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Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!

Posted by Jim Houran  
Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 21, 2012 05:54PM
    
Just some recent observations from a fellow collector....

I just attended the NYC Metro Show - a show that intending to reach new collectors and especially wealthy individuals who already had a taste for art and an eye for investment opportunities. This is a touchy subject I know. Mindat has the "Money-Grubbers" section (a name that makes sense to some while is arguably offensive to others), and then you get extreme reactions to publications like the MR's Texas Collectors supplement by those who felt it merely represented a wealthy and uninformed segment of the hobby versus "real collectors." Full disclosure: I had a chapter in that supplement but I'm not rich by any means (though I would say I'm informed). Oh, and then there was John Betts' editorial on the Forbes piece that he posted on his website (5/8/2012). He concluded, "Buy Apple stock as an investment. Buy waterfront real estate as an investment. But you should buy minerals because they are beautiful."

Of course, buying minerals because they are beautiful is not mutually exclusive to selecting specimens also for their investment potential. Yes, there are many solid examples of minerals having great investment potential and not just for dealers but for "normal collectors" like the rest of us.

So living in New York I read with great interest this Forbes article on the topic:

[www.forbes.com]

No doubt articles like this will be regarded by some as controversial. That said, I thought it would interest Mindaters and hopefully elicit a thoughtful discussion on the subject. It's not everyday that mineral collecting makes the "headlines."

Cheers,

Jim
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 21, 2012 09:21PM
On a tangentially related note, Newsweek, the last December 12th issue, had an excellent article titled "Why does art cost so effing much?" (their choice of words, not mine smiling smiley ), or "Art inflation". It's about paintings and sculptures, not minerals, but much of what is written there could be transposed almost word for word into an article about the high end of the mineral business and still make a lot of sense.
avatar Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 21, 2012 09:27PM
    
Hello all,

I've read the article and noticed not 1 but 2 typo's: "flourite" (= fluorite) and "odalisque" (= obelisque).

I would think the article would have been proofread before going online, especially when coming from such a reputable magazine.

I would love to own a tanzanite in the shape of a odalisque (= i.e. a concubine in the Turkish sultan's harem). grinning smiley

On the subject, I collect minerals as a hobby, not as an investment.
Sure, it would be nice to see my specimens fetch great prices at auction, but since I never intend to sell any of them (what my heirs do with them is their choice), I will not be around anymore to enjoy the profit.

Vik



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/21/2012 09:28PM by Vik Vanrusselt.
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 21, 2012 10:46PM
I for one look forward to the incoming hordes of vapid millionaires driving up prices of Arkansas quartz and other rare treasures. We need more people in the hobby that like pretty rocks because they're pretty rocks, nevermind the science and chemistry and book stuff. I'm sure this will be a major improvement to our hobby.

T
avatar Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 21, 2012 10:49PM
Well, I look at it like this - the REAL spenders, the multi-millionaires, are buying rocks I could never afford - but they're putting money into the hobby, helping making it cost effective for people to re-open old mines, do more digging, brining more stuff to market including things that are in my price range.

Rather than increasing prices across the board, it will tend to increase prices at the high end and leave prices at the low to mid end more or less the same, if not lower because of increased supply.

Jolyon
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 22, 2012 01:41AM
    
Hi,

I could never afford six figure specimens even if the prces were lowered to four figures and I don't care. On the other hand there are millions of mineral specimens in circulation and in the collections of us regular people which will provide a never-ending supply of things we knowledgable collectors appreciate, for many years to come. Personally, I see mineral collecting as a hobby and not an investment because I don't intend to sell my collection until I am too old and feeble to know I have a collection or at the point my wife and I need financial support. As for the prices of top mineral specimens, they will never compete will the top levels of human created art and sculpture nor will they compete with the largest and best quality gem stones. They never have and they never will.

I agree that we need the top end collectors to keep the miners mining; however, most of those collections I have seen are very weak in classic material and very strong in recently-mined large and flashy specimens. Only time will tell if this stuff is an investment or a tax deduction when the collector donates their specimens to a museum.

I appreciate seeing collections of common minerals as much as I appreciate those expensive rarities and there are many collectors like me--that's what seperates the serious collector from the snob who thinks only high priced specimens are worthwhile. Either way, there is room for everyone in the hobby even though we might collect at different levels. There is nothing more boring to me than to see a display case loaded with the same gemstone from the same location; yes, there might be value in the display but mineralogically and scientifically speaking those type of displays lack educational value unless the exhibitor wants to impress their friends.

Best,

Joe
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 24, 2012 04:40PM
    
Jim,
I agree with most of what everyone has said here. We do need the high end collectors to drive the production of specimens. Since there are only a few "perfect" specimens in any deposit, the vast majority will find their way to the ranks of beginning to mid-range collectors.

I do object to your statement about the "extreme" reaction to the Texas collectors special issue. The main reaction was to Wendel Wilson's forward to the issue, which stated that MAD and HAMMS were the only "real" mineral collecting groups in the state of Texas. As a 35 year member of a group of mineral collectors within the HGMS, a group started 5 years before I came to Texas, I joined our senior collector in protesting the exclusion of legitimate mineral oriented groups within the "rockhound" societies. We have novice and advanced collectors and members who are also in HAMMS. We accept collectors at any level, and as long as they are willing to learn we'll teach them.
avatar Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 24, 2012 08:31PM
    
Promotion of minerals as a big buck investment thing might have a positive effect on mineral specimen mining, but for the general rockhounder I think it's a disaster.

With mineral specimen being worth fantizillions of golden coins, landowners will tend to think they are in possession of incredible values having a quartz point of a centimeter pointing out of a vug, making it impossible to ordinary rockhounds getting permissions to collect plain, beautiful, but not valuable specimens for their own collections. It will limit collecting even more than it is today, and I don't think that benefit any of us any good...

As a note; last week a collector was arrested in Norway because of illegal collecting in the silver mines in Kongsberg. No serious collector in Norway do support this kind of collecting on protected area, but the way it was presented in the newspapers, was in a way that collecting minerals was an easy way to make a fortune...

Most of us know that making a fortune out of collecting is just a dream. The dream can come true for a few, but that number is limited to a handful worldwide. And we are seriously worried that Norwegian landowners will forbid collecting because of this "silver miner", not making a fortune, but sure making money from his actions....
WOW! $50k for a sliced up slab of Rhodochrosite from Argentina [fineart.ha.com][/url]

So shocking I had to laugh!

M
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 24, 2012 09:15PM
    
Hi,

Stated by scientists and collectors much smarter than me:

The late Arthur Montgomery said in most of his lectures, that "We must assume that the best specimens are still in the ground!" Montgomery was a legendary scientist, philanthropist and field mineral collector. He also told us not to be frustrated by high prices because there are countless mineral specimens in collections world wide.

The late Neal Yedlin said, There are ways around high prices" and guess what? He was right.

Fred Pough said, in his publications and lectures that we should specialize because we will never be able to compete with the vast accumulations of the museums. I happen to agree.

A deceased dealer who had a world wide reputation told me if a specimen was shown to me it was already rejected by wealthy collectors for one reason or the other. He also told me not to assume my specimen was better or worse than others because many collectors don't show their specimens especially wealthy individuals.

I told myself, live and let live, go to museums, go field collecting, buy what you can afford and don't take things too seriously because no one really cares unless they own a better one. LOL

Best wishes and good collecting,

Joe



Best wishes,

Joe
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 24, 2012 10:07PM
Mineral specimens are fine art sculptures that not even Michelangelo could get close to duplicating.

There should be no upper limit on their value.

And petrographic thin sections when viewed under polarized light are finer than the Mona Lisa.

I have been a professional field collector since 1966 when I gathered up what were at the time the World's finest realgars from the Green River Gorge in King County, Washington. I sold (at modern pricing) $100,000 worth of them to Walt Lidstrom at the Northwest Regional Show in Seattle for the sum of $88.00. My dad was ecstatic and we made a trip back to the location the next weekend. I upped my prices and sold the newer collected material to most major museums at prices that still seem reasonable. Especially since I think most of the specimens quickly converted to orange powder.

The late Joe Nagel (Nagle ?) of the M.Y. Williams Museum in Vancouver, B.C. was an early proponent of the notion that fine minerals should be valued in the neighborhood of Picasso's art. I think he was wrong. THEY ARE BETTER !!!

Bart
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 24, 2012 10:55PM
i agree entirely with Bart. What one man has painted, another can reproduce. But you cannot reproduce fine mineral specimens. Over the long term, they are more irreplaceable than manmade art, and should therefore be valued more highly. So, considering the 8-figure prices achieved by famous paintings, minerals are still rather inexpensive. smileys with beer
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 12:39AM
    
What I don't like is the publicity high prices bring. If someone wants to pay a lot of money for some specimens that is fine with me, but the publicity creates a false sense of value to the general public making it more difficult to self collect. Like Peter Andresen says " landowners will tend to think they are in possession of incredible values having a quartz point of a centimeter pointing out of a vug, making it impossible to ordinary rockhounds getting permissions to collect plain, beautiful, but not valuable specimens for their own collections".
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 12:45AM
The Seattle Mineral Market concluded Saturday the 19th.

Nice specimens were selling for as little as $1.00. Representative specimens were given away to kids.

I think average mineral specimens are more affordable now than they have ever been.

Bart
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 01:01AM
    
Alfredo,

Fine mineral specimen are being created and reproduced as we speak. When I die I expect that everyone who supports high prices on mineral specimens will approach my wife and/or daughter and offer them 50 to 75% of your perceived value for the classics in our collection. And, Alfredo, respecting your opinion, the lines are a heck of a lot longer to see the Mona Lisa than they are to get into mineral museums in any city.

Reiner,

I agree with you 100 percent. I know of one locality in the East that was restricted to collecting because one jealous rat ran to the quarry owner and told him how much some dealers were asking for specimens mined at his quarry. Luckily, with the passage of time, things went back to normal and collecting was again allowed. I want to support all aspects of the hobby not just the high end people, some of whom are in an obvious contest to beat out the next guy. I look at it this way: many of the specimens I see in the six figure range are magnificent specimens and unique in many ways;l however, it doesn't matter to me if someone is asking $100,000 or 5,000, I can't afford it at either level. Also, I like to keep my personal business to myself; the last thing I would do is broadcast how much someone paid me for a specimen, not that that has happened. You can be sure the IRS is watching these transactions very closely now that the one percenters are being asked to pay their "fair share"! LOL.. The state tax people have become very aggressive at mineral shows in the East, so I assume that anyone who sells a $100,000. mineral specimen in New York City pays the almost 9 percent sales tax.

Best wishes,

Joe
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 03:38AM
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. The funny thing about specimens is the price one can actually get for them depends on who that person is.

I'm pretty convinced that some of the high end dealers can command a much higher price for a specimen than I can because they've built a good reputation and have a good customer base....they can also get better photos of the specimens, which seems to play a big part in whether a specimen sells or not.

So I think it's difficult for average collectors who want to sell specimens to profit significantly even if they have very nice specimens sometimes.

I do have a few specimens which I could probably turn a small profit on...very small. These are specimens that for one reason or another I just happened to get a good price on. I have a few specimens from a "new" locality that I had been getting for an excellent price until the specimens, and the dealer who was selling them, got "discovered" and suddenly the specimens started going for 14 times what I had been paying for them, in some instances. That's unfortunate for me because I had wanted a few more!
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 04:36AM
Joe and Jenna, you sum it up very well.
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 08:46AM
I will start with the obvious: there are numerous mineral collectors who have many different collecting goals. Therefore, no particular collecting strategy works for everyone. That being said I'm concerned with Jenna's statement:

I'm pretty convinced that some of the high end dealers can command a much higher price for a specimen than I can because they've built a good reputation and have a good customer base....they can also get better photos of the specimens, which seems to play a big part in whether a specimen sells or not.

I don't disagree at all. My concern is that SOME of these people, who obviously are trying to make money (not a problem for me) have learned to "manipulate the market" and are essentially extorting the unwary. In the short term they maximize their profits, but I fear the long term effect of their strategy is detrimental to the bulk of the collecting community.
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 08:58AM
Hi to all

Intersting topic! To my opinion, the more the media talk about minerals, the better!

Such publications might have many positive aspects and risks too, added to the ones already mentioned above:

- To increase the industrial mine owners awarness that slowing down extraction works, to save minerals might be useful, for science and also can bring them profits. In Europe, when archeological sites are discovered during building operations, everything is often halted to save what can be saved, why not the same in mines when a great pocket is met, instead of blasting the whole thing...
- To increase public awarness of the beauty of a world that is still very confidential, to bring more peoples in museums, which will means more budget too. less than 1% of the population is aware of the beauty and interests of minerals, compared to more than 10% that can enjoy the beauty of art objects (paintings, architecture...)
- To bring better protection to museums and universities collections (too many have been dispersed lately because of lack of interest, or because the general manager is more interested in stuffed mices.), protection meaning more curator jobs, more job for geologists, who have to protect these collections from cherrypicking of the key pieces. Many Geology departements closed in universities...
- To give minerals the status they deserve, they bring emotions similar to the arts!
- To have more countries having a conservation policy, like for cultural treasures. Many countries who gave mineral treaures have none left in their institutions!
- To bring extra incomes for miners in poor countries

The risks, are, I think,

- to have great speciments disapperaring with owners who are not nature lovers, but money lovers
- the risk of overpricing bubble followed by a collapse
- to have some carpet sellers of the mineral business (fortunately, a minority), to overprice common speciments when the meet wealthy buyers who are not educated yet.
- to make some collectors snobbish
- to have new fiscal rules interfering with the hobby


In any case, exactly like in arts or wine tasting, nothing replace education, sharing, advices from mentors and knoweledge! Exactly like for energy, food, space, water... Minerals are limited ressources, often unique, and soon or late, a huge interest should spread beyond the collecting community!

Val
Re: Investment potential of minerals hits the Big Time!
May 25, 2012 09:33AM
    
Hello I am Martins of Stone and I'm addicted with Minerals smiling smiley
Collecting minerals is a compulsive psychosis and for me a new batch of minerals is like a meal. I do not want money or is an investment or something else. Dealers and field work or exchanges feed me smiling smiley and maybe when I die my family put my addition of a lifetime by a barrier below with the recollection that it was a crazy stone man.

Martins da Pedra.... for ever
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