Yet again, the words of a person who is possibly the finest producer of Nishikigoi in the world today ring out in my ears and the person is Toshio Sakai who knows a thing or two when it comes to all grades of Koi. He knows this because he has to wade through countless thousands of ‘not so good Koi’ that he must to produce in order to get to the Mother Lode of a few world class Nishikigoi.
He also is very well aware that few can afford to purchase these wonders when they slowly come along from time to time. In itself, that’s not a problem because this class of Nishikigoi cannot possibly be spit out endlessly on a production line anywhere in the world!
Toshio told me in the mid 1980’s that he had yet to come across any individual or companies who have made any monetary profit in buying and selling volume Koi.
I have to confess that, in my vast experiences of those who have made attempts to do this over many years of being involved in the Koi business, I too have never seen any profit at the end of it all. In fact, all I have ever seen are enormous losses.
Take a look at these sales ponds of live fish for sale anywhere in the world and consider if there is any profit at the end of it for the retailer from these ponds alone. It does not matter in the least as to what is inside the ponds – goldfish; shubunkins; orfe; sterlets; long fins; Koi; sunfish; newts; terrapins etc. etc. because all the ponds need to be built and filtered with running costs. All the creatures have to be cared for, all have to be caught to display them, all have to be placed in bags and be oxygenated before boxing.
If any of these sales ponds can even pay for the space costs, running costs and staffing costs anywhere on earth I’ll be truly amazed.
No, these sales ponds rely purely on the impulse buys of the goods surrounding them – a bottle of coloured liquid in a nice pack; some magic powder in a nice pack; a blister-packed thermometer; a complete water test kit; a colourful pack of fish food; a spare pump at an amazing discount; a pretty feeding ring; a plastic heron; a new air stone – it goes on. However the most important thing these outlets wish for is that you buy a coffee or tea and a scone from them before you leave. Let’s see, buying right a tea bag costs one penny, hot water and a drop of milk plus overheads, how about 5p? Sales price £1.75 – take away the VAT equals £1.52 – sell 300 per day or more?
Now that’s what I call PROFIT! Watch out Starbuck’s; Coffee Primo; Costa Coffee; Coffee Nations and the rest taking prime space on every high street in every town today – Waddy’s here!
Before I end this, I’ll simplify everything.
Go back to the breeder who has 3,500 tateshita for sale. These were harvested in late September and selected before placing them in the indoor concrete systems for growing over the winter months. Four ponds contain the 3,500 tateshita and one pond contains 250 tategoi.
Visit the same breeder just after these selections have been made and ask him the price of his five worst tateshita – he will smile and give you these as a gift. He can net them out and have them in a bowl before you in seconds because he has 1,500 of these mixed with his 3,500. All you have to do now is pay the associated transportation costs which he will probably arrange for the charge of a few phone calls. He will not charge you for wasting his time and patience. By the above calculations, this will cost you 5,000yen for Vet’s fee; 23,500yen for delivery to your country plus duty & VAT on arrival. Let’s take a stab at 36,000yen, at today’s rate this is £253.00 or £50.60 per Koi with a total value of less than the cost of the vinyl bags they are shipped in.
Now change your mind and instead of asking to buy his worst tateshita – ask him the price of his best one. Why not take a few Koi experts along with you to be sure he’s not cheating you? This search for the best from 3,500 is not so quick and, if I am correct, the breeder will eventually have 10 Koi in a bowl for you to inspect – be prepared to spend a few hours of seine-netting here. After this, you and your friends will decide upon the best one, perhaps the breeder will agree but perhaps he may suggest another. At the end of it all, a decision has to be made and so it is. The price may well be quoted at 300,000yen for this ‘tateshita’ on top of this you have to pay shipping costs already stated above.
On the other hand, if you decide against any purchase at all, this is not a problem at all and this is what will happen after you have left. From late September when the Koi are placed into the ponds and until mid-April when the final selection is determined the breeder will feed his stocks up to four times a day. When feeding his stocks he observes, over this seven month period many changes are made. Small deformities in his tategoi are sent to the other ponds, some tateshita are now tategoi and many are vice-versa because the Koi are changing on a daily basis. At the end of the final selection before the tategoi are placed in the field ponds in mid-May he will have 200 only from the original 250 in late September and these are now his best tategoi and he is as sure as he can be sure that all are females.
The tateshita you decided against purchasing in October will, almost certainly, be now included in his tategoi selection of 200 Koi. In four month’s time it will be harvested at around 45cms, if the worst happens and it is male, it will be sold for 35,000yen. On the other hand, if it is female and excellent, it may be offered for sale at 500,000yen. On the other hand, if it is female and outstanding and someone asks for a price, it may be offered for sale at 1,500,000yen but the breeder is not concerned really if he sells or not because he knows that in one more year he believes it will produce 2,500,000yen easily!
In my experience, never doubt the ‘eye’ of the breeder but the ‘eye’ of the buyer is another matter altogether. I will not go into this part in detail but, over the years, I have taken many other Koi dealers with me to find Koi. These guys, without exception, quite rightly always require ‘selected’ prices and never ‘scoop rates’. When I ask the breeders for selected prices, the reply always comes back ‘Who makes the selection?’ If I point to the dealer in question, I am then ‘invited’ into the house whilst the selection is being made. Upon returning to see the Koi selected later, the dealer is over the moon with the very cheap prices he’s paid. Had I been selecting from the same pond, my prices would have been three times the price quoted to the other person.
(I have long-since given up the protestation that I am just another ‘Blind Gaigin’ because it just does not wash anymore.)
Of course, not one of the Koi selected would have been in my selection but I’ll bet that I’ll come out at the end of it all with more bottom line profit.
Then consider this, the class of breeder I am quoting in these texts is in the higher echelons of Go-Sanke production in Japan today.
It must be pointed out that some other breeder’s best tategoi will only be considered as tateshita to him!
Here is an attempt to summarise these texts by way of a graphic, I name it as a ‘generalisation’ because it is just that.
As to the price of ‘good’ Koi, it will always remain to be in the realms of estimations and generalisations because, until it is accepted that ‘good’ Koi are totally unique and only one person owns one ‘good’ Koi at any given time, then it is difficult to get one’s head around the subject. These ‘good’ Koi cannot be compared to others because there are no ‘others’, but there are ‘similar’ examples to be found elsewhere, alas that is not even nearly quite the ‘same’. As to Koi purchased from a breeder in Japan, only the breeder himself can quote a price, other breeders have no possible idea of another breeder’s asking price for any of his stocks.
As to those who really believe they ‘know the price of Koi’ – that is utter nonsense, I most certainly do not and I have done that 8 week autumn visit for well over twenty years. I can relate prices quoted for certain Koi on certain visits endlessly but I am under no illusions that these very same Koi will be quoted to others, even on that same day, with huge price variations and quantity purchases with past relationships and hoped-for future business dealings that comes into the final figure asked. If the same ‘good’ Koi were to be available on future visits please forget the first price that’s etched into your memory because now it’s time to start again – right from the very beginning!
I do hope these texts have been of use to some Koi enthusiasts out there – all they state is the truth – 100% truth. But of course, there will be others out there who will say to others that they knew all of this anyway. Just believe me – they didn’t even have a clue!