Value of Scientific Specimens

Jean-Michel MAES jmmaes at IBW.COM.NI
Wed Jul 25 18:17:47 CDT 2001

Dear Christian Thompson,

Recently the British Museum buy the Hughes Bomans collection of Lucanidae
beetles. If my information is true the price paid was 60,000 sterling
pounds. It's a very nice and very complete collection of stag beetles.

The price of a specimen is not very precise. I have been offered 750 US $
for a color variation of a Plusiotis. I have seen in Japanese offer lists
price like 500, 600 and up to 900 US $ for bigger than normal stag beetles.
The price vary following the size of the specimen. What about a gynandromoph
specimens. An Indonesian dealer was selling a gynandromorph Dorcus, base
price was 3,000 US $. After seeing the picture it was a teratogenic male,
not a gynandromorph and then the price could be 0.5 US $. I do not know
about butterfly prices but I guess a specimen of a new species of
Ornithoptera could be easily more than 1,000 US $.

Of course in price lists of dealers there are not many Agromyzidae or
Ptiliidae, but I think there are two different prices, as always, the price
you get if you try to sell something, and the price you need to give if you
try to get something. I remember some years ago, someone offer me 1 US $
each to collect Pselaphidae. In reality I collect few Pselaphidae and they
are still in my collection but the idea is this, there is a big gap between
offer and demand prices because not real market, in many insect groups.



Dr. Jean-Michel MAES
AP 527 (Do not use DHL or similar !)
tel 505-3116586 / 505-7794363
jmmaes at
----- Original Message -----
From: christian thompson <cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV>
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 9:35 AM
Subject: Re: Value of Scientific Specimens

> The point is that this is another indication of low regard our science,
> Systematics, has.
> 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.
> For example, has any one purchased a HOLOTYPE recently? And if so, how
> did you pay for it?
> 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 of
> 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 often
> 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.
> 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!
> Smile :-)
> F. Christian Thompson
> Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
> Smithsonian Institution
> Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
> (202) 382-1800 voice
> (202) 786-9422 FAX
> cthompso at
> visit our Diptera site at
> >>> Una Smith <una at LANL.GOV> 07/25 11:13 AM >>>
> On Wed, Jul 25, 2001 at 10:58:23AM -0700, Barry M. OConnor 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.
>         Una Smith
> Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mailstop K-710, Los Alamos, NM  87545

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