Window to the World — January 2009 Fur Market Report

Quick Links – By Market

Beaver
Muskrat
Wild Mink
Raccoon
Otter
Red Fox
Gray Fox
Coyote
Bobcat/Linx-Cat/Lynx
Marten
Fisher

Quick Links – By Region

Region 1
Region 2
Region 3
Region 4
Region 5
Region 6
Region 7(7a)
Region 8
Region 9
Region 10
Region 11
Region 12

GENERAL OUTLOOK

Our worst fears were realized at the recent Scandinavian ranch fur auctions. Copenhagen Fur Center opened this raw fur selling season with an offering of 1.2 million mink. In a word, the sale was “dismal,” with only 18 percent of the goods selling. Prices, as expected, were also disappointing, falling about 30 percent from the September levels.

Of note, these were mostly fresh goods, while the September offering generally consisted of lower grades, carryovers and breeders.

Falling on the heels of the Copenhagen sale was the Finish Fur Sale, where only 30 percent of 700,000 mink found buyers, again at substantially reduced prices.

The reaction in the North American fur trade was instantaneous. Country buyers, those still willing to speculate, readjusted averages downward somewhat, but tightened the grading substantially. American Legend Cooperative in conjunction with Fur Harvesters Auctions postponed the combined wild and ranch fur sale scheduled for February until March 11. No doubt a wise decision.

North American Fur Auctions will hold the January sale on Jan. 6 and 7 on schedule, but, in anticipation of fewer buyers in attendance, has vowed to “preserve” the integrity of the wild fur offering. Fur Harvester’s January auction will go off as scheduled. However, I have been assured by auction officials it was not going to be a fire sale.

There is little question that each of the international auction houses will do all within their power to protect the market. Yet there is the burning question as to what is the price level where the skins will continue to flow through the pipeline from producers to consumer.

Typically, the auction houses will withdraw a lot (buy-back) when prices fall below 20 percent of previously established levels. By doing so, the auctioneer is attempting to protect the market from speculators … you can interpret that as “undertakers” or “bone-pickers.” This season, that traditional practice might not be a practical position.

The global economic meltdown has hit the fur trade a crushing blow. In fact, we’ve been hit with a triple whammy. This is especially true considering the largest consuming country of finished furs is Russia.

When you visit your local fur buyer, before cussing the buyer and calling him a thief, consider these events: The early winter in Russia and Eastern Europe has been mild, very mild. Average temperature in Moscow during the first ten days of December, a prime fur selling time, was 41 degrees. Typically, the average temperature is five degrees below zero. It’s cold there now, but still mild.

Falling crude oil prices, from nearly $150 a barrel to below $40, has hit the Russian economy with a devastating blow. About the only exportable goods coming out of Russia are diamonds (they are not selling well), crude oil (it’s cheap), and Russian Vodka (it’s too expensive).

The lack of foreign capital flowing into Russia has resulted in the central bank devaluing the ruble twelve times in two months. It has fallen nearly 20 percent in value in two months. Buying power continues to diminish, while prices increase.

No sector of the Russian retail trade has been hit harder than the fur industry. Sergei Stolbov, president of the Russian Fur Union, pegged retail fur sales in Russia at about $5 billion USD annually for the last couple of years. This year he “hopes” sales will be about half that.

In Russia, most affordable furs are sold by street vendors. They are cheap by Western standards. Mink and fox coats start at 25,000 rubles ($900 USD) up to 60,000 rubles. The money (ruble) is worth less with each passing week, and therefore the price keeps going higher. Sales are down, way down. The popular raccoon hats and trimmed coats are starting to be offered at near cost.

Standing in her open street stall offering several dozen fur coats on the outskirts of Moscow, Tatiana Kolyeskina was recently interviewed by Javno, an Internet News site, and quoted as saying, “This is worst I’ve seen it in 15 years here.”

As retailers worldwide cut prices in order to move existing inventories, they understandably anticipate lower replacement cost.

Since fur dressing and manufacturing costs have been cut to the bare bone by Chinese fur factories, other fur user nations are forced to either meet the price on low-cost items, or focus of the higher valued fashion garments. The only place to cut cost is on the raw materials — our furs.

On the brighter side, the overall harvest is down. In part, this is due to harsh winter weather across the northern tier regions, heavy snow cover and excessive rainfall.

Then too the season opened when fuel costs were still extraordinarily high. Add to that the uncertainty of the market and the lower than anticipated early prices. While fuel cost has fallen dramatically —t he lowest in five years — a great many trappers pulled their lines early because of the low fur prices. A short harvest will be to the benefit of all of us concerned about the future of the fur trade.

Fewer raw skins hitting the market this season couldn’t come at a better time. As Jim Gibbs with Fur Harvester Auctions points out, “With the exception of some low grades and coyotes, we’re sold out to the bare walls.”

Just how long this global economic meltdown will last is anybody’s guess. But, one thing is certain, and that is eventually everyone engaged in the fur trade will need to replace inventories. The fewer skins available, the quicker we will get into the next recovery phase.

In retail economic circles, the historical assumption has been that the luxury markets are somewhat immune to downturns. That is certainly not the case this time. Reports from the Christmas selling season in North America and Western Europe show a 35 percent decline in luxury spending compared with last year. This is expected to be reflected in our lynx cat, Marten and fisher markets.

If the lack of clearance on the early ranch mink sales is any indication, we could be looking at several million mink being carried over. Such an event would have far reaching repercussions.

A great many ranch operations depend heavily on credit to produce their crop. Last year at this time, when ranchers were planning their production goals for this season, credit was readily available. Such will not be the case this season.

Country fur buyers and ranchers, in order to maintain their credit worthiness, might elect to sell at far lower levels to retire debt. This is particularly true should the goods be carried over an extended period of time.

Credit worthiness doesn’t end with the producers, it will also effect the fur manufacturers and retailers.

At this juncture, lead time for replacement inventories will become critical. Fur garment makers are expected to wait until they have firm orders in hand before purchasing raw furs. Retail furriers, understandably, will let inventories reach the lowest possible levels before reordering.

The fur trade is certainly a window to the world. It can instantly reflect the ups and downs of the economies around the world. Robust economic growth in Russia and China gave us strong markets for several years. Now, we are going to witness the recovery … when it occurs.

MARKET BRIEFS

BEAVER: Fortunately, we started the season with virtually no raw goods in the marketplace. The larger sizes appear to be selling well at the reduced price levels. Smaller sizes are meeting with resistance. Unit dressing cost is most often the same regardless of the size. For the most part, this item will be totally dependent on late-season retail activity in the Russian and Eastern European markets. Retailers and manufacturers are expected to cut lead-time as much as possible. However, replacement of garments and hats constructed from this item take somewhat longer than most other furs. There might be a good movement in May.

MUSKRAT: A short harvest is expected. Interest in the article has not waned as buyers are continuing to take goods at these lower price levels. This might be a good substitute for ranch mink. Marginal manufacturers might turn their attention to muskrats in order to offer low-cost alternatives to the lesser grades of mink. Averages appear to remain in the range of $2.70 to $2.80 for finished collections.

WILD MINK: Buyers continue to take on the limited numbers that are coming in the door. Understandably, prices remain low, with the best large northerns hitting $12 to $13 when finished. Goods from the southern regions are considerably cheaper. At this point, it appears as if a large quantity of ranch mink will be carried over, at least until very late in the season. I suspect the same will be true with the wild mink.

RACCOON: The harvest is unquestionably going to be short this season. In part, this is due to an early, harsh winter across the northern tier regions. Uncertainty in the market also played a role. Buyers are continuing to take on more goods. But, they are reserved to the fact their collections might not find willing buyers for several months, if not a year or more. Heavy northern goods in the larger sizes have maintained averages in the $9.50 to $10.50 range. Smaller sizes are being turned away at no value by many buyers. Most trading has been in wet skins. Semi-heavy larger sizes are seeing averages in the $7.50 to $8.50 range, again with the smaller size getting few offers.

OTTER: With the downturn of prices, few trappers are targeting otter. Most are being taken in conjunction with beaver trapping activity. While the limited numbers that have hit the market thus far this season are selling, prices for the better, darks are in the $40 range. This represents a drop of about 35 percent from last season.

RED FOX: This item has not performed well for several years and this season is no exception. A dramatic cutback in the production of ranched fox appears to have had little impact on this market. The amount of trim goods on the market far exceeds the demand.

GRAY FOX: This unique furbearer continues to sell well, but at substantially lower prices than last season. In part, this is due to carryover collections. But, unfavorable early retail reports for Russia and Eastern Europe are playing the largest role. The larger sizes out of Regions 1 and 2 are seeing significantly more interest than the smaller sizes from the South. The harvest is expected to be short.

COYOTE: The harvest numbers are down, which will only help. However, dense populations are resulting in pockets of mange in some regions. Many buyers are reluctant to taking on more goods as there is a substantial carryover of commercial/ordinary types from previous seasons. This trim article will most likely be the last to be cleaned out once the recovery is underway. The pale goods from the high country continue to sell at reduced price levels.

BOBCAT / LYNX-CAT / LYNX: The days of the $500 to $1,000 high-country cat are over, at least into the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the harvest was severely hampered by the weather this season. Early, deep snows in Regions 7, 9 and 10 rendered many longlines inoperable. The high-end fashion markets, where this article is used often as trim, are reported to be off considerably this season.

The smaller, lower quality goods from the southern regions are meeting strong buyer resistance.

MARTEN: This high-fashion luxury item continues to move, but buyers are anticipating holding goods in hopes of late-market developments. If the early Scandinavian ranch auctions, where there was limited clearance of goods, are viewed as a barometer of the luxury markets, there might have to be a substantial economic recovery before the harvest from this season moves though the pipeline.

FISHER: This unique high-fashion trim item is typically offered in limited numbers. Buyers continue to seek out goods, but prices have fallen about 35 percent from the highs posted last season. This reflects the uncertainty of the market. Females continue to be preferred over males. Regions 1 and 2 goods appear to be averaging in the range of $30 with highs for the silky females hitting around $50 or a little more.

REGIONAL REPORTS

Unless otherwise noted, the prices mentioned in this report are what can reasonably be expected for properly handled, well finished fur. Furs marketed in the round (on the carcass), green/wet (skinned but not fleshed and dried) or improperly skinned will bring considerably less. Many outside factors beyond the control of the fur harvesters and fur buyers can result in dramatic changes.

REGION 1

BEAVER: Highs, good winters, of $20 to $25 for prime finished blankets; averages in the range of $15 to $16.

MUSKRAT: Highs of $2.50 to $3, averages in the range of $2.25 for finished collections.

WILD MINK: Top males trading now at $15 to $18. Overall running around $12.

RED FOX: Highs of $22 to $25 reported from auction, XL heavy goods, cherry reds have seen $25, but few make the grade; averages $16 to $18.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs highs in the range of $15 to $1, wet goods tops $1s. Averages from auction at $7.40. Color and size major grade factor.

COYOTE: Heavy XLs high of $22 to $24 on auction.

OTTER: Most collections expected to trade in the range of $40 to $50 for XL straight hair, dark, good winters. All buying based on speculation.

FISHER: High of $56 reported from auction. All buying based on speculation.
MARTIN: Top of $25 to $30.

GRAY FOX: Average in the range of $20. This is the preferred section of grays due to size.

BOBCAT: Tops reported $40 to $50. Market unsettled.

REGION 2

BEAVER: Blankets and larger, good winters, at $30 to $35. Auction saw $15.50 average.

MUSKRAT: Market for good winters in the range of $3.50 to $4, tops. Averages posted on auction at $2.80.

WILD MINK: Males at highs of $12 to $13, averages running to $6 to $7.

RED FOX: Preferred section XLs early trading at $20 to $24 tops. Most trading in the range of $12 to $14 due to frosty rumps. Auction averages $16.95.

GRAY FOX: Early prices hit highs of $26 to $28. Many not hold.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs, highs running in the range of $18 to $20 with auction averages posted at $9.62. Color and size will be grading point. Most trading to date has been in wet skins averages around $7 to $8.

COYOTE: Most of XL heavy goods tops of $20 to $24.

OTTER: XLs at $40 to $45.

BOBCAT: Tops running in the range of $35 to $40, size and wide bellies a factor.

FISHER: Females at $40 to $50. Males at $35 tops.

MARTEN: Tops of $30. Market unsettled.

REGION 3

BEAVER: Finished blankets at highs of $8 to $10 tops. Wet goods difficult to move. Southern section much cheaper.

MUSKRAT: XLs at $2.25 tops southern section with $2.75 highs in the northern section of this region.

WILD MINK: Males at $8 to $9; females highs of $4.

RED FOX: The best are going for around $10 eastern section, westerns at $6.

GRAY FOX: Most sales in the range of $12 to $14.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL, and XLs Is and IIs northern section coat types $6 to $8 tops for finished goods. Semi-heavies from higher elevations higher, $8 to $10 for finished goods. Averages low.

BOBCAT: Large goods in the range of $20 tops. Tight grade.

OTTER: Most in the range of $20 to $25 for the best. Louisiana buyers quoting $15.

OPOSSUM: The Jumbos and XL pales hit $1.50 to $2. Blacks no market.

REGION 4

BEAVER: Better goods $6 to $8 tops for finished blankets, most a lot cheaper.

MUSKRAT: Trading puts XL in range of $1.25.

WILD MINK: Prices in range of $6 for males and females at $3.

RED FOX: These short nap goods at $6 to $8.

GRAY FOX: Most trading presently in the range of $12 to $14.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL and XL A/B Is and IIs. Coat types at $3.50 to $4.50 for finished goods. Meat market said to be $4 to $5 per carcass.

COYOTE: Limited activity. No buying.

OTTER: Trading at $20 or a bit less.

BOBCAT: Top offers in the range of $15 to $18; larger goods with wide spotted bellies, thin bellies hard to sell. Talk to local taxidermist.

OPOSSUM: Jumbos and XLs at $1.50 for the best silvers.

NUTRIA: 26 inch and up finished at $1.50.

REGION 5

BEAVER: Finished blankets and fully prime XLs $6 to $8. Most used as hatters, wet at $3.
MUSKRAT: Prices, tops at $1 to $1.50.

WILD MINK: Trading in the range of $6 to $8 for males; half for females.

RED FOX: Goods from the eastern section trading at $8 to $10; Western goods $12 for the best.

GRAY FOX: Prices in range of $15 to $16. Silky westerns slightly higher around $18.

RACCOON: Coat types XXXL, XXL and XLs Is and IIs. bright (northeastern section types) $6 to $8; finished. High country and Oklahoma/Texas Panhandle semi-heavies at $10 tops, finished. Check out the meat market in your area — usually fish markets; carcass prices said to be around $4.

COYOTE: Eastern finished $8 to $10 for the best finished. Westerns at $10 to $12 for those with clear, wide, white bellies. Many will not find a market.

OTTER: Trading at $18 to $22, all based on speculation.

BOBCAT: Eastern types at $20 tops, with most cheaper, while the westerns with wide, clear bellies and nice spots, averages in the range of $35 to $40 expected. New Mexico lower elevations types at $40 and higher. High country (Panhandle Texas/Oklahoma) types at $50 to $60, some higher.

NUTRIA: 26 inches and up at $1.50.

RINGTAIL: Expect a top of $3 to $4.

REGION 6

BEAVER: Finished blankets and XLs in the range of $14 to $16 for northern heavy goods.
RED FOX: Tops at $12 to $14.

GRAY FOX: Best around $16 to $18.

KIT FOX: Tops of $8 to $10. Talk to taxidermist.

RACCOON: Trading activity puts XXXL, XXL and XLs Is and IIs in the range of $10 to $12 for finished goods, averages running about $5 with no market for smalls.

COYOTE: High country (Rimrock) goods at $12 to $14 for the best with clear bellies. Thin bellies difficult to sell.

BOBCAT: High country and well marked desert goods at $70 to $80 with a high of $110 on selects. Coastal red types at $40 to $50.

RINGTAIL: Tops at $4.

SKUNK: Tops running around $4.

REGION 7 (7a)

BEAVER: Heavy blankets with full covering of guard hair at around $16 to $18.

CASTOR: $15 per pound for full, plump, well glazed.

MUSKRAT: Tops XL at $2 to $2.50.

WILD MINK: Highs $10 to $12, extra large boars higher, $14 to $16, females slightly better than half.

RED FOX: XL heavy goods top of $16 to $18.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XLs Is and IIs at $10 to $12. Averages around $7.50, with smalls and damaged out.

COYOTE: Eastern heavy goods from the high country at $18 to $20 for the best. Trim market flooded with goods. Very tight grade, with most cheap. Might be difficult to market considering carryover.

OTTER: Fully prime, unsinged, at $35 to $40; tighter grade as size matters.

MARTEN: Top price of $24 to $26.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: High Country, eastern XXL selects at $100 to $125 tops. Some super selects, well spotted, pale, wide bellies at $200; few will see this. The red goods from 7(a) at $35 to $40 tops, most lower, tighter grade. Note: Several trapper auctions have been postponed due to lack of fur and the failure of buyers to make commits to attend.

SKUNK: Highs of $4 to $6 reported. Craft market said to be weak.

REGION 8

BEAVER: $25 to $30 tops for heavy blankets with full covering of guard hair.

WILD MINK: Tundra types trading at $20 to $22.

RED FOX: Top levels at $20.

SILVERS: Tops of $30.

CROSS FOX: Highs of $35, most at $25.

ARCTIC FOX: Tops of $20 to $25 for clear, unstained goods.

COYOTE: Top offers in the $25 range, some heavy pales at $35.

OTTER: Expect to see a high of $45 to $55 for the best blacks.

LYNX: Expect a tops of $100 to $125 for the selects, “blue back” at $200. Leave feet intact. Market unsettled.

MARTEN: Top offers presently around $65 to $70; size and color the factor.

WOLVERINE: Tops at $300, leave feet intact. Most around $200 to $250.

TIMBER WOLF: The best pale blues and whites at a tops of $400 with XL grays at $350. Top prices only if feet are left intact.

REGION 9

BEAVER: Finished blankets and larger fully covered with guard hair at $20 to $25. Some selects might see better. Select plump CASTOR at $16 to $18 a pound.

MUSKRAT: Prices of $2.50 to $3.50, for good winters, but averages will be low, around $2.65.

MINK: Top in the range of $14 to $16; some will see slightly more. Slightly better than half for females.

RED FOX: Highs of $14 to $16, averages expected to run in the range of $14 to $15.

GRAY FOX: Highs of $18 to $20, carryover has market unsettled.

RACCOON: Expect the best finished XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs. At $16 to $18 for bright color and large sizes. Averages around $8. Off colors and small size will be very cheap.

COYOTE: The best high country goods are trading at $22 to $24, some selects at $28. Ordinary goods and commercial types at $14 to $16. Wide, clear fully furred bellies needed to hit highs. Expect the market to be more selective this season.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: Fully prime top high country types should see highs of $175 to $200. Some selects will move higher, around $250 to $300. Early reports from luxury markets not encouraging. Note: Several trapper auctions have been postponed due to lack of fur and the failure of buyers to make commits to attend.

OTTER: High of $35 to $45 expected. Size and color a factor, darks preferred

REGION 10

BEAVER: Shearable blankets and larger northern section goods at $24 to $26. Southern section $14 to $16 for finished blankets.

MUSKRAT: XL at $3, some buyers paying $3.25, but averages of $2.60.

WILD MINK: Males in the range of $12 to $14, females $6 to $8.

RED FOX: Top XLs, heavy goods, northern section hit $16 to $18. Look for $12 to $14 southern section for the best. Darker reds preferred.

GRAY FOX: Expect to see most offers in the range of $20 to $22 for top end goods. Most around $16 to $18.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL and XLs Is and IIs finished goods at $14 to $16. Northern heavies have hit $20, but averages low, around $10.

COYOTE: Clean plains types eastern CO and western KS/NB at $14 to $16 if bellies wide, clear and white. Buying highly selective.

BOBCAT-LYNX-CAT: $65 to $75 for the best from the northern section; some select pales at $80 or more. Look for a tight grade. Expect to see a wide range of prices.

REGION 11

BEAVER: Northern section blankets at tops of $18 to $22, with southern section goods at $10 to $14 if large, super clean and fully furred and well finished.

MUSKRAT: Prices for good winters are expected to top at $2.50 to $2.75; some well handled XL collections of good winters slightly higher. Averages around $2.10.

WILD MINK: XL males at a tops of $8 to $10; some XLs at $12; females slightly better than half.

RED FOX: XLs in the range of $14 to $16 for most.

GRAY FOX: Top prices in the range of $16 to $18 for southern sections. Northern goods at $20 to $22.

RACCOON: Lite semi-heavies XXXL, XXL and XLs Is and IIs from southern section expected to be trading at $10 to $12 tops. Northern section semi-heavies at $12 to $14 tops for finished pelts. Discount $3 to $4 for wet goods. Buying selective.

COYOTE: The best trading at $10 and $12; and then only if bellies are clear, white and fully furred. A few northern section might see $15, but they will be rare.

OTTER: OK/AR/MO type pales at highs of $20 to $25. Some darks might see $30.

BOBCAT: Tops at $20 to $30 depending on bellies. Some selects at $45, northern sections wide clear, well spotted bellies add dollars. Don’t expect market to be established until late February.

REGION 12

BEAVER: Blankets, once fully prime, select goods at $24 to $28.

CASTOR $14 to $15 per pound for properly handled, plump. Shells cheap.

MUSKRAT: Presently top XLs trading at $3.50 to $4.25, averages around $2.85.

WILD MINK: Expect to see top offers of $14 to $16, a few XL selects at $18. Females slightly better than half.

RED FOX: Heavy, fully prime XL goods are trading at $16 to $18. Dark, cherry reds preferred, hit $20. Frosty rumps and pales discounted.

GRAY FOX: Highs of $22 to $24 reported.

RACCOON: XXXL and XXLs Is and IIs at $20 to $22; finished goods. Averages running slightly over $10.

COYOTE: A tops of $18 to $22 if bellies wide and clear; most cheap.

FISHER: Highs of $40 to $45. Females preferred.

OTTER: Tops believed to be around $40 for straight hair, darks.

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