Take a look at what goes into the price of a Koi

With super quality Koi the differences are small, but the pricing is not!

Take a typical Koi spawning. Of say 500 000 fry that can be produced by a single parent set of Koi the bell curve applies.

bell curve
In other words the vast majority of Koi are going to be average pond fish, far, far fewer will be show quality and once in a blue moon a Grand Champion fish MIGHT be found right on the edges of the bell curve.

The trick is knowing which of those gazillions of fry are the ones on the right side of the bell curve. If you can focus on the top 2% of the spawning and continue to refine the end product and improve your parent Koi and you do this for two or three generations, you might stand a chance against the Japanese master craftsmen.

Sounds like a lot of work to us. Far easier to accept defeat, and buy top quality Koi from the people who know it better than we or anyone else ever will.

Now when it comes to actually trying to make some money from the business of Koi breeding the Japanese Koi breeder is never going to sell the Koi that are in the top 1% quartile of his spawning for little money. Because then a) he will be bankrupt and b) his business will not be sustainable. He needs the additional revenue that a good quality Koi can fetch - it's called basic common sense.

So he prices his Koi on their future potential. The Koi that he assesses have the potential to become top quality Koi he will take out from his spawning and grow them on himself to see what happens (he calls these fish his tategoi). The rest he will sell.

Of course he doesn't always get it 100% right and whilst his fish are growing he still needs to eat and to feed the Koi he is keeping back. So he will sell some very good quality Koi at higher prices to ensure he has enough money to keep going without having to keep and feed as many Koi.

The same selection process applies to two year old, three year old etc Koi. Once the Koi has 'unlocked' its value the breeder will sell them.

So, whilst you may be able to buy a show quality Koi for a landed cost of R300 rest assured that whilst the Koi will be show quality this year the Japanese breeder has sold it for what he believes the Koi to be worth. In other words not very much and the chances that the Koi will remain show quality are slim, at best!

So if it does well at this size, great. But don't expect much in the future from the Koi.

By way of example we present the following three Showa:

61cm Showa63cm showa67cm showa
In order from left to right the Koi are all female. They are 61, 63 and 67cm in length respectively and all from one of the top breeders in Japan. They are all three year old Koi.

Price the cheapest of these Koi at R100 for a basis. Then price the other two relative to this base R100.

Whilst you think about it take a look at these Koi.

Hi Utsuri, Female. 60 to 65cm. ki itsuri 53cm  shiro utsuri 
Hi Utsuri, Female. 60 to 65cm.  Ki Utsuri, Female. 53cm.  Shiro Utsuri, Female. 55cm

Price these Koi in order from cheapest to most expensive.

Right. Coming back to the Showa:

Koi #1 is the cheapest. At baseline R100 it is a serious Koi. At 3 years of age and at 61cm already the quality of the fish is awesome AND it has a serious future which is why it's landed cost is many tens of thousands of rands.

Koi #2 is the second most expensive Koi. It would bench against Koi #2 at a relative R125 - some 25% more. Doesn't sound like much but when you are talking several tens of thousands of rands it makes a massive difference!

This reflects the potential of the Koi - note its battle ship type body for a clue. Pattern is not rated as important as body in Japan, which is why, despite not having quite the same pattern quality as Koi #1 (and no motoguru in the pecs) this fish, atonly 2cm longer, is priced significantly more expensive than Koi #1, owing to it's perceived size potential.

Koi #3 at 67 cm is quite clearly the most expensive Koi. At a relative R175 to Koi #1 it has a body not quite as good as Koi #2, but it has size over Koi #2, combined with a stunning pattern and still a very strong future ahead of it. This is a Koi that has the potential to take Supreme Grand at the SA National Koi show without any doubt. Hence the price tag. As they say, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

The point is this. Is Koi #3 really almost double Koi #1? It is slightly bigger to be sure. But what's a year's growth? Perhaps Koi #1 will have to wait until it is 8 or 9 years old before perhaps, maybe, lifting the Grand Champion Trophy whereas potentially Koi #3 will stand a far better chance of doing it, and possibly do so at an earlier age (say 6 or 7).

So yes, If you want a champion Koi, Koi 3 has a significant edge over the other two, by at least 75% of the pricing level! For that edge, you have to pay handsomely because fish like Koi #3 do not come around every day. They are in the top 0.0001% of Koi alive today.

Your skills as a hobbyist, to extract the maximum from these Koi will come into play in a big way. It is entirely (theoretically) possible for a hobbyist to end up with Koi #1 beating Koi #3...

So as you can see, pricing is based on potential. And never, ever, would any of these Koi be offered for sale as a baby fish. You will never see these fish landed in South Africa as show quality small Koi for R300.

IF, and it is a massive IF, these Koi were ever offered for sale as small Koi you would be paying the same price for them because the breeder would never part with his valuable fish for less than they could POTENTIALLY be worth. Why on earth would he? He's not in it to be nice to people, he's in it to make a living and to produce the best quality product he can.

Let's take a quick look at the other fish.

Koi #3 - the Shiro Utsuri exhibits the greatest potential. A 4 year old Koi at 55cm with an awesome body and the most stunning underlying black (sumi) pattern this is a Koi that exemplifies future potential. This can be said to be tategoi and because the breeder can now clearly demonstrate this the Koi can be sold at close to full value. The fact that we picked this fish for a bargain is one of those things that happen from time to time.

Koi #1 - the Hi Utsuri is the second most expensive Koi. It will land in South Africa for around R30k. It is a 3 year old female - with Hi Utsuri a clean red background is important and this combined with a massive body and presence with super thick sumi complete the picture for a Koi that will develop into a fish of truly massive proportions.

Koi#2 the Ki Utsuri is an example of a rare variety of which this breeder is a specialist. It will land at R13k. Also 3 years old and female this is a Koi that has good presence, good sumi - with the potential of improving from here on out. Stunning fish this.

So you can see how none of these Koi are yet at their full potential. This may still take them years to get there but once they are, the price will drop dramatically.

Beware the big cheap Koi.

A Koi with potential is always going to cost you what that Koi is capable of achieving. If is it Supreme Grand Champion, be ready to pay.

And then of course there is the rider.

We have seen many cases where customers have purchased affordable two year old Koi from around R3000 that have grown on to wildly exceed expectations and become potential Champion material.

In other words there is tremendous skill in growing Koi, feeding the best diet and extracting the maximum potential from the fish. And of course, in selecting the right Koi in the first place!