Auctions Go as Expected

GENERAL OUTLOOK

Russia, unquestionably the final destination for the majority of the wild furs harvested, is in turmoil. Riots in the streets, massive public protests, a crippled economy, and political strife is not exactly the atmosphere conducive for good business. Yet, furs are selling — not anywhere near the same levels as last year, but selling nevertheless.

As if Russia’s economic meltdown was not enough, the weather this winter has been unseasonably mild. While in recent weeks Russians have seen some cold nights, the temperature was consistently above freezing during all of December and most of January. Several of our northern states have been considerably colder.

The kickoff round of wild fur auctions in Canada went about as those in the fur trade had expected. There were even a few pleasant surprises in the offing.

Auction officials did an outstanding job of protecting the market; digging in their heels at the newly established price levels. This, understandably, resulted in somewhat limited clearance. Considering the uncertainty of early retail sales, particularly in Russia, I’m surprised clearance was as good as it was this early in the season.

The January auctions reported 75 percent fewer beavers offered as did the January sale last year. The short offerings did not go unnoticed. Top lots sold for slightly more than last January. More importantly, the low grades sold at about the same levels as last season with excellent clearance.

Low-grade goods selling well is considered a critical indicator. Typically, if there is a viable market for the lower grades, it pushes the prices up for the better quality offerings. Traditionally, the fur market is bottom driven.

Since the early auctions saw good clearance on the low-grade beaver and the better large sizes moved at levels similar to last January, country buying activity has seen some added spark.
Country fur buyers are where the rubber meets the road. They are in constant contact with buyers in other parts of the country. Therefore, they are the first to recognize the size of the harvest … or lack thereof. Beavers are apparently in short supply this season. It also appears that the muskrat harvest will be short.

On the other hand, coyotes and raccoons have lost the low-end market. With their buckets full, the buyers are ignoring the smalls and lower grade raccoon. Ordinary, commercial-type coyotes are becoming increasingly difficult to sell. Small, heavy and semi-heavy raccoons are finding few, in any, offers. Coat types from Regions 3, 4 and southeastern 5 will only sell if they are large and the brightest of color and then they are very cheap.

However, the meat market is reportedly strong.

In states where it is legal to sell wild game, enterprising raccoon trappers and hunters are finding viable markets for well-handled carcasses.

In virtually every market, retail furriers are slashing prices in order to move existing inventory. In doing so they anticipate replacement garments will be considerably cheaper, and they might be … then again they might not.

Like oil, most raw furs are sold in U.S. dollars. Since last year, the dollar has gained about 15 percent in value against a number of foreign currencies. Even with the raw fur brokers, large regional collectors who negotiate private treaty sales and the auction houses attempting to hold the price decline between 20 percent and 30 percent, the increasingly expensive dollar is expected to continue to be reflected in the retail prices of fur garments.

There is little question that wild furs will begin to move much later in the season this year. The country buyers I have spoken with indicate they are anticipating clearance to be slow. Most buyers indicate a willingness to hold goods for an extended period of time if necessary.
While mild weather has hampered fur sales in Russia and Eastern Europe, the harsh winter across Canada and the northern tier states has handicapped the efforts of fur trappers and hunters. The ensuing short harvest this season will likely prove to be a blessing.

The limited clearance of ranch mink in Copenhagen and Finland on the early December sales had fur marketers worried. Would this type of limited clearance continue throughout the year? What impact will the carryover have on future price levels?

Well, we can set those concerns aside. The February Copenhagen auction, where 3.5 million mink went under the gavel, saw over 360 buyers taking nearly 100 percent of the offering. On the December sales, prices were between 20 percent to 30 percent off from previous levels.
Again February prices declined from the December level, but not much. Buying, as usual with ranch mink, was highly selective as the color phases, with some colors actually posting increases. This type of activity is somewhat reassuring.

How this will translate on the movement of our wild fur markets is yet to be seen. But, considering the millions of ranch mink produced in recent years, and the limited amount of wild fur marketed, we might be in a little better shape than expected.

MARKET BRIEFS

BEAVER: Early auction results have been encouraging. While early clearance at the international auction has been less than desired, prices are holding up well. Country collectors are looking on beaver in a more favorable light. A short harvest in most regions is now becoming evident. Buyer interest in the lower grades is encouraging. The castor market appears strong and the short take might add a few bucks per pound.

MUSKRAT: A short harvest is now evident in most regions. Country prices have been edging upward, slightly. Those holding muskrat could be in for a pleasant surprise later in the season. The activity on the ranch mink auctions has also been encouraging.

WILD MINK:
For many years, this article lacked widespread competition among user countries. However, some new users seem to be nibbling around the edges, trying a few to assess consumer acceptance. If this works out well, and prices remain cheap — slightly less than previous levels — we could see good movement later. Thus far clearance has been beyond expectations on the ranch mink offerings. This alone might move a few more users into the market.

RACCOON: In recent weeks, the country market has become far more selective. Tighter grading as to size, color and degrees of primeness has been reported from all regions. Many buyers are turning away small sizes and springy (red neck) goods. Averages are becoming increasingly difficult to calculate due to the number of skins not selling. The market remains focused on the heavies from the northern tier states and Canada. The semi-heavies continue to sell, but color grading and size is pulling down averages.

OTTER: Since harvest numbers plummeted after the market for otter crashed, populations are rebuilding rapidly. Beaver trappers report taking more otter incidental to their activity. Evidently, the manufacturers who ventured into this item are experiencing successes in Russia and Eastern Europe with their products. Prices for darks were edging upward until the worldwide economic downturn. Still, Fur Harvesters did manage to move a remarkable 75 percent of the offering at a high of $60 with a $39 average. The average was better than last February — respectable prices considering the overall market. I expect this item will begin to rebound soon. Otter offer a great deal of very durable fur at an affordable prices.

RED FOX:
The market is highly selective. The deep, cherry reds from Regions 1 and 2 are seeing, by far, the strongest demand. Even there, frosty rumps will be graded down. The recent Copenhagen auction posted favorable clearance on ranch fox. This is expected to result in a bit more competition for our wild trim due to the lower cost. Other than those from the East Coast area, most will likely end up being dyed, adding additional manufacturing cost.

GRAY FOX:
This unique furbearer continues to sell well in the country. We might see late-season prices edge slightly upward. The first international offer of any significant number, around 500, saw reasonable clearance with a high of $37. Fur Harvesters posted an average of about $26, off about $10 for the averages on the January 2008 sale. The market is strongest for the heavy, larger skins from Regions 1, 2 and eastern 11 than the smaller, yet silkier, Southerns and Westerns. In time, that might change.

COYOTE: A number of country buyers I have spoken with indicate they have stopped buying all but the very best found in their market area. A large carryover of commercial/ordinary types remains unsold and this, understandably, has buyers reluctant to invest in an item they might own for several years or more. The High Country pales, with wide white bellies, full franks and silky fur continue to move well. On its January sale, NAFA managed to pull down an average nearly $28 on Western heavies and $29.50 for the Easterns. No doubt size was a factor here. The trim market appears to be holding up fairly well considering the state of the world economy. This is particularly true in the growing Chinese and Korean retail markets for furs. The number of ranch fox coming into the market this season has been slashed by growers in hopes of seeing advancing prices. In time this might clear up the carryover, but at low prices.

BOBCAT / LYNX-CAT / LYNX: Exceptional clearance at the Copenhagen ranch mink auction would indicate the luxury markets are still active. Sure, prices were off as much as 40 percent on some shades when compared with last season, but the nearly 100 percent clearance bodes well for the high-end goods. Some color phases even advanced from the earlier sale. The country buyers I have spoken with viewed the results from the February Copenhagen sales as reassuring. It certainly removed some of the fear associated with the major investment they have in high-dollar lynx-cats. Considering the limited number of spotted cats hitting the market each year — and this year in particular — we’ll likely see some good late-season activity.

MARTEN: Recent events (see above) in the luxury market are expected to throw some added interest in this item. Buyers will be watching closely the movement of Russian sable on the mid-February Sojuzpushnina auction. That sale will offer 200,000 wild caught sable. Should this sale result in clearance similar to the Copenhagen sale, buyers are expected to approach collections with somewhat less apprehensions.

FISHER: This item is offered in such limited quantities that prices are expected to hold. Late-season prices could even see some advances. Expect to see the gap in price between males and females to widen somewhat.

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 $35 to $40 for prime finished blankets; averages in the range of $20 to $22.

MUSKRAT: Highs of $5 to $5.50, averages in the range of $3.60 for finished collections.

WILD MINK: Top males trading now at $15. Overall running around $11 to $12.

RED FOX: Highs of $22 to $24 reported from auction, XL heavy goods, cherry reds have seen $25, but few make the grade; averages $15 to $16.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs highs in the range of $20 to $22. Averages from auctions around $10 to $11. Color and size major grade factor.

COYOTE: Heavy XLs high of $24 to $26.

OTTER: Most collections expected to trade in the range of $50 to $60 for XL straight hair, dark, good winters.

FISHER: High of $56 reported from auction. Late sales could see $65.

MARTIN: Top of $25 to $30.

GRAY FOX: Highs in the range of $26 to $28. This is the preferred section of grays due to size.

BOBCAT: Tops reported $50 to $60.

REGION 2

BEAVER: Blankets and larger, good winters, at $30 to $35. Average running $17 to $18. Market for good winters in the range of $3.50 to $4.25, tops. Averages posted on recent auction at $3.60

WILD MINK: Males at highs of $12 to $13, averages running $11. Females highs of $8.50.

RED FOX: Preferred section XLs trading at $28 to $30 tops. Most trading in the range of $12 to $14 due to frosty rumps. Recent auction averaged $12.65.

GRAY FOX: Early prices hit highs of $26 to $28.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs, highs running in the range of $18 to $20 with auction averages posted at $12.

COYOTE: Most of XL heavy goods high a tops of $18.50 to $22.

OTTER: XLs at $45 to $50.

BOBCAT: Tops running in the range of $45 to $50, size and wide bellies a factor.

FISHER: Females at $40 to $50.

MARTEN: Tops of $30, size a factor.

OPOSSUM: Highs of $3.50 to $4.

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 northern section.

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

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

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

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL 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. Look for meat market.

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

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 in the range of $12 to $14.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL and XLs 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.

OTTER: Trading at $20 or less.

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

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

NUTRIA: 26 inch and up at $1.50.

REGION 5

BEAVER: Finished blankets and fully prime XLs $6 to $8. Most used as hatters.

MUSKRAT: Prices top at $1.50 to $2.

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 to $14 for the best.

GRAY FOX: Prices in the range of $15 to $16.

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 to $12 tops, finished.

COYOTE: Eastern finished $6 to $8 for the best finished. Most will find no willing buyers. Westerns at $10 to $12 for those with clear, wide, white bellies.

OTTER: Trading at $24 to $26.

BOBCAT: Eastern types at a tops $20 tops, with most cheaper, while the westerns with wide clear bellies and nice spots, averages in the range of $35 to $40. New Mexico lower elevations types at $60 to $70, High country at $150 and higher. High country (Panhandle Texas/Oklahoma) types at $50 to $60, some higher. Short take in Regions 7 and 9 has buyers seeking New Mexico ’cats.

NUTRIA: 26 inch and up at $1.50.

RINGTAIL: Expect a top of $6 to $8.

REGION 6

BEAVER: Finished blankets, XLs between $14 and $16 for northern heavy goods.

RED FOX: Tops at $12 to $14.

GRAY FOX: Best around $17 to $19.

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

RACCOON: Trading activity puts XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs in the range of $10 to $12 for finished goods, averages running about $5, 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 $140 on selects. Coastal red types at $50 to $60.

RINGTAIL: Tops at $6 to $8.

SKUNK: Tops running around $4.
 
REGION 7 (7a)

BEAVER: Heavy blankets with full covering of guard hair at around $22 to $24. Westerns (7a) averaged $16.33.

CASTOR: $20 per pound for full, plump, well glazed.

MUSKRAT: Tops XL top $4.25 to $4.50, (7a) averaged $3.47.

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 $18.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs at $16 to $18. Averages around $10, with smalls and damaged out.

COYOTE: Eastern heavy goods from the high country at $18 to $20 for the best. Westerns averaged $15.84. Easterns averaging around $20.

OTTER: Fully prime, unsinged, at $65 to $75; tighter grade as size matters. Feet left intact will add bucks.

MARTEN: Top price of $28 to $32.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: High Country, eastern XXL selects at $100 to $125 tops. Some super selects, well spotted, pale, wide bellies over $200; few will see this. The red goods from 7(a) at $55 to $65 tops, most lower, averages on OTC sale $48.90.

SKUNK: Highs of $4 to $6 reported.

REGION 8

BEAVER: $35 to $45 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: $35 high, most near $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 $65 to $75 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. Trophy market building.

REGION 9

BEAVER: Finished blankets and larger fully covered with guard hair at $20 to $25, some selects might see better. Averages around $17. Select plump CASTOR at $20 to $24 a pound.

MUSKRAT: Prices of $3.50 to $4.

MINK: Top in the range of $12 to $14; slightly better than half for females.

RED FOX: Highs of $24 to $26, averages expected to run in the range of $14 to $16. Colorado Sale hit highs of $27.

GRAY FOX: Highs of $18 to $20.

RACCOON: Expect the best finished XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs at $16 to $18 for bright color and large sizes. Colorado Sale, highs of $22, average of $15.

COYOTE: The best high country goods are trading at $22 to $24, some selects at $35. Ordinary goods and commercial types at $14 to $16. Wide, clear fully furred bellies needed to hit highs.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: Fully prime top high country types should see highs of $175 to $200. Some selects will move higher, around $350 to $375. Colorado Sale average $221 with a high of $420.

OTTER: Highs of $75 to $80 expected. Idaho auction averaged $72.50.

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, averages of $2.80 common.

WILD MINK: Males in the range of $10 to $12, 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.

GRAY FOX: Expect to see most offers in the range of $20 to $22 for top end goods. Most from southern section around $17.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL and XL I and II finished goods at $14 to $16. Northern heavies have hit $22, but averages low, around $11 to $12. Poor colors, small sizes will encounter deep discounts.

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

BOBCAT-LYNX-CAT: $65 to $75 for the best from the northern section; some selects pales at $80 or more. Look for a tight grade. Expect to see a wide range of prices. KS/NB averages running in the range of $38 to $42.

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 $3.50 to $3.75; some well handled XL collections of Good Winters slightly higher. Averages around $2.80.

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. KY/TN goods report highs of $20.

GRAY FOX: Top prices in the range of $16 to $18 for southern sections. Northern goods at $20 to $22. KY/TN sales have hit $24, WV $19.

RACCOON: Lite semi-heavies XXXL, XXL and XL Is and IIs from southern section expected to be trading at $12 to $14 tops with around a $7 average for AR/MO. Northern section semi-heavies at $15 to $16 tops for finished pelts. Wet averages running around $9.50. Selected averages, finished goods with smalls out: IL average $8.75, WV averages $6.06, IN $8.90.

COYOTE: The best trading at $6 and $8; and then only if bellies are clear white and fully furred. TN/KY heavies at $12 of the best, the same in IN/IL.

OTTER: OK/AR/MO type pales at highs of $25 to $28. Expect a tough grade. Some darks might see $30 or a little better.

BOBCAT: Tops at $20 to $30. Some selects at $45 northern sections wide clear, well-spotted bellies add dollars.

REGION 12

BEAVER: Blankets, once fully prime, select goods at $28 to $30.

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

MUSKRAT: Presently top XLs trading at $4 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 trading at $16 to $18. Dark, cherry reds preferred hit $20. Frosty rumps and pales discounted.

GRAY FOX: Highs of $24 to $26.

RACCOON: XXXL and XXL Is and IIs at $20 to $22; finished goods. Averages running slightly over $10. Some trappers report averages of $12.50. This is most sought after region, but expect a tight grade as to color and size.

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

FISHER: Highs of $45 to $55. Females preferred.

OTTER: Tops believed to be around $50 for straight hair, darks. Some up to $65.

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