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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

GAM INVADES HEIDELBERG'S MARKET SPACE.

It's unusual for a magazine to take on its largest advertiser and go head to head in selling the same product, but by the sixth day of DRUPA, I decided that Graphic Arts Monthly would begin selling printing presses. It was a monumental decision, one that was made either because I was numb from the seven days in Dusseldorf  or was not thinking straightly But twelve hours a day on your feet can wear you out. The press conferences had dwindled down to a precious few so I had the opportunity to wander areas not visited before. I was glad I did.

 One ten-foot booth, infinitesimally small compared to the gigantic displays in the press area,featured one man  selling presses. Actually they were model kits of Gutenberg's world famous press,  estimated to have been developed in 1436. The completed model was made of wood about 8 inches high, with a movable platen  There were about a dozen people watching the man construct the model with the precision of a Swiss watch maker. He narrated his movements in French, and when he had completed the construction, I asked in my  barely passable French about the price. "Roughly  $20 in American dollars," he answered. "Is there a quantity discount?, I inquired. At first he thought I was nuts when I said I wanted to order 2000. We negotiated for a few minutes and consummated a deal at $17 each. He was skeptical and said they would not be shipped until he had received a check  In July we received our first shipment and Graphic Arts Monthly began running  a quarter of a page ad every month offering the Gutenberg model  kit. Over the next five years we sold more than 5000 to readers at $50 a pop. Eventually, I located a knockoff in Asia for $14 and used it as a premium to new subscribers when I launched Footprints. We may have sold as many presses as Heidelberg did during that period.

I wandered up the the NPES suite where the American exhibitors got together for lunch and relaxation. Regis Delmontagne and his wife Elena were hosting quite a spread. Regis came over and we began to chat. "I need a day off," he remarked. So did I. He knew I had a car and asked if we'd be interested in driving to Bruges Belgium. On Saturday, June 12th, we played hookey, piled into Hertz's yellow Mercedes and Regis, Elena, Carol and I made the nearly three hour drive through The Netherlands and into Belgium. Bruges, often called the Venice of the north, is the capitol of Flanders. Back in 1982 it was one of the most beautiful cities I had ever visited, colorful and quaint at the same time. After s leisurely day walking itS streets, a welcome relief from the noise and activity of running printing presses at the Messe, we began our journey back to Germany.

Somewhere in The Netherlands we decided to stop for dinner at what looked like a charming restaurant located on the North Sear. Regis and I went outside, watching a magnificent sunset and began to tell our life stories. Regis was from Pittsburgh, attended college in that city, and began working for the Tool and Die Association. Six years ago he had joined NPES, the vendors' association, which was looking for a president. He told me his biggest fear. "You never know when a member of the board will wake up and decide that you're not doing the job he or she expected. You could be gone the next day." He needn't have worried. Later that year, NAPL, PIA and NPES formed the Graphic Arts Show company, and Regis was named to head the new organization, making him the most powerful association executive in the printing industry. (More on GASC in future blogs, and if you have a GASC story email mrvinocur@gmail.com.