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Additional thoughts on mineral pricing and value

Mineral Pricing from the Dealers viewpoint:

Most retail outlets can order their inventory, have it delivered, and know it will look just like the sample provided by the wholesaler.  Mineral dealers on the other-hand must locate and then negotiate much of their stock.  Usually flats of minerals are not of consistent quality. A few specimens in a flat may be exceptional, easily sold. The rest of the specimens being of poorer quality may linger and stay unsold for years, or never sale. Or, the flat may sell fast and when the dealer goes back for more, he finds all are gone or can only be had for 5 times the price he paid just a few months earlier.

Gas, camping fees, hotel fees, show fees, taxes, a misjudgment in a purchases, wear and tear on the truck and camper. Once you start thinking about becoming a mineral dealer you realize this is not an easy way to make a living.

Will Mineral Prices continue to keep their value? No one knows.

Here are a few factors that could exert downward pressure on Minerals:

     • Baby-boomer estates come on the market around the same time, creating more sellers than buyers.  

     • New finds flood the market temporally overwhelming demand.

     • Investors in mineral specimens decide      it is time to sale  their holdings and there are more sellers than buyers.

But, then again, maybe the amazing growth of people entering the hobby will continue, overwhelming any transitional downward pressure on the mineral, specimen, market .

One of the shocks for anyone returning to the Mineral Market after being gone a few years is how prices for quality specimens have gone sky high. Still, there seems to be a lot of range in the price of similar looking specimens.

Some of the reasons Mineral prices have increased:

     1.  New mineral finds are less common.

     2.  Classic pieces (often featured in books) are already in the hands of private collectors that sell them only at their “I do not want to sale price”.

     3.  A dramatic explosion of enterprise in the world means Mineral collecting has grown out of its traditional European and North American markets. The 21st century was the start of Asian countries having their own Rock and Mineral Shows.

     4. There has been Increase awareness of Minerals as an explosion of media (internet, TV shows, magazines) feature minerals, gems, and mineral field collecting. 
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  5. The ability to buy Minerals through the internet has brought individuals to the hobby that previous lacked access to the mineral markets.

     6.     High sale price quotes given on some internet websites, and on some TV programs for minerals, has pre-sold the idea of a high buying cost for minerals.

     7.  Some business magazines have even suggested ‘if your stock disappoints, try minerals’.

     8.  An Increase in people collecting minerals for their ascetic qualities verses those collecting as mineralogist. Art  always goes for a premium.

  9.  The fear, if I do not buy today, the price will be more expensive tomorrow.

  10. Cellphones and the internet are everywhere. A vendor trying to negotiate with miners in faraway locations are dealing with miners that are fully aware of the high asking price their specimens are demanding on the internet.

Is it best to buy Minerals at a show, on-line or at a rock shop?

The answer to this question is more complicated than it seems. I believe the question being asked here is where can one get the best value when buying minerals. But, perhaps the question being asked is where can one find extremely high quality minerals to buy. 

Lets look at where to seek out minerals for the best value first.

Logically speaking - the closer you are to the source (miner) the better your chances of obtaining the best value. In practice though it is more complicated.  A miner may sell his best material to a retail dealer long before he goes to a show.  A retail dealer, after years of transporting an (overpriced) delicate and heavy specimen might sell it to you at his cost (an exceptional wholesale cost he got by buying more material than he could sell).  

Internet - I am certain you have checked out the offering from the mineral auction and dealer sites. (I love looking at what is available on the web.) Personally, I want to see the mineral in person before I buy. I also feel most internet listed "Buy Now" minerals are offered at inflated prices.  On the web, unique items are being offered to a large audience, they can demand a high price. For an equivalent item, you would likely get better value by negotiating with a dealer directly.

Large Rock & Mineral Shows - Large shows mean a lot of competition between dealers, so it is often possible to negotiate a decent price for a specimen. Also the larger the show the bigger the selection of minerals so you are more likely to find what you are searching for. But, when prices are rising fast on minerals, you might find more affordable offering at one of the medium size Rock & Mineral Shows. See the page on Rock Shows & Events for a list of Rock & Mineral shows.

The Smaller Rock and Mineral Shows - With a lot of searching you can come up with some exceptional finds and buys from smaller Rock and Mineral Shows. Sometimes a dealer brings items from storage that he wants to get rid of and gives good pricing. More often an exceptional price is offered to a buyer when a dealer in fossils, or jewelry, buys a private collection in its entirety and wants to unload the minerals. More recently (2018), the fast rise of prices at the wholesale level means many vendors can not reprice items fast enough to keep up with their replacement costs. You can get the item at its 2017, 2016 or even 2012 price.

Club Rock Swaps, Auctions and Sales (NonShow) - Many Geological and Mineral Societies will have an annual auction and/or rock sale event in addition to their annual show. Sometimes the event is a fund raiser for the club but often it is an opportunity for club members to sell their own excess minerals (something that many clubs will not allow during their Rock and Mineral Show). Minerals for sale can range from very inexpensive ore specimens to collector grade specimens. You could even see an investment grade specimen show up here. The best way to find out about these events is to join your local Geological/Mineral Society.

Retail Stores - I feel for the brick base retail Rock and Mineral Store;  overhead is a killer.  I have found reasonable pricing at some out-of-the-way rock and mineral stores.  Many of these stores are buying up old local collections and sometimes you can find specimens of  exceptional value.  Tourist locations can have some nice stores with nice specimens and nice (as in high) prices.   Rock and Mineral stores seem to be experiencing a renaissance, you can check out my listing of Michigan Rock and Mineral stores here.

Yard Sales - usually, yard sale rocks consist of lapidary rough, garden art and run of the mill self-collected specimens.  Serious Mineral Collectors know the value of their specimens, as should their children, they are unlikely to try selling good matereial through a yard sale. Never the less, you may find nice quartz clusters, fluorites and other “room decor” specimens, being sold for very low prices.  These specimens were likely bought years ago, likely during a vacation, by a family member that wanted it for a home decoration. 

Private Rock and Mineral Sales - You are most likely going to find out about these by belonging to one of the Geological/Mineral Societies but you might find it listed in the newspaper or on-line classifies as well. A range of minerals are usually offered at these sells. Often it is an older collector trying to shrink his/her collection.  Building long term relationships with older collectors can offer an opportunity to acquire quality material at an exceptional price.

The Rock Collector Estate Sale - Again, a range of materials can be on offer.  If the sale is the estate of a known collector you can expect crowds at the start of the sale.  The best material will likely be gone within a few hours but if you come late, browse the boxes and out of the way corners; you might find items missed by others during the earlier frenzy.  For the estate of a known collector, dealers will show up at the sale. They know to be the first in line.  Your ability to get a nice item, at a reasonable price, will depend a lot on how the estate sale is managed. When access to the collection is restricted to a few buyers at a time, the first few knowledgeable buyers, that get first access, will get the best items. If a major collector or dealer is allowed first access, a substantial amount of merchandize may disappear before late comers get a chance to see it. However the estate sale is handled, it is best to arrive early.

Where can the very best Mineral Specimens be found?

Really good, high end specimens, would be classified as investment grade minerals.  A lot of these specimens are being snatched up by the high-end dealers as they acquire exceptional private collections.  Go to a major show (Tuscan, Denver) to see the items currently being offered. Do try to negotiate. 

I suspect many of the really exceptional (very expensive) material will never see a show or auction but be sold via a network of high end collectors and dealers. With some searching you can find really nice, even world class specimens being sold at the major shows. You used to be able to pick up some nice specimens from the wholesale/retail dealers for a decent price but this is not as true as it use to be.

Things you might want to ask the dealer (engage in conversation).

Will it fade?

How hard or brittle is the mineral?

History of the find?

How to clean the mineral?

Chemical make up?

How stable is the mineral?

Has it been repaired?

Do not forget to ask for the label. Dealers can and do forget to pack labels with the specimen.

Where the specimen came from can effect its value. No location information lowers the value of a mineral.

Next - It is OK to be diffrent


Why Minerals are priced the way they are and best places to buy minerals.

updated in 2018

Mineral Collecting


Cost of Minerals

Outside links:

Wild West Economics? Mineral Buying and Mineral Pricing

Model of a Modern Mineral Dealer -  some history on the hobby from a dealers viewpoint.

Forbes - The Hunt for Six-Figure Rocks

Add the cost of your travel - you might find the local retail rock shop or club show a cheaper  place to buy then from the miner 1000 miles away. Getting the best price does not mean you did not spend a lot to acquirer the mineral.

The important short list of Collecting Basics:

Whether you are field collecting or buying; - document your find!

When you field collect document the location of your find either by GPS, mine name, or other location descriptor. When you buy a specimen (or trade) make certain you get the location of the find.  The more precise the information the better. Minerals with good location information are more valued in the market than those with poor locality information. You need more than just the country the mineral came from. Ask for all the old labels.

Some of the factors that influence Mineral Values

     1. Aesthetics – it is all about being pretty. Beauty; it is subjective but yet over and over different people will pick one item consistently over another as more attractive. It is about the interplay of shape, texture and color. 

     2. Form – crystal forms of a mineral are considered more valuable than non-crystal forms of minerals. I find crystal forms in their matrix more pleasing than crystals not in a matrix. For me, the matrix provides a context for the crystal.

     3. Crystal Size – All things being equal, the larger the crystal the more valuable it is.

     4. Specimen Size  - Large cabinet size minerals are generally more valuable than their smaller counterparts; but a large mineral may be no more valuable than its value as a collection of smaller specimens.   For it to demand a premium, a large size mineral must exhibit a special aesthetic quality separate from its largeness.

     5. Rarity – Rarity factors include mining location, the mineral’s innate rarity (i.e. gold is rarer than quartz), its unique association with other minerals, unusual form, and other factors I am not that well versed on.

     6. Perfection – The more perfect the   mineral the more valuable it is. When it comes to the crystal form, chips, fractures and cloudiness will decrease a mineral’s value. Crystals that stand straight up on their matrix, have high clarity, purity of color, and have terminated ends free of defect, command the top prices.

  7. Hardness and Durability - serious mineral collectors have no problems buying fragile unique minerals. But, the harder and more durabile gem material, attracts a wider audience of buyer. Many buyers of gems are not even intersted in "minerals" but they do help drive up gem mineral  prices.

Join your local Rock, Mineral and Gem club; they can help you acquire the knowledge you need. You need to join a Club in particular if you plan to field collect. Clubs often have access to collecting sites that individuals find imposable to obtain. Clubs can also help you understand land use laws as they apply to the field collecting of rocks and minerals.