But according to a man in the know — John Zander from the New Jersey-based Zander & Sons Furriers — the raw fur market hit its low point last year and is on the upturn.
“It’s not going to be at the level it was five years ago,” Zander said. “But you will see a definite improvement in prices for muskrat, coyote and even raccoon. I emphasize muskrat because we feel that our Ohio buyer sends us the best quality rats in the country.
“The raccoon will take more time to get back to a profitable level,” Zander said. “A lot of the coon in storage have been released and that probably holds true for the hunters and trappers who chose to freeze pelts and then had second thoughts. We at the factory hear this although we can’t confirm for certain this has happened. Generally those rumblings are true, however.
“The reason I say it has bottomed out is because coon have already hit the low point as far as production-cost level which we saw at around $3,” Zander added. “And equally important, the future looks brighter as far as foreign markets.
Zander said some muskrats at the Jan. 14 Bucyrus auction at the Crawford County Conservation Club (Ohio 98, north of Bucyrus) will bring $5 or more which is up from last year. The big jump will be for raccoon, his belief being triple-X pelts will fetch $10 and up.
Mink, which years ago brought upwards of $40 for a large male, has still not found its way up the pricing ladder. The best for a large male will be $10. Half that much for a female.
“Send me some of those pale-colored Ohio coyotes,” Zander said. “They will bring the good money, as much as $65.”
The Zanders have been in the business for 40-plus years and have been a fixture at Ohio auctions ever since they opened their doors in New Jersey. Originally, Ed Camlin was their buyer when the auction was held in the Bowling Green area.
The Zander firm, certainly the biggest on the east coast and among the biggest in the country, handled as many as 700,000 muskrats in one season although that number is now down to an average of 350,000, that drop only because of availability.
“Most of the muskrat go to the Asian market. Some stay in the states. Others end up in Europe. A lot of muskrat fur ends up as lining for a garment. The heavier fur is used for hats. Coyote fur is used for hood trimming. Coon is also used for trimming, although some is again being used for garments.”
The Zander operation in New Jersey starts with purchasing and includes contractor processing and product finishing. It ends with sales.