What's a fair price for a pre-bonsai maple?

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Shohin
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I'm trying to learn to identify when a tree is priced appropriately vs. when it's overpriced, so I don't get taken when making a purchase in the future. I haven't bought maples before, outside of nursery stock.

I'd like to ask the more experienced buyers out there, which of these are "fairly" priced, if any? You can just reply with numbers if you want since the species vary.
  1. https://brusselsbonsai.com/trident-maple-st0921tm-vv/
  2. https://brusselsbonsai.com/trident-maple-st1221tm-f/
  3. https://brusselsbonsai.com/trident-maple-grove-st0920tmg-i/
  4. https://bonsailearningcenter.mysimp...rakawa-rough-bark-japanese-maple-bonsai-hs026
  5. https://bonsailearningcenter.mysimplestore.com/products/japanese-maple-sharps-pygmy-bonsai-1651
  6. https://bellabonsai.com/collections/deciduous-1/products/trident-maple-bonsai-tree-5
  7. https://www.ebay.com/itm/324755580708?hash=item4b9cf0e724:g:7HYAAOSw7DZhGsx4
  8. https://www.ebay.com/itm/324711979378?hash=item4b9a579972:g:ihUAAOSwOo9g7HOl
  9. https://www.ebay.com/itm/114192138478?hash=item1a9661c0ee:g:qhwAAOSwK05enAMj
  10. https://www.nebonsai.com/bonsai-trees/deciduous-outdoor/kiyohime-japanese-maple-5545/
I have in my head which ones I think are overpriced, but I'd like other opinions to see if my instincts are right or not. Thanks in advance.
 

BobbyLane

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i think the prices are quite high on all apart from maybe the arawaka. the awaraka can be trained into a great tree, plus great bark quality. the others you could attempt to do yourself with cuttings and just 3 years in the ground you can get trunks that thick.

but i also look at bonsai differently now, and with these, even if i spent 3 years working on them i doubt i could charge more than what i paid if i were to sell one on. maybe the arawaka is somewhat an 'ok' price

if you want bang for buck, this is the best deal

it can be improved and its value will increase.
 

QuantumSparky

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The Sharp's Pygmy and the second (tall) eBay tree seem overpriced. The former is really basic and boring. The latter is not nearly as expensive, but is way too tall to make convincing bonsai with those proportions. You could buy the Trident Maple pre-bonsai which is nice and short, already trunk Chopped, with a leader selected, for less money and more potential. Some of the other trees, like the last link, just don't look very appealing to me so I'd be inclined to say they are overpriced but that's a simple opinion based on what I find attractive.

All these opinions on price are made solely relative to the other trees in the list. I don't know what similar trees cost at other websites.
 

Paradox

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Same as QuantumSparky, some of my choices, opinions are based on what I'd look for in a tree.

Imo, #5 is grossly overpriced and #7 through #10 are overpriced for what they are.

#3 is a lot of trees but I personally wouldn't buy it because the arrangement doesn't appeal to me.
I also wouldn't buy #4 for the same reason.

I did buy a similar tree to #1 earlier this year so I guess I don't think that is overpriced. I also looked at those like #2 as possible purchases.

#6 look like good sized trunks but I personally want to develop my own trees and make those choices myself. Of those two, A looks good, B I would not buy.
 

rockm

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Everything I looked at on your list ranges from overpriced to "WTF are they thinking?" If you're after mid-level maple stock for reasonable prices, stay off of online sites. Get in with a club, attend shows. Your frame of reference will change when you see what $650 can buy at those places.
 

Moridin

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Everything I looked at on your list ranges from overpriced to "WTF are they thinking?" If you're after mid-level maple stock for reasonable prices, stay off of online sites. Get in with a club, attend shows. Your frame of reference will change when you see what $650 can buy at those places.

This
 

Woocash

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Pretty much agree with bobby on this.

Saying that, number 3 is grossly underpriced. Mirai charged 4 or 5 times that amount and it sold within an hour apparently 😉

The value all of these all depends on what you have time for. Basically all these trees are available with a few years of ground growing. You have to determine what that wait is worth. None are spectacular starts, few have any bonsai techniques applied yet so for a pre bonsai you just want a decent bottom few inches, which these mostly lack.
 

Bonsai Nut

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Pricing is so subjective. I've paid $300 for a tree that most people wouldn't pay $80 for, because it was a rare cultivar and I wanted it for propagation.

Far and away the nicest tree in the lot is the arakawa. I've seen it in person and the photos don't capture the scale. It's over 3' tall when you include the pot. Local pickup and I'm not sure I could fit it in the back of my SUV :) I don't like the triple trunk, but if you just treat the smallest trunk on the right as a sacrifice to bulk up the base, and then remove it down the road, it's going to be a nice tree.
 

Shogun610

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Like … what???
 

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AcerAddict

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the awaraka can be trained into a great tree, plus great bark quality. the others you could attempt to do yourself with cuttings and just 3 years in the ground you can get trunks that thick.
I love Japanese maples to begin with, and have yet to see a cultivar I didn't like. I want an Arakawa primarily for that awesome bark.

if you want bang for buck, this is the best deal

it can be improved and its value will increase.
Bella Bonsai is here in NC, so if I ever bought from them, at least the tree would already be used to the weather and have a short trip for shipping. I'll reach out to them to send me some photos of current stock. They don't seem to keep up with their website very well.

The value all of these all depends on what you have time for. Basically all these trees are available with a few years of ground growing. You have to determine what that wait is worth.
Well, that's why I'm looking to buy the kind of material in the links I posted. I already have tons of stuff that's growing up in pots right now, and I'm putting a few of my bigger potted trees into the ground on our property sometime in the coming week to let them grow for the future. But in the meantime, while I claim to be someone who practices bonsai, I literally do not own a single bonsai tree at the moment. All I have are plants in regular pots all over the place. Nothing is in bonsai soil or in a bonsai pot. So in reality, I'm actually nothing more than a gardener at the moment. That's why I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on a decent pre-bonsai tree (or several!) that I can start working to develop over the coming years while I wait for everything else I've got to grow up. I've decided that rather than waiting 3+ years for my current stock to reach workable size, I'm willing to pay for stuff that other people have already spent some years growing. As they say, time is money!

Pricing is so subjective. I've paid $300 for a tree that most people wouldn't pay $80 for, because it was a rare cultivar and I wanted it for propagation.

Far and away the nicest tree in the lot is the arakawa. I've seen it in person and the photos don't capture the scale. It's over 3' tall when you include the pot. Local pickup and I'm not sure I could fit it in the back of my SUV :) I don't like the triple trunk, but if you just treat the smallest trunk on the right as a sacrifice to bulk up the base, and then remove it down the road, it's going to be a nice tree.
Yep, pricing is most definitely subjective. The huge thread talking about the Mirai sale is definitive proof of that, hah! Buying your rare tree for that money makes sense to me though, because well, it's rare. Supply-and-demand being what it is. I don't collect any sort of memorabilia like baseball cards, stamps, coins, movie props, etc., but I understand why some people do. There is interest, value, and desirability in that which is rare.

Well, it seems that if one tree rose to the surface above the rest, it's the Arakawa. Of course y'all would pick the most expensive one out of the ten I posted. 😆 Believe me, if I had $1,100 ready right now, I'd scoop it up for sure. I'm only a 2-hour drive from the Bonsai Learning Center folks.

It was very helpful to read the feedback here and I have a much better pricing picture now, at least for younger maples. Thanks again.
 

augustine

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Contact meehans miniatures and tell them what you’re looking for. They are online.
 

rockm

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I love Japanese maples to begin with, and have yet to see a cultivar I didn't like. I want an Arakawa primarily for that awesome bark.


Bella Bonsai is here in NC, so if I ever bought from them, at least the tree would already be used to the weather and have a short trip for shipping. I'll reach out to them to send me some photos of current stock. They don't seem to keep up with their website very well.


Well, that's why I'm looking to buy the kind of material in the links I posted. I already have tons of stuff that's growing up in pots right now, and I'm putting a few of my bigger potted trees into the ground on our property sometime in the coming week to let them grow for the future. But in the meantime, while I claim to be someone who practices bonsai, I literally do not own a single bonsai tree at the moment. All I have are plants in regular pots all over the place. Nothing is in bonsai soil or in a bonsai pot. So in reality, I'm actually nothing more than a gardener at the moment. That's why I'm chomping at the bit to get my hands on a decent pre-bonsai tree (or several!) that I can start working to develop over the coming years while I wait for everything else I've got to grow up. I've decided that rather than waiting 3+ years for my current stock to reach workable size, I'm willing to pay for stuff that other people have already spent some years growing. As they say, time is money!


Yep, pricing is most definitely subjective. The huge thread talking about the Mirai sale is definitive proof of that, hah! Buying your rare tree for that money makes sense to me though, because well, it's rare. Supply-and-demand being what it is. I don't collect any sort of memorabilia like baseball cards, stamps, coins, movie props, etc., but I understand why some people do. There is interest, value, and desirability in that which is rare.

Well, it seems that if one tree rose to the surface above the rest, it's the Arakawa. Of course y'all would pick the most expensive one out of the ten I posted. 😆 Believe me, if I had $1,100 ready right now, I'd scoop it up for sure. I'm only a 2-hour drive from the Bonsai Learning Center folks.

It was very helpful to read the feedback here and I have a much better pricing picture now, at least for younger maples. Thanks again.
The Arakawa is grafted. It's a low graft, but note the surface roots don't have the rough bark. This is pretty common with Arakawa. There are Arakawa out there that are cutting grown that have bark down to the nebari. It's a small thing, but something to consider.

I urge you to not let your money burn a hole in your pocket until you get to that show this winter. If you spend a ton now, and then go, you will likely be very frustrated with not waiting. These trees online probably aren't going anywhere soon. Also, if you're smart about it, actually getting in touch with some of the sellers (like Bonsai Learning Center, Meehans, Evergreengardenworks, etc.) and asking the owners if they have things that aren't listed online, you can find better stuff for the price. Rarely do these quality sellers list everything they have online. It's too much work for not much return. They sometimes have a lot better stuff available if you just ask them.
 

Maiden69

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My .02 cents... don't spend money on trident pre-bonsai unless it sports nice ramification and you REALLY like it. They grow so fast you can get the same, if not better results from 1 season growth. I bought a $40 - 1 gal trident from Brent that was around 1/2-3/4" trunk thickness in December 2020 and slipped in a pond basket. I moved into a rootpouch in May and today the trunk base is over 3" and the trunk is close to 2". If I wanted a shohin all I have to do is chop a few inches above the ground, start the second section of the trunk and probably be ready for a pot by next season. And with a 3" base. The first trident you posted is only 8" tall, and by ratio the base is around 1-1 1/4". I could attain that by air-layering the one I have now a few inches below the branches and start the ramification, which will still leave me with the lower trunk for development.
 

AcerAddict

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The Arakawa is grafted. It's a low graft, but note the surface roots don't have the rough bark. This is pretty common with Arakawa. There are Arakawa out there that are cutting grown that have bark down to the nebari. It's a small thing, but something to consider.
I didn't notice that. Hard to tell from small internet pictures. Bummer. Well, $1,095 is above my current budget anyway, but I included that tree because I'd like an Arakawa and wanted to have a $1,000-ish tree on my list for everyone to give feedback on.

I urge you to not let your money burn a hole in your pocket until you get to that show this winter. If you spend a ton now, and then go, you will likely be very frustrated with not waiting. These trees online probably aren't going anywhere soon. Also, if you're smart about it, actually getting in touch with some of the sellers (like Bonsai Learning Center, Meehans, Evergreengardenworks, etc.) and asking the owners if they have things that aren't listed online, you can find better stuff for the price. Rarely do these quality sellers list everything they have online. It's too much work for not much return. They sometimes have a lot better stuff available if you just ask them.
I'm doing OK in that regard. I spent $325 on that large Shishigashira a couple weeks ago, so my wallet is taking a break right now anyway. 😆 I'm not making any major purchases in the near future knowing that the show is coming up. I want to have as much money as possible in the "tree fund" by then. In fact, since we're still 3+ months out, I'll probably bump my $500 budget up to a $1,000 budget by the time December arrives. Not sure if I'd spend that whole amount on just one tree though. It's much more likely that I'll come home with a couple in the $400-600 range instead to give me a little variety.

Really looking forward to this show. I'm itching to start developing some actual bonsai trees and not just spend time maintaining all my material that's growing out in nursery pots or in the ground. I know people often tell bonsai novices to "learn to keep alive what you already have", but I've been keeping trees/plants as a legitimate hobby for over a decade. There are roughly 40 potted trees/plants at our house, the oldest of which I've had for almost 10 years. At least a third of all those are being grown for the purpose of becoming future bonsai since I first decided to start this adventure last September. I recognize that caring for a little tree in a big pot is quite different from a big tree in a little pot, and acknowledge that I have VERY much to learn about bonsai. However, it's all horticulture, and the sub-disciplines under that big umbrella share many basic rules and principles. I mentioned in the Mirai sale thread that I'm definitely not ready for the responsibility of a $3,000+ tree, but I am ready to learn and grow with a $500 tree.

My .02 cents... don't spend money on trident pre-bonsai unless it sports nice ramification and you REALLY like it. They grow so fast you can get the same, if not better results from 1 season growth. I bought a $40 - 1 gal trident from Brent that was around 1/2-3/4" trunk thickness in December 2020 and slipped in a pond basket. I moved into a rootpouch in May and today the trunk base is over 3" and the trunk is close to 2". If I wanted a shohin all I have to do is chop a few inches above the ground, start the second section of the trunk and probably be ready for a pot by next season. And with a 3" base. The first trident you posted is only 8" tall, and by ratio the base is around 1-1 1/4". I could attain that by air-layering the one I have now a few inches below the branches and start the ramification, which will still leave me with the lower trunk for development.
Good tips and glad to hear about your experience with your TM. Oddly enough, I already did last night exactly what you recommended this morning and ordered a $20 sapling on eBay (link) that I'm going to stick in the ground and grow out for a few years. If I do buy a TM pre-bonsai, I'll make sure that it's got some good qualities already and not grossly overpriced. While not a teenager anymore, I am only in my early-40s. Certainly have the time to grow out my own material.

I'm quickly learning what species/cultivars grow fast and which ones don't. I bought my 5 foot high Shishigashira because they grow slowly compared to a lot of other JM cultivars. Besides, I plan to recuperate the money I spent on it from selling air layerings. Even if I only get three or four from it next year, selling those would be enough to pay off the original tree. Then, any future layerings would just be a bonus for me. Win-win situation.
 

AcerAddict

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I believe he's using it to bend the trunk and give it some shape, but what a crazy looking setup that is! Looks like a bow that's about to shoot an arrow. 😆
 

leatherback

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I believe he's using it to bend the trunk and give it some shape, but what a crazy looking setup that is! Looks like a bow that's about to shoot an arrow. 😆
It is very much like what I do when a trunk is too straight to use my bending tool, to get the first bend in.
 

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