Fur Auctions Provide Pelts For Domestic, Global Markets

December 30, 2018

Trappers are often asked what do they do with the furs they catch. Some skins are tanned for wall hangings, garments and other fur novelties, but the majority of pelts harvested in North America end up on the international fur market. This often surprises the public because while wearing fur has declined in the United States, it is a utilitarian item in the bitter cold climates of Russian and China. The fur market is going through one of the most depressed periods in its history with many factors playing into what is causing low fur prices, ranging from the price of oil to Chinese tariffs. Just six years ago trappers and fur hunters experienced a fur boom when the price of pelts made trapping profitable. Today, the only real bright spot is the coyote market, which is almost entirely driven by the trim trade. Canada Goose is a company that manufacturers high-end goose-down coats, which are highly popular in spite of four-figure retail prices. They are in such demand that many knock-offs are appearing. This has created a market for coyote fur that is rough sewn around the opening of the hood. Fur-trimmed hoods are fashionable and natural coyote fur has a much better appearance than cheaper faux fur coats. Pennsylvania trappers and fur hunters have three avenues to market their furs with local fur buyers, fur auctions sponsored by various districts of the Pennsylvania Trappers Association and shipping to the large Canadian fur auction houses. Historically, there were a large number of fur buyers throughout the state within close proximity, and buyers act as middlemen who buy and sell to larger buyers or end users. There are few country buyers left, but most are actively buying fur at their shops and at PTA fur auction sales. Trappers meet at a venue on the sale date and their furs are offered up for sale using a live-bid auction format that is exciting to watch. Shipping directly to one of the large Canadian fur auction houses is the last avenue for a trapper to market their catch. Auction houses hold multiple auctions per year and sell fur directly to end users that come from all over the globe. One positive of shipping is that often times a fur harvester will receive higher prices, since the end users are buying the fur directly. On the other hand, once the fur leaves the trapper’s possession, the price is out of their control, as they are unable to reject the number on the auction block. During the current climate of low fur prices, some trappers have their furs tanned — or even home tan them themselves — and sell them to others who may want to use them in rustic décor or to create fur items. Doing so can be profitable for the trapper, but often this market cannot absorb the large number of pelts harvested. Trapping and hunting animals to harvest fur is one of the oldest professions, and when it comes to what happens to the fur, very little has changed throughout history. What does seem to change drastically is fashion trends and neither trappers nor fur buyers have access to a crystal ball. Contact the writer: wildlife@timesshamrock.com

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