SOME MUSINGS ON SELLING A MINERAL COLLECTION FROM SOUTH AFRICA

February 21, 2019

By Peter Rosewarne

   

Having built-up a mineral collection the question arises, at some stage, as to what to do with it looking to the future. Options include do nothing (and continue to get enjoyment out of looking at and handling the specimens) and let someone else worry about it when you’re gone (i.e. throw it away), give it away, donate it to an institution (probably unwise in SA or anywhere probably), or sell it. This article looks at some aspects of the pricing and selling process based on recent experience of selling parts of a world-wide collection, from South Africa. It also introduces a couple of terms I hadn’t heard of before researching the buying and selling of mineral specimens and which might be new to you too.

Options include selling on Open Day at the Mineral Club (often little buying interest in less well-known species even at knock-down prices), listing on e-Bay or Amazon, starting your own internet site, auctioning on e-Rocks or approaching established dealers. The advantage of the latter is that the specimens get posted on an established site and are exposed to that dealer’s clientele. The downside is that the dealer is going to want a hefty cut of any sales to cover his time and efforts in compiling professional-standard photographs and posting them and descriptions on his site. You also have to get the dealer interested. Most of the internet sites where you can buy specimens state that they buy collections/specimens for cash but when you enquire the response I’ve often got is that they’ve just bought a collection(s) and aren’t interested at the moment. 

There are two main ways (I think…) of doing a deal with a professional dealer,  i) a direct sale where money is paid upfront by the dealer for a few specimens, part of or all of a collection or ii) by ‘consignment’ which involves the sending of batches of specimens to list on his website, with trust being involved because money only materialises after a sale, and once a batch has been sent to e.g. the USA, who is going to pay for repatriation of unsold specimens?

There are no catalogues listing the prices of mineral specimens. I remember buying a relatively expensive piece from Maurice (Magic Minerals) at the Club Open Day a few years ago and he said to me, probably embarrassed at what he was asking for the specimen, “What is a specimen worth?” and I replied, “As much as someone is prepared to pay for it”, which was apparently the correct answer, although he didn’t give me a discount. The following discussion is based on the re-sale of previously purchased specimens of world-wide origin to the original dealers.

The main components contributing to pricing of such specimens are original price paid, exchange rate then and now, courier cost to get the specimen to the dealer, your profit (if any), the dealer’s profit, and possible PayPal charges. All of this while still keeping the price at a competitive level, which varies considerably from dealer to dealer. I made the mistake of looking at a dealer’s site after selling him some specimens for cash a couple of years ago and being shocked at the high prices being asked for some of them compared to the price I had asked. Here we come to Rule No. 1 of selling a mineral collection: if you do direct sales with a dealer, don’t check later on his site what price he is asking for your prized pieces as you’ll likely feel shafted! Also, you can do all the pricing calculations you want but if you sell direct to a dealer for cash up front, don’t expect to get more than 50% of what you and he thinks the specimen is worth! One dealer told me quite bluntly that he can buy at the Tucson Gem and Minerals Show and make a 50-60% mark-up so why buy from me at a 30% mark-up.

If you bought specimens for US dollars over the past 10 years the Rand/Dollar exchange rate went from about 7 to 14, and higher in between. A specimen that cost say US$500 in 2007 would only need to be sold for US$250 at the January 2019 exchange rate to recoup the initial rand outlay, excluding lost interest, postage and any taxes paid. For postage to a dealer in the US, or Europe, you can’t rely on the SA Post Office these days so you need to factor in expensive courier costs. 

In terms of split of the profit, one arrangement could be setting a minimum price, basically what you paid for a specimen converted to current exchange rate, plus an add-on for when you believe a specimen is worth much more than you paid for it (a usually rare “sleeper”, a high quality but low price specimen that you chanced upon). Then you and the dealer share anything 50/50 above the base price, i.e. the price he thinks he can get in today’s market. If a specimen only sells for the minimum price he takes a percentage for his troubles, inter alia setting up a page on his website and doing professional-standard photos. Then there are finance charges for say PayPal.

It’s quite a job to sort out specimens, make up lists, take photographs (how do they produce those very seductive ones that can suck you into buying on internet sites and look nothing like what you eventually unwrap?) where necessary, work out prices and pack securely and consign. There are also reality checks as in when I offered about 30+ specimens back to an interested dealer and he replied that he was only bidding on 6 as he had moved on to higher-end specimens. Well thanks! He was also interested in my wulfenite collection but declined to make an offer for any on receiving the photographs. I didn’t realise they were that poor, including some bought from him! It is certainly far easier being a “silver pick collector” (someone who buys specimen rather than self-collects them) than being an aspirant dealer. Which brings me I think to Rule No. 2: Don’t expect to make a profit from your past mineral purchases, just enjoy the visual and intellectual pleasure along the way. On that note I‘m off to fondle a wulfenite!  

 

FACETIP – TOPAZ

January 19, 2019

By Duncan Miller

Topaz is a rather under-rated gemstone. This perhaps it due to the fact that pure, colourless topaz is relatively plentiful. Much of it is irradiated and then heat-treated to produce various intensities of bright blue. Natural blue topaz tends to be much paler, although dark blue stones do occur naturally. These are rare and hence more valuable. Natural topaz occurs in a wide variety of colours, including light green, yellow, orange and pink. The famous orangey-pink topaz fr...


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Two beached whales were spotted at Yzerfontein this past month, the first on 5th November and the second a few days later

November 23, 2018




And last week this fish appeared at Milnerton Lagoon


Grey chalcedony and aragonite fish


This is the same fish as above, but much prettier “when still alive”, and seen under short wave UV light.


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"There’s treasure – I just have to find it"

November 23, 2018

Talking about treasure hunting, let me tell you my story … It’s a tale of two parts.

I’ve always been the poster child for the story told by Victor Borge:  “if there’s manure, there must be a pony.”  It’s in my DNA.

Truth be told, my first real life encounter with this approach was doomed. 

To understand it better, you’d have to know that back then Dinner, Bed and Breakfast at a swanky hotel cost R40-00 and a full seafood buffet at the same hotel with all you could eat cos...


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FaceTips for December

November 23, 2018
by Duncan Miller

This month I will show you how to scale a GemCad diagram to a different L/W ratio. This is very easy if the diagram is a fully meetpoint diagram, without a preform. You note the initial L/W ratio from the Print Preview and then click on Scale in the Edit menu. Here you check the X box because you want to change the proportions in the X direction, then enter the appropriate numbers to divide by the initial L/W ratio and to multiply by the one you want, and press OK. The next me...


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FaceTips for November

November 4, 2018

By Duncan Miller

I started faceting in pre-GemCad days and found cutting ovals very laborious. I would cut the girdles by eye, using various oval templates, and placed the brilliant-style facets by eye too. Producing matching pairs was very trying. The advent of meetpoint faceting and GemCad overcame all these difficulties. Now there are lots of designs for ovals that are meetpoint, requiring no preform, with the girdle outline evolving out of the cutting sequence. You can access some of the...


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SEPTEMBER VISIT FROM CONSTANTIA WALDORF SCHOOL

October 25, 2018

The Waldorf School asked us if they could visit the club again this year, and Claire Vaskys organised the day for them. Thank you very much Claire.

Also a big thank you to Rinda who had kept all the little offcuts of stones, and dopped them in preparation for the children to grind and polish, and who managed the workshop while they were busy between machines. 

Thank you to Marsiglio who brought his tools, raw and finished materials, and allowed the kids to take his rock pick and smash it in...


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Geological Tour of the Rosh Pinah area

September 25, 2018
Since we have never fully explored the southern parts of Namibia before, we decided to head up to Namibia a few days before the planned start of the FOSAGAMS Namibia 2018 tour to explore the area. Heidi Naudé from the Pretoria Club put us in touch with Gisela Hinder who owns the Rosh Pinah Geo Center and after some discussion with Gisela on our interests, we pre-booked a guided geology tour with her. Our first night in Namibia was spent camping along the Orange River, and a casual walk acros...
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FaceTips for October

September 25, 2018

By Duncan Miller

This was another jeweller’s request. The setter had broken one of a matching pair of blue-green stones, destined for earrings, bought by the client in India as emeralds. They were apatite; but nevertheless the broken stone had to be replaced to fit the already-made setting. Fortunately I had just one piece of blue-green apatite that matched the colour. In order to produce a stone of the same size and proportion I had to replicate the oval precisely. I could have slapped fa...


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Southern African Lapidary Stones to watch out for

September 25, 2018

Verdite

Verdite is a fairly soft South African stone found in the Barberton area. It is often seen in African curio shops carved into animals. Its golden flecks distinguish it from buddstone which is a much harder metamorphosed chert. Even more distinctive is the “leopard rock” which is spotted serpentinite, also from that area. JW

 

Buddstone



Leopard rock

 

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