Value of Scientific Specimens

Ron at Ron at
Wed Jul 25 14:25:47 CDT 2001

I have not been following this thread as I have been busy with work
matters. So if some of the below is redundant to others or misses something
already stated this is why. No time to look in archives either - I will
spell check. RG
christian thompson wrote:

> The point is that this is another indication of low regard our science,
> Systematics, has.
And the bashing of and scoffing at traditional systematic taxonomy and the
IC codes from "within" does nothing to lift this regard. I often tell my
Protestant friends who are fond of bashing Catholics that the rest of the
religious world and the secular world sees us "both" as just Christian -
thus, in the eyes of others "we" who do this are actually just demeaning
ourselves.  This is a good parallel to how the non-scientific and
other-discipline worlds view "us".

> The IRS takes a purely commerical view==> Fair Market value.
> So if there is no market for scientific specimens, then IRS consider the
> specimens worthless.
> And as Fish & Wildlife is so set on destroying a commerical market in
> butterflies and beetles the value of our scientific specimens will remain
> worthless as most museums no longer have funding to purchase collections
> thereby set "fair market" values.
> AND obviously we, the readers of TAXCOM, need to be aware of this
> situation. We should try to encourage our museums to purchase collections
> and make KNOWN to all that they are doing so and at what rates.

25 years ago J.F.Gates Clarke of the USNM came by my home in South Carolina
for a visit as he was in the area.  He did not offer to purchase my
collection, rather to encourage me to donate it to the USNM.  This tax and
F&W climate was very different back then - however, museums where
cheapskates who wanted everything for free. This has not changed. So before
everyone rushes to blame the IRS and F&W (and there is plenty to blame them
for), one should look in the mirror first.

> For example, has any one purchased a HOLOTYPE recently? And if so, how
> did you pay for it?

I do a lot of research and thus have a lot of type series specimens. I have
donated many of these to the Carnegie NH, AMNH, and U of Fla via Allyn
Museum. I no longer donate specimens to these institutions because they
have refused to supply me with a simple piece of paper that fixes a
specific value to these specimens that I may in turn furnish to the IRS
with my tax return. Rather they require me to jump through hoops and fill
IRS donated items forms and somehow come up with my own appraisals. (They
don't even offer a suggested value.)  Again, if individual Museums would
pay for types or just have their own scale it would be very beneficial.  As
they say in the Navy - now hear this.  I donate specimens to the FSCA/DPI
in Gainesville, Florida as they have a detailed standardized list of prices
for all kinds of specimens - curated, non-curated, various types of types,
etc.  At the end of each year they automatically send me a letter fully
itemized with prices listed and totaled. They have done this for many many
years. So don't tell us it can't be done. They only problem is that the
prices are 20 years behind the time. We at the Museum of the Hemispheres /
International Lepidoptera Survey use this same system for those who donate
to us (we were formed in 1998).

> A few days ago I responded to Barry's comments about cladistics versus
> alpha taxonomy. And how all NSF, etc., funding was going into discovery
> phylogenetic relationships, not species.  And couple of people responded
> my negative remarks by saying how valueable ecologists, etc., find names,
> etc., to be to their research. But again the response to them is how
> do ecologists, etc., PAY for identifications and names? The answer is not
> very often as most view identifications and name checking as a "free"
> service that taxonomy should provide.
 We charge up to $700 a day per field researcher (includes all expenses)
and $40 an hour for library research and report production. These fees have
been and are being paid to TILS by F&W, Forest Service (part of the USDA
that Dr. Thompson works for), and DNR. The key word is - charge. Sorry, I
have volunteered a lifetime of my personal time and funds to collect and
research Lepidoptera. This is not my day job. Thus, a simple thank you (pat
on the head) is not enough. If one wants to know what I know - which is one
heck of a lot - then funds are required. Why should anyone pay for that
which is routinely just given away? Do they have money? Then I want my cut.
If they too are working/researching for "free" then what I have is free

> So, what is the commerical (fair market) value of those tools (voucher
> specimens) that we use to provide identifications, etc.?? Nothing!
> There is only one good thing in all of this is: Secretary Small, whose
> of the collections at the Natural History Museum is that they are
> "ill-conceived and ill-managed," can't sell them as they are of no
> "commerical" value!
So I suggest the USNM appoint an official internal committee and come up
with an official Standardized Valuation Scale if it does not already have
one.  The FSCA values all holotypes at a basic rate of $250. It also has an
"open" added subjective value based on special or specific rareity.

> Smile :-)

Dittos on the smile.

Una Smith wrote
> >But remember, it's the tax man we're dealing with here! - Barry.
Then perhaps you should direct this question to the IRS, not TAXACOM.

Not only. We have found the enemy and it is us. As long as we are only
reactionary and not proactive (value scales, fees etc.) the tanks will roll

Ron Gatrelle, president and co-founder
The International Lepidoptera Survey
Curator, Museum of the Hemispheres
126 Wells Road
Goose Creek, South Carolina USA

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