Value/Cost of Collections

Barry M. OConnor bmoc at UMICH.EDU
Fri Mar 27 08:24:28 CST 1998

At 10:33 PM -0800 3/25/98, Peter Rauch wrote:
>Two postings on entomo-l ask about/discuss the value and cost of insect
>collections. (I hope this crossposting will not alienate anyone;  if you
>want to follow any further discussion posted to entomo-l, you can
>subscribe to entomo-l).
>I guess I would wonder what the value of those old, published data are
>worth in assessing the value of a collection _today_, at a time when the
>cost of replacement (of any class of terrestrial organisms) is likely to
>be astronomical to impossible to afford given the recent development in
>restrictions on collecting, the loss of habitat to such an extent that
>much of the site-specific material is now irreplaceable, etc?

The term Value has different meanings to different people.  For museum
collections, the value of a set of specimens usually translates to the
amount of tax deduction a donor can receive if they give the collection to
a museum.  This context was the focus of a workshop at the Entomological
Collections Network meeting last December.  Under USA law, the value of a
specimen for tax purposes is strictly determined by the commercial market.
Collection values are determined by checking market rates (for certain
species such as butterflies and big beetles, there is a commercial market).
For other taxa, prices paid by museums for large collections can be used,
but as has been noted, older transactions don't necessarily translate into
today's dollars.
        The notion of replacement cost doesn't enter at all into these
estimates of value.  On the other hand, if trying to justify one's
existence as a museum  to higher administrative authorities or politicians,
it is useful to point out what would be lost (in terms of effort and money)
if the collections were abandoned.

Barry M. OConnor                phone: (734) 763-4354
Museum of Zoology               FAX: (734) 763-4080
University of Michigan          e-mail: bmoc at
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079  USA

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