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Tucson, questionable prices?
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James
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2008 10:21    Post subject: Tucson, questionable prices?  

Jordi

Sadly I could not make Tucson this year. I have read your reports (thank you very much) and also some of the other ones on the web and it seems to me that the Tucson world is made up of two very different groups:
- those selling and buying very expensive material at questionable prices
- normal people like me, who cannot afford those prices and cannot see why they are justified

What do you think of this trend? Will it cause the whole mineral world to crash or will it simply require the high end dealers/buyers to loose a lot of money? I feel that we have a bubble here, just like in the US housing market and worry whether we will all suffer when this gets sorted out.

Otherwise it sounds like it was a great show
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2008 12:25    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Well James, what a question! That was the real item being discussed during Tucson 2008. Lots of people come to see me (both dealers and collectors) and talk about this. The vast majority of those that I spoke to were very surprised and they said that certain specimens, with certain presentation (special lights, custom plastic bases, a fashion atmosphere), and sometimes even lots of restoration, had become 'works of art' not minerals. Given all this certain people seems to tend to add one (or even two) extra zeros to the price, which made them totally out of reach for us basic mortals.

This created a strange effect in which specimens of similar quality, depending who was selling them, might cost $90, $900 or in extreme cases as much as $9000. I think that this must stun veteran collectors and create confusion among those new to the market who, for lack of knowledge, might believe that such specimens, so well presented, illuminated and 'worked' are better than another one that looks more or less the same but which do not have the fashion extras. As they are unlikely to have the money for such specimens they may get out off the hobby, as they cannot buy what they see to be 'the good material'.

For me this debate is uncomfortable, as I sell minerals and some of these do have very high prices, so I would prefer that others give their opinions on this. But I can say that this is a very relevant debate and that I would not be far from the truth if I were to say that many people believe that the spiral of increasing of some prices may have gone too far up.

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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2008 12:32    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Jordi

This really worries me. It has all the marks of a bubble of prices that can only fall. I have seen this before, but we never seem to learn that such bubbles occur (tulips, internet stocks, houses, minerals). All I hope for is that we get a soft landing.

James
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2008 13:18    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Hi James,

As you I couldn't make Tucson but I read reports about the widening gap between low/mid collectors & top collectors during the 2008 show.

I think that sooner or later the mineral market will crash. Some dealers just lost their minds in putting prices so high. As it happened on the French market in the past, an adjustment will take place and the sooner the better, because more and more new comers flee the hobby as getting good minerals is just out of reach.

In my case, as prices keep going higher I start to wonder if it's not better to postpon my purchases for some time, making a minus one customer for dealers as a result ?

Hope the market will understand that the lead's going in the wrong direction before hitting the wall.
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2008 16:00    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Chris

In the end the hype from Tucson seems extreme to me. So many people talking about 'the best' and 'the finest' when from what I see they are wrong - I have specimens in my collection that are better than 'the best', so these must be 'the ??????'. I could wonder why these dealers are doing this, but the answer is clear - $, €, Yen!

We shall see where it all ends up - as they always say markets may go down as well as up

James
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 02:02    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Really!
There is an enormous and horrid confussion on prices and quality (not only in Tucson, of course, or not only in United States, of course). The value judgement about every single mineral is always dangerous (and, almost always, inaccurate). Highest, tallest... the must... use to be just commercial words. Evidently they are not scientific and they don't correspond to every personal (or public) collection, but the case is that everyone has his personal (more or less limitated) amount of information about the existing specimens and it is, in the case of the commerce of minerals, directly applied to the prices.
Sellers and buyers (one by one) have their own perception of reality and this "real reality" inspire us about if a single piece is or no expensive (but it is so relative!).
If prices looks us high, in my country we say: against the vice to ask for, there is the virtue of not to give... Client (one by one) creates the commerce.
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 03:51    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Based on the parts of the Tucson shows I was able to attend and the many reports on the following events, I think it is easy to conclude that never have so many exceptional mineral specimens been assembled at the same place for people to admire - and desire. The number of exceptional specimens for sale have also increased dramatically following the growth of the Westward Look show and the influx of trophy-hunting, wealthy collectors. There has also been an strong increase in prices that for some minerals and segments of the market may prove to be be unsustainable.
There is an impression that the increase in prices for the high-end specimens has been especially dramatic, but this may in part be due to the fact that such specimens were not previously offered in the view of the public. Probably also fewer such specimens reached the market. The number of potential buyers were so few that the dealers targeted these customers outside the general shows. The small number of exceptionally wealthy collectors and a few museums with funds to invest in minerals, could also sustain a very small number of such high-end dealers. Also previously there were specimens sold at staggering prices, but these deals were few and they were done outside public view. At the supply end of the chain this limited market for the exceptionally showy and expensive specimens made it less tempting to allocate resources into saving large, undamaged specimens with crystals aesthetically arranged on the matrix. Many contemporary producing localities are in active mines, and any disruption of the mining activity to save specimens will be at a cost. I remember that when the mining company Beralt in Panasqueira in the 80`ies tried to organize the saving of specimens as a profitable additional activity, it was not considered economically feasible. Maybe it was because the high-end mineral market was to small to support this activity. In similar mines in China ( i.e the YaoGangXian mine) specimen saving activities are well organized and the minimg company is compensated for the costs when production is halted to extract undamaged display specimens. But this also accounts for the high prices on the best specimens. An expanding market for high-end specimens also stimulates the release of such specimens from old collections.
The main reason for this rapidly expanding market for very expensive high-end specimens is not the general increase in living standards or the fact that the average collector is older with a better economy. I think the reason is the appearance on the scene (especially in the USA) of a larger number of wealthy, socially competitive collectors who have turned to minerals as an alternative to investments in art, antiques, coins, stamps or dolls etc. There have allways been such mineral collectors and many of the best specimens we admire in the major museums were assembled by such individuals in the past. The new trend in the mineral world is the emerging of an open and competitive market for this segment of collectors who also more openly show off their wealth. The supplement to the last issue of the Mineralogical Record and the interview with Mark Weill in the Forbes Collector newsletter ( nov. 2006 issue) illustrates this. Clever dealers stimulate this development to increase prices and sales - but that is their job as dealers to do just that. What effect will this have on the majority of mineral collectors and the bulk of mineral market ? Hopefully it will not drive the general price levels of minerals to an unsustainable level. I do not think this is happening, and if the high-end segment of the market crashes, it will mainly affect a handfull of high-end dealers and collectors and again divert the trade in such specimens to the back-rooms outside public view. It is important for true mineral collectors and serious dealers not to let their envy and frustration on witnessing these extravgances influence their activities and enjoyment of minerals. Never have so many quality specimens been available to collectors, many still at very affordable prices.

Knut
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 05:13    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Dear friends,
I agree with all of you, and I like Knut's summary.

The prices of paintings etc have been rising always, have not dropped I believe.
So why should prices of minerals drop?
It's actually very simple I think. You all know that also, so this is nothing new. The prices of paintings, antiques, jewelry, stamps, mineral specimens etc are made up of what we are willing to pay. If some are willing to pay 1.000.000 times the raw material price, that's ok to me. If someone wants to do that, fine, beautiful. It helps dealers getting a nice income to live from. And.... If we stop paying high prices, prices will simply fall.
I don't have the money to buy expensive minerals, and it's a simple matter of choice and priorities. In our world we are very lucky to have a choice to buy expensive things. Instead of buying expensive things, we also have the choice to donate that money to someone who needs it to buy food and have a roof over their heads.
I am very fortunate to work in healthcare and spend money on travel, experiences, feeling nature and meeting nice people...
I think it's always possible to find the specimen that fits you at the price that fits you. And if you can't pay for a specimen, just join me to find the specimen yourself ;-)
Cheers! Frank

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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 05:28    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

While I agree that some (many) mineral prices are breathtaking, I do not share the gloomy pospect for the future that James expresses. People have been saying this for years and the prices just keep going higher and higher. Someone is buying this stuff, else the market would be self-correcting. I see no evidence that this is occurring. The crash in the housing market had nothing to do with spiraling house prices. I rather prefer to believe that there will be a continuing split between the people (mostly new buyers) who pay these prices and those who shop carefully and buy minerals that are priced reasonably.

It is interesting to note that Stack's, a rare coins auction house, has recently moved into offering minerals because they hired Bill Metropolis, who used to be involved with the mineral collection at Harvard University. In their first effort at selling minerals they had an enormous success, most of the minerals bringing prices far in excess of the estimated values. I was told that 90-some percent of the buyers were coin collectors who knew nothing about minerals. I was also told that in comparison to what these people are accustomed to spending for coins, the money they bid for the minerals was trivial. Some will learn to love minerals and buy more, most will not. Another auction house had a natural history auction in Dallas, Texas, in January and a 4-inch cube of pyrite from Navajun, Spain, sold for $20,000! In Tucson one could have purchased the same thing for perhaps $200. What does this mean?

keldjarn mentioned the supplement to the Mineralogical Record that came with the Jan/Feb 2008 issue. It features the collection of a young and extremely wealthy man, Marc Weil, who has been heavily influenced in his purchases by a handful of dealers, all of whom are connected in business, it appears. It is ironic that this book would appear just before the Tucson Show where an assembly of minerals superior to anything the world has ever seen previously occurred. I wonder what Marc Weill is thinking these days. Every piece in his book could be superseded by a better specimen of the same thing at this year's Tucson Show, except for the bournonite, at least before he dropped it and it broke into many pieces.

I don't see a collapse in the pricing of minerals but there could be a slight downward adjustment at some point if dealers find that they have a large inventory of minerals they cannot sell. Three realities must be recognized. One is that mineral prices at the source are getting higher as the suppliers are now more fully aware of what minerals are being sold for at the retail level. Another is that the quality of minerals being recovered today is vastly superior to anything that we have experienced before. Finally, the competition between dealers is far more extreme that ever before. All of these factors are surely contributing to the crazy escalation in prices that we are seeing.

One change from the past is abundantly clear. I can remember when the retail prices of minerals bore some relationship to what they cost the dealer. The standard markup was double the cost, or triple the cost. Today, this no longer can be said. It appears that some dealers just pull prices out of the air and pray that someone will be foolish enough to pay them. "Let's add a couple fo zeros to that price, it will still sell."

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udo




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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 06:40    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Sorry if I am repeating some of the comments already made.
I believe that the true best of the best specimens are probably still underpriced, especailly in relation to other collecting fields. However, too many lesser specimens are being passed off as 'the best of the best'. The price difference between the single best specimens from a find and those that just dont quite make it, should be massive, ie those that dont make it should be a lot lot less, but are often offered at similar prices. And yes, I agree that some collectors are led far too easily by dealers, being heavily influenced by the dealers opinion, and perhaps not using their own judgement. I have heard a few times people commenting that a specimen is superb beacuse X says it is.

As a person who can not get to every major show in the world, I enjoy reading the various reports on the internet, but, it must be remembered that the people writing the reports are selecting the best things to show us ( we would not want to see pictures of flat after flat of low grade rough minerals !). In my opinion they are bringing us the things we may not otherwise see, but this is only one section of any show. Do not forget that most shows will offer material in may grades and qualities. Yes there are specimens for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars offerd in Tucson, but there are more 10 dollar rocks in Tucson than mega buck specimens. You do not have to spend 10,000 dollars per specimen to be a mineral collector !!

If I were an art collector, would I complain that the likes of monet and Van Gough were out of my price range ? Should the true best specimens be looked upon in a similar way ?
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 08:47    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I see that I have started an interesting debate. I am glad to hear that people disagree with the pesimism I expressed - I have always been a bit cautious about such matters, which may be why I cannot afford those high price specimens! I guess that there will always be very good specimens that are worth a lot, but do agree that too many good ones may be sold as 'the best'. In my life I have had two occasions where I saw the whole pocket and therefore really know what was 'the best' from the find. It is very clear that this is subjective, so from different points of view there are likely to be more than one 'best' (see the other debate on the forum on 'quality minerals' http://www.fabreminerals.com/forum/Message-Board/viewtopic.php?t=162) so we cannot simply judge this. What does seem to happen is that some dealers decide that they have 'The Best' so that they can add those extra 0s to the price.

I have always found that dealers who are well known can sell material that lesser known people struggle to sell, even at lower prices. I guess this is the 'work of art' factor that Jordi mentions, with people happy to pay a higher price from a reputable or well knwon dealer.

One of the things I have done is to look back at my old labels which often have old prices and dates marked on them. From this one can work out the long term inflation rate of minerals, which does seem to be reasonable but not extreme
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 12:58    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

A lot of collectors seem to confuse the terms "price" and "value". I heard a show visitor say to his wife, "Look, Honey, this rock is worth $10,000 !". Wrong. The initial asking price was $10,000; the rock is only worth that much if someone actually pays that amount. A dealer can write any number he wants to on a label; that does not increase the value of the specimen.

When I first visited the Tucson show in 1993 as a guest of California mineral wholesaler Rock Currier, I was totally bewildered by the pricing. How was it possible that a crystal could be priced at $5,000 in one case while a very similar specimen could be $300 elsewhere? "How should a dealer decide what price to put on a label?", I asked Rock. "It's very easy", he replied, "Look at the specimen and write down the FIRST number that pops into your head, then, at the end of the show, if it wasn't sold, it was too expensive; if it sold, it was too cheap".

Visit the very "high-end" dealers at the beginning and at the end of a show. How many of the 5-digit-price specimens are still there, unsold? Probably 90% of them. If the dealer still owns the same rock after exposing it at Tucson, Denver and Munich, that indicates that the "value" was not equal to the "price" written on the label. Such dealers will then often exchange or consign these specimens to each other, creating the illusion that actual transactions are ocurring at this price range. Smoke and mirrors. (The REAL high-end transactions mostly take place in wealthy buyers' and dealers' homes or offices, and not in public view at a show.)

Cheers,
Alfredo
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 13:22    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

A quick question. If the customers can know the "real" price of a specimen, why sellers not?

Jordi
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 14:36    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Well, perhaps I am too naive, but I think that price is what anyone is willing to pay.
No more, no less..

No one knows the price, till the piece is sold....

See the prices that Van Gogh's fetch at present and wonder why he died poor as a church mice...

Personally, if I like it and I can afford, I buy it. If I want it so badly that I pay more, well, one only lives one time. Carpe diem!
And, at the end, market corrects prices. So, why to care?
For me is a hobby, not an investment...

With best wishes

Lluís
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 18:55    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

yes
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 19:09    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Sellers now know very well the prices. The problem is that in the market there are more dealers and very few new customers. So every dealer have less customers and try to charge more each client to cover the general expenses that every year increase.
The same problems have the miners with less customers and also the general cost for a mine increase in last years(gasoline, electricity, food, etc).
The top customer now are very well informed about price but the few newcomers not and the dealers are waiting such kind of client. Anyway this situation will sure not help in the future the market. We are near to a collapse of many dealers. This was the situation this year saw in Tucson show but we will see better next year with many dealers sure not coming anymore at the show. Too expensive, few customers and general expenses increased. The market in the next years will be more selective with less but more serious dealers.

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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2008 19:28    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Mogok, I do not agree with you that high prices are due to a larger number of dealers chasing a diminishing number of customers. That would be a violation of the most elementary laws of economics, and many dealers would very quickly be out of business. Be assured that the number of new customers for minerals has been increasing rapidly, thanks mainly to the internet.

To Jordi's question, I'll respond that neither dealers nor collectors can know the "real" value of a mineral, because a mineral specimen has no intrinsic value at all. We can't eat it or live in it. We are all just trying to put a price on desire - another human's desire to possess rock. What is the value of Van Gogh's 15 sunflowers? Some yellow paint and a canvas for $10? Someone paid $40,000,000 for that painting. Was it payment for extraordinary talent? Many young painters with equal skill might not be able to get $400 for a painting. And why $40,000,000, and not $20 million, or $80 million? Just because at that moment there was one customer willing to spend $40,000,000 to satisfy his desire, and there wasn't anyone, at that moment, willing or able to spend $41 million to satisfy his desire. The mineral specimen business is not so different, except that I can't find anyone so strongly desirous of possessing my grey franckeite that he will pay more than $300 for it ;-((

Alfredo
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PostPosted: Feb 21, 2008 01:35    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Alfredo,

I agree with your Van Gogh's appraisal. I do not would be preoccupied if the same thing would happen with the minerals. I mean: following your idea and considering that a mineral purchase is mostly a human desire, their prices could be, as the Van Gogh paint, 20, 40 or 80, why not?. But what we are talking about is not the half or the double, but one or two ceros more, graciously added.

The market is smart and I don't think that it will collapse, I'm just worried about all this new customers recently arrived to the market. They could be disappointed very fast and left the hobby quickly if they feel that the mineral market is a crazy market, where prices could have one, two, or three ceros more, easily added to the "real" prices.

We had a "golden age" of mineral's sells on the last years, I'm preoccupied for possible future undesired consequences of this (maybe) too fast growing.

Jordi
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PostPosted: Feb 21, 2008 04:31    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

dear alfredo
probably you wasnt in tucson this years.
dealers wasnt happy about the business.very few customers in the show.
about the intrinsique value of a mineral or gem few people consider hte cost of work in the mines.the higher cost of rubies and sapphires(for sample)in the last year depend mainly from the fact oft he higher costs of production. after, if the market will accept these new prices will be oneother problem. to see the real intrinsique value of a mineral or gem you have to go in the mines and you will see that is not a painting.
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PostPosted: Feb 21, 2008 04:54    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Dear "Mogok",

Alfredo is probably the person who is yearly in Tucson the longest time of all ;-)
The police has to send him away after 5 weeks.... illegal Tucson immigrant!
And... he was probably more underground than you and me together.
Assumptions are more dangerous than old mines ;-)

Cheers! Frank

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