bonsai as an investment?

buddhamonk

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We all know that most tree increase in value with age. For someone who has money to spend - is bonsai a good investment? I'm not talking about going into retail and such. But in general if you have money to spare and run into good deals (club sale, auctions etc...) can I get at least a yearly 6% return on the money invested?

I'm purposefully ignoring time and money spent caring for the tree (assuming this is for enjoyment)
 

fletch

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can I get at least a yearly 6% return on the money invested?

You'd probably do better burying your money in the ground.:cool:... But then again you never really know what some people will pay until you try. There's a few larger ficus bonsai that a local garden center is trying to hawk for CDN$1,000+ if I remember correctly and they may actually get it. Despite the fact that they are truly abismal specimens and I wouldn't take them for free (in all fairness I must disclose my unbounding dislike of ficus as bonsai in the first place but these things are just plain amatuerish and UGLY).

If you want to invest for a guaranteed return look to something more durable, and something that people have to buy no matter what the economy is doing in general... And when I figure out what that something is I'll tell you about it.... For a price:D
 
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For now, at least in this country, the old saying still holds true.


Money don't grow on trees. :)
 

reddog

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I think there would be a possibility of making money on an investment in bonsai. However, I believe it would be for high end trees who's history, design (national/international artist), and upkeep can be substantiated. A person would still need to find a buyer and I'm not sure how many individuals or organizations would put serious money in this type of tree. Japan...yes. United States...limited number. This may change as the young Americans training in Japan will soon be coming to the states and hopefully create a new wave of interest in bonsai.
 

Ang3lfir3

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This may change as the young Americans training in Japan will soon be coming to the states and hopefully create a new wave of interest in bonsai.

right ! </sarcasm>

While trees may be gaining in value due to some buyers being willing to pay more. The truth is... something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. That will never change... and in this country people are certainly not as willing to pay the same prices as many in Japan. That also won't be changing ne time soon. That's really ok... I don't plan to get rich on bonsai... at least not monitarily
 

JasonG

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right ! </sarcasm>

While trees may be gaining in value due to some buyers being willing to pay more. The truth is... something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. That will never change... and in this country people are certainly not as willing to pay the same prices as many in Japan. That also won't be changing ne time soon. That's really ok... I don't plan to get rich on bonsai... at least not monitarily

There is more to Reddogs statement then you would think. There are people out there spending good money on trees right now, buying the best they can. Once our trees get the history of trees in Japan and win many awards like many of the trees in Japan, then yes they will get the high price tags, $50,000+ per tree and people who are serious will pay for them. It is a long was off, but in time we will see the same thing. That is only a good thing for bonsai.

The young artist's in Japan now will be coming back to the US and I know that atleast one of them is putting together a collection of trees, American trees, that will be second to none. Actually it already is that impressive. American Bonsai is in for a big turn around soon.....It will be exciting!

Jason
 

milehigh_7

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For someone who has money to spend - is bonsai a good investment? ...can I get at least a yearly 6% return on the money invested?


Well Monk it is like this, IMHO bonsai is an art form. As such, for every master there are a thousand (or more) purveyors of the "velvet Elvis" at a roadside stand. There are those, (like myself) whose bonsai are the artistic equivalent of a stick figure or "paint by number". The skill level increases from there.

A friend of mine who has seen Michelangelo's David said it is so real you would swear that you could see his pulse. This is a work that has no match. It is to these masterworks that we all strive. Few if any ever catch a whiff of this greatness. We look back all these years later in awe and wonder and the art stands the test of time.

So it is with bonsai. When I view the pictures of the trees at the National Arboretum, the ones that truly strike me are the ones that have both the aesthetics (that they all have) plus the pedigree of how long they have been in training and who owned them and donated them. I found myself saying what a shame that they don't all have a known history.

The value to the collector would also go up with the popularity of the artist who designed it. I work with several artists who would rival or surpass Andy Warhol in talent, but there is no chance of their work ever being worth what his is because of the cult that is Andy Warhol. Further, the true value of art is only realized after the death of the artist and the growth of the legend.

Then as has been said, one must find the right buyer. Someone I know is selling a coffee table on craig's list that is made from an elephant foot. To the right buyer it will sell for thousands. To the rest of us it is less than worthless, it is offensive.

So the bottom line is in any deal that makes money you must be ahead of the game and lucky. You have to find it when it is valueless and culture has to bring the value up for you.
 

Vance Wood

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In a word: No. The only bonsai that are now worth anything are the so called finished bonsai. If you went out and purchased some of these you would create the problem of maintaining them in that condition or they would lose their value and become worthless in a matter of two years. This means you have to know how to take care of them properly; and that means more than just watering. Or; you are going to have to hire someone to do this for you and that ain't gunna be cheap, probably eating up any hoped for profits in maintenance fees.

The only reason to invest in bonsai is because you enjoy bonsai.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Sadly, I think the most money being made in bonsai right now is in mallsai. You can import cheap Chinese trees into the US for a pittance, and so what if you only sell them for $30 or $40 - your return is still much better than if you slave over a tree for five years that ends up selling for $1500. Yes, there is a (very) small market for the highest end buyer, but bonsai is a living art form that requires constant attention and maintenance. Imagine if investment-grade oil paintings required people to touch up the paint every week or two :eek:

If you wanted to make an investment right now I would recommend safe-haven assets that are dollar independent - like gold bullion or the Swiss franc :) They don't suffer from nematodes or root rot :)
 

snobird

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No, not a good idea unless you act as a broker for people who are willing to spend money. I think japanese nurserymen make their money on a few fronts not just one.
 
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From what I have read the most valuable trees (money wise) in Japan are owned by very wealthy collectors. They don't work on the trees they keep them as status symbols. A bonsai master is hired to maintain them and keep them healthy. The tree may stay at the collectors home and the master visits periodically. The tree may actually stay with the master and be delivered to the collectors home or office for special occasions to show it off.

The most expensive trees are status symbols. Until owning a bonsai becomes the in thing amongst the wealthy in the US, that is until the political and Hollywood types take an interest, they will never reach investment status.
 

greerhw

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I only know of one person that spends more than 10,000 for a tree in this country, so if there is any money to be made, it would have to be in starter trees in large quantities, and that's dicey.

keep it green,
Harry
 

Walter Pall

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There are at least four that I know personally who spend 10,000 and more. And I know about a dozen or more who spend around 5,000. And I don't only speak of finished trees. I also mean unstyled raw material.
I think indeed, bonsai could be a wise investment.
 
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There are at least four that I know personally who spend 10,000 and more. And I know about a dozen or more who spend around 5,000. And I don't only speak of finished trees. I also mean unstyled raw material.
I think indeed, bonsai could be a wise investment.

Walter, I do respect your opinion.

However there are 300 million people in the US. 15-20 people will not support a money making enterprise. And once those 20 people have a few plants you need more people to buy more $10,000 plants. It would take thousands of people willing to invest in a plant that could die any time any one of them goes off for a one week vacation and lets the neighbor kid water it. Japan has an infrastructure built over a thousand years to support.

It could happen here but it won't be any time soon. Right now the money to be made is in supporting the hobby, not in $10,000 plus trees.
 

greerhw

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There are at least four that I know personally who spend 10,000 and more. And I know about a dozen or more who spend around 5,000. And I don't only speak of finished trees. I also mean unstyled raw material.
I think indeed, bonsai could be a wise investment.

COULD is the word, you had better know what you're doing or hire someone to take care of them for you that does. Otherwise you will end up with a collection of very expensive pots. A few guys that have nursuries that sell yamadori seem to be making a living.

keep it green,
Harry
 

greerhw

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Brussel makes more money wholesaling lucky bamboo that he does selling bonsai.

keep it green,
Harry
 

Attila Soos

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Yes, you can make good profit, but in order to do so, you need to be very good at a few things:

1) First, you need to know the bonsai market exceptionally well: who are the top buyers, where they buy their trees, how much was paid for what tree, etc. Go to bonsai auctions and see what kind of trees are sold, for exactly how much. So, just like in any other business, you need to know the market. The bonsai market is small, but trees DO change hands for money. The information about these transactions is not readily available, you need to know the insiders.

2) You should be able to recognize great deals, and take andvantage of them. Your profit is a function of what you pay for your investment. If you invest in a tree that you estimate to be worth $5,000 (based on existing sales of trees of similar caliber), and the seller is asking for a fraction of that price (he may be sick, he may need the money right away, he may have inherited the tree and does not care about selling at full value, etc), then you can make a nice profit by selling the tree at full value.

3) (This is related to #1) You need to know where to sell your tree. If you are trying to sell a high-end tree at a flee market (swap-meet), you will never get what you want. Instead, you need to have a list of potential buyers, and find a way to market to these people.

4) You need to be highly skilled in creating and maintaining bonsai. This way, you can maintain your investment in top condition, and you cann add lots of value to unfinished material. If you don't have that skill, and you have to pay top professionals to do all the work for you, then you will spend your profit on these people and end up losing money. The profit is not large enough to support middle-men in this business. You have to do all by yourself.

5) (This is related to #4) You should always look to add value to your trees. Often, raw material (mostly yamadori) can be purchased significantly cheaper than finished bonsai. Here the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of your profit is created by the final 20% of the work, and this is FINISHING the tree. The first 80% of the work is already done by others (nature, bonsai growers, etc). But you need to be able to do the final 20%. And this is where you can make your profit. I've seen this over and over again: bonsai hobbyists are very good at creating great bonsai material, and then the tree is never finished (A tree looks great at a local show, it has great potential. 5 years later, I see the tree a the same show, and it hasn't changed much - all that potential is never realized because the owner is either not skilled enough to improve it, or he has too many trees and little time to work on them, or he is too much in love with his tree to do anything).

6) You need to recognize bad investments (bonsai that will never amount to anything) and get rid of it asap. The problem is, bonsaists almost never do this. Trees have emotional values, and we find excuses to keep them ("one day it will be great", "it just needs a little time to mature", etc). Yes, there are trees that will get better, but they are much more that will not. These trees will take up your time and will prevent you from investing and spending time with better ones. You need to be able to recognize and get rid of them, even at a loss (just imagine what would happen to Walmart or any other successful retail business, if they kept all the bad inventory - it would be a disaster to their profits).

7) Finally, you need to know what the buyers love. Which species are the most sought after. Which is the size, style and shape in vogue. You may appreciate a certain style or look, but that may not be where the money is. You may be sick and tired of the similar-looking, overgroomed black pines, but if that 's what the public loves, that's what you may need to invest in.


So, if you possess ALL of the above skills, you can make money in bonsai. Unfortunately, loving this hobby, being an artist, or loving trees, is not enough to make a dollar. Just like loving great food, and being a great cook, has nothing to do with making money in the restaurant business. Being a businessman is just as important.

The bonsai market is a very fragmented and inefficient market. Like in any similar markets, those who have the information, can make money. One can buy a bonsai at one place, and sell it at a great profit at another place - because the buyers and sellers have very limited information, and those who do have the information, can profit from it. But to do so, one needs to be very market savvy, sometime ruthless and thick-skinned. Unlike in other businesses, where seeking a profit is the normal thing to do, the bonsai community doesn't look kindly at people who are in it for the money. The word of the day is "sharing", "volunteering", "sacrifice", "teach" and other similar altruistic motives. "Profiteering" is looked at as evil.

Sorry for the long post, but these are my observations, after following the bonsai scene here in California for the last 15 years.

P.S.: Since most of us don't have all the skills listed above, I agree with the previous posters who said: The only reason to invest in bonsai is not the money. It is because you love bonsai.

Is it realistic that we get rich from investing in bonsai? Not at all, we love bonsai too much to look at it as business enterprise. But it can be realistic that once in a while, we make a great investment. Once in a while, we make a good sale and be proud of it. Once in a while, we make a steal that looks like highway robbery. This can certainly make bonsai more fun and we can score some big points with our spouses. :)
 
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GOZTEK

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this is a nice thread. What i would do is plant loads and loads of seeds and when they grow keep the good ones and sell the rest as bonsai but not master pieces (like the ones you kept)
all you need is water really
 

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