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Tucson, questionable prices?
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Ray McDougall




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PostPosted: Feb 25, 2008 12:49    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

An “ARP” model could potentially be beneficial if it was possible, but given (1) the incredible subjectivity as between specimens (as discussed above and in the quality discussion), (2) potential market transparency issues that can always exist in any market, and (3) the fact that everyone in the mineral market has an interest in the outcome, it could be very difficult to establish a viable objective process for deriving ARPs. Assuming a process and ARPs, if the process was viewed by the market as fair and objective the market would by definition succeed, and if the process was perceived to be in any way flawed, the market would reflect that too, to the detriment of dealers and collectors alike. All of which strikes me as coming back around to free market pricing prevailing one way or another.

To me, the fact of arriving at a deal as between a buyer and a seller upon the sale of a specimen is truly not indicative of an “adversarial” relationship – a transaction/deal is simply a reflection that a collector and a dealer agree on a price. Rather than adversarial, these are collaborative relationships - dealers are integral to helping collectors and institutions build their collections and collectors and institutions are essential to dealers (not to mention collectors are sometimes dealers and vice versa), and all contribute to the science of mineralogy. The hobby, the science and the community of Mineral World depend on its friendships and the collegial and collaborative sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas – all the antithesis of an adversarial environment.

R.
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keldjarn




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PostPosted: Feb 25, 2008 14:42    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I know Jordi as a very dedicated and honest mineral dealer and fullly understand why he is attracted to an "ARP"-model for determining mineral prices. I do think experienced collectors and dealers in most cases can agree on an "estimated real price" for most minerals sold in todays market independent of the numbers on the price tag. These estimates will of course also reflect where the specimens are expected to be sold ( country, region, mineralshow, internet, auction etc.). For specimens that occur in large quantities with a relative narrow quality range, this is easy ( can be applied to most specimens of Vanadinites, Fluorites, Pyrites, Zeolites, Quartz, Amethysts, crystalized ore minerals from Bulgaria, Peru, China etc, etc). But it becomes much harder - or as I would state it: there would have to be a very large " range of uncertainty" applied to any price estimate - for those very few specimens of exceptional quality, crystal size and aesthetics also for these ordinary minerals. For exceptionally rare minerals and exceptional specimens of unusual minerals, it is also very hard to give a price estimate without a considerable "range of uncertainty".
Compared to other collectors`markets, the appraisal of mineral specimen values will allways be much more difficult than man-made objects like stamps, coins, dolls etc. where it is also possible to estimate the total number of objects in existance of many of the most desirable types. There can allways be a new strike of specimens of superior quality also at the classic localities and the risk of experiencing this would have to be reflected in any price estimate for minerals.
I remember many years ago price-guides for minerals which was used as an addition to the many prise lists issued by dealers as indications on market prices. But they were never accepted or used in the same way as catalogues for stamps, coins, dolls and many other kinds of collectibles. And they were never relevant for those very few one-of-a-kind specimens which changed hands in dealers`back roooms and by the purchases made by some of the major museums.
I think Jordi`s ARPs or my "Estimated real price with a range of uncertainty" could be used for 99 % ( or more) of the market ( in number of specimens or sales) and with specimens priced to a few hundred USD. But I do not think that would be relevant for the question raised about" questionable prices" in the very upper market segment. I believe in this segment any estimated price could be incorrect by a factor of 10 ! - This is also frequently observed at art and antiques auctions (or with stamps on letters with very collectible and rare post marks) where exceptional and unusual objects may remain unsold ( because even a low starting price was considered too high by the purchasers) - or the final price may be 10 times the original estimated value ! I think the interesting observation is the growth and increased competition in the high-end segment of the mineral market, and to what degree this is also happening in other countries than the US. I think only time will show if what we are witnessing is an emerging" international aesthetic specimen market" on the same level as art and antiques and if this market will grow to sustainable levels. I cannot see how it should have a negative effect on what most mineral collectors enjoy in the hobby. It will surely have as little to do with education and the science of mineralogy as the market of fine antiques is related to the studying and teaching of history or archeology.
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Carles Curto




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PostPosted: Feb 26, 2008 02:26    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Yes, the ”international aesthetic specimen market" is an specific sector of sales (and minerals!) with particular criteria and characteristics. When John says: “Paul Desautels, always argued that minerals were undervalued and that they should be as desirable and expensive as fine art” (a nice story for a nice two persons) I’m absolutely agree, but I add: Paul Desautels had a very fine taste for minerals (and life), Washington and Houston can testify it and, in some sense, we can considere him as inventor of this idea that “keldjarn” beautifully expresses as ”international aesthetic specimen” (and, by extension the inventor of their market).
But most of the laments of advanced collectors are about simply good (and why not, nice) “scientific-esthetic” minerals. Its prices frequently look inoculate by those of the “top” specimens. In Munich last November I saw a really very poor Spanish Fluorite (is just one example but not the only one) priced 6000€. I suppose this Fluorite was not sold but, what to think about the dealer?
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Gail




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 08:44    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Everyone keeps labeling collectors here....Elite, scientific, and a slew of other names.
I collect ALL aspects of rocks and minerals in all price ranges, including self collected.
I refuse to be classified under ANY title that others wish to put upon me.

I am a mineral collector. I buy them. I crawl into mines and collect them. I go to places where tabletops are full of rocks and find my treasures there just as easily as the fine mineral booths set up at the Westward Look where I can get a chocolate with my purchase. ( Or two )

The point is that I see everyone segregating collectors into specific monetary or intelectual groups, but that is rather lame. No one is taking into account that there is a huge group of collectors who encompass ALL aspects of collecting! They can tell you the name of the mine, where it is located, who worked it and if it still open or not and the chemical makeup of that $50,000 rock they just bought.

I have seen a lot of anti-wealthy collector drivel on many sites, not so much on this one...but it is amazing how wealth is misconstrued as to mean dumb.
And the scientific community is not full of socially retarded people either...as is often suggested. People are just PEOPLE.

I respect anyone who has an interest in minerals, period. I don't give a darn if they collect million dollar rocks or if they only self collect...they are simply enjoying the same passion I enjoy.
Why wouldn't I value knowing them?

Viva la difference in the purchasing customer base, it is a guarantee that minerals will always be sought after and there is a market for all rocks and minerals that come out of the ground. Now what could be wrong with that may I ask?

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Gail




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 08:46    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Please excuse my misspelling of Intellectually in the previous post, I just woke up...
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keldjarn




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 12:57    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Gail.,
I agree with you 100 % that what should unite us in such fora as this is the common love of minerals and mineralogy. It should be possible to analyse and discuss the current trends in the mineral market intellectualy without posts being coloured by envy or frustration. This requires a wide range of tolerance also in the interpretations because many contributors do not use English as their first language. There are also cultural differences to consider. I think such discussions on market segments, market trends and prices between collectors and also dealers is as important and relevant for the mineral market as for any other market where it is done with far less emotions.
There are different priorities and collecting strategies among mineral collectors and I think most collectors will recognize the "pyramide" as described by Alfredo. If some collectors feel they do not fit in this model - or if they would like to see the pyramide upside down to avoid some kind of social stigma, is not so important. I still think it is important to analyse how different market segments evolve. I have personally no problems admitting that my priorities and collecting strategies would place me on the upper levels of Alfredos pyramide and know others would put me in that market segment. It is not because I am so much more wealthy than many of my friends, but because I would be willing on rare occasions to put the kind of money into mineral specimens that they freely are putting into paintings, oriental rugs or fine antiques. Unlike paintings and antiques, the high-end mineral market seems to be less linked to national and cultural tastes and preferences. It is therefore very interesting for me to have the opinion of other collectors and dealers from other countries as to how the international mineral market and prices of mineral specimens will evolve.
I will continue self-collecting, trading - and purchasing as it fits my priorities and strategy and fully respect whatever relationship other collectors choose to have to our common passion - the wonderful objects of art and unusual chemical substances created by nature.
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Jordi Fabre
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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 13:48    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Gail,

Same as Knut, I agree with you 100%.

I have know during my dealer's life some people who have wasted huge amounts of money buying minerals like a "diletante" pleasure and in some way also trying to be the " kings" of an small world, as they can't really be "kings" in other more expensive hobbies, like paints or antiquities. They don't really knew so much about minerals or mineralogy, and worst, they had not so much interest for it.

If you been interested and you like to learn about mineral's chemistry, crystallography, paragenesis, diposits, history of the mineralogy...and the most important thing, you LOVE minerals, then welcome to the club!. Is not matter if you collect expensive minerals or ugly and cheap rocks, you share a common pasion with many other people enjoying also the silent perfection and beauty of the minerals.

On my oppinion most concepts discussed on this topic are relative if some one, like you, is getting a real felicity collecting minerals. So, congratulations and enjoy!

Jordi
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Gail




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 16:19    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Thank you, Gentlemen, for being so gracious.
I applaud your replies.

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Ray McDougall




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 18:57    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Very eloquent post, Knut - a true pleasure to read.

Sharing impressions and analyses about pricing models, market dynamics and collector demographics (regardless of any pyramid and potential theoretical shapes of its sides :) ) after Tucson is interesting and relevant, but I'd sure hope only as food for thought that neither undermines the respect among us that makes our collecting community what it is, nor holds a candle to the underlying fascination or love for it all that inspires us to be here in the first place.

Gail, spot-on passage about all the different collecting experiences that make up the fun of assembling our collections, although it'd be even better if those chocolates were also dispensed at the bottom of each of the mineral locality holes into which we all crawl.

R.
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Gail




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 21:22    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I am sure you would have to fight off others if chocolate were found in mines!
I know I would have to climb over you to get to the "chocolate pocket " first it seems? Race you!

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Ray McDougall




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PostPosted: Feb 28, 2008 21:59    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Well I'll be happy to share with you once we get there... (I mean honestly, would we really be mineral collectors to go through the trouble of imagining the perfect dream pocket of all time that somehow had only one measly chocolate crystal in it? :) I confess I'm already down the road pondering what other aesthetic things the chocolates are perched upon)

...But as for the race, absolutely, you're on!

R.
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Carles Curto




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PostPosted: Feb 29, 2008 02:21    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I really enjoy Gail!
She is just the kind of person I considere a "normal" (positively in brackets) collector.
And I'm shure there are a lot of "Gails" in our mineralogical world.
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udo




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PostPosted: Feb 29, 2008 06:23    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

We must never lose sight of the fact that we are all linked by a common love of minerals, wether they be 1 dollar or 50,000 dollars rocks !
However, there is always envy in any collecting field, from some poeple, that they can not afford the price of the specimens they see in the best cabinets in a show. I myself can not afford the high end pieces, but like to think, that there is at least the chance that one day I may find such a specimen in the field - but then every rock I dig up is special to me, I can talk you though my collection, and tell you the species and locality, or I can talk you through the same rocks and tell you how I hit my hand with my hammer, how badly it rained, how the car got bogged down in clay at the quarry, when the specimen was collected. For me, part of my love of minerals is everythig else that goes with the rock.

I would just like to add one comment to an earlier item, regarding a price catalogue for minerals. I have been involved in many different collecting fields over many years, and in many cases of narrow collecting fields, the puiblication of a 'book' on the subject which is pricing based has often done a lot of harm to the hobby. When a price is set in a book for an item, the felxibility in pricing is lost, as everyone will tell you the 'book' price of an item, and many people do not then take things such as condition into consideration. Books can also spawn a new generation of people getting involved with that item, they know nothing about the item, and are not interested in learning about it, yet they will know every 'book' price off by heart. Most collectors price guides really need a little knowledge about the item before you can use the price guide correctly.

Those last comments are not intended to give offence, I apologise in advance if they do. I have had a lot of experience with dealing with items where all people talk about is the 'book' price - and it is soul destroying when you have a genuine love for that item.
Apologies for any poor english / spelling, I am a German living in England still trying to learn to 'speak proper' as they say here !
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Les Presmyk




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PostPosted: Feb 29, 2008 08:43    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I enjoy chocolate as much as the next person but great chocolate pails in comparison to finding a pocket so I think we have now found the real dividing line between in mineral collectors; those who know that the ultimate goal is a pocket of crystals and those who are busy racing each other for the momentary high of a bite of chocolate.

Our hobby is an interesting one when you consider how much of a melting pot it is. I have watched and experienced the changes in the hobby and market over the past 46 years. Ever since Paul Desautels observed that fine minerals should carry the same pricing as fine art, people have tried to drive the market to make it so. The one thing that we can never lose sight of when talking about pricing catalogs and single specimens worth $10's of millions of dollars (outside of precious metal pricing or gem value) is the fact that there is always the possibility of finding a better one.

That is not the case with art or coins or stamps. I realize that occasionally a stash of coins or stamps may be found but somewhere it is known exactly how many were produced and that does not change. While I can make a strong argument for the best phosphyllite or the best legrandite in the world, can the same case be made for the best quartz, aquamarine, wulfenite or elbaite specimen? There is where the logic begins to break down for a concise and unversally accepted pricing guide.

The Mineralogical Record did a price survey over 20 years ago. They pictured a group of specimens and asked dealers to send in how they would price these specimens. The price ranges were at least 100% different from low to high. The same thing can be seen at any mineral show. The dealers buy from different sources, pay varying prices (this is definitely not like Wal-Mart buying from a supplier), and then have to reflect those costs in their selling price.

Ours is a hobby is one of hope and opportunity. Anyone can go out and find that next great pocket and this happens with some regularity. It is also a hobby that requires a lot of hands-on experience whether you are field collecting or purchasing specimens.

Frankly, on a daily basis, a good piece of chocolate will keep me going until I can head for the hills.
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PostPosted: Mar 01, 2008 05:52    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Excellent commentary by Les and a point that I believe had not yet been made so far in this discussion, that of the very real possibility of superior specimens being found at any given time. Who would have guessed 20 years ago that China would be turning out the amazing specimens we see from there today?

One small correction regarding Les' comments. The survey (I was involved in conducting it) was 30 years ago and the people surveyed were not all dealers, some were collectors and a few were not even collectors or dealers.

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Gail




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PostPosted: Mar 01, 2008 09:34    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Well Carles, I like you too!
And Les, always a consumate politician has ways of making sense without stepping on anyone's toes. I had the great pleasure of opening a pocket of crystals my very first time to go into a mine, it was at the end of a very tight area, I saw the tiniest crack and put my chisel in to see what was behind the crack and there it was! A lovely pocket of fluorites and quartz. I managed to harvest about 20 or so great specimens which still make me thrill to this day. So Les, yes....it would make chocolate pale in comparison. Although a box of Godiva chocolates under the tree at Christmas certainly comes close!
And Ray, I had some Belgium chocolate last night so am a happy woman today.
Udo makes some good points as well, always nice to share what you think when it is presented in a positive manner.

What a pleasant conversation if ever there was one!

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PostPosted: Mar 02, 2008 10:13    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

In asked me the question!"why rea minerals specimens more and more expensive?!"
When you see very good specimen you can understand why there is a really expensive price.
But lots of dealers think that they have the most beautifull and consequently the most expensive.
Ten years ago I baugh a stone for 15 francs,now I'm quite sure that I can't have it for50 euros!
I can understant the big prices for masterpieces,but for common pieces,I really don't understand!
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PostPosted: Mar 02, 2008 13:07    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

Apologies to parfaitelumiere, who has stayed on-topic with this posting, and for leading the discussion further astray.

Some comments and points to emphasize, as I quietly follow the evolution of this and other threads with a bit of discomfort: Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to go “digging for chocolates" or visiting the big shows, and for whatever reasons must limit themselves to urban collecting - myself included. Nonetheless I like to think that I am still a collector of minerals even if I have adopted an atypical collecting style which is more suitable to me, because collecting minerals gives me pleasure and a chance to learn about an interesting world (though my style is not necessarily all that atypical – the Internet is rapidly changing the collector’s landscape).

That being said, I would ask that we scorn neither the "trophy-hunters" nor the untold numbers of people at the bottom of the pyramid (described in another thread as “mineralogically hopeless”), who, paraphrasing from various comments in this discussion: buy a specimen just because it looks pretty, spend lots of money on an item which they think is better than everyone else’s, or carry with them a crystal which they believe has healing properties. As I read through everyone's postings to this and other threads, I cringe in fear that once these individuals have been dismissed to everyone's satisfaction, the focus of disdain might shift to part-time collectors and collectors who for their own reasons can only explore their interest in minerals up to a point. At that time, I will really start to feel looked down upon by the minerals community. Whatever the underlying reasons for today's most popular trends, and regardless of whether the modern-day practice of collecting minerals is shaped by a desire to learn about the science or by economics or by esthetics or simply by whimsy, we should be celebrating the fact that we live in an age where so many people derive pleasure from collecting them in one form or another. Those who are more science-driven in their pursuits should be looking forward to moments when individuals from among that mass of people decide that they want to learn more about the knowledge underlying their hobby - all the while applauding the fact that, independent of science, many mineral specimens have an inherent beauty and artistry that is easy to appreciate.

It has been echoed repeatedly in recent postings to this thread that we should respect anyone who is interested in minerals. But need everyone find minerals interesting in exactly the same ways? Is one collecting style superior to others?

I would propose that we choose a different starting point, which is to respect people who are collectors. With no offense intended to those who might disagree with me, I do not think we should be segregating mineral collectors into categories, or passing judgment on other collectors, based on the reasons why they collect. A much sharper boundary lies between people who derive pleasure from any sort of collection and those who regard collections as merely "piles of stuff." I might not understand the person who gets really excited about matchbooks or cigar labels - as personal examples only - but I can identify with their collector mindset all the same. At the end of the day, collecting is the common denominator - a term which I loosely define as "the practice of acquiring items which share a common theme" - and it is something which is, or at least should be, done for pleasure. From that perspective, with respect to minerals, we should give equal or near-equal respect to the chocolate-diggers, the scholars, the trophy-hunters, the spiritualists, the rank amateurs, and those who either choose or are forced to explore/learn from a distance (along with any other outlier types which I may have omitted). One should be careful not to cross the line from embracing one's happiness to denouncing that of others, be it intentional or inadvertent. Live and let live.

(With a nod to Gail and Ray and others upon whose encouraging thoughts I have built my editorial. Back to shaping my measuring stick…)

- Tracy
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parfaitelumiere




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PostPosted: Mar 02, 2008 13:39    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I will tell you the way I (try to)collect!(sorry ,but very bad english!)
I try to find something that really gives me an aesthetical image,and a mineralogical interest too(whith another specie en the big cristal ex:columbite on aquamarine,or cerusite on stolzite,or azurite whith three different forms of twinned cerusite)
But I try to keep my bank account as sane as possible,so I try to find not too expensive specimens,and to do the best choice between two or more specimens.
For the"same "thing I will try to find the most beautifull and undamaged,If all the specimens are damaged,I don't buy them!
It's a little bit hard to do during the first times,but now I can go to an exhibition,and I can buy nothing at all!but hard to do!
To say that We must be selective,especially in France,because there are lots of very bad things for sale!
Someone has wrote that a dealer told"this is the best of the best"and in fact it was awful!
Just like what I have seen last week-end,except one marvellous amethyst from vera cruz(180$)the only one I should buy!
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PostPosted: Mar 02, 2008 15:52    Post subject: Re: Tucson 2008, questionable prices?  

I think you are a bit tough when you say ",because there are lots of very bad things for sale! ". I don't share your point of view. I attended a show too yesterday and saw several interesting specimens in your $180 price range worthing being bought. Of course they weren't perfect (but is nature perfect ?) but they were representatives of the localities.

We all focus on worldwide specimens while only a few can afford them. But who really cares ? I do not collect minerals to have the best of the best, but because I like that. When I head to the mountains, I sometimes put a hammer in my backpack just in case I find something on my way as the day I found a plate of axinite crystals on yellow epidote. I like that because I can have a good laugh with dealers or other collectors during shows. I like that because at the last minute I sometimes find the specimen I've been looking for several hours, or just for the pleasure of learning that pyrite is definitely not a carbonate...

You are right the "Best of the best" can be awful or too expansive. But just have a look at those specimens. How many of them are sold ? not so many. And eventually, which is the best specimen ? For me it is the one I like and it doesn't need to have a six digits' label.

You didn't find something interesting at your show, try Jordi's site. He has many interesting specimens at affordable prices.

Courage, Christophe

PS : For outsiders (meaning not French members), It is true that prices on the French market increased in the recent years. I don't want to scorn somebody, but part of that reality (sorry TAK because it is true at least in France) is due to "trophy hunters". By buying overvalued specimens they led several dealers in the wrong direction.
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