What determines the price of a bonsai?

What determines the price of a bonsai? Well I found myself faced with this question. I was asked if I knew of places where a colleague of mine can buy a bonsai to start with. I know what prices of trees are at nurseries and I also know that some plants sold at commercial nurseries as bonsai are not in a good state and die after a month or so. Before I could stop myself I opened my big mouth and said that I wanted to sell a few of my trees.

Now bare in mind that I have not sold a tree before and that I have not taken the time to evaluate each tree and put a price to it. I wanted to do my colleague a favor but I also wanted to sell the trees for a fair price. I took photos of all the trees that I wanted to sell and just priced they by estimating the amount of work I put in as well as the cost of the pot and the tree. As a bonsai artist I tend to get emotionally attached to my trees. It’s really hard to sell them. I could only make prices to sell the tree because I was telling myself by selling these trees I am making more space for new trees. After this uncomfortable exercise I decided to read up a bit more on how to price bonsai trees.

As with any art form there are a lot of grey areas but there are a few things that determine the value of a bonsai tree. It’s like adding a price to an painting from the collection of Michealangelo. It depends on who you ask? As everyone sees something else in the beauty of the work. The shades of color, the amount of brush stroke and the placement of items in the painting all this has an influence on how you perceive the work in front of you. Taking all this in mind I have come up with a list of items that determines the value of a tree:

  1. The type of tree
  2. The age of the tree or the number of years it has been in development
  3. Supply and demand scenario. If the tree is on of a mass produced bonsai’s then you will net spend a lot on it. On the other hand if it is one of the last Huge Yamadori Junipers found in a certain area that has been dug up and styled over a number of year to be a fully developed bonsai then you will be paying an arm and a leg for it.
  4. Who owned the tree? Has it been styled by an bonsai master?
  5. Is the tree a recognized bonsai master piece?
  6. What type of pot is the tree planted in?
  7. Does all the parts of the tree match and tell the same storie?
  8. What is the present condition of the tree?

These are all guidelines as to how to value a bonsai tree. Because there is such an big grey area in how to value a bonsai tree I see many grocery stores and even some commercial nurseries jumping onto the band wagon selling trees with little value at steep prices. Most of these trees do not even look like bonsai they are purely trees or plants in a nice shiny pot.

A few things you can do to ensure that you are buying a bonsai at the right price:

  1. Have a look at the outline of the tree. Does it form a nice canopy and are the leaves healthy and green.
  2. Take a good look at the soil mixture the tree is in.
  3. Ask someone at the place where your buying the tree a bite more about the tree. When was it last repotted and how long has the tree been developed/ If they can not answer those two simple questions I dought that the tree is a good buy.

In conclusion I can tell you that the price of a tree is not on the value of what you see in front of you but each tree is priced on the amount of time and effort put into the development of the tree. So prices can range from a few hundred dollars to over a million dollars.

Most of the high values trees are owned by bonsai museums or private collectors. The owners of these trees have bonsai professional working on these trees to ensure there survival.

Hope you enjoyed this short blog.

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