanical products. They have a huge selection of keycaps in various designs and colors. Buy one, get one free on Drop's DCX keycap sets for mechanical keyboards. Drop also sells keycaps with the MT3 profile, which are higher and produce a somewhat louder and lower-pitched typing sound than shorter, cylindrical ones.
MechanicalKeyboard.com is renowned for its diverse collection of premium keycap sets, including exclusive limited editions crafted by various manufacturers and artisans. Detailed product descriptions and visuals empower informed decisions before purchase. With a user-friendly interface and secure payment options, the website ensures a hassle-free shopping experience.
Moreover, in detail, if you want to pursue a unique mechanical keyboard, visit our list of reputable websites selling them to have your own amazing one.
Keycap group purchases offer numerous benefits. By collaborating in these group buys, keyboard enthusiasts gain access to unique and exclusive designs directly from designers and artisans. These limited-quantity creations are highly valued by collectors.
Besides, detailed info about keyboard group buys communities and the benefits of this kind of purchasing can assure buyers about the reliability of products and avoid being deceived.
We believe this article has given you a multitude of information that will help you understand the cost of keycaps. There are several factors contributing to the cost of these products such as materials, manufacturing process, etc. Nevertheless, you are not obliged to purchase these high-end items. Instead, let’s try some ideal budget keycaps after thinking about all these above criterias. At last, readers can have a good answer to the hotly-debated question at the beginning of this topic: Why are Keycaps so expensive?