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Chinese minerals as collectable investments


Once they first began to enter the market in quantity a few years ago, Chinese minerals have been plentiful, inexpensive and yet often of very fine quality compared to many other locations. In fact some Chinese minerals have ocasionally been misrepresented as being from classic sites that command much higher prices.

Chinese minerals have certainly been very affordable due to several factors, the most important being the relatively low value of the Yuan against the US dollar. In addition, the very primitive hand labor used in many mines, low wages and the Chinese technique of mining ore in many separate, small, labor intensive operations means excellent potential for finding and extracting minerals for the collector. Most miners are happy to make extra money and will work quite hard to carefully extract minerals for the well established and growing markets. For some it has even been a huge financial windfall. Due to the large volumes of minerals produced the supply has often been plentiful and prices had been relatively low, even for top quality. For this reason, collecting Chinese minerals has become very popular It has been relativelyu inexpensive todevelop a first rate display of fine crystal specimines. However, many of these factors are now rapidly changing, and prices have been steadily increasing.

The new revaluations of the Yuan and the likely continuation of the rise of the Chinese currency (which had been fixed to the Dollar for the past 12 years) has begun to have real impact. The speculation that the re-adjustment could reach from 30-40 percent increase within a year, which is the expressed goal of the US congress. This will of course increase the costs to us all in US dollars. Meanwhile the rapid deployment of high volume machinery, automated crushers and more modern mining methods across China are also impacting the availability of fine minerals. Many small mines are closing as not being sufficiently economical and as pumps are shut down another source is flooded. New western style management and rising wage structures for skilled miners and equipment operators all have further effects on availability, as some mines have stopped allowing miners to privately collect minerals. Finally the Chinese themselves with a newly emerging middle class are suddenly beginning to collect minerals. Many of the most active consumers are now Chinese buyers who see minerals as investments as well as desirable for esthetic reasons. The results of greater demand and shrinking supply results in price adjustments upwards.

Even in the case of very large discoveries (such as the amazing stibnites, spessartine, quartz and hematite, realgars etc) The prices for top materials has stayed high and as the supply eventually dwindles or stops (as with the amazing pyromorphites, mimetites and blood red sphalerites) the prices for even average material increases rapidly. We feel strongly that this is still the golden age of Chinese minerals but it will not last much longer. Availability will slowly tighten, prices will continue to rise and much classic Chinese materials will be well beyond the reach of average collectors, with the best materials commanding prices commensurate with fine minerals of Tsumeb and other classic sites. We are frequently offered minerals in China that exceed prices we would expect to see in Tucson and they do seem to sell eventually. Good materials selected with care at this time will very likely be very good investments.