What is a mechanical keyboard group buy? Group buys explained

Like regular keyboard buying but with a year's worth of AFKing.

Screengrab via KBDfans

Many manufacturers of keyboards have products they consistently produce, list, and sell, with regular inventory restocks. These items are often the bread and butter of major keyboard manufacturers, making up a bulk of the business they receive. But for the items that are designed and produced by individuals without a large store of resources to mass-produce their product, group buys act as an integral part of getting their creations to customers.

Image via KBDfans

Group buys typically begin with an interest check. These interest checks are a method of testing to ensure a keyboard or keyboard accessory has enough interest from the keyboard community before listing a group buy.

Most group buys work in roughly the same way. First, a company, group of enthusiasts, or an individual creates a working product that generates some interest via an interest check. Then that entity puts out a group buy for the product, which posts a limited number of items to be made in the future for an upfront investment. A group buy has to reach its minimum order quantity (MOQ) of buy-ins, or the group buy is canceled, and customers all receive their money back. 

The benefits of a keyboard group buy

Image via Vala Supply

If the group buy reaches its MOQ, the items that are already bought and paid for are produced and delivered to each respective customer. Group buys have the benefit of reducing risk for the producer of the product and guarantee a unique and limited item for the customer. This opens up the market for custom keyboard creation in ways that wouldn’t exist if the only items sold were popular, mass-produced components. 

Additionally, the long-term benefits of a group buy are particularly attractive for the collectors in the keyboard community. The reasons for this are numerous, but one of the most important aspects is that items sold in a group buy are, by default, limited in number and therefore rare, making them inherently more valuable after the group buy takes place. 

People don’t always want to invest their money into a group buy, even if they enjoy the products they produce. So when a group buy is successful, the customers can typically resell their items for an increased price since the buyer is often willing to pay extra for the rarity of the item without having to wait a significant amount of time to receive it. 

Group buys still function as the only way some of the more obscure and independently made keyboards and keyboard accessories make it into the wild. For the enthusiast, group buys are an integral pastime to the keyboard hobby. 

The risks of a keyboard group buy

When you put your money into the hands of a stranger, there will always be risks associated with whatever you’re doing. That’s why time spent in group buys should be 99 percent research into the producer and one percent buying. Remember, group buys are not pre-orders. Group buys are an organized effort to pay for manufacturing. 

Things can and do go wrong when manufacturing. Issues with a third party, issues with an organizer, and sometimes malicious intent to scam customers are all things that can possibly make a group buy head south fast.

The truth is, these issues don’t only extend to unknown organizers with malicious intent, either. Sometimes, organizers and companies that host group buys often run into issues that extend the waiting period to receive the product of a group buy to a year or more. Sometimes a manufacturer makes an error, and the final product is in a different color or slightly different specifications. And because group buys are a concerted effort to pay for these product’s creation, pulling out of a group buy after running into unforeseen issues is not only frowned upon or against the rules laid out by the organizer but is sometimes impossible altogether since the money put into a group buy is gone once manufacturing begins. 

Keyboard group buys are an integral tool in the custom keyboard community. They enable individual creators and large companies alike to produce niche and rare items that help spur the creativity of the hobby. While the risks associated with group buys are often enough to turn away newcomers, doing one’s due diligence and researching the organizers behind group buys is often enough to ensure a group buy has a high likelihood of moving along smoothly.