The most expensive typeface I encountered is JHA Bodoni Ritalic, at €4,401.99 (almost $5,000) for a single font.
Although, I only mention it for the sake of being complete, because I feel it’s either a joke or a marketing stunt to get JHA noticed — arguably both. I doubt anyone has ever purchased the font, but yes, it is indeed the most expensive font commercially available.
Most expensive typefaces
Next to JHA Bodoni Ritalic, for years now the most expensive typeface in the world has been Lexicon from The Enschedé Font Foundry. In fact, most of their typefaces are on the expensive side to say the least. Here are the three most expensive ones they offer:
24 fonts: €3,592 / $4,996 (€281 / $391 per font)
29 fonts: €3,368 / $4,685 (€281 / $391 per font)
22 fonts: €3,255 / $4,528 (€562 / $782 per font)
Lexicon and Trinité cost the same per font even though the complete bundle of Lexicon is more expensive, despite featuring fewer fonts. If you were to buy each font of Trinité individually, it would be far more expensive than Lexicon.
Also note that, while the bundle of Ruse is cheaper than the other two typefaces, per font Ruse is double as expensive!
Although I don’t know the reasons for the relative price differences, I can tell you why these typefaces are so highly-priced in the first place. It’s for three reasons:
- Exclusivity: By asking such high prices the typefaces and the foundry maintain exclusivity. These typefaces are rarely seen in print, which makes them special every time you see them.
- Quality control: By pricing the typefaces so highly, you make sure that not every starting designer is going to use these typefaces to produce something mediocre. No, only quality designers may get the chance to work with these typefaces.
- Publishers: TEFF caters specifically to publishers rather than individual designers. Essentially individuals have been priced out, and only big publishers will have access to these typefaces.
You could also say they do it for promotion. After all, Lexicon and Trinité have been known for years now as the most expensive typefaces, and so they get mentioned in that capacity. But this word-of-mouth marketing is probably a positive outcome of the high prices, rather than a reason for setting the prices so high in the first place. But who knows how cunning those font gangsters can be.
Typefaces in the wild
From the typefaces listed above, I have seen two of them in use.
- Lexicon: I know that Lexicon has been used for the Dutch Van Dale dictionaries, as well as various other books. However, I’ve not seen these myself.
- Trinité: I used to see Trinité quite often as I went into the shopping center of Rotterdam, before I moved to Canada last year. Just outside of the center is a little book shop that uses Trinité in big letters on the front window. I always loved seeing it. It’s such a unique typeface.
- One of the design studios I worked for once used Trinité in combination with Frutiger, which sounds like an exciting combination. Sadly I don’t know what project they used Trinité and Frutiger for.
- Ruse: I have a copy of Gerrit Noordzij’s The Stroke which is set in Ruse. Although the typeface is less neutral and therefore more visible, I didn’t think it was obtrusive, which is quite a surprise for such a distinctive typeface. I have heard quite a few people state they don’t like Ruse, but I thought it was a joy to read.
If your pockets are too heavy for comfort and you need to get rid of your money quickly, also consider checking out The Enschedé Font Foundry’s entire font catalog, as well as Dutch Type Library’s.
DTL is less expensive than TEFF (but not by much) at €100 per font. I have not checked all the prices (the website is horrendous to use), but the DTL Fleischmann bundle is €1,755, and the DTL Argo bundle is €2,835. Quite the bargains.