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    -   by George Campbell    (

The price of a particular specimen depends on many factors, and is often difficult to determine. Sometimes two similar specimens of the same mineral have large differences in price. Here are some of the factors that contribute to pricing here at OsoSoft, as well as at most other dealers.

All other things being equal, how good a specimen looks on display is a major factor in the price of the specimen. Most collectors prefer specimens that display well, so it just makes sense that a specimen with attractive crystals and a well-balanced appearance will cost more than an ugly specimen. Of course, some minerals are just plain esthetically challenged.

The size, not only of the entire specimen, but also of the crystals on the specimen is a major factor in its price. When judging the size of a crystal, of course, the species of mineral is the critical factor. For some species, a 6mm crystal may be huge, while for others, a large crystal is measured in feet.

Generally, the rarer a particular mineral species is, the more valuable. Still, this is not always true. Diamonds and Gold are quite common, but very valuable. Rarity, though, is a crucial factor.

Where a specimen originated can be a critical factor in its price. Specimens from the locality where the mineral was first discovered are almost always worth more than similar specimens from other localities. Similarly specimens from localities that are closed to collecting or from famous localities such as Tsumeb generally have higher values than specimens from other places. This factor changes over time, as new discoveries are made, and once-open sites are closed.

The overall quality of the specimen is very important. When examining a specimen, look at the quality of the crystal form, its color and luster, and deduct for any damage to the specimen. A large quartz crystal with a conchoidal ding at its termination is worth far less than a smaller, perfect crystal, for example. Similarly, a perfectly transparent octahedral diamond specimens is worth far more than a yellowish, translucent cubic specimen.

If a specimen was once owned by a famous collector or was part of a major museum's collection, its value is often increased. If a specimen bears a series of labels from previous collectors, many people value it more highly. If a photograph of a specimen appears in a book on minerals, that also makes it more desirable and expensive. The history of a specimen is part of its interest to many collectors.

Crystal Form or Habit
Most minerals can crystallize in a variety of forms. Generally, the more unusual the form or habit, the more valuable the specimen. Twins, doubly terminated crystals, and crystals showing rare faces are almost always worth more than a simple single crystal showing a common habit. Similarly, a rare color for a mineral increases its value.

Other Factors
A dealer's cost of acquiring specimens plays a role in its price, although that may be a minor factor in some cases. If a mineral is mounted on a base or otherwise, the quality of the mounting is a factor. In some cases, the use of the wrong material for mounting may decrease the value, since many collectors prefer their own mounts, and some materials are virtually impossible to remove. The place you buy a mineral may also affect its price. Major mineral shows are very expensive for dealers, who sometimes adjust their prices upward to help them recover costs.

The Bottom Line
Finally, the right price for a specimen is the price you're willing to pay and the dealer's willing to accept. That's true of almost everything that has a price. Sometimes you find a bargain, and sometimes a dealer sells a specimen for more than you'd expect. Shop carefully and compare prices for similar specimens and you won't go far wrong.