Throughout Canada's fur-trading history, prices have peaked and plummeted thanks to a variety of factors, including demand, weather and fashion trends. The last two years are a perfect illustration of this fact. Prices last year broke all kinds of records for wild fur sales. This year was a different story.
Canadian furs -- both wild and farmed -- are primarily sold to an international market for garments and trim. North America Fur Auction (NAFA) -- the largest fur auction house in North America -- holds several auctions a year. Buyers from China, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Korea, North America and Eastern European countries pack the house and bid on lots of furs. Like any auction, the results are unpredictable.
NAFA's annual February sale in Toronto is a big one. Last year, a record number of buyers -- more than 700 -- as well as the coldest winter in China in 28 years, pushed fur prices to levels that haven't been seen in four decades.
This year, a warm winter in China, Russia and Europe pushed prices down on some pelts and resulted in unsold lots in others.
Coyote was first up on the auction block with strong results. Prices were up slightly from last year and 100 per cent of the pelts were sold. Surprisingly, muskrat made a strong showing this year, exceeding last year's record prices. Muskrats have become a fashion article in Korea with bellies used as winter coat linings. Fishers also did very well, as buyers from new markets snapped up lots.
The biggest disappointment of the auction came in the sable/marten sales. Only about 35 per cent of pelts were sold. Russian sables had sold earlier in the year for lower prices. NAFA has another big sale coming up in May and is confident sales for marten will be much stronger later in the year.
Furs are sold in lots. Top lot is a unique designation that identifies a group of pelts of premium quality. The number of pelts in each top lot depends on the species. A top lot of coyote might include 12 pelts while a top lot of muskrat could have more than 100 pelts.
Top lots typically sell for much more than the average pelts. Trappers who are lucky enough to have one of their pelts in a top lot can usually expect a cheque for three, four, five or even 10 times more than the price of an average pelt in the same species.
Top lots at this February's action were down significantly over last year. Most lots were about double the average price, with the exception of coyote and red fox. An average coyote pelt sold for just under $100 while top-lot pelts garnered $826. An average red fox pelt sold for $62 while a top-lot pelt sold for $362.
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, travelling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org