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FUR BUYLR5' GUIDE
FUR BUYERS' GUIDE
Complete Instructions About Buying, Handling
and Grading Raw Furs, Including 5ize,
Color, Quality, as well as When,
Where and How to 5ell
A. R. HARDING
A. R. HARDING
. R. HARDING.
NOV 24 1915
PRACTICALLY all books treating upon the subject
of raw furs heretofore have been from the view or
standpoint of the large dealer, exporter and
manufacturer. The author of FUR BUYERS' GUIDE
not only trapped when a boy, but at the age of
14 began buying furs in a small way, and a few years
later traveled horseback and in a two wheeled cart over
Gallia, Meigs, Vinton, Athens, Lawrence and Jackson
Counties in Southern Ohio and M? ^n in West Virginia.
Later I was employed by an Ohio aL \ New York firm
on a salary to represent them in Southern Ohio, West
Virginia, Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Penn-
sylvania. Traveling now was mainly by rail. I kept
at this job steadily for years — buying furs in the winter
and hides, pelts, tallow and roots during the balance of
After several years I became tired of traveling and
gave up my position March i, 1897, going to Gallipolis,
Ohio, where I started in the fur business on my own
account the following November. But as the active raw
fur season there only lasted a few months each year, I
became interested in the publishing business and in June,
1898, founded a county newspaper, which led to my
establishing the HUNTER-TRADER-TRAPPER in
October, 1900. In the meantime I was buying thousands
and thousands of dollars worth of furs each season, but
from 1900 on, my time was largely devoted to the pub-
In November, 1904, I disposed of my county paper
and moved to Columbus, Ohio, with my monthly maga-
zine. For the next ten years I was in close touch with
fur dealers, exporters and manufacturers, visiting the
leading American raw fur centers from one to three
times each year.
The various facts as outlined are mentioned only
to show how wide an experience I have had. I feel that
those interested in raw furs, whether trapper, country
buyer, village or town collector will find much of prac-
tical value in this book.
Several persons of experience and knowledge of the
fur industry have furnished facts, which have been used
in various parts. Mr. J. A. Newton, a trapper and
buyer of long experience; also Martin Hunter for forty
years with the Hudson Bay Co., being among the num-
ber while Mr. C. M. Goodspeed supplied much of the
information on Ginseng and Golden Seal. Numerous
photographs have also been especially taken by trappers
and collectors for this book.
While there are several varieties or species of some
of the fur bearing animals, as a rule, no particular dis-
tinction or reference is here made. My object in giving
range, description, size and color is for the benefit and
guidance of the handler of the pelt or fur — not to classify
the animal. Besides technical facts, grade and sort in
connection with the buying, handling and selling of furs,
much more is published, so that anyone at all interested
in furs or the fur trade, will find something of interest
in this book.
^ ^^ ^^^iyl^i^O,
I. "Wild" and "Tame" Furs 17
II. Size, Color, Quality 34
III. Methods of Grading.:. 50
IV. The Inspection Room 66
V. Why Trappers Sell at Home 72
VI. Buyers and Collectors 79
VII. Bu3dng and Selling 96
VIII. Speculating 114
IX. Prices of Long Ago 130
X. Miscellaneous Information 139
XL Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic 152
XII. Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift 165
XIII. Mink 178
XIV. Muskrat 195
XV. Skunk 208
XVI. Civet Cat 228
XVII. The Raccoon : . . . 232
XVIII. Opossum 246
XIX. Wolves and Coyotes 254
XX. Otter ..= 268
XXL Beaver 276
XXII. Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar 283
XXIII. Marten 293
XXIV. Fisher 301
XXV. Lynx 306
XXVI. Wild Cat or Bay Lynx 313
XXVn. Cats — House and Ring Tail 318
XXVIIL Badger 323
XXIX. Wolverine 327
XXX. White Weasel — Ermine 331
XXXL Sea Otter 338
XXXIL Mountain Lion 342
XXXIIL Seals — Fur and Hair 345
XXXIV. Pelts, Hides, Skins 349
XXXV. Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal 356
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Ranch Raised Silver Black Fox 22
Three Ranch Raised Prince Edward Island Silver Black.. 23
Central New York Trapper's Catch 26
Buyer Inspecting Muskrat Skins 32
Northern Furs — Otter, Fox, Lynx 35
Average Sizes Central Western Mink Skins 36
Northwestern Furs- — ^Wolf, Marten, Mink, Beaver, Etc... 40
Three Silver Fox Skins 43
Western and Northwestern Long Narrow Stripe 47
Seven Fine, Large, Dark No. 1 Coon Skins 51
Southeast Nebraska Skunk 53
Western Canada Red and Cross Fox 55
Large Western and Small Eastern Skunk Pelts 63
Fur Room of Hudson Bay Company 68
Large British Columbia Mink 73
Furs Ready to Market 74
British Columbia Prairie Wolf and Silver Fox 75
A Horse-back Fur Buyer 80
A Country Collector of Furs ■. 82
Northern Fur Buyers — Mackenzie River District 94
The Outside of Trapper's Shanty and Furs 97
The Fall Catch — Undecided When and Where to Sell.... 102
Two Lynx, Red and Cross Fox Pelts 106
Low Priced Furs — Muskrat and White Weasel 115
Speculators or "Free Traders" Going into the North 120
The Speculators' Return from the North Country 122
Moose Factory, A Hudson Bay Trading Post.... 132
Fox Squirrel, Belgian Hare, Brown Weasel 141
A Canadian Trapper and His Catch 145
Red, Cross, Silver Fox Skins 153
12 List of I ' ons.
Silver Fox Carcass . . , 155
Twenty-one Silver Fox Skin^ 157
Twenty-eight Silver Fox Skii 159
Blue Fox Pelt — Arctic Region 162
Arctic or White Fox Skin 103
Well Handled Canadian Red Fox Skins 166
Ontario Full Furred, Good Color Red 168
Heavy Furred North Dakota Red 168
Michigan Reds — Pelt and Fur Out 169
Central New York Large Red Fox Skin 170
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Red 171
Two New Hampshire Reds — Large and Medium 171
Rocky Mountain Grey Fox Pelt 173
Virginia Grey Fox Pelt 174
Southern Grey Fox Pelt 174
Eastern Grey Fox Pelt 174
West Virginia Grey Fox Skin 175
Six Southern Pennsylvania Grey Fox Skins 176
Swift or Kitt Fox Pelt 177
Fourteen Northern Wisconsin Mink Skins 179
New England Prime Mink Skin 180
Four Lake Erie and Similar Mink • 181
Southwestern Missouri Mink Skin 182
Southern or Gulf State Mink 183
Mink Skin, Large, North Dakota 185
Two Large Indiana Mink , 186
Alaska Mink Skin 187
Southeastern Kentucky Mink Skins 188
Central Western Canada Alink Skin 189
Four Northeast Canada Alink Skins 191
Yukon River Valley Mink Skin 193
Muskrat Pelts Properly and Improperly Handled 198
Spring Muskrat Skins 200
Large and Medium Muskrat Skins 204
Extra Large Illinois Muskrat Pelt 206
Twelve Long Narrow Stripes and One Short 209
LlST~ TRATIONS. 13
Three No. 1 or Bla 210
No. 1 or Black Skuii 211
No. 2 or Short Skiinl> 212
No. 3 or Long- Skunk 212
No. 4 or White Skunk 213
Sizes of Maryland Skunk Skins 215
Iowa Large Skunk Skin 217
California Long Narrow Stripe 221
Southeast Nebraska Skunk Pelt 224
Northern Oklahoma Civet Skin 229
Civet Cat — Average Sizes 230
Southeast Nebraska Civet 231
Raccoon Skins — Well and Poorly Handled 233
Prime Large and Small Arkansas Coon Skins 235
Northern and Southern Coon Skins ' 237
Coon Skin, Early Caught 238
Heavy Furred Central Western Coon 241
Prime Northeastern Coon Skins 242
Wisconsin Coon Skin, Large, Cased 244
Opossum Skins — Various Sizes 247
Six Maryland Opossum Skins 248
Large Central West Opossum 250
Southern Opossum, Large 251
Black and Grey Timber Wolves 255
White Timber Wolf, Northwestern Canada 256
Northern Large Grey Timber Wolf Skin 259
Dark and Light Colored Prairie Wolf Skins 261
Scalped Prairie or Coyote Skins 262
California Prairie Wolf Skin 263
Medium and Large Prairie Wolf Skins 264
Large and Medium Colorado Prairie Wolves 265
Two Rocky Mountain Section Prairie Wolf Skins 266
Timber and Prairie Wolf Skins 267
Northwestern Otter Skin 269
Central Canada Otter Skin 271
Northern Michigan Otter and Pelt 273
14 List of Illustrations.
Peace River Otter 274
Northeast Section Beaver 277
Southern Beaver Skin 277
Lake Superior Region Beaver 278
Northwestern Oregon Beaver Skin , 278
Southwestern Large Beaver Skin 279
Western Canada Beaver Skin 280
Hudson Bay Country Beaver Skin 281
Eastern Black Bear Skins 284
Wisconsin Bear Skins 285
Rocky Mountain Black Bear Skin 287
Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bear Skin 289
British Columbia Brown Bear Skin 290
Arctic Ocean Region Polar Bear Skin 291
British Columbia Marten Skin 294
Washington Marten Skins, Pale 296
Valuable Marten Skin 298
Northeast Coast, Labrador, Marten Skin 298
Fisher Pelts Large, Medium, Small 303
Fine Northern Fisher Pelt 305
Trapper, Lynx and Skins 307
Northern and Northwestern Lynx Skins 308
Alaska Lynx Skin 309
White and Blue Lynx Skins 310
Heavy Furred Canadian Lynx 311
Wild Cat — Large, Medium, Small 314
An Average Large Wild Cat Skin 315
Large Wild Cat Skin Open 316
House Cat, Maltese 319
House Cat, Grey , 319
House Cat, Black 320
California Ring Tail Cat , 321
Southwest Ring Tail 321
Badger Skins — Open and Cased 324
Oregon Badger Skin Open 325
North Dakota Badger Skin Open 326
List of Illustrations. ^ 15
Northwestern Canada Wolverine Skin Cased 328
Northern Wolverine Skin Open 329
Minnesota Prime Weasel Skins 333
Weasel Skins — Fur and Pelt Side 334
Six Ontario, Canada, Weasel Skins 335
Large Maine Weasel 336
Sea Otter Pelt 339
Western Montana Mountain Lion Skin 343
Fur Seal Skin Dressed Natural 346
Fur Seal Skin Plucked 347
Bundle of Sheep Pelts 350
Hide, Cattle, Done Up, Tied, Ready for Shipment 352
A Bundle of Deer Skins — Winter Coat 355
Small Pieces Natural Size or Trash Ginseng 357
Good Wild Ginseng Roots — Reduced in Size 357
Small Wild Ginseng Root 358
Oregon Ginseng, Green, Just Dug 358
West Virginia Wild Ginseng, Just Dug. 359
Best Grade of Cultivated Ginseng 360
An Ideal Shaped Cultivated Root 361
Choice Grade of Cultivated 362
Irregular Shaped Ginseng Root 362
Smooth Skinned, Hard Ginseng 363
Transplanted Wild Ginseng Root 364
"'wild'" and ''tame" furs.
•™ NEW CONDITION. — Only a few years ago the
f^ raw fur buyer could travel from morning until
•/ ■ night and encounter only one class of furs, the
wild article. Then qualities were quite uniform in
prime skins. Color, length, fineness, density and gloss
were so common in the wild fur coat that contrary fea-
tures were not expected. A prime skin might be quite
lacking in fur and escape notice because not many of such
pelts were to be found in any original collection.
Now there is a new condition with which to deal ;
it is the advent of the fur farm in all its phases, from
an enclosure of several acres down to confines no larger
than an ordinary chicken run.
In the early days beaver was the staple fur, although
bear, otter, fisher, marten, wolf, lynx, fox, mink, raccoon
and muskrat were all exported to Europe in considerable
quantities as early as 1750 but not until 1843 was house
cat and chinchilla (a South American animal) used or
exported. American opossum and fur seal were added
in 1849, but not until 1858 was skunk fur used. These
furs became valuable, even at that early date, because
the supply of others began to diminish — now there are
no other animals that produce fur to add. Even rabbit,
brown weasel and ferret pelts have a small fur value.
1 8 Fur Buyer' tide J
American squirrel and grou^i hogs are not fur bearing
animals — they grow hair only.
There are practically no new or unexplored regions
to trap in America or elsewhere. For years wild fur
bearers have been hard pressed by trappers and fur hunt-
ers so that their numbers are becoming less. There may
be and no doubt are exceptions with certain animals in
a few states, where laws are in effect prohibiting early
and late trapping. Again the demoralized condition of
the raw fur trade during 1914-15, owing to the Euro-
pean war was largely the cause for a somewhat increase
of certain raw fur bearing animals in many parts of
America. In general, however, it can be truthfully said
that most wild fur bearing animals are becoming more
scarce each year. On the other hand the demand for
furs increases with an increased population. The auto-
mobile has wonderfully helped the fur trade in the use
of fur robes, coats, gloves, etc., for be it remembered
that tens of thousands of automobiles are used in winter
as well as in summer.
From where is the future supply of raw furs to
come? No doubt there will be plenty but instead of
practically all being from pelts of wild animals a greater
per cent each year will be taken from tame fur animals,
for most of the wild fur animals can and will be domes-
ticated just as has been done with other animals — ^horses,
cattle, sheep — when demand made it profitable to do so.
The future supply and demand will therefore not
alone be governed by the catch of "wild" furs but to a
considerable extent by *'tame" furs — those from fur
*'Wild" a \me" Furs. 19
Until recently many of the large city fur dealers and
exporters were of the opinion that the supply of wild fur
bearing animals was practically inexhaustible^ — that when
needed trappers would go out into the wilds, catch, skin,
and send the pelts to market. On the other side of the
question well informed persons foresaw that the supply
of wild fur bearers would shortly not be sufficient to
supply the demand. They saw that the draining of
swamps, marshes and small lakes was destroying the
homes and breeding places of muskrat and to a great
extent mink and coon. Lumbering and clearing up of
land was destroying as well as driving out coon, bear,
wild cat and opossum from vast areas in the South and
Central portions of the United States, while in the North-
ern states of the United States as well as parts of Canada
the cutting of timber and clearing of the land was de-
priving the marten, fisher, bear and lynx of their homes.
Otter and beaver do not usually linger long where people
are too numerous and these as well are reduced. To
partly offset all this there are a few fur bearers — red
fox, skunk, mink and muskrat — that do fairly well in
With fur raising from confined animals there is apt
to be as many qualities as there are different sized pens
and different foods fed and a diversity in care taking.
As an example : twenty-five fur animals raised on an
acre will be in better fur than if reared in a pen 20 x 40
feet, providing that both receive the same care and food.
If kept on a ten acre tract, the chances are that the fur
coat would be superior to that acquired if living on one
20 Fur Buyers' Guide.
The sort of food cuts a big figure in fur (juriiii;,.
The wild skunk in summer Hves largely on grubs and
insects which produce the finest oil in the world and it
stimulates a coat of fur comprising good length, thick-
ness and lustre. The confined animal does not get his
natural food supply. Would it be surprising if the fur
coat suffered as a consequence and not equal that of the'
Again, the animal raised in captivity may prove to
have the largest pelt and the best furred. Much depends
upon whether the fur raiser knows the habits and nature
of fur animals. Why shouldn't animals fur properly if
fed regularly upon the food that they like, with living
quarters similar to those which they enjoy in the wild
condition? They will and do. For proof we need only
refer to the sale of a black fox, ranch raised, highest
price ever realized for a fox skin. So far the ranch
raised black, silver and cross fox skins hav^ sold at an
average of about one-third above the wild.
The average prices for all silver fox skins both wild
and ranch raised, sold in London during twO' years, was
as follows: 1910, $414.37, 1911, $290.01. During the
year 1910 there were 2."] ranch raised Prince Edward
Island silver fox skins sold which averaged $1,361.05, in
191 1, from the same island, 10 skins were sold which
On account of the demand for breeding animals at
high prices, but few ranch raised silver fox skins were
marketed prior to 1915. A somewhat remarkable sale
was one sold in March, 1912, when a pelt from a fox
that died on October 12, 191 1, and owned by James
''Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 21
Rayner brought $2,050.00, yet the skin would not have
been at its best until some weeks later.
It is only a question of proper care of the animal,
whether it be fox, mink, marten, skunk, coon, opossum,
muskrat or any other fur bearing animal for it to grow a
coat of fur as when wild. One fur raiser said that he
had opossum that averaged fully one-half heavier than
the wild ones in that locality. Thus it is seen from the
high priced fox fur to the low opossum, it is in the man-
agement whether the pelt is worth more or less than if
taken from an animal never in captivity.
The various collections of ''wild" furs, except those
caught by professional trappers, show more or less irreg-
tilarity in skinning and handling, coming as they do from
so many different persons. Among collections will he
found not only blued skins, but torn, shot, dog chewed,
rubbed, springy and otherwise damaged. This should all
be overcome in "tame" furs for the fur raiser will only
kill and market when the pelt and fur are prime. The
skins will all be handled by the same person and should
be uniform — all alike — which adds to appearance and
The time will probably come when there will be two
quotations on furs, "wild furs" and "tame furs," just as
there are on ginseng now. Owing to the fact that gin-
seng growers have not been able to grow to exactly re-
semble the wild in looks and taste, the wild sells at an
advance over cultivated so that quotations on "wild
ginseng" are considerably higher than "cultivated gin-
seng." Cultivated golden seal, however, has been selling
as high as the wild.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
In 19 14 when furs were not Uj
active demand the silver black pelt
shown brought upwards of one
thousand dollars. This pelt was not
perfect by any means, was killed
early in November and had about
one-third of tail missing. The fox
was twelve years old and had been
owned by a party on Prince Ed-
ward Island for years. It was a
splendid breeder yet it furred prop-
erly and heavily each year until
the fall before it was killed it began
to show the effects of its age which
as already stated was twelve years.
The term Silver Black is used by
some fox raisers to designate the
better grades of silver fox skins
from those of ordinary quality.
That foxes, if properly handled, fur better in ranches
than in the wild state seems to be pretty well established.
While many are still skeptical yet there is no doubt that
the ranch raised pelts of not only fox, but most if not all
animals, will eventually surpass the wild. In this con-
nection three more ranch raised fox pelts from Prince
Edward Island are shown. The raiser said that none of
the three were prime, being killed in November and were
small or medium size, not large. No. i was a three-year-
old male, not being up to the standard of what that
breeder wished, yet the pelt sold for $910.00. No. 2 was
that of a ten-year-old female, with part of tail missing,
RANCH RAISED SIL
Wild" and "Tame" Furs.
yet the pelt sold for
$1,000.00. No. 3 was
an eleven - year - old
male, in fair condi-
tion, although show-
ing more silver than
either of the others.
This pelt brought
that this was in 19 14
when all silver and
black fox were sell-
ino- off from former
prices. In the London
auction sales for the
year 19 14 those who
had wild silver and
black fox pelts on the
market will tell you
that the ranch raised
sold best. When it is
taken into consider-
ation that two of these foxes were old and had spent
many years within enclosures, or ranch raised, it can be
seen that *'tame" furs are even now superior to "wild"
in some instances at least.
If the fur raiser is able to produce healthy animals
there is no reason why he can not produce fur pelts of
better quality than those grown on the backs of animals
that often have difficulty in finding enough food to keep
them alive. So far those interested in "tame furs," with
THREE RANCH RAISED SILVER
24 Fur Buyers' Guide.
the exception of the far northern raisers, have not been
able to improve upon the ''wild" and in most cases the
product has been inferior.
Whether "wild or tame" furs are made into articles
of wear, the larger the pelt and the denser the fur the
more valuable they will be. A buyer need only be on his
guard, for if he is a judge of fur, he can tell pretty
accurately the value of the various classes that he will
get an opportunity to handle.
Breeding and raising of fur bearing animals as an
industry has come to stay and is bound to increase but
like any other business it must be mastered.
Adverse Quality. — The writer, some years ago,
purchased the skins of skunk, mink, coon and foxes
raised in confinement. As all came from the hands of
those who knew but little of the habits and nature of fur
animals, the fur was generally lacking. Improved meth-
ods of raising in recent years, including feeding and
dens has brought about marked improvement. In the
matter of skunk furs I feel safe in saying that less than
50 per cent of the number purchased possessed a full
coat of fur. All were thin in fur and some were prac-
tically all hair with no growth of under fur. The poor-
est of such inferior furred skins are easily discovered
but those that are partly furred are likely to be over-
looked. In order to determine qualities, inspection of
furs should be made only by daylight and in well lighted
Some years ago I knew of a buyer who purchased
in a barn about 400 skunk skins. It was cold weather,
compelling him to keep the doors closed and but little
"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 25
light entered at the few windows. The day was also
rather dark which made assorting still more difficult. He
was only able to assort for colors and could hardly dis-
tinguish the blue pelted skins. When daylight of the
right sort came to show up the purchase, he sorted out
75 skins of the "tame" variety which he could determine
by their great lack of under fur, although they were
prime in pelt. Most of them were detected by the buyer
to whom he sold a large collection, being graded down
in every instance which meant quite a loss on these skins.
Local dealers as well as traveling buyers now need
to examine all lots of goods for quality as well as size,
color and primeness. A buyer never knows when some
of the poorly furred stuff has been sandwiched in among
goods of first quality. Sometimes tame furs that are
poorly furred are sent from a considerable distance to
some friend who is engaged in buying wild furs to be
mixed with the dealer's collection and their identity is
lost until sold out as a whole with the rest to some travel-
ing agent at first quality grade and prices.
The raw fur trade is full of tricks and pitfalls for
the unwary and many times the most alert are swindled
or juggled into a bad deal. Some skunk pelts from the
fur grower's pen are affected with mange, the fur being
out in spots and the skin scabby and covered with scales.
These skunks had narrow quarters, the runs were filthy
and the food was mostly tainted or rotten meat such as
that from fly blown cattle heads and offal. Skunk, if
kept on floors and improperly fed, do not fur properly ;
the hide is apt to be thick and the fur thin. Most of the
mistakes of the skunk raisers of the early days have been
Fur Buyers' Guide.
pelts of an A I
quality are now
being p r o^
pelts say they
in color be-
cause of being
housed and the
so that the sun
has no chance
to fade them.
The pelts were
also prime but
when it came
to quality the same was often lacking. The coat is short
and the fur not so dense or silky, as a result of living in
warm quarters and not being sufficiently exposed to cold
weather and the elements in general.
Tame coon and tame foxes where kept in close quar-
ters are equally afifected. The coon especially so, if he
does not have access to running water where he may
wade and paddle to his satisfaction. Pet coon or foxes
kept on a chain seldom fur well. It will be thin, rubbed
and soiled and the neck bare to the hide from friction of
CENTRAL NEW YORK TRAPPER'S CATCH.
'Wild" and 'Tame" Furs. 2.7
If tame furs are off in quality and are purchased as
straight skins and on an equal footing with wild furs,
they may sell to a country buyer or local dealer without
comment, but if shipped to some fur house, look out for
trouble. There all skins will be graded according to
respective merits and the poorly furred skins meet their
Some years ago when fur values went up leaps and
bounds, not only more sporting goods dealers began sell-
ing steel traps but the raw fur houses began to handle
hunters' and trappers' supplies, including steel traps.
The sales about 1910 was several hundred dozen greater
than ever before or ever will be again. This had its
effect upon the catch for the seasons of 1910-11, 1911-12,
191 2- 1 3, as quantities offered at the London sales prove.
The catch for the seasons of 1912-13 and 1913-14 was
not nearly so large as the three previous years, even
though quantities offered at the sales were greater. This
is accounted for from the fact that the catch was greater
than the demand and much of the 1914 offering had been
carried over from previous years.
COMBINED MARCH OFFERINGS.
The combined offerings of Lampson, Nesbitt and
Huth for March, 1915, and comparisons for the five
previous March sales were as follows :
1915 1914 1913 1912 1911 ' 1910
Mink 27,150 157,596 70,194 €0,326 76,563 81,700
Skunk 274,000 957,000 608,600 694,609 804,300 435,260
Muskrat 1,790,000 4,464,500 1,293,000 1,107,776 1,475,000 806,500
Raccoon 69,300 551,200 206,000 140,846 167,100 187,500
Opossum 136,000 889,600 535,800 661,340 588,600 328,815
Marten 8,900 15,861 10,964 12,708 11,900 15,100
Lynx 10,370 3,797 597 1,728 1,050 300
Fox, red 15,300 38,050 22,535 24,390 26,740 22,17S
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Eox, cross 2,245 2,211 1,984 852 82'0 958
Fox, grey 2^200 43,850 20,386 28,280 27,800 15,148
Fox, silver 338 645 384 428 412 486
Fox, kitt 4,160 14,585 6,300 8,360 5,050 l,l79
Fox, white 12,000 4,718 2,000 6,136 4,962 2,595
Fox, bine 200 1,111 2,800 1,200 2,800 1,800
Otter 2,650 6,192 4,736 5,750 6,873 3,950
Fisher 1,176 1,573 1,102 167 493 620
Beaver 15,850 12,405 7,883 6,870 7,565 9,950
Bear 2,190 4,153 5,053 5,630 8,040 7,140
Wolf 14,200 80,725 34,200 45,390 36,000 25,326
Civet 29,500 125,700 47,820 162,225 216,700 86,000
Badger 5,400 8,850 4,400 12,440 7,300 2,855
Cat, wild 4,500 17,356 2,650 16,578 13,900 7,287
Cat, house 24,500 31,800 54,500 38,000 34,700 18,757
Wolverine 273 679 617 525 807 700
Ermine 75,100 300,500 114,500 136,200 131,750 106,963
HUDSON BAY COMPANY MARCH OFFERINGS.
1914 1913 1912 1911 1910
Bear, Black 4,650 3,218 3,456 5,000 4,023
Bear, Brown 390 241 351 370 867
Bear, Grey 45 31 46 90 85
Bear, White 190 113 130 80 59
Badger 120 117 45 80 144
Ermine 49,500 26,785 34,307 49,400 19,935
Fisher 3,650 1,761 1,581 2,350 1,968
Fox, Blue 70 19 51 110 17
Fox, Cross 5,400 1,241 1,828 1,800 986
Fox, Red 17,000 3,492 5,755 4,700 2,269
Fox, Silver 980 246 410 380 212
Fox, White 8,950 3,441 6,623 14,700 3,975
Lynx 20,600 11,740 5,667 3,750 2,871
Marten 35,000 24,533 24,049 29,300 25,299
Mink 78,850 36,933 20,456 32,700 12,068
Otter, Land 6,450 5,857 4,802 6,500 4,401
Raccoon 400 187 74 200 227
Skunk 5,150 1,508 822 800 1,310
Wolf 3,850 3.601 1,286 2,400 2,751
Wolverine 550 504 666 900 737
"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 29
This company offer their collection of muskrat and
beaver at the January sales only and for the years as
above were :
1914 1913 1912 1911 1910
Muskrat 850,000 967,700 793,940 896,108 542,390
Beaver 38,000 38,600 37,256 36,767 35,889
The Hudsoii Bay Company have been selling nearly
all their collection in January and March so that quan-
tities offered by this company in either the June or Octo-
ber sales have not been of importance.
COMBINED JANUARY OFFERINGS.
The combined offerings of Lampson, Nesbitt and
Huth for January, 19 14, (nO' January, 191 5, sales), and
comparison for the two previous January sales were as
1914 1913 1912
Skunk 575,500 530,800 558,000
Muskrat 2,882,500 2,164,650 1,394,400
Opossum 464,800 406,500 407,000
Mink 33,909 38,404 38,366
Coon -. 175,150 87,300 83,000
Civet cat 38,400 55,260 61,100
Red fox 23,800 20,372 20,300
Grey fox 13,150 7,685 14,000
Cross fox 288 467 134
Silver fox 78 67 95
Kitt fox 43,110 20,000 9,600
White fox 3,500 6,150 5,060
Blue fox 200 100 40
Wolf 35,830 24,500 40,600
Otter 5,337 4,888 5,612
Lynx 3,681 1,590 536
30 Fur Buyers' Guide.
The offerings at both June and October sales of
American raw furs is usually must less than either Jan-
uary or March, yet they are of interest, showing what
articles are in demand.
Quantities at any of the sales do not furnish a re-
liable basis of the catch. A certain fur may be in demand
in America and largely used here, so that quantity ex-
ported is small, yet the catch large. Again demand may
be poor in America but better elsewhere, in which in-
stance exports would be apt to be large yet catch was
only an average one.
Owing to the European war which began August,
1914, no sales of raw furs were held in London in Oc-
tober, 1914, or January, 191 5. In March, 191 5, small
quantities only were sold. The March sales are usually
the largest and most important of the year — see table
showing figures for March, 191 5, 1914, 1913, 1912, 191 1
The London sales will not be of as much importance
for years, if ever, as they formerly were to the Amer-
ican dealer in furs. The war has brought great changes
in the buying power of Europe and the fur trade as well
as other lines has been hard hit. For years just prior to
"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 31
the war Europe was using about two-thirds of the Amer-
ican catch of raw furs and paying good prices for them.
However, before the war broke out prices on certain
furs had become lower. It seemed that the catch of 191 o,
191 1, 1912 and 1913 was greater than the demand espe-
cially at the prices which were then in effect. At the
time the war began there was not only large quantities
of furs in cold storage in Europe still owned by Amer-
ican exporters but millions of skins held by dealers in
New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Twin Cities,
Montreal, etc. There is no question but that the losses
on 1912 and 1913 purchases were heavy — millions of
dollars. Instead of conditions improving they did other-
wise. Add to this the cost to carry in cold storage. Fur-
ther, the fact should not be overlooked that skins held a
year or two will not sell as well as the fresh caught.
It is hard for most trappers and a good many of the
small collectors to realize that losses on 1912 and 1913
purchases by the large dealers and exporters amounted
to millions of dollars. Such however is a fact. In some
instances they did not get half what they paid.
There will always be a market for furs as they are
a necessity in the more northern regions where no cloth
will repel the piercing winds although by far the greater
quantities are worn by the women to keep in fashion.
Therefore, being largely an article of luxury, there is no
telling when values will undergo change. Furs, how-
ever, are much like silk — a staple article — but what
color is to be worn is the question. It may be black,
dark, brown, grey, or white so that naturally that color
will be in demand and sell best.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
"Wild" and "Tame" Furs. 33
Close and persistent trapping, especially during the
years 1910, 191 1 and 1912 has reduced the supply of
''wild" fur bearers so that no such quantities as sold in
1914, 1913, and 1912 are left to trap. The great Euro-
pean war demoralized fur values at the beginning of the
season of 1914 so that trapping was not nearly sO' ex-
tensive as in former years.
Fur values have always fluctuated more or less but
chances are that as the ''wild" supply becomes less that
values will increase. At any rate, with increased use of
furs, the price is apt to be kept up well, at least until
the fur bearers have become so numerous that fur
farmers produce millions of pelts each year. So far the
sales have been principally fox from the ranches of East-
"ern Canadian Provinces and Alaska; skunk, opossum,
mink and coon in small quantities from various parts of
the country; musferat have been protected in certain
places by land owners, who either rent the rat trapping
privileges or catch the animals themselves, so that hun-
dreds of thousands of skins are already being marketed
each year mainly from along the coast of New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
The combined offerings at London, by Lamson, Nes-
bitt, Huth and Hudson Bay Co., previous to the great
European war, was usually about two-thirds of the total
North American catch, the other third being manufac-
tured here. While accurate figures of the value of the
yearly catch in North America are not available, it is
probably around $25,000,000, and the world catch ^$100,-
SIZE, COLOR, QUALITY.
SIZE. — The chapters dealing with the various fur-
bearing animals go much more into detail as to
the ske^ color, quality, grade and especially grade
As a rule the raccoons of the North are larger than
those of the South. They are also darker in color, and
because of the difference in cHmate, have much heavier
coats. The hide or pelt on the northern coon is also
much thicker, heavier and stronger which tends to make
northern caught skins more valuable.
The mink of the northeast (Northern Maine, New
Brunswick, Eastern Quebec and Labrador) are smaller
and darker than any others, although those found in the
Lake Superior region and immediately north are usually
quite dark. These mink are also small. The largest are
found in the prairie districts of Canada, the Dakotas and
other of the North Central States, but they are of com-
paratively poor quality, being coarse in texture and quite
pale. Those from the south are also of large size and
of poor quality.
Largest lynx are found north of the Great Lakes
and eastward. In portions of British Columbia and the
prairie districts of Canada they are also very large. This
is probably because of the abundance of food (rabbits)
Size, Color, Quality.
usually found in those parts. There is also some differ-
ence in color, the palest ones apparently being found in
Alaska and the Far North.
NORTHERN FURS - OTTER, FOX, LYNX.
Otters reach their largest size in Florida but the
northern wolves are larger than those of the south. It
Fur Buyers' Guide.
is the same in regard to _bears, the largest being found
in the north.
The largest red foxes come from the interior of
Alaska, and naturally they are of fine quality. However,
all of the northern foxes are well furred except along
the Pacific coast.
AVERAGE SIZES CENTRAL WESTERN MINK SKINS.
The seven skins shown here were caught by a trap-
per November, 19 14, in Harrison county, Iowa, and rep-
resent a good average for mink caught in Nebraska,
North Missouri, Western Ihinois and Iowa (except the
Size, Color, Quality. 37
two north rows of counties in Iowa where the average
is still larger). These skins were graded as follows:
Nos. I, 2, 3 and 4 small; No. 5 medium; Nos. 6 and 7
large. The dimensions of each skin was as follows :
(i) Length of body 16, tail 7, total 23; width at
tail 3>i, shoulders 3 inches.
(2) Length of body 16, tail 7, total 23.; width at
tail 3K, shoulders 3 inches.
(3) Length of body 17, tail 73^, total 24^^ ; width
at tail 3^, shoulders y/4 inches.
(4) Length of body 17, tail 7^^, total 24^^ ; width
at tail 3^, shoulders 3^4 inches.
(5) Length of body 19, tail 8, total 27; width at
tail 4>4, shoulders 3^^ inches.
(6) Length of body 20, tail 8, total 28; width at
tail 4.y2, shoulders 3^ inches.
(7) Length of body 21, tail 8, total 29; width at
tail 4^, shoulders sH inches.
The four small are almost as large as the No. i or
large from Lake Superior and the Northeast Coast but
they are not as silky or so fine furred, also lighter col-
Carcass and Pelt Measurement. — Buyers of furs
will be interested in carcass measurements of fur animals
compared with the pelt when stretched. Some fur ani-
mal pelts will stretch larger in proportion than others.
The skin of the sea otter is very loose and will stretch
about twice the size as when on the animal. Most furs,
such as fox, otter, mink, etc., will stretch from one-
fourth to one-third longer, depending much upon width
and shape stretched. The following are exact measure-
ments of two large Rhode Island mink :
38 Fur Buyers' Guide.
ist Carcass, end of nose to root of tail 17^, tail 8,
tip to tip 25^ inches.
Pelt on Board, end of nose to root of tail 23)^, tail
9, tip to tip S^y2, width at hips 4^2, shoulders 4 inches.
2nd Carcass, end of nose to root of tail 18, tail 8^,
tip to tip 26^ iiiches.
Pelt on Board, end of nose to root of tail 23^, tail
9%, tip to tip 33>4, width at hips 4^, shoulders 4 inches.
Mink from various parts of the country will vary
from above sizes, yet the relative proportions of an un-
skinned to skinned and stretched, will be pretty much
the same. The two mink from which the above measure-
ments were taken were caught in November. With some
fur bearers the skin will stretch larger, in proportion to
carcass, when caught in the fall; others in spring, seem
to shrink accordingly.
A good illustration of the carcass and stretched pelt
of an otter with measurements can be seen by turning
to page 273.
The largest muskrats are found in the New England
and Central States. The smallest come from the plains
region of the Northwest. Why, is not known, but the
small size' is supposed to be caused either by insufficient
food or from the alkali in the waters of the Northwest.
The largest skunks come from the northern portion
of the Mississippi Valley, but they run largely to the long
stripe, in fact, from some portions, as in northern Minne-
sota, there' is scarcely any other kind to be found. Large
skunks are also found in Kansas and Nebraska, Northern
Illinois and Indiana, and New York.
Size, Color, Quality. 39
Color. — It is my belief that the finest mink, con-
sidering both size and color, come from the Massachu-
setts Coast. The rule is that the farther north we go,
the finer the quality of the fur. But all rules have ex-
ceptions, and so we find very fine mink in parts of
Georgia and the Carolinas, while those from the lower
Yukon basin of Alaska are of poor quality.
With marten there is a remarkable variation in
color, for they will run from a pale yellow to a very dark
brown, in rare instances to almost black. Some of the
very dark ones have silver hairs interspersed with the
brown and it makes a fur of remarkable beauty. On
the dark ones the light spot on the throat is a bright
orange color, while on the pale ones it is usually a sort
of cream, sometimes white.
In the Eastern States and the lower parts of Canada
what few martens are found are of the pale variety and
are worth from $2.50 to $5.00 only, while those of
Alaska, British Columbia, Labrador and the Hudson Bay
regions are sometimes worth $25. Indeed, they are
sometimes sold for much higher prices on the East
Coast of Canada.
I do not wish to impress anyone with the idea that
in the parts mentioned only dark martens are found, for
such is not the case. All shades of color will be found
in the same locality and in Ontario trappers have caught
very pale ones and fine dark fellows in the same traps at
The difference in the markings of skunks is inter-
esting, and there is no apparent reason for it. In many
sections, as for instance in parts of Ohio, East Tennessee,
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Pennsylvania and Vermont, they run largely to black or
No. I. In other states No. i skunks are unknown, while
in other localities the No. I's are few only. '
It is not perhaps generally known that the surround-
ings of most animals has a primary effect on the color
NORTHWESTERN FURS — WILD CAT, MINK, MARTEN, BEAVER,
WEASEL, MUSKRAT, WOLF.
of their hair. Beaver, otter, mink and muskrat are dark
or light colored, according to the water they live in.
Clear, cold water lakes produce skins of a deep, glossy
black, muddy lakes, on the other hand, furnishing light
Size, Color, Quality. 41
colored fur. Having studied this in my own hunting and
trapping, I have often surprised a trapper when buying
his skins by saying, "You trapped this and this skin in
a clear water lake," and he has admitted it as true.
Another peculiar fact in relation to deep cold water
lakes, is that, while the skins they procure is of the finest
quality, they are also much smaller in size than those
trapped in brown or muddy water, and this applies to all
the animals mentioned. Muskrat killed in clear water
lakes are about two-thirds the size of those trapped in
grassy, sluggish rivers, and it is the same with mink. This
rule holds good also with land animals, such as marten,
those living in and resorting to black spruce swamps being
invariably dark colored, whereas those in mixed pine,
birch and balsam hills are larger and lighter in color.
Along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to
New Jersey, many muskrats are black. In some local-
ities, especially in and around Delaware and Chesapeake
Bays, the dark and black skins run as high as 30 per cent
of the entire cafch.
Skunk in some localities have a much blacker black
than elsewhere. This is probably due to both food con-
ditions and the character of the ground in which they
live. The guard h^irs on such skins are so black that
they shine or "sheen."
The common brown weasel north of 41 degrees or
thereabout, turn white during the winter months and the
skins are then known as ermine.
The Arctic fox which are usually blue at birth, turn
snow white as fall and cold weather approaches. This
fox is found only in Greenland and the extreme northern
42 Fur Buyers' Guide.
parts of Alaska and Canada. During the summer the
fur is known as "blue fox," although in reality it is a
drab grey, much resembling the color of a maltese cat.
The color of the Arctic fox and weasel (ermine)
are apparently much influenced by cold and snow. This
is further substantiated by the opossum, an animal which
is seldom found above 41 degrees. Its fur is the only
kind produced in the Central and Southern States that is
white, but unlike the northern weasel and Arctic fox, it
does not change its color. Another peculiarity in con-
nection with the color of the fur bearers is that the dark-
est opossum skins are secured in the south.
Throughout the north the snow shoe rabbit turns
from reddish brown to pure white. While opossum are
the only white fur bearers in the Central and Southern
States, there is an occasional white coon and still more
rarely a white muskrat. Not enough, however, of either
to be of interest to the fur trade. The white under
furred mink known as "cotton mink" are quite common
in some parts of the country. So far the greatest num-
ber of such skins have been reported caught in Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri,
Iowa, Arkansas and other states bordering on the Gulf
Quality. — The most valuable fox, whether black,
silver, cross, or the less valuable red, are from the coldest
sections of Canada. On the other hand, the most val-
uable muskrat pelts are not from Canada but from
localities as far south as Ohio. Why? If cold weather
produces fox pelts, why not muskrats as well? Dealers
all know that raccoon in parts of Dakota, Minnesota,
Size, Color, Quality.
Wisconsin, Iowa, Ne-
braska and parts of
Kansas are large and
dark and worth more
than skins caught in
other localities in the
same latitude. Why
are the skins larger
and darker? It may
-be that the food is
more to their liking or
possibly not being so
numerous as in other
parts (the south for
instance) they have
not interbred so much
and are therefore
The size, color, as
well as density of fur,
all have tO' do with
the value of a pelt.
In the Lake Superior
region mink are small
but very dark and silky and are about as valuable as
skins caught along the Atlantic Coast from Maine north.
Not so with marten, for those caught around Lake Su-
perior are usually pale or yellow and not worth nearly
so much as those caught in other localities no farther
Ohio has long been known as one of the best skunk
THREE SILVER FOX SKINS.
(1) Length, 32 inches. (2) 36 inches.
(3) 34 inches. All measured from end
of nose to root of tail and stretched on
boards 6^/4 at shoulders, T^/^ at hips. These
skins when turned as shown measured 8
at shoulders and 9 at hips, representing
average sizes as caught in Western Al-
44 Fur Buyers' Guide.
producers — both as to quality of fur and number of
skins. New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana and
Illinois are all states that grow large and fine skunk. In
these states the skins run well to black or No. i. In
many localities pelts taken in November and December
will grade from 30 to 40 per cent black or No. i. The
northwest — Minnesota, Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ne-
braska, etc. — produce large skunk but they are of the
long, narrow stripe variety.
While opossum are found as far north as central
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois in considerable numbers, many
of the largest and best lots of skins are secured in the
northern and central portions of West Virginia, while in
the southern part, they are not nearly so good. It seems
that fifty miles here makes a vast difference in the size
as well as the density of the furs.
That fifty or a hundred miles makes a noticeable
difference in certain of the fur bearing animals is clearly
illustrated by the weasel (ermine). South of the fortieth
parallel which passes through Philadelphia near Wheel-
ing, West Virginia, through Columbus, Ohio, and near
Indianapolis, Indiana, near Springfield and Quincy, Illi-
nois, through northern Missouri and forms the line be-
tween Kansas and Nebraska, there are few if any white
weasel (ermine) but just north there are some, while
a hundred miles to the north, a fair per cent turn white
each winter season.
The why of the various sections producing different
colors, sizes, etc., is hard to explain fully. With some
animals both the climate and food have something to do
with the color and density of fur but not in all. As
Size, Color, Quality. 45
already shown, muskrat from central sections are worth
more than from the north — fur may not be as fine but
pelt is heavier and better for tanning. Again mink from
parts of North Carolina are small and dark, somewhat
resembling Maine or Lake Superior skins and are worth
much more than skins caught far to the north. Why?
Marten in some of the sections far to the north are yel-
low or pale while in other localities, even to the south,
The Cascade or Coast Range of mountains extend
two thousand miles north and south from California to
Alaska. The climate west of this range from California
to Alaska, is very mild and moist; flowers bloom nine
months of the year and it rains for five months during
the winter or wet season. East of this same range of
mountains, in any of the above states, it is cold and dry
for seven months of the year, besides the altitude is from
two to ten thousand feet. Does it stand to reason that
skins caught on the west or Pacific Coast side in any of
the above named states are worth as much as skins
caught on the east side of the Coast Range? Shipments
of furs from Arkansas and Texas often contain better
furred skins than those from the salt water coast of Ore-
gon and Washington or Vancouver Island, British Co-
lumbia. Skins caught along the coast of Alaska and on
the' Islands of Southeastern Alaska, are not worth any
more than furs caught in northern California.
The largest and poorest red fox in the world are
caught on Kodiak Island, Alaska, the best and largest
not selling for more than one-half as much as the same
size red fox caught in the interior of Alaska. A silver
46 Fur Buyers' Guide.
fox caught on Kodiak Island is worth about as much as
a good coyote and does not look any better. A few of
the reasons why fur is so poor on that island (which, by
the way, is much larger than some of the eastern states)
are : the island lies in the warm, Japan current : the
wild animals of the island live and feed along the salt
water beach on rotten fish or whatever food they can get.
Prime mink caught on salt water do not dress, blend
or dye well, and soon fade out to a "ratty red." Such
skins will not bring in London or any other market to
exceed two-thirds as much as the same size and colored
mink caught in the interior of Alaska among the fresh
waters of the White, Stewart, Yukon, Tanana, Porcu-
pine, Koyukuk or Kuskokwim Rivers. Would a list
quoting a single price for a large, prime hide of any kind
do for Alaska, a country almost as large as all the eastern
states combined and with all kinds of climatic conditions ?
Perhaps not. At least a buyer issuing such a price list
would secure but little business where competition is keen
and to secure furs, a buyer has to go the limit.
There is not a season but trappers and shippers are
wanting rats to be classed as Spring long before they
become prime or Spring rats. Spring rats must show up
red ; there must be no dark spots on the flesh side. Skins
that are damaged in any way will not pass for Spring.
Very few rats of the prime sort come in until late in
February, and will not be secured in any great quantities
until in March. In fact, rats are at their best in March
or April and trappers who have skins left on their hands
by the local buyers quitting for the season, can ship them
to market as late as May or even in the northern lati-
Size, Color, Quality.
tudes some later. In this latitude rat trappers will find
that their catch in March and April are at their best.
South of Minneapolis rats are worth the same as
Wisconsin and southeastern Iowa rats, while those caught
north and west of Minneapolis are thin pelted and worth
less. The reason for this no one seems able to explain
satisfactorily. We all know that
food and climate have much to do
with the size and condition of cer-
tain fur bearing animals. It may
be the food that makes these ani-
mals thin pelted. This is one of
the subjects hard to understand
from the fact that skunk caught
in this section are large and fine,
while south where the rats are
better, the skunk are much smaller.
While skunk and muskrat are
the two furs that become of value
first in the Fall, do not make the
mistake of buying them too soon.
Some years ago skunk caught in
the latitude of New York City or
Chicago by November i would
often go for prime skins, but of more recent years, owing
to the warm and open seasons, they have not been prime
until some two or three weeks later, while to the south
they have not been full-furred until in December. Musk-
rat are of some value in the north in October, yet it is
well known that their fur is best and most valuable in
March and April.
WESTERN AND NORTH
WESTERN LONG NAR-
48 Fur Buyers' Guide.
The average Western long- stripe, or No. 3, has more
black fur that can be used by the manufacturer than
many of the Eastern short or No. 2. The stripe on the
Western skunk is down farther on the sides, as a rule,
leaving more good fur on the back. This accounts for
the No. 3's from that part of the country being worth
more than the wide stripe variety, also known as No. 3,
found in the East and Central states principally.
Otter, beaver and muskrat do not become prime —
at their best — until spring. Bear, of the land animals,
is the latest to become prime but retaains in good condi-
tion until early June. Marten and skunk are the first to
"prime up" in the fall, followed by raccoon, fisher, mink
On the Pacific Coast, owing to the wet climate, furs
are not as good as inland. The skins secured along the
coast of California, Oregon, Washington, British Colum-
bia and the islands are worth much less than inland and
in the high mountain regions. A few miles there makes
a vast difference in the quality o'f the fur.
The general impression prevails that the colder the
weather and the longer the same continues, the better
the fur. This is true to some extent only." Fur bearing
animals in the more northern sections are better furred
than those farther south. In the north such animals as,
fox, lynx, cats, marten, wolves, and ermine pay but little
attention to the weather but travel pretty much the same
at all times.
Other fur bearers such as beaver and muskrat have
a supply of food laid up. Otter work under the ice more
or less at all times, while mink do likewise, thus securing
Size, Color, Quality. 49
some food which tends to keep the body natural and the
What about fur bearers in the Central Sections that
as a rule continue active most of the year? In this class
are skunk, coon and opossum. These animals, if the
weather is warm, move when hungry, which may mean
every night. In this section cold spells generally last but
a few days or a week. Occasionally long, cold spells
occur when these animals do not stir and when they do
come out, are poor in flesh and the fur shows signs of
deterioration. These animals, not being accustomed to
long fasting, soon show the effect. After a long, cold
winter, skunk, coon and opossum furs become faded,
rubbed and lose the luster (bright color) much sooner
than during a more moderate winter.
METHODS OF GRADING. *
^jrRADE AND GRADING. — Be it remembered that
M^k every 69 miles that we advance north or south
^Jl makes one degree of latitude and three degrees,
207 miles, brings a marked change in fur qualities.
On account of the wide difference that exists in fur qual-
ities, colors and sizes in separate latitudes, there must be
a large number of assortments naturally. But when hun-
dreds of raw fur dealers, buyers and handlers, with vary-
ing ideas and intentions in all parts of the country get
through grading, the number of assortments are legion.
No two fur graders even when competent and pos-
sessing the best of intentions, ever assort a lot of furs
of considerable size just the same. There is likely to be
some difference between graders in their views on a small
collection. One will grade a certain coon large, while
another buyer rates it a medium. One says to himself,
"This is a well furred coon but a little blue in pelt. It is
not quite prime, it will have to go in with the No. 2's."
The other buyer, when examining the same skin, says
mentally, "The pelt is a trifle blue but it is so well furred
that it will go for No. i."
We will suppose that we have a lot of one hundred
and a few more of coon skins, that all come from one
section. They are to be assorted for sizes and degrees of
primeness. This collection may have come from the
Methods of Grading.
hands of a dozen or more trappers and fur hunters and
there will be just as much difference in handling as there
were owners, in number. Two skins of equal size when
green may appear of different dimensions when handled
separately. Dry and ready for market, one is 20 inches
wide by 22 long, while its mate measures 18 inches wide
by 24 long. Then we encounter the poorly stretched,
irregulars and shriveled, so that it is often difficult to
establish a dividing line between large and medium and
between medium and small. This would not be the case
if all had been handled in uniform shape by one man.
The result is that
two buyers or six
buyers will assort
this collection of coon
differently. Each one
acts to the best of his
judgment but we do
not all look at a skin
or skins with the
After being as-
sorted by buyer No.
I, there will be per-
haps 60 large coon, but buyer No. 2 will make but 45
large. Buyer No. i has 20 No. 2 coon but the other has
found only 13. The other seven were graded No. 3. One
buyer makes a larger number of No. 3 coon than the
other who has placed some of this grade in with the
trash or No. 4's. One grades 15 prime small coon and
the other finds but nine, the other six being rated medium.
SEVEN FINE, LARGE, DARK NO. 1
COON SKINS — 2 OPEN, 5 CASED.
52 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Both graders have acted according to their training
and best judgment and yet their selection is widely dif-
ferent from one another. The chances are that he who
graded the least liberal is the nearest correct as to what
the assort should be. If buying in competition with an-
other, who is more liberal, the correct man will be far
short of making a purchase.
With so many grades in a lot of coon from one sec-
tion, something can be imagined of the task that is pre-
sented to a buyer who enters the fur room of a large
dealer having several thousand coon to assort. These
are from all sections, in all sizes, styles of handling and
every degree of primeness and are as thoroughly mixed
up as scrambled eggs. If assorted correctly, there will
be about loo grades, for it is not difficult to find i6 grades
in coon of one section as to sizes and degrees of prime-
Skunk are about our most important fur, as regards
the country's raw fur income and here there is the widest
range of assorting made in grading any fur. Sections of
country in which they are found, sizes, species, and the
amount of white and the way nature has painted it on
in all of its ramifications, requires much training to grade
skunk of the entire country correctly.
So closely associated are the dividing lines between
grades, that in many instances it is a toss up as to where
it belongs. There may be a trifle too much white in length
or width of stripe for a No. i but it will make an extra
good No. 2. If the buyer is a close grader, and the
owner is exacting, a quibble may arise, when it is pretty
sure to be graded No. i. The buyer must take his
Methods of Grading.
chances in being able to sell it the same as he has been
compelled to grade it. If the skin is of good size, he may
make it go No. i but if a small pelt it probably will go
for No. 2.
The same is true of poor No.
2's. If stripes run two-thirds the
length of skin, or are very wide if
only running half way, or are narrow
but branched, or the skin is a good
short stripe but very small, all these
conditions bring a skin close to the
No. 3 grade.
If skunk furs are in good de-
mand, many of the doubtful skins
are graded in favor of the seller.
There is the same wrangle on the
assort of No. 3's and No. 4's. Thou-
sands of long stripes that are most
too broad for anything but No. 4 are
classed as No. 3's. The skin shown
here is large, measuring on pelt side
as follows: length of pelt, 22^, tail
13, total 35!/^ inches; greatest width 9^^, shoulders 7}^
inches. Measured on fur side length same, greatest
width 10^, shoulders 8^.
Muskrats should not, at first thought, be a difficult
fur to grade, but our attention is taken up almost as much
here as in other furs. One section produces heavy, well
furred rats, while another yields short furred and papery
pelted skins. Whether well or poorly handled, uniform
in shape, or wedge shaped, long and narrow, or too' short
and wide, irregular in form or otherwise unsightly.
54 Fur Buyers' Guide.
A straight collection of rats from one section will not
be assorted the same by different buyers. If it is an
autumn and early winter collection, one buyer will sort
out quite a percentage of winter quality, while another
will find it difficult to discover any but fall rats. One
demands that the amount of red in a pelt must be at
least 50 per cent to grade winter, while another will
throw a good many in the winter pile which only have
two red streaks of moderate width. One fur house will
not allow its buyers to grade rats No. i or Spring if con-
taining a single dark spot. Another agent may accept
late February rats as Spring, or at least pay Spring prices
while still containing a good many dark spots. One
house contends that the pelt must be absolutely clear or
the fur is not at its best. The other house says that no
difference can be distinguished between the positive
Spring rat and the ''near spring" so far as one or two
little dark spots in the pelt are concerned. Is it difficult
under such ideas as these to guess who gets the rats ?
Certain fur firms grade and value mink as to color,
and instruct their buyers to buy on three shades of color,
dark, brown and pale. They do not get many mink under
such orders. What they do secure they are compelled to
buy after the same custom as a certain few who pay the
highest quotations for well furred, seasonable mink as
they average for color. But few mink are strictly dark
at any time and not many are very pale in late autumn
and early winter.
One house appears glad to get good, well furred
mink at full market prices without trying to buy for color,
or according to color. Another firm clings to its old
Methods of Grading.
policy year after year of try-
ing to buy on the dark, brown
and pale plan and do not get
many mink and should not, for
such a firm is a poor mink house.
Much haphazard buying is
done in the matter of foxes — •
black, silver, cross — in partic-
ular. No other fur varies so
much in color, quality and gen-
eral conditions and each skin
^,.> aiJ"-"^ *'l should be bought on its own par-
7 tP ^ L^kM ticular merits. Though a fox is
prime and well furred, it may
not be worth full market quo-
tations. The best skins of the
red variety are a dark red or a
lively bright red. Objectionable
skins are yellow instead of red
or in some cases about the color
of dead grass. Some are grey
on the hips as if mixed up with
the wood's grey fox. Others
are rubbed on the hips and some
may be said to be flat in fur for
the reason that there are no
guard hairs or top hair and the
under fur alone looks very deficient. '
One buyer takes into account all these inferior colors,
while another takes them as they come, bright colors or
poor colors at equal value. A fox is a fox with him so
long as it is prime, well furred and not damaged.
RED AND CROSS
(1) Red medium; length
of pelt, 35; tail, 21; total,
56; greatest width, 8%;
shoulders, 7 inches.
(2) Cross large; length
of pelt, iOVz; tail, 21;
total, 611^; greatest width,
9; shoulders, 8 inches.
56 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Excitement among raw fur buyers is responsible for
the improper grading of furs that is so prevalent. Eacll
striving to outdO' the other in grading, in favor of the one
who is selling, establishes a condition that makes it diffi-
cult for anyone to buy on a proper assortment or even
nearly proper. When the fur market is satisfactory and
prices are trending upward, it may not be unreasonable to
pay large price quotations for a well furred medium fox,
coon or mink. A good medium is worth more than a large
skin that is not so well furred or is otherwise ofif in
If skunk are assorted too liberally in regard to the
amount of white and the grading is anywhere within
reason, there is a chance to get out whole and perhaps
make money; providing the market is strong and likely
to advance. It sometimes requires a goodly amount of
banter to unload furs bought on a strained assortment,
the same as graded when purchased, but those who give
the fur owner all that belongs to him in assortment and
a little more, is going to stand in the best favor and
secure the fur in the future providing the right prices
accompany strained assortments.
Hundreds of town and country buyers are ready
under normal conditions of trade to be just that liberal.
There is a tremendous strife to see who shall make the
biggest collection. If not on present money making
terms, then buy them at the best bargains obtainable.
"Methods of Grading," the title of this chapter, are not
much in evidence if a big break comes in the market.
Then methods are largely suspended and all systems set-
■ Methods of Grading. 57
tie down to one plan, which is to grade the furs down
hard without practicing the least liberality or else let
Now instead of too liberal assortments and advanced
prices being given, low prices and severe, sometimes dis-
honest assortments prevail, whereas grading should be
fair and honest under all conditions. Under a broken
market we often see fur firms that bear the best repu-
tation for fairness and who did not grade skunk as to
size, have now fallen so far as to do that very thing and
so array themselves with certain firms who have always
quoted sizes and given themselves a wide range to work
on. Sixteen grades in skunk sizes are quoted by the
house that has planned to take every advantage. Extra
Large No. i. Large No. i, Medium No i and SmaU No t
is the way it reads and the same range is taken for short
stripes, long stripes and broad stripes.
No fur owner of intelligence will permit a buyer to
make any distinction between a large skunk and a medium
sized skunk. So far as extra large are concerned, we do
not get enough of them to make us rich, especially if we
ship to those who quote them. No lot of skunks from
good sections are burdened with small skins until late
winter when the females begin to move, but somehow the
large-number-of-grades firm has always succeeded in
finding plenty of small skins in ours, if they did fail to
find any extra large.
We have found too, to our sorrow, that often the
order given such firms to hold separate until we have
had time to accept or reject the returns, was not pro-
tection. For when we ordered the shipment back, we
58 Fur Buyers' Guide.
found that quite a percentage of our skunk had been
substituted with inferior quality pelts in place of goods
similar to Northern Ohio and Michigan skunk.
The writer has been a spectator when large receipts
of furs were being assorted both under a normal fur
market and when the market was unsettled or weak and
furs not really wanted. Houses who do not care for furs
in time of adversity, should keep out of the market en-
tirely until they do want the goods at market prices and
on an honest assortment. In the first instance every
effort is made to please the shipper, especially a first
shipper. It will sometimes do to take advantage of an
old shipper but if they trim a new one they may never
receive another consignment from him. No, they must
be careful not to kill off the new, first shipper. So we
find them doing the right thing by all shippers when the
furs are wanted badly. Sometimes a little sop is handed
out in the way of extraordinary liberality as a bait to
keep them coming. They give the shipper the best end
of it on every doubtful skin. Medium sized, well furred
coon were rated with the large. Good, well furred, well
handled medium mink went in the large pile. Rats were
only culled to take out the kits; the rest were assorted
Fall and Winter; large, medium and small all figured
together. Skunk were rated No. i with stripes an inch
wide extending to the shoulders and if narrow and
reached the middle of the skin, they were No. i. The
same liberality was seen in the assortment in the lower
grades. Stripes reaching within three inches of the tail
were counted No. 2 or short stripe. In the broad stripes
or No. 4's, they often divided with the shipper, placing
Methods of Grading. 59
half of them where they belonged and accepting the rest
as No. 3 or long narrows.
Now let us witness some assorting of furs when a
drop has occurred and the future looks bad. The fur
house is a prominent one and furs are pouring in from
all quarters because of big quotations that were sent out.
The break in prices came before it was time to notify
the shippers. Now the only way to avoid a possible loss,
is to fairly butcher the receipts of furs in the matter of
assorting. The proprietor is grading the furs now to be
certain that they are assorted sufficiently favorable to the
house. The shipper has had his day.
The helper lays a shipment on the table from Dodge
City, Kansas. It consists of 25 skunk, all well handled
long stripes. A slash with a very sharp knife lays the
sack open from top to bottom. These skins are very dry
and were no doubt secured very soon after the trapping
season opened and yet they are prime. At the first
glance the proprietor exclaims, "Another lot of blue
pelts," and proceeds to grade them down accordingly.
The long, narrow stripes go in with the No. 4 grade and
the broads or 4's are cut below the market price for
prime skins of that grade. No one who understands raw
furs could call any of these skunk blue pelts, unless look-
ing through blue goggles or affected by the blues, which
a demoralized market might cause.
A bunch of rats is next opened from Appleton, Wis-
consin. They are mostly winter quality and well furred.
But how critically they are examined separately and cer-
tain ones graded down if it is imagined that the fur is a
little short or thin. A buyer must be pretty small minded
to examine the fur of every rat when assorting this fur.
6o Fur Buyers' Guide.
In a little lot of mixed furs from Tarboro, North
Carolina, there are two medium sized otter. They are
prime and of good color but a little short in fur as com-
pared with Northern otter. The proprietor seizes each
one in its turn and raising it high brings it down on the
assorting table with a wallop. At the same time he utters
the one word, "Singed." He holds them up to the light,
passes his hand over the fur and announces, ''Both
singed." The tally clerk who sits close by with book and
pencil to take down the shipper's name and post office
address and the assortments, writes down, "Two otter,
Now it is a fact that once in a while an otter is seen
that bears a "scorched" appearance but for two skins to
be so affected and both coming from one party, looked
pretty thin to us.
Now a little mail shipment from Sleepy Eye, Minne-
sota, is opened. It contains nine, large, prime, well
handled mink. There is not a pale mink in the lot, but
the assort was shocking. No dark $5.00 mink were
found, but five were figured brown at $4.00 each, two
medium brown at $3.00 and two medium pale at $2.50
each. Total $31.00. These were all December caught
skins and were as dark on an average as mink of Minne-
sota grow. The four graded "medium" were large mink
but the others were extra large. The price should have
been $5.00 average, $45.00. The price allowed trimmed
the shipper out of $14.00.
I said to myself, "No wonder you are rich. Much
of it is unearned and is appropriated from the poor trap-
Methods of Grading. 6i
per's belongings sent to you in good faith that he will get
a square deal." "How does our assorting compare with
your ideas?" the proprietor inquired. This was just the
sort of question I had been praying for to give me license
to open my mouth. "Well," I answered, "seeing that you
ask the question, I will tell you just what I think. If a
buyer should come into our section and attempt to make
such assortments as you are doing on these trappers' lots,
we would throw him out of our place of business and I
am not sure but what he would be tarred and feathered
and rode out of town astride of a rail." Then the propri-
etor flared up. My answer had been too candid and severe
in arraignment. "Yes, I know," he returned crossly, "your
state is a tough proposition. Nobody can make any
money on your furs because everyone wants the earth.
I have about cut your state out of my list." These two
scenes in fur grading at one of the centers of trade, rep-
resent the extremes. There is a middle course, which if
followed, causes for complaint from the raw fur shipper
would be few and far between.
Many trappers and not a few shippers do not seem
to understand "figures" very well and it may be that some
dealers use the "big figure" plan only to induce ship-
ments. More than thirty years' connection with the fur
industry has proven to the author that full values come
fully as often from the "one price" and fewer grade
houses, even though their quotations are much less. In
this connection the following will bring out quite cleariv
this fact. Those who "know the game" by actual expe-
rience regard the "from and to" method of quoting as
giving the buyer more leeway. If it is the best way to
62 Fur Buyers' Guide.
realize most out of furs why don't the "from and to"
houses sell on that method ? As is generally known, they
sell on the one price plan and very few grades. In fact,
they often sell their entire collection flat, so much per
skin average. Fine furs may be assorted but the cheaper
articles, — coon, skunk, civet, opossum, muskrat, etc.,
very seldom are.
The "from and to" method is concisely stated by a
shipper of 25 years who says, "The house quoting more
than one price for each grade, gives more as a rule, on
the upper grades, but cut away down on the medium and
small and their grading, even on the large, is unfair. I
am in favor of the one price method of quoting and find
that I get the most money from houses so quoting."
About the year 1910 several firms changed their
methods of quoting from the "one price" or Eastern As-
sortment to the "from or to" or Western Assortment, but
the most radical change was a firm that quoted two ways
on the same list, designated as "Western Assortment"
and "Eastern Assortment." This firm we will call The
Twin Raw Fur Company and quote from their circular
as follows :
"Western Assortment. — Each pelt is graded to
its individual value as to quality of fur, size of pelt, color,
etc. We also grade an 'Eastern Assortment' — see ex-
planation further on. After making comparisons, ship
your furs and state which assortment you prefer.
"After looking over prices, no doubt you will
ask yourself this question : I wonder why The Twin
Raw Fur Company quotes the two different assortments ?
Well this is a question we want to answer no matter
Methods of Grading.
whether you want to know or
not. You should know that
there is a vast difference in
the Western and Eastern as-
sortments of Raw Furs.
'The Western assort-
ment demands a larger pelt
for large and medium sizes
and assorts every pelt for
color, shade, etc., while in the
Eastern assortment the az^er-
age size is classed as ones,
twos, threes and fours and
shoulder stripes on skunk are
taken in as No. i grade which
is not the case in the Western
assortment. The same holds
good on all other articles, a
greater number of grades, and
while the top prices are higher,
the average when figured up
in dollars and cents, is no
greater. Still, we leave it to
the shipper to decide which
grade he prefers, and will give
whichever assortment prefer-
red. So in shipping, please
state "Western" or "Eastern" assortment, as we want to
satisfy the shipper.
"Eastern Assortment. — Average sized pelts are
classed together and an average price is quoted for each
large western and
SMALL eastern SKUNK
(1) Large Western long stripe,
nose to root of tail, 28; greatest
width, 10; shoulders, 9 inches.
(2) Eastern small, length nose
to root of tail, 17; greatest
width, 5%; shoulders, 5 inches.
These pelts represent the ex-
tremes, that is, an unusually-
large Western and an under-
64 Fur Buyers' Guide.
grade, making fewer grades. 'Western Assortment' has
already been explained and after making comparisons ship
us your furs and state which assortment you prefer.
"The Twin Raw Fur Company pays express charges
on shipments large enough to warrant their doing so, and
part on smaller shipments under the Eastern Assortment,
and deducts expressage and five per cent, same as all
concerns, when making Western Assortment."
At about the same time the Twin Raw Fur Company
sent out their "twin'' quotations several firms changed
from the ''one price" list to the "from and to" with the
exception that they did not deduct shipping charges and
5% like the original ones. There are now firms in va-
rious parts of North America that have adopted the "from
and to" or many grade method of quoting although some
say that they only done so to meet competition and that
the "one price" and fewer grade list is the better method.
Price Lists. — The different methods or ways of
quoting and grading as well as the manner in which re-
turns are made out and sent to shippers has had con-
siderable to do with securing shipments from trappers
and small shippers. Some years ago the method of
quoting known as "from and to" became quite general
and no doubt induced many to ship as such quotations
appeared to offer more than the lists making fewer
grades. No buyer, dealer or exporter can be blamed for
their method of quoting and classification so long as same
are not misleading. Unless the fur owner is led to be-
lieve they can get more by shipping than selling at home
there is no inducement to ship. The "from and to"
method of quoting raw furs therefore can be said to
Methods of Grading. 65
have originated from dealers soliciting to overcome as
much as possible the selling at home. Fur owners that
have shipped to the "from and to" quoter say that such
quotations do not necessarily mean any more money for
a shipment of fur than to a dealer who quotes one price
only for each grade and makes the fewest grades possible.
As has truthfully been said by some one, ''it is the aver-
age that counts not the high price for one skin."
Some well known and reliable firms are using "from
and to" quotations while others are using the "one price"
method. If the sender of the list is inclined to treat
shippers fairly it will be done under either method while
if of the dishonest kind incorrect sort or classification
can be given making no difference which way of quoting
has been used.
THE INSPECTION ROOM.
CHIS chapter was written by an Inspector or Grader
as they are generally called and published some
years ago in a fur magazine, when the Inspector
was with a raw fur buying firm in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. This chapter furnishes a pretty good insight
to the ''inspection room." If you are able to read be-
tween the lines it will reveal that this Inspector and the
firm thought that their assortment and price were always
It is only natural that there should be considerable
difference of opinion as to the correct ''inspection," sort,
classification or grade of furs as looked at from the
standpoint of trapper and dealer. Both are no doubt
right in some of their views and both equally wrong in
Right here, however, is one of the principal reasons
why traveling buyers, sent out by the various dealers,
have eaten into, the shipping trade, for they grade fairly,
if they don't they cannot buy. Some years ago certain
houses changed their method of quoting, assorting, etc.,
in hopes of offsetting the home selling. The method
for a time was quite successful yet caused more or less
dissatisfaction. Some say there would, not have been so
much complaint made by shippers if all dealers would
only quote market value and grade more liberally.
The Inspfxtion Room. 6j
"I have for the past five years occupied a position in the
inspection room of one of the largest raw fur concerns on this
continent, and it has occurred to me that it would be interest-
ing to the trapper and country fur buyer who, after delivering
his furs to the express company, wonders how and what be-
comes of them; to know how they are handled and so on.
"A good many who ought to know better, look upon the
fur dealer is an unscrupulous individual who lies awake at night
thinking of schemes to 'Do them up.' With a reliable house,
and their names are legion, this is. not the case. There are
more reliable houses than unscrupulous ones. In ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred the shipper gets what the dealer con-
siders fair value for his furs.
"Like wheat, corn and pork, the fur market fluctuates, and
it depends in great measure on the ideas of the individual dealer
as to the value of a skin. His ideas must, as in all business of
such nature, be based on what he can sell that skin for.
"It is common knowledge that there are often two deal-
ers in a town, one paying $3.00 for a mink and his neighbor
across the street paying $3.25 or $3.50 for the same skin. They
both may be basing their prices on what they can sell for.
A. may be able to sell 500 or 1,000 mink at $3.25 or $3.50
while B. may have an order for 100 mink at $3.75 or $4.00;
then again the spirit of speculation may enter in and either
one of those dealers, anxious to get the business, may pay
'more than he can actually sell for; if there happens to be an
advance of course the dealer is safe ; if a decline, why then
the trapper is ahead that much and the dealer, unless his purse
is long, mayhap becomes one of the 'Has beens.*
"The trapper, no matter where located, on the quarter
section adjoining the North Pole or near that warm, imaginary
line which geographers call the Torrid Zone, is kept pretty
well posted by the circulars of the hundreds of dealers through-
out the United States and Canada, and can generally figure on
what his furs will realize ; to do this intelligently though, he
must not call a number three or a number four mink a num-
ber one. An old hand at his business will not do so.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
The Inspection Room. 69
"As a rule the trapper, if he is at all reasonable, will be
satisfied with his returns when he knows that he is dealing
with a reliable house.
"Please bear in mind that I am not referring to the
country dealer. Some of them are good and a few are bad.
I am referring to the dealers in the larger centers, New York,
Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, and so forth.
"I am afraid that I have digressed considerably from
what I started to speak of, that is. The Inspection Room.
When your shipment reaches its destination it is taken directly
to the inspection room; if it is in a sack, bale or bundle prop-
erly tied or sewed, the express company gets a receipt for it
'in good order.* If the package is open, torn or damaged in
any way it is signed for 'in bad order,' so that in case of
shortage, which often happens, the shipper can make a claim
on the express company for the shortage. Moral : Before
shipping be sure that you have counted everything correctly
and sewed or tied, sewed is better, the package securely.
"The tag attached to the package, bearing the shipper's
name and post office address, is handed to a clerk who refers
to his files for a letter from that shipper; if the shipper re-
quests his furs to be held, or makes a reference to any par-
ticular skin or skins, the inspector or 'grader,' as some call
him, is notified and he governs himself accordingly.
"Mr. Grader, after opening up the package, proceeds to
grade the contents in their respective order ; he will take say
first mink, then coon, etc., sorting into number one large,
medium and small, then number twos, threes, fours, etc. Mink,
marten and otter are also sorted for colors, some firms making
dark, brown and pale, while others only sort dark and pale.
Each skin is carefully examined, and it is very rarely indeed
that an expert grader will throw a skin into the wrong 'sort.'
"After completing his grade or sort, he calls it to the
clerk or bookkeeper, who enters in his books a record of each
skin, giving the reasons for grading No. 2, 3 and 4 such as
'unprime/ 'damaged,' 'tainted,' 'summer caught,' and so on ;
the clerk now checks his book record with the shipper's letter,
70 Fur Buyers' Guide.
and if everything tallies, the furs are carried to their respec-
"In the course of my experience, I have run across some
amusing instances. It is a common occurrence to receive the
common house cat which, ignorantly or designedly, is sent as
otter or black marten. Ferrets are often sent for mink or
weasel. Common gray fox as silver grays, dogs as wolf, and
lots of times have I seen muskrat stretched like mink with
mink tails sewed on.
"That the shipper in those instances has been the victim
of some joking or unscrupulous trapper is very evident from
the indignant letter he will write to the dealer. He doesn't
stop to think that he is the one who has been fooled, but im-
mediately accuses the dealer to whom he has shipped of 'beat-
"Sometimes coon, skunk and so on will reach the dealer
with fat on, or in a partly green state. This shouldn't be, both
from the dealer's and trapper's point of view. Skins shipped
in that condition are very liable to taint or slip. Sometimes
they are rendered absolutely worthless, and the trapper thus
loses the fruit of his labors. They are handed to the fleshers
who scrape, stretch and dry them.
"Every section of the continent produces a different quality
of fur ; the mink from Texas and Louisiana differ from those
of Kansas and Nebraska. Nebraska and Kansas differ again
from Missouri and Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin differ from
Canada, Eastern Canada differs from Western Canada, and so
on. So you will readily understand, Mr. Trapper, that the man
who does the grading must be an expert at his work ; only
after years of experience can a fur grader fill such a position.
Each kind and class of fur is put in a pile by itself and is so
offered to the manufacturers ; if the dealer is doing an export
business, that is, shipping to the London sales, his furs are
compressed and baled and shipped across the Atlantic, there to
be sold by auction at the quarterly sales, held in January, March,
June and October of each year.
The Inspection Room. 71
"These sales are largely attended. Buyers are there from
every part of the world, including New York and Chicago, and
it very often happens that the New York and Chicago dealers
buy lots of fur in London and bring them back to this country
at 20 or 30 per cent less than they cost the dealer.
"So you see, Mr. Trapper, that the dealer's lot is 'not
"I close with this advice to trappers. First find a reliable
house then stay with them. Stretch and dry your skins thor-
oughly before shipping, sew your packages securely, put on a
tag bearing plainly your name and address, and write the same
day stating the number and kind of skins you have shipped ;
it's then 'up to' the dealer to do the rest, and if he's reliable
he will do it. He's in business to stay, and he knows that he
can not keep a business up if he doesn't treat his shippers
WHY TRAPPERS SELL AT HOME.
CHE following was written under date of April 8,
191 5, by Mr. G. S. Eddings from Southeastern
British Columbia, some 300 miles from Van-
couver, Canada, and about the same distance from
Spokane, Washington, his trapping grounds being in the
Rocky Mountains. Mr. Eddings has followed trapping
for a quarter of a century and what he has to say should
have some weight. While there are honest dealers it is
too true that many take advantage of the shipper, whether
trapper or small dealer, when furs are sent in to them
Requests to hold furs separate has helped to some extent
yet the dishonest will find some way to take advantage.
The quoting of more than market value is mostly done to
induce shipments. Dealers know that when furs come
from a long distance there is little danger of the owner
showing up even if they are graded severely. Again the
fact should not be overlooked that many dealers and ex-
porters of raw furs lost heavily on purchases made in
1913 and early in 1914, yet there is no denying the fact
that incorrect or dishonest grading has caused many
trappers, country collectors and dealers to "sell at home''
where they can see the grading.
"I have several of the books that you publish and seeing
your advertisment wanting photographs and measurements of
Raw Furs for a new book, I will give you a few measurements
Why Trappers Sell at Home.
of some furs I caught in this part of British
Columbia, Canada, that I happened to take
measurements of, season 1914-15," writes G.
"Largest beaver, length 40 inches, width 33
inches. This was the largest beaver I ever
caught. The smallest ones caught here in the
spring, almost one year old, vary from 24 to
27 inches in length and from 21 to 24 inches
in width. The average size for large here is
about 36 inches length and 30 inches width
and they vary all sizes between small and large
in a lot of 40 skins.
"The largest fisher, 33 inches from nose
to root of tail, length of tail 21 inches, total
length from nose to tip of tail 54 inches;
width at base 8i inches, at shoulders Gi- inches.
This one however was a little over the aver-
age for large ones. Smallest fisher, length
nose to root of tail 27 inches, tail 17 inches,
total length 44 inches ; width at base 6i inches,
shoulders 5i inches. These measurements
taken from a lot of twelve skins.
"Largest mink, nose to root of tail 24, tail
92", total 33i inches; width at base 4|, shoul-
ders 3|. This though was over-size for aver-
age large ones. Smallest mink, nose to root
of tail, 161 inches, tail 6, total 224 inches; width at base 3|,
shoulders 3 inches. Taken from a lot of fourteen skins from
mink caught about the middle of March. While all mink are
darker in the fall and early winter note the color of the one
shown which was caught in March.
"White weasel, largest nose to root of tail 14, length of
tail 7 to 9, total 21 to 23 inches ; width at base 2f , shoulders 2i
inches. Smallest weasel, length 8 inches, tails 3 to 31, total
length 11 to lU inches; width at base If, shoulders If inches.
Varying to all sizes between smallest to the largest. Taken
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Why Trappers Sell at Home.
from a lot of fifty skins. Measurements taken from flesh
side of all skins.
"The men that do all the hard work and furnish the raw
material for the Fur Trade to do business with, take the risk,
assume the hardships and finally accept one-half the real value
of their catch of raw furs.
These are facts which no one
cane deny. I have never seen
or shipped to any house that
would give you a square deal
all the time. In my 25 years
of handling raw furs I have
not found one. They will
flood the country with fic-
titious price lists and market
conditions. But that is only
the least part of the skin
game. If they should pay
w^hat their price list quotes on
the different grades -but they
won't grade fair. Let me say
right there is where you get
it proper and you get it all
the time. It is hard to take
your bunch of skins in the
months of December and
January, prime, nice, clean,
well handled, and have the
large ones marked on the re-
turns Large No. 2 or maybe
some of them No. 1 medium.
The medium will be small and
No. 2s. The dark ones will be
average color; brown will be pale; pale will be No. 3 and
"The illustration shows two large, prime skins both caught
in the month of December. The prairie wolf, or coyote, being
of the following dimensions: Length of pelt 47, tail 16, total
BRITISH COLUMBIA PRAI-
RIE WOLF AND SIL-
'jG Fur Buyers' Guide.
63, greatest width \\\, shoulders 10 inches. The other pelt is
a silver fox of the following dimensions : length of pelt 38,
tail 19, total 57, greatest width 94, shoulders 8 inches.
"Not only are skins of this size often graded as medium
but are sometimes classed as rubbed, poorly furred or even
shedders. When we trappers get grading of this kind is it any
wonder that a price list means little or nothing?
"Now just take any price list at random from anyone of
the different houses, look at the range of prices and grade.
You can see quickly where you will get skinned from one-half
to three-quarters of the real value. You have got to take their
word for everything and three thousand miles, more or less,
apart you have got a lot to say. Of course you can put a valua-
tion on your skins and if they don't pay what you expect they
will return them. But see here they sometimes do not return
the bunch you sent in. I honestly believe some lots were re-
turned that did not contain a single skin that was sent. Your
furs were good and they wanted them, they have got them,
they are going to keep them. If you send the bunch you got
back from them to some other house you won't get enough
to pay the express on them. What are you going to do? You
can write and 'holler' all you are a mind to but you are a poor
working man. You have got nothing. No one pays any atten-
tion to you. The laws of the country, it seems, are made
to protect the same thieves that rob you. They are all after
money, I guess, and you have none, so you are not in it
anyway. Some magazines and publications say that the adver-
tisers in their columns are honest and reliable ; if not so will
discontinue their advertisements. Well that should not fool
anyone. If they should do that, cut out the dishonest ones,
they would have very few fur advertisements. All publications
are after the money and they have got to get it or can't live.
"Sometimes a fur house will give you the top price and
grade on the first lot that you ship them. Nearly every time it
is just a bait to catch you with your big bunch and of course
all your friends every time. Even your friends will turn you
down after that.
Why Trappers Sell at Home. 'jj
"It is amusing if you don't have any furs to sell to watch
the price lists as they come out. Every one says the demand
for furs is greater all the time as the season advances ; that lots
of manufacturers have delayed purchasing until late. Conse-
quences are that furs of all kinds are advancing in price but
they must soon go down. Ship all you catch and all you can
buy at once. Every bunch you send you will get less than you
did for the one before. Yet the price lists get higher each
"Another thing you will always see when you are away
back in the woods or mountains and can't get out until March
to ship your furs, that by the time the furs reach the dealer
there has always been a slump in the market. Your skins that
were caught in December and January are springy, faded, shed-
ders, Nos. 2 and 3. Now you don't suppose they got that way
in the baggage car in transit because the weather had turned
mild and a thaw was on do you? For my part I know very
well the skins were all right. Anyone that has trapped and
handled furs for 25 years don't need to have anyone tell him
when a skin is springy, faded, shedder, large, small, No. 1 or
No. 2. I am in British Columbia, Canada, at present and I
know part of the time what a skin is just as well as they do in
New York, St. Louis or other markets.
Why is not a No. 1 skin sold in May or June just as good
and worth just as much money as when sold in January? I
am 300 miles from Vancouver, British Columbia or the same
distance from Spokane, Washington. If you send furs to either
city you will not get as much generally as to ship them east
and sometimes you hardly get anything. On the other hand if
you happen to be going into these places and take some furs
with you going to the same places you shipped to — of course
they don't know anyone. When you go in they will start to
play you for a fool like they do everyone. Later, or as soon
as they see you know something about the game, they will quiet
down and you can soon make a deal.
"Two years ago the latter part of May we sold furs for
one-third more than we had gotten by shipping east in the
78 Fur Buyers' Guide.
winter and one-half to two-thirds more than we had received
by shipping to the same houses earlier. It makes about a good
one-half average more all around when you can walk right up
face to face with Mr. Skinner and beard him in his lair. They
want furs all right and will pay for them when they can't steal
them. When you ship they have all the say and will surely skin
you nine times out of ten. Say, that is hard earned money at
best, at any season, for the trapper.
"Trappers that know what fur is and put it up to the dealer
in shape are surely entitled to some part of its real worth. So
long as the system they now have prevails I don't see how we can
expect for anything better. If the trapper would do like the
dealer he would be sent to the pen for defrauding people through
the mails. Trappers could form an association if they would, but
they won't stick together. The prices are all right, but the
grading, with many it is down right thievery. The highway
robber is entitled to some respect but this, The Royal Order
of Skinners, seems to have none at all."
BUYERS AND COLLECTORS.
RECENT TACTICS. — The country fur buyer and
local town buyer does not wait now-a-days for the
trapper to bring in his catch, but go out after it,
visiting him at home and on the trapping ground as
well, in a large part of the old settled country. Such are
the conditions that largely exist in the New England
States, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin,
Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and
southern Quebec and Ontario, Canada. In Kansas, Ne-
braska, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma there are not
so many traveling buyers and more furs go direct from
trappers and small collectors to St. Louis, Mo. In the
Dakotas, Rocky Mountain sections and much of Canada
the fur catchers are so scattered that a large per cent is
shipped direct to New York, St. Louis, Chicago, Minne-
apolis, Detroit, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. The
last three named being in Canada, receive Canadian furs
San Francisco, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Victoria
and Vancouver dealers also receive more or less furs
direct from trappers and buyers but principally from the
states west of the Rocky mountains as well as British
Columbia, Yukon and Alaska, although of recent years
a greater per cent has been sent by mail direct to mar-
kets farther east.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia the
furs are bought by hucksters, merchants and produce
dealers to a greater extent than elsewhere. In the south
and southwest they are bought by dealers in the larger
cities although hucksters, merchants and produce men
handle considerable quantities. The steam launch is
much used to visit trappers located along the larger of
the streams throughout the South, as the weather never
gets cold enough to
stop water navigation.
House boats are also
used to some extent.
Perhaps the horse-
back fur buyer is
more numerous in the
south than elsewhere,
although their num-
bers are becoming less
in all parts of Amer-
ica as roads become
better, so that travel-
ing with wheeled ve-
hicles is possible. Automobiles are also being used and
perhaps in greatest numbers in the East and Central
Within a radius of say a hundred miles of any im-
-portant fur center, many trappers take their catch to mar-
ket so that there is not much left for the traveling fur
buyer in such localities, whether he resides in the country
among the trappers or in some village. Trappers who
take their catch to a city where there are several buyers
A HORSE-BACK FUR BUYER.
Buyers and Collectors. 8i
usually manage to get about all their furs are worth by
visiting several buyers, getting offers, then selling.
Once furs were low and the demand weak so that
the trapper sold most of his furs through seeking a buyer.
But under the conditions of higher prices and strong de-
mand, a large share of his furs are sold at home. The
earliest of these visiting buyers collected goods with a
team. Now horses are too slow a means of conveyance
when roads and the automobile has taken their place.
With many buyers after the furs it is a question of pick-
ing them up quickly if a competitor is to be beaten and
new customers can not be secured nor the old held, if
horse travel is depended upon.
Not many years ago trappers did not expect to sell
any furs green. Now^ the traveling buyer will generally
buy the green and unskinned furs just as quickly as the
cured skins. If he waits until he can call again, the
chances are that such green furs will be sold to another
Money Furnished. — It is a common practice, in
some localities, with local collectors at present, to fur-
nish men and money to buy furs for them. At stated
intervals they come -and take up what has been collected
or have it shipped in to them. These buyers are usually
trappers who imagine that they understand assorting furs
properly, but much haphazard work is done by them,
partly to secure as many furs as possible and partly to beat
some other sub-buyer and largely through lack of knowl-
edge. But he who hired them is so anxious to secure a
large lot of furs that he overlooks a lot of bad dealing on
the part of his noncompetents, and then he is not proof
Fur Buyers' Guide.
against making bad purchases himself. No matter how
much in error some of his little assistants are, he must
pay them the promised commission on all they collect.
Getting Business. — To become a successful fur
buyer and seller is not learned in a day, month or year as
a knowledge is required not only of the various raw furs
but experience in dealing with trappers as well as the
large buyer is part of the game. The most successful
buyers as a rule began in a small way, buying of trappers
in their neighbor-
hood and extend-
ing their buying
as they became
better posted in
A good many
years ago the
money to numer-
ous buyers to col-
lect for him. During those years thousands of dollars
was loaned buyers and not a cent lost. Money thus fur-
nished buyers they regarded as honor bound to return.
I never charged interest, seldom asked them to sign a
note for the amount, treated such buyers fairly and re-
ceived practically all the furs they collected. Towards
spring the amount loaned was deducted from their pur-
chases. No large amount was furnished any one buyer
for at that time my buying was largely in the counties of
Gallia and Meigs in Ohio and Mason, West Virginia.
Traveling was mainly by horseback or horse and two-
A COUNTRY COLLECTOR OF FURS
Buyers and Collectors. 83
wheeled cart (as roads were not piked then). I made
the rounds about every two weeks during November, De-
cember, January, February and March.
The first years that I bought my collections were
sold mainly to traveling buyers. Later I secured a posi-
tion on salary and traveled parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania,
West Virginia and Kentucky. I gave up the traveling
position spring of 1897 ^^^ '^^ November of the same
year began buying at Gallipolis, Ohio, on my own ac-
count. I placed advertisements in the county and other
papers and bought tens of thousands of skins the first
At that time competition was probably not so keen
as now yet many today are buying thousands of skins
each season from trappers and small collectors in numer-
ous small towns and cities through advertising and price
lists. Dealers of this kind, if reliable, soon become
known to trappers and a good many furs are also brought
Buying furs right is not all. Selling is fully as im-
portant. The town buyers and dealers in the East usually
sell at home. In the South, West and North where
traveling buyers are few and far between the majority
of furs are shipped to some of the raw fur centers. Dur-
ing my years in the fur buying and selling business I sold
mainly at home although have made numerous shipments
to about all of the leading markets. Returns in some
instances were quite satisfactory while others v^ere not
what they should have been by any means. One season
I shipped several thousand dollars' worth to a New York
firm by special agreement, that is, they allowed what I
84 Fur Buyers' Guide.
considered market price and a per cent added. At times
the grading was a little too severe. One year with an-
other, best results — most money received — I found was
had by selling to traveling representatives who called
and looked at my goods at my place of business.
Under date of November 5, 1897, the Weekly Trib-
une of Gallipolis, Ohio, as a news item, published the
NEW RAW FUR HOUSE.
**A. R. Harding, who has been employed as traveling
agent for some years by an Ohio firm, has established in
business on his own account in the building occupied by
J. M. Ruth on Third street near Court street. He Vv^ill
also handle hides, pelts, tallow, etc. Trappers and ship-
pers will find him strictly honest and at all times paying
full market value for goods sent or brought him.
"After looking around at towns in Southern Ohio,
Mr. Harding decided on this, as shipping facilities suit
him much better. His trade will not be of this county
alone, but will extend over Ohio, West Virginia, In-
diana and Pennsylvania."
Perhaps it will not be out of place to here say that
my trade the first season was not only from the states
mentioned but included New York, Michigan, Illinois
and Kentucky as well. I was one of the very first to ad-
vertise in newspapers for raw furs. Those advertise-
ments, as near as I recollect, in various papers during the
season of 1897-8 and for some years after, were as fol-
Buyers and Collectors. 85
ADVERTISEMENT NO. i.
Clf IIMIC C-oon, mink, muskrat
wHURII and all other raw furs
wanted to fill manufacturing and
export orders. Send for prices.
A. R. HARDING, Gallipolis, Ohio
This advertisement is one-half inch or seven lines.
It was used in the farm papers mainly, including Far-
mers' Guide, Huntington, Indiana; Ohio Farmer, Cleve-
land, Ohio; National Stockman & Farmer, Pittsburg,
Penn. ; Farm Journal, Philadelphia, Penn., at a cost rang-
ing from about 25 cents up to $3.50 a line or $1.75 to
$24.50 for each paper per insertion. These small adver-
tisements appeared in the weeklies during November and
the November issue of the Farm Journal which is pub-
lished monthly. The advertising rates in these period-
icals is considerable higher now.
ADVERTISEMENT NO. 2.
I $S0,000 WORTH I
T To fill American Manufactur- ^
T ing and Foreign Export or- ^
T ders. Send for prices, v
I A. R. HARDING *
f GALLIPOLIS. O. «^
86 Fur Buyers' Guide.
During the months of November and December I
ran an advertisement in adjoining county papers as well
as a few other local or county papers in Southern Ohio
and West Virginia, where I thought furs were most
plentiful. The cost for this ranged from about $1.50 to
$4.00 for the two months, in each paper, depending upon
their circulation which was probably from less than 1,000
to nearly 3,000. See advertisement No. 2.
In the home or Gallipolis weekly papers I used
larger space — 4 to 6 inches double column — occasion-
ally at a cost varying from $1.50 to $3.00 per week de-
pending upon number of consecutive weeks used as well
as the circulation of the paper. Most publishers claim
for their paper the largest circulation, greatest influence,
etc., so that the buyers of space must judge for them-
selves largely. A pretty safe rule to follow is to use those
carrying most advertising as chances are they have the
largest circulation. Where the rates in your county
papers are cheap it probably is advisable to use a little
space in each. When I established in Gallipolis there were
three county papers in the city and I used them all. The
copy of this advertisement was as follows :
Buyers and Collectors. S7
ADVERTISEMENT NO. 3.
Wanted Raw Furs!
To Fill an
1 000 Skunk 1 0,000 Muskral 1 0.000 Opossum
5 000 Mink 5.000 Coon 2,000 HouseCat
1 ,000 Red Fox 500 Grey Fox 500 Wild Cat
'100 Bear 100 Otter
For which I will pay highest market Cash Price
-ALSO DEALER IN—
Hides, Pelts, Tallow, Etc.
Bring your Raw Furs when coming to town, or ship them at
my expense. Remember, that I am the only dealer in this part of
the state that deals direct with MANUFACTURERS and
Reference: First National Bank or the editor of this paper.
Office with J. M. Ruth, on Third near Court Street
Write for my quotations, which will be cheerfully sent
at any time.
A. R. HARDING, Gallipolis, Ohio
88 Fur Buyers' Guide.
The first season I purchased something like $I5;-
ooo.oo. Remember, this was season of 1897-8 when skunk
for best sold around $1.00, opossum less than 25, mink
and coon but little more than $1.00 for best anl other
furs proportionately low. Had prices been as high as
long about 1911-12 my purchases would have been well
up to $50,000.00. Thousands of dollars' worth of furs
were brought direct to me not only by trappers but buy-
ers in Gallia and adjoining counties, while those consid-
erable distance away were shipped. All shippers were
kept regularly posted. I wrote many of my buyers quot-
ing prices for the various furs in their locality, good for
a week, ten days or maybe twO' weeks, depending upon
the condition of the market.
To make a success at buying furs, especially building
up a shipping trade, requires thought and foresight. Your
buyers must have prices as high as any reliable firm is
sending out and as quick as the other fellow to be able
to get their share of the furs.
Conditions have changed a great deal since I was in
the raw fur business at Gallipolis. As already stated
there were' few advertising for raw furs then. It was
also before the days of fur magazines and price lists
were mainly of the one price kind. During recent years
numerous dealers from not only the leading raw fur cen-
ters, but many of the smaller places, are advertising for
raw furs. The best mediums to advertise in are of much
importance. Briefly this may be said to include county
or local papers to leading national publications and trade
magazines, depending upon how much of the country it is
desired to reach.
Buyers and Collectors. . 89
Local Buyers. — There are three classes of local
buyers. One is the large town buyer who often collects
from $10,000 to $15,000 worth before selling. The next
is the village buyer who collects from $600 to $800 up
to $1,200 to $1,500 worth before he will consider any
offers, if buying on his own account. If he happens to
be buying for the bigger town dealer then his collections
do not accumulate to any great size before some one who
is in the employ of the dealer, to whom the furs are con-
tracted, comes along and gathers them up.
Many times agents for the large fur houses who
travel only by rail, hear of a good bunch of furs at one of
these small towns and stop off, hoping to buy the lot,
only to find that the furs are being collected for the big
speculator and are not for sale.
The third is the country buyer who is often a man
with sufficient capital to make a collection of several
thousand dollars' worth. Some of them have built a fur
house while others keep their collections in the barn or
grain house or other building that is dry and can be
locked. This latter class are exceedingly shrewd and
some of the hardest bargains are driven by them when
they sell their collection.
The country dealer usually sends word to several
important buyers stating that he will try to sell on a cer-
tain day. If interested, they may be on hand. It is sel-
dom that any of those notified fail to appear and there
may be another one or two who come uninvited. Only
one of their number can buy the goods and a pretty strife
ensues to see who shall land the collection. The offers
having all been made, the owner may reject them entirely
90 Fur Buyers' Guide.
if none are high enough to meet his ideas. It happens
sometimes that he will close a deal before the crowd of
bidders disperse by inducing a certain one to raise his
own bid. It is not often that any money is to be made
by the party who gets the goods at such an auction sale
and the chance to lose is quite possible.
The traveling representative of a large fur house
sometimes encounters the country buyer in town when
a good sized lot of furs are for sale. The traveling buyer
has hard and fast rules for assorting furs and the limit
laid down that he may add to what the goods figure up.
He can not forge ahead of the market price. His local
competitor is buying with his own money and is not
limited except that he expects to use common sense. But
he wants the fur. It is a big bunch and he would have
to travel quite a few days to accumulate so many furs.
He has found out by experience that every thousand dol-
lars' worth of furs he is able to add to his collection will
make it so much more desirable on account of size. He
lays his plan to beat the traveling agent by two different
means. First, he assorts the goods as liberally as he pos-
sibly can and do justice to himself. Next, he raises prices
to a safe point, as he thinks, according to future pros-
pects. Before leaving the fur room, he kicks his assort
over and mixes up every grade with other grades so that
his competitor will have nothing to work on except his
own judgment when he comes to examine the goods. It
is hardly worth while to say that the Country Buyer
secures the furs, while the traveling agent who offered
a good price, goes away wondering what sort of a bump-
kin he encountered.
Buyers and Collectors. 91
In the case of the large lots held at the principal
towns, it is somewhat different. The owner usually sends
word to a certain fur firm or agent in whom he has con-
fidence, that on such a date he will be ready for an offer
on his collections. It may require days to look at a large
lot even when the muskrats are figured at a flat price.
But it takes much time to turn and examine 3,000 skunks
or more and perhaps 800 mink, 500 coon, etc. When
the assort has been made and everything figured up and
added together, let it not be supposed that he can buy
the lot. Not at what it figures on the fairest assortment.
It is rare that any sizable lot of furs ever is bought at
actual value. Percentages must be added and often a
little more on top of that to make even money.
The large dealer knows that after a buyer has spent
several days looking at his furs, he will not leave them
until he has added on the last dollar to his figures that
can possibly be done. It is the dealer's opportunity to
make some easy money and he takes advantage of it. The
offer made may net him a good profit but he keeps his
own counsel and without changing countenance he says,
"Your figures .will just about let me out even. I am
afraid I can not sell to you unless you add considerable
to your price. I've spent a lot of time on this fur and
have hired help to buy and handle it here in the house.
Now I'll tell you what is the best that I can do. You add
5% to your figures and the goods are yours."
If the truth had been told, the liberal assort given
him and the advanced prices made him a reasonable
profit, outside of all his expense, but the stakes have been
stuck and it is meet the demands or leave it and lose all
92 Fur Buyers' Guide.
the labor expended. The same buyer feels that such a
demand in the way of percentage is plain extortion but
he can not help himself. If he leaves the lot behind, the
next place he visits the deatl may be equally difficult and
who wants to run around all the season and not buy any
So the dealer makes a sale at his own terms and is
secretly exultant. He knew how it would come out be-
forehand. He has made a study of human nature to such
good purpose that it has enabled him to obtain a dona-
tion of several hundred dollars on top. of fair profits. It
is just like finding money. Once in a while a dealer that
is particularly candid will tell you that the most of his
profits these' days are derived from what he forces the
buyer to add on to his original offer. "In fact," said
one, "that is the only way to make any money in the fur
deal." Another says, "The trapper is continually posted
on the market. He receives price lists from everywhere
and knows what furs are worth just as well as we do.
We have to pay him New York quotations and give him
an assort that we can't get out on, so how are we going
to make any money unless we get a percentage added to
the first figures when we unload?"
The foregoing remarks refer to buying and selling
methods in ordinary years, excluding depression in busi-
ness, panics or foreign wars. In good times quite a num-
ber of raw fur firms endeavor to establish buying agen-
cies in the larger towns, such agents being men whO' are
engaged in handling furs, wool, hides and pelts. Such
negotiations are usually begun early in the season, some-
times in mid-summer, so that when the active buying
Buyers and Collectors. 93
season begins, a single fur firm of New York, Chicago,
Detroit, or elsewhere has a large number of buying agents
who are well established business men. Such buying
points are distributed so that trade will be drawn from
every county. This system makes a bad condition for
the traveling agent who is employed to buy for fur houses
who have no agencies. The field is so well taken up by
agencies who buy on contract or commission that the
traveling buyer is left but few places to visit. It has
driven quite a number ofif the road or at least prevented
them from even starting out.
These contracts are only binding for one season and
must be renewed yearly. It frequently happens that one
who has acted as agent for a certain house one season,
makes a contract to buy for a different house the next
season, depending upon the terms offered and what sort
of experience was had with the former engagement. If
the treatment was not deemed satisfactory, the contract
to buy furs the coming season is made with another
firm, or the grievances may have been so many and fla-
grant as tO' cause disgust with buying on a commission
contract and hereafter they will buy on their own account.
Fur collectors of the North and Northwestern wilds,
where there are nO' railroads, operate with boats when
the lakes and streajns are open and in winter with dogs
and sledge, just as in the old days. If operating on Hud-
son Bay territory, the purchases are largely secured from
the Indians. These small collectors cut into the trade
and are a source of annoyance for the old company. To
discourage them as much as possible, the Hudson Bay
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Company will not sell supplies to the small trader or
assist him in any way.
In a measure the Hudson Bay Company have the
equity in the case, for they stake the Indians with needful
supplies in advance of the fur catch, trusting them to
bring in their furs in payment. If they sell to the outside
dealer (known as Free Traders) the chances are that the
NORTHERN FUR BUYERRS — MACKENZIE RIVER DISTRICT.
Sndian who has received such supplies will continue in
debt to the company. At the best, he usually owes them
the year round.
The small or outside trader has found here, that by
giving a little more for furs and more goods in trade
than the Indian has been used to receiving, will induce
him to put honor and obligation to the Hudson Bay Com-
Buyers and Collectors. 95
pany aside. Those who have had much experience in
the handhng of furs have found others than Indians that
do not always Hve up to agreements.
Years ago Revillion Freres Trading Company, Lim-
ited, estabhshed fur trading posts throughout Northern
Canada. Many posts of this and the Hudson Bay Com-
pany were within a few rods of each other sO' that strong
competition has been the result at such posts. The Re-
villion Freres Company has about a hundred trading
posts in Canada and the Hudson Bay Company some
three hundred. Neither company controls or owns the
exclusive right to trade or buy furs of Indians and other
hunters and trappers so that there are many independent
buyers (called Free Traders) who buy where there are
Posts as well as elsewhere in Canada.
When furs are in great demand, the strife between
buyers is terrific, as each endeavors to secure the most
furs. If opportunity is presented to crush a competitor
it is done without the slightest compunction of conscience.
As one buyer expressed it : 'Tt is a case of dog eat dog."
The above expresses boom times, conditions when
any amount of capital is in sight and the speculator is
hungry for furs, all he can get and pay for, at least. But
let depression occur, so that the made up articles of fur
do not sell or the world's market has been destroyed,
then the great army of fur speculators with their branches
and big resources as quickly halt and sink from view.
BUYING AND SELLING.
BUYING. — The inexperienced buyer will have more
difficulty in buying the late caught furs than with
any other. The early caught will turn blue and
"speak for themselves," as a rule. Opossum is an
exception and even when caught early and with little
or nO' fur, the pelt may appear prime. With ''springy"
furs you will have more or less trouble from the first
of February; fox, coyote, wolves may be rubbed, coon
and skunk are shedding and also become thin pelted;
mink are shedding and have lost their best color. When
badly rubbed or shedding it is easy to tell, but with furs
that have only begun to shed is where the inexperienced
lose out. During the spring months, nine times out of
ten', the market is a declining one and in addition to furs
being graded hard, prices generally tend lower each week.
The water animals — otter, beaver, muskrat are at their
best during the spring months and as a rule do not de-
cline at this season of the year like the land animals.
Bear is another animal whose fur is best during the
spring months and even into June in the northern local-
Trappers and fur catchers often have poor memories
and some deliberately lie as to time a certain pelt or pelts
were caught. A buyer that has had much experience
can tell pretty close to the date. Suppose it is early in
Buying and Selling.
98 Fur Buyers' Guide.
December that a buyer is looking at a trapper's or fur
hunter's catch. Certain skins are blue indicating that
they have been caught for weeks — probably latter part
of October. The buyer calls attention to these skins,
saying they are early caught. While the fur owner need
not tell when caught they are pretty apt to say that the
first pelt was taken on a certain night only a week or
two before. The experienced buyer knows better and if
a good trader generally buys the furs graded down to
where they belong. It is not advisable to dispute date
that the owner says they were caught but show him the
During my first years at buying I recall the follow-
ing: On October 9th I had some business in a little
town some fifteen miles away. Some five miles before
reaching the village I passed a house where a medium
coon and skunk skin (both fresh) were stretched and
hung up to dry under a shed. About five weeks later,
when I had begun to buy furs, I called on the party where
I had seen the two skins. He had those two and several
others as well which had been caught since. The coon
was graded to No. 3 and the skunk, which was a short
stripe, to No. 3. The owner wanted those skins to grade
better. I told him that I presumed they had been caught
about October 10. (I was pretty sure they had been
caught on the night of the 8th). Oh, no! he replied,
there is not a skin here that was caught until after No-
I took the two skins and laid them by some recently
caught and had no trouble in buying them graded where
Buying and Selling. 99
Throughout the Central West and Northwest trading
in dealer's lots is usually flat, regardless of size or color,
also allowing a small per cent of blue pelts on such
articles as skunk, civet, opossum, coyote, wildcat, musk-
rat and ermine. Higher priced furs such as mink, fox,
raccoon, otter, beaver, marten, etc., are graded first as
to primeness of pelt, then as to size, grading into three
sizes — ^ large, medium, small. The prime skins are as-
sorted separate from the unprime.
In the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin,
Minnesota, Dakotas and other parts of the Northwest,
skunk are practically all long and narrow stripes so that
a buyer soon learns how an original lot of skunk from a
certain locality will grade out.
Sometimes a collector can profit by selling skunk to
one house, mink to another, fox to another, rats to an-
other, etc. The reason for so doing being, that the re-
spective wants of the various houses or taking chances
on London sales, causes them to give a liberal assortment
and advanced prices. As a rule, however, it is policy to
sell collections in original lots, that is, as bought.
Selling. — Some may ask how the countfy^jur
buyer makes any money after spending his time and keep-
ing a team or an auto in repair while he drives around
over rough roads and pays outside prices for furs coupled
with assortments that are much too liberal.
The question is not so difficult to answer as may be
thought. The wise collector of furs keeps accumulating
until he has a large bunch. Representatives of strong
fur firms are out and hunting for good sized collections
and he who buys a lot of seyeral hundred dollars' worth
loo Fur Buyers' Guide.
does not expect to secure it at actual quotations. He
either offers special prices or if not able to do that, as-
sorts the lot in a most liberal way and after figuring up
at his limits, frequently adds 5% or more to his figures.
The shrewd country buyer keeps account of all his
purchases so that his book shows him at all times what
he has paid out to the cent and the exact number of furs
on hand of every kind. When he comes to sell he
prompts the visiting buyer when he sees any sign of
failing to be liberal in grading. Considerable bluffing
enters into the transaction and if he finally sells, you can
safely wager that with liberal grading and percentage
added he has secured the last dollar that gab, bombast,
feigned independence and indifference could achieve.
Bluff, banter and an independent mien and some-
times deceit is practiced and every trump card played to
induce the traveling raw fur buyer to write a bigger
check than the lot is worth.
When the deal has been made and to the satisfaction
of the country buyer who sold, can you not see how he
makes some profit, regardless of his liberality when he
bought of the trappers ?
To be lofty, arbitrary and dignified is a leading char-
acteristic in the experienced local raw fur collector when
he tries to sell his holdings if the market has been excited
or advancing and traveling buyers are numerous. He
is often too shrewd to commit himself in any way. If
asked how much it will take to buy his collection he will
not set a price for fear he will not ask enough. He
merely answers, ''Go ahead and look at It and give me
Buying and Selling. ioi
your offer and I'll tell you mighty quick whether you get
it or not."
When the offer is made, if it happens to be more
than he expected, he conceals his surprise and putting on
a look of disappointment mingled with contempt for the
agent and his small offer, demands a figure considerably
above the offer. If the goods are nice and furs are in
good demand, the owner frequently succeeds in securing
a compromise, or split, between the high figure demanded
and the original offer. Such an excess over valuation as
this, when obtained, is all clear gain; we may say and
rightly, that it is a gift and unearned.
Fur buying is largely a gamble and selling full of
bluff as a game of poker, under a condition of high
prices and an advancing market. When important fur
markets of the world have been lost by a great war or
business depression or unseasonably warm weather has
occurred, then all confidence and independence and bluff
formerly accompanying the selling of furs, is not seen.
This chapter is intended to show up some of the
methods practiced in fur buying and selling not often
mentioned. It is to reveal the strife among competing
buyers and the length to which some go who are greedy
and make the handling of raw furs not only a speculation
but a gamble as well.
We can hardly brand it as dishonest to sell our furs
as high as possible so long as deceit is not practiced. The
trapper gets liberal assort and outside prices from us and
we feel that we must sell in the same way to get any
pay for our trouble.
The most money is made on furs, as a rule, when
prices start moderately low at the beginning of the raw
Fur Buyers' Guide,
' ' '-l'-ft,.%;'
■¥'3'5 :, ■ ' t
WS:iM'':t-i~-,: f ■ '"•'>■
:#l|pp«^p- ? :^---
Buying and Selling. 103
fur season. If prices are low or even conservative, the
chances of prices advancing while goods are on your
hands, are far better than when prices paid were high.
As prices usually do start at moderate figures and ad-
vance slowly for a few weeks, the bulk of profits secured
for a season are made before the holidays or at the first
big "clean up."
Early Collections. — The continual rise of prices
renders a collection more valuable each day and piles up
the profits. Another way that money is made on autumn
furs is that some skins purchased as No. 2's or blue
pelts, sell for prime or No. i, because they were not suffi-
ciently unprime to be readily noticed by the big dealer
while hurriedly assorting. In order to please the fur
owner he also makes every slightly unprime skin a No. i
that he dares and not get called down too hard by his
In certain years mink which were purchased in No-
vember at a fair price have sold at one dollar rise each
per skin six weeks later. This is a good fat profit for the
country buyer and covers all unwise and overly liberal
deals he has made and leaves a good margin of profit
After mid-winter when mink are becoming lighter in
color and no further rise in prices can be expected, there
is practically no room for speculation and profits are
generally small. What I wish to impress upon the buyer
is, that he should endeavor to collect all the furs he pos-
sibly can, just as soon as the trapper has accumulated a
bunch and will sell during November and the first half
I04 Fur Buyers' Guide.
of December. Then prices are often the lowest of the
season and fall collections are the heaviest.
When the fall and early winter catch has been made
and sold, the catch after that is much smaller and in
some sections there will hardly any be caught because
they do not exist. In cold regions winter largely curtails
the trapper and fur hunter's movements.
So if you are going to buy furs, get out after them
early and travel fast and work hard. You can rest a
plenty a few weeks later. No matter how much capital
you may have, it will be useless when your competitors
have picked up part of the furs and the boys have shipped
Furs Brought In. — After you have become estab-
lished as a buyer, some furs will be brought to you.
Then is when opportunities will come to buy for what
furs are worth. Not in all cases, for some fur owners
drive the hardest kind of a bargain always. But as a gen-
eral rule, you can buy furs or anything else nearer to
what it is worth, when it comes to you, than when you
are obliged to go after it. When you drum up trade,
he who owns the goods, thinks you are anxious to have
furs in your possession and so acts independent to get a
If you live in the colder latitudes a good many skins
will come in green and frozen which must be thawed and
placed on boards. Sometimes mink are brought in un-
skinned and frozen. These should be bought at a price
low enough to pay you well for thawing out and skin-
ning. Usually the owner expects such deduction will be
Buying and Selling. 105
You will find cases where you can never buy at a
reasonable price from certain individuals. They seem to
want it all, market price and profits, too. Some buyers
steer clear of the inordinately greedy fur owner. It
does not pay to banter half a day or more and not trade
or else make a bad deal. There are other instances where
too big demands are made because the fur holder is not
ready to sell. Where this sort of fellow exists do not
crowd him. Make your offer and then let him alone for
a few days. He must sell somewhere and you do not
want the fur if it can not be bought right. Every week
that he holds his unprime furs they will look worse and
more unprime and presently he comes across and informs
you that you can have that fur now at the price you
made him some days ago.
Now and then a pelt will be found that although
primcy has no fur. Either mange or some obscure ail-
ment has weakened the victim so that there was not suffi-
cient strength to produce the winter coat. Such a pelt
is worthless. Some skins are offered that have been
badly bitten by dogs or thickly peppered with shot. Such
damaged furs must be bought according to how much
damaged. A mink with head and shoulders shot away is
termed a "piece" at raw fur centers and the returns sel-
dom exceed a dollar.
Shipping. — There are certain times when traveling
fur buyers keep off the road — when the market is in bad
shape or the country rather bare of fur collections. Then
you may find it necessary to select some good fur firm
and ship your collection. But by all odds it is preferable
and most profitable to sell large lots to a traveling buyer
Fur Buyers' Guide.
whose prices and assortments are satisfactory when he
visits you at your home.
If you ship, keep flesh-out pelts together and those
fur-out together, mink and other small skins should be
TWO LYNX, RED AND CROSS FOX PELTS.
(1) Lynx, nose to tail, 40; greatest width, 10^/^; shoulders, 9 inches.
(2) Lynx, nose to tail, 38; greatest width, 10%; shoulders, 9 inches.
(3) Cross fox, large, length nose to root of tail, 39; greatest width,
9%; shoulders, 8 inches.
(4) Red fox, large, length nose to root of tail, 41; greatest width,
9^4; shoulders, 8 inches.
packed in bundles of six to a dozen and tied together.
It is also well to wrap them in a strong paper before
sacking them. Shipments should fit the sack snug so
that there is no tumbling around when the sack is handled.
If the sack is too large, rip it from top to bottom, lap it
Buying and Selling. 107
about your package snug and sew it with sack needle and
sack twine. Place your name and address on a tag or
card and put inside your furs besides the tag attached
outside after being sewed up. Always write a letter and
send when you ship notifying the receiver of your ship-
ment and state the number of skins contained in it of
each kind, also state if you want your goods to be kept
separate from other furs until you accept or reject their
Never crowd valuable skins into a sack with other
furs, for when rumpled and doubled up any way to get
them in, they arrive at destination mussed and wrinkled
and such a shipper does not receive the best returns. We
must bear in mind that attractive appearances count as
much in selling furs as does intrinsic worth and this
holds true in all our dealings and in social life.
In some raw fur seasons conditions are such that in-
dications point to higher prices later on. Do dealers and
exporters in the fur centers tell in their circulars and
price lists to hold collection or do they urge you to ship
at once? Many dealers seem to think that not only the
trapper but small collectors as well, are in business to
enable them (the dealer) to get rich.
If furs are to be higher later in the season it is per-
fectly right for the trapper and country fur buyer to hold
and sell when the market is higher. Of course, no one
absolutely knows the future of the market but during
years when business in general is normal they can form
a pretty fair idea. Occasionally a dealer takes a chance
and buys on an anticipated advance which does not come,
io8 Fur Buyers' Guide.
but usually prices and information sent are made up for
the sende/s benefit and not the seller's.
Exporting. — Now and then a country collector
gets the idea that there is more money made by exporting
than to sell to either a traveling buyer or ship. Occa-
sionally the exporter does well, but there is an old saying,
"Export all your furs and go broke." The charge of
London commission merchants is 6% to sell, besides the
expense of insurance, handling and freight or express so
that on light furs it costs about io% while on heavy and
cheaper goods, such as beaver, otter, coon, skunk, opos-
sum, bear the cost may be as much as 12 to 15% from
If the market is at all active just before closing dates
for goods to be shipped for the winter sales, dealers and
exporters generally "buck" one another so thai the seller
is able to get all his goods are worth. This is supposing
that he has a large lot on hand and traveling buyers
visit him, or that he has been in business long enough to
know the best houses to send furs to.
Some Canadian wholesale houses in Victoria, Van-
couver, Winnipeg, etc., make a practice of receiving furs
for sale on 5% commission. On receiving one or more
lots they notify all buyers in the city that they will receive
bids on a certain date. In this way, when the market is
active, the seller gets full value which, after deducting
commission, means more money than consigning, accord-
ing to certain large trappers and small collectors. Of
course only lots of some size (at least $100) can be
handled to best advantage.
Buying and Selling. 109
There are many good firms in the larger Canadian
cities that treat shippers fairly, but like handlers of furs
on this side of the boundary, there are those who do not
treat shippers as they should.
World's Catch. — The value of the world's catch
of raw furs is around $100,000,000, based on estimates
made by Mr, Brass, who devoted considerable time to
gathering statistics. According to his figures the yearly
value, based on three years — 1907, 1908 and 1909 — was
as follows :
North America, about $24,000,000
South America, about 2,000,000
Australia, about 6,000,000
Europe, about 24,000,000
Africa, about 2,000,000
Asia, about 26,000,000
According to the same authority the yearly catch of
the various fur animals in North America for 1907, 1908
and 1909 averaged as follows :
Muskrat or musquash 8,000,000
Fox, red 200,000
Fox, gray 50,000
Fox, white 30,000
Fox, cross 15,000
Fox, blue 6,000
Fox, silver 4,000
Fox, kit 4,000
Weasel (Ermine) 400,000
no R Bu\
Civet Cat 100,000
Lynx and Wild cat 90,000
House Cat 80,000
Prairie Wolf 40,000
Timber Wolf -. . 8,000
Bear, Black 20,000
Bear, Brown 8,000
Bear, Grizzly 1,200
Bear, White 400
Wolverine ■ 3,000
The approximate average of the world's production
yearly for the three years, 1907, 1908 and 1909, exclusive
of skins used by the natives, hunters and trappers for
supplying their own needs, was as follows :
Bears — Wihite. Polar regions, Asia and Europe,
600; America, 400. Grizzly, American, 1,200. Brown,
American, 2,000; Asia, 6,000. Black, American, 20,000;
Asia, 1,000. Common Brown, Asia, 3,000; Europe, 2,000.
Beaver. American, 80,000; Asia, 1,000; Europe, a
few skins only.
Nutria. South America, 1,000,000.
MusKRAT. America, about 8,000,000; Russia, 3,000.
Chinchilla. South America (Peru and Bolivia)
12,000. Bastard Chinchilla, Bolivia, 3,000; Chili, (South
Badger. Europe, 100,000; America, 30,000; Asia,
Japan and China, 30,000.
Squirrel. Siberia, 15,000,000; China, 500,000.
Squirrel-Tails, Siberia, 73 tons ; China, 2 tons.
Fox — Red. North America, 200,000 ; Siberia, 60,-
000; Russia, 150,000; Mongolia, China and Japan, 50,-
000; Australia, 30,000; Western and Central Asia, 50,-
000; Norway, 25,000; Germany, 250,000; other Euro-
pean countries, 350,000. Karganer Fox, Siberia and Cen-
tral Asia, 150,000. Cross Fox, America, 15,000; Siberia,
3,000. Gray Fox, North America, 50,000. Kit Fox,
North America, 4,000; Central Asia, 60,000. White Fox,
Asia, 70,000; America, 30,000; Europe, 5,000. Blue
Fox, America, 6,000; Siberia, 4,000; Northern Europe,
1,000. Silver Fox, America, 4,000; Siberia, 300. Japan
Fox (raccoon dog), Japan, 80,000; China, 150,000; Ko-
rea, 30,000. South American Foxes, Pampas Fox and
Patagonian Fox, total about 15,000.
Hamster. Germany, 2,000,000; Austria-Hungary,
Hares — Polar. Siberia, about 5,000,000; North
Weasel (Ermine). American, 400,000; Siberia,
700,000; Europe, 10,000.
Polecat (not Skunk or Civet Cat). Germany, 60,-
000; Russia and Siberia, 150,000; other European coun-
Fisher (Pekan). America, io,oco.
Rabbit, Coney. France, 30,000,000; Belgium, 20,-
000,000; Germany, 500,000; Galicia and Russia, 1,000,-
000; Australia, 20,000,000.
House Cat. — Germany, 120,000; Holland, 200,000;
Russia, 300,000; other European countries, 150,000; Asia,
China and Japan, 150,000; America, 80,000.
112 Fur Buyers Guide.
Kolinsky. Siberia, 150,000; Manchuria^ 50,000;
China (weasel) 500,000; Japan (mink) 200,000.
Lynx and Gray Wildcat. America, 90,000; Asia,
30,000; Europe, 10,000. Wildcat (other than gray)
South America, 10,000; Asia, 40,000; Europe and West-
ern Asia, 10,000.
Marten — Hudson Bay Marten or Sable. America,
120,000; Siberia, 70,000; China, 20,000; Japan, 5,000.
Baum Marten, Europe, 180,000; Northern Asia, 30,000.
Stone Marten, Europe, 350,000; Northern Asia, 30,000.
Marmot. Asia, 4,550,000; America, 30,000.
Mink. North America, 600,000; Russia and Siberia,
about 40,000; Europe, a few.
Otter, Land. America, 30,000; Asia, 55,000; South
America, 5,000; Africa, 500; Europe, 30,000. Otter,
Sea, Northern Pacific, 400.
Opossum.. Australia, 4,000,000; America, 1,000,000.
Persian and Black Lambskins. Central Asia,
Persians, 1,500,000; Broadtails, 100,000; Russia and Cen-
tral Asia, Astrakhan, 1,000,000; Crimean, 60,000; Schiras
and salted skins, 200,000.
Raccoon. North America, 600,000.
Fur Seals. Alaska, Northern and Southern waters,
Skunk. North America, 1,500,000; South America,
Civet Cat. North America, 100,000.
Wolverine. North America, 3,000; Siberia, 4,000;
Wolf — Timber. America, 8,000. Wolf, Prairie,
Buying and Selling. 113
America, 40,000; Siberia, 10,000; China, 5,000; Central
Asia and Russia, 6,000; Europe, 1,000.
These figures are given for what they may be worth
although it is well known that many species during recent
years have been hunted and trapped so closely in various
parts of the world that the annual supply is much less
today. In fact some, such as grizzly bear and sea otter,
are practically extinct. Muskrat, skunk, civet cat and
raccoon are found in America only and nearly all mink
and beaver as well are caught here, should be kept in
mind by buyers and dealers.
The rise and fall in value of certain furs, owing to
the demand or fashion fancies, is in reality best for the
trade. To illustrate, take mink which was a fashionable
fur from 1906 to 1912 but gradually lost out and the
price in 19.14, even before the war began, was less than
half of a few years previous. By 1910 and 191 1 trap-
pers began complaining that mink were getting very
scarce. True, as no animal can long hold its numbers
if persistently hunted and trapped.
^ When black furs are in fashion, the brown and white
fur bearing animals are not so persistently trapped ; if
brown are in demand, then black and white are not so
closely trapped; if white are in vogue, then black and
brown are not so high and are trapped less.
The Hudson Bay Company, when they had little or
no competition, had the keeping up of the supply well ni
hand. If a certain fur bearer was becoming scarce, or
too closely trapped, price was reduced on that article.
After two or three years, or when the animal had in-
creased, prices were advanced.
CHE smallest speculator in raw furs is the trapper
who can muster a few dollars and invest them in
furs which he usually adds to his own catch and
sells them together. The caught furs generally
pan out all right but the bought ones may lose him a part
of his money unless he understands grading properly.
If the little dabbler in furs with from twenty- five to one
hundred dollars capital loses ten or fifteen dollars, it
hurts him just as bad in proportion as a loss of thousands
by the big capitalist dealer in furs. There are hundreds
of small irregular speculators in raw furs. Some make
a collection every season except when the outlook to make
money is exceptionally bad.
When furs are in strong demand some of these
small speculators plunge into the buying field and put on
prices of their own, regardless of quotations and give an
assortment so out of reason in liberality that they can
never hope to get their money back. The only way that
they do see their money again is when they happen to
sell to some reckless buyer who is determined to secure
furs at some price. Such buying as this comes under
the head of ''Wild Speculation."
Practically all country buyers are speculators. Some
of them have considerable capital at their command and
ii6 Fur Buyers' Guide.
under normal conditions make a raw fur collection just
as large as they can pay for, before they will sell or con-
sider any offers on their holdings. There are two objects
in holding furs a reasonable length of time. One is to
rec^ve all the benefits of an advancing market and the
othe:r is to acquire a good sized lot before selling for the
reason that important buyers will bid stronger on a large
collection of furs than they will on a small one.
The established dealer in town who handles wool
hides, pelts, tallow, raw furs and roots can not really be
termed a speculator. He buys according to conservative
quotations and such furs as are offered that are held at
too high a price for present profit, he lets pass on to sonip
one else. There are exceptions to the foregoing when
the fur buying excitement in its contagion spreads and
overwhelms the local dealer as well. Becoming affected
by it similar to the frenzied special fur buyer, the former
well rooted, steady-going, business man gets out of his
rut and goes after the furs, instead of waiting for them
to come along in little dribs when the country buyer has
happened to miss a few scattering lots.
The local hide man now makes a discovery. He
finds that it is more difficult to buy furs at a reasonable
price when you seek the owner at his home or camp than
when he brings them in voluntarily. He thinks right
away that the market must be booming or Brown, the
dealer, would not come out from town and try to buy
them. This feature, combined with the purchases of Mr,
Country Buyer near by, the prices he paid and is paying
and standing offers he has left all along, makes a pretty
poor condition for the late comer. But Brown is an ag-
gressive man when aroused and he sa)/s, "I've got just
as much money as your wild-eyed Country Buyer. I'll
give you so much more than his offer."
Brown picks up some furs in competition with the
mad crowd at prices and on such assortments as to make
the outlook for profits rather dubious. This local buyer
usually picks up furs as they come along- and considers
them a sort of side line to his general business. He sells
regularly, let the profits be what they will ; he does not
haggle and drive hard bargains or hold auction sales.
But now that he has accumulated a bunch of furs that
are far more costly than common, he decides to hold them
awhile, hoping for a still higher plane of prices and in
this resolve he also becomes a speculator.
The many junk dealers throughout the country are
largely handlers of furs, to some extent, but unless mak-
ing special effort to make large collections of furs in com-
petition with other buying forces, can not be termed spec-
In years when furs are in good demand the little
cross roads buyer is soon relieved of the few skins he has
accumulated when the big country buyer comes along.
If the owner of a few furs could hold them for a few
weeks, they would often sell for more money, but unfor-
tunately the money is needed immediately in most cases
and the furs must be sold for what they will command
as soon as dry enough to market.
The large country buyer makes this his opportunity.
He buys early of those who must sell and his greatest
profit is made on the rise of furs purchased while prices
are moderate. It requires money to buy furs and a large
ii8 Fur Buyers' Guide.
amount of it, to secure a small quantity, when the prices
are high. The country buyer may possess considerable
cash capital and yet if he is a good buyer and attempts
to handle comparatively large lots, his capital will soon
be tied up. If he is confident that it will be a good sea-
son to make money, he is prompted to borrow money. A
buyer of responsibility who can give security sometimes
borrows $3,000 or $4,000 for three months or more as he
sees a need of it. With interest to pay on such a sum,
which is high for a short time loan, and being compelled
to compete with other buyers, grant the most liberal as-
sortments, pay top notch prices, it may be wondered how
he can make any money.
One way in which profits may be realized has been
mentioned; that of buying the bulk of a collection early
before excitement has raised values to the limit. The re-
maining way is his policy of selling out on competitive
bids, whereby he endeavors to work the prospective buy-
ers up to an unnatural degree of eagerness that may
cause them to temporarily lose their heads. As an in-
stance of what strife between buyers will amount to when
bidding on a good sized bunch of furs, we remember one
case where the low bid was $1,350; $1,650 was finally
paid, $300 more or 22 per cent added to the lowest offer,
which was a fair price in itself.
When furs are bought at highest market prices and
under extremely liberal assortments, 10 per cent is a big
addition and if any money is to be made at the time, 3 to
5 per cent is enough to add to the actual figures. The
reason that big percentages are added to actual values is
that competition compels it. And then there always ex-
ists that fascinating hope of an advance in prices. As-
suming that $1,350 represented the value of the furs
mentioned and at that price would yield 10 per cent profit,
which is low enough estimate, the percentage put on top
of this by the one who secured the furs, added to the
probable 10 per cent profit in the first offer, totals 32 per
cent, $384 profit on an investment of about $1,200. It
caused the buyer to remark exultantly, "I made money
like hay that time."
But the country buyer works hard. He makes long
drives in the cold, often goes without meals and gets
home long after dark and has a lot of furs to fix up be-
fore he can retire for the night.
Whether the large fur firms are speculators depends
upon what disposal they make of their collections. If
they have been shippers to Europe, entering their goods
to be sold at auction, we may say they are speculators
because they sell on the chance of making money. There
are certain large buyers of raw furs who never enter any
goods to be sold at the auction sales in Europe or else-
where. They have a direct outlet to the manufacturing
furriers and often are directly interested in such business.
Such firms know exactly what they are going to do with
their furs and very close to what their margin of profit
will be. This is regular business and can not be called
Such fur firms often purchase large lots of a certaui
kind of fur from those concerns who buy to sell agam
in the raw state. The article wanted may be skunk and
if so, certain houses who hold large collections are com-
municated with in a quiet or round-about-way so as not
Fur Buyers' Guide.
° In t^
3 w i;
to awaken suspicion that word of an advance in prices
has been received. "What do you ask for the skunks that
you have on hand for the four grades ?" is about the way
their question is worded. Sometimes the owners do not
tare to sell at present but if they do, the price they make
to the inquiring firm is pretty sure to be above the market
and not attractive unless a compromise can be made. If
a price is agreed upon, it is usually contingent upon being
able to agree upon the sort of grading the purchasers
It frequently happens that speculators get caught
with considerable quantities of furs on hand, when a sud-
den break in the market occurs. Furs may really be
worth no less but manipulation by those in control at the
main trade centers, having forced prices down, all the
lesser dealers throughout the country are victims of such
action. Then there is a scramble to unload as quickly as
possible before prices tumble still more. Perhaps no
money can be made by selling at this time and is not
expected, but they do endeavor to get out whole or with
the least possible loss. If buyers do not call, they are
sent for and the worst feature in selling on a declining
market is that buyers are practically all alike. Their
prices are about the same and there is no bidding against
each other nor adding on percentages and every buyer is
strict in grading. If traveling buyers are kept off the
road by their respective firms the only recourse is to ship
the fur in to them and be entirely at their mercy.
When furs are in demand, buyers are numerous and
money plentiful. But let a substantial break in the mar-
ket come and all that great array of formerly anxious
Fur Buyers' Guide.
THE SPECULATOR'S RETURN FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY.
TWENTY-TWO SILVER FOX SKINS, VALUE, 1915. $4,000.00.
NOT A VERY PROFITABLE RETURN — THESE SKINS TWO
YEARS PREVIOUS WOULD HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT $10,000.00.
speculators fade from view like dew before a July sun.
When conditions improve they all flock back again with
a good many new ones added to their ranks and former
reverses are forgotten.
In connection with speculating in furs, we feel it
necessary to observe that honesty and fair dealing does
not always prevail and tricks and hocus pocus are com-
mon. As proof of it w^e need only repeat the instructions
of a large raw fur house to each of its buying agents
before starting out on the road, which are as follows:
"You must be guided at all times by your own judgment
subject to our instructions. You are not to be influenced
one iota by w^hat a fur owner tells you he received for his
last lot or what he can get now. You will sack up all
furs yourself as soon as purchased and see that the count
is correct. In some cases it will not do to leave a lot of
partly assorted furs while you go to a meal. The assort
may be changed in your absence, or some inferior grades
substituted for a portion of those you have looked at. We
'also forbid you to leave a lot of furs you have purchased
to be shipped after you leave town. Your drafts are
often paid before the goods arrive and unless you attend
to shipping them yourself, we have no means of knowing
whether we are receiving the same goods you bought or
not. If such an irregularity in the deal exists or there
is a shortage in the count, there is no redress. Sack all
furs purchased at once. Sew up securely and attach a
tag to each sack, giving them a running number, hence :
Lot Xo. 10, Number of sacks 6, as the case may be.
Place all purchases in the express company's hands and
get a receipt and mail it to us at once together with a list
124 Fur Buyers' Guide.
of the furs and your assortment. If a lot is too small to
warrant your missing a train while you attend to shipping
the goods yourself, then do not buy them."
One buyer for a large firm made the somewhat pes-
simistic statement that in a sale of furs he would not
trust his own brother. We are not so lacking in confi-
dence as that. We have found many honorable men en-
gaged in handling raw furs, but we do advise a buyer to
be guided by his own judgment at all times and he must
keep his eyes open for various tricks and fraud where
he does not know the people with whom he is dealing.
Perhaps it will be well to add here that many raw
furs are sold to traveling representatives who call on the
buyers and collectors in the New England states, New
York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, In-
diana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and to some extent
in a few other states and parts of Southern and Eastern
Canada. This method is followed mainly where furs are
of good quality, railroads or other means of travel good,
and collections of fair size are made by the town, village
or country buyer.
A traveling representative will come and examine
lots of a few hundred dollars if on or near a railroad or
the seller is a regular customer. When furs are in active
demand numerous traveling buyers are seeking all large
lots and even those of two or three hundred dollars value.
There are far more dealers than is generally known in
the states and parts of Canada named that collect several
thousand dollars worth of furs each season, selling largely
to traveling representatives from the leading raw fur
Fur buying, at best, is somewhat of a risky business.
Those who sell every week or ten days are operating on
the safest plan and when followed regularly is a good
method of keeping accurately posted.
Do not attempt to speculate on poor furs. There is
some money to be made on furs that are a trifle unprime
but there are no margins to be made in No. 3's and No.
4's, the slightly furred and all hair pelts. The best No.
2's that are only faintly bluish will sometimes go for
prime skins when mixed in with prime furs in large lots.
Remember, however, that a slightly blue pelt bought early
is apt to get bluer the longer held unless weather is cold.
Some country buyers begin collecting just as soon
as there is anything caught, buying as cheaply as possible,
often holding until January or February before selling.
This method is followed more or less by country col-
lectors also village and town dealers in the skunk produc-
ing states of the East and Central West.
Buying of muskrat for speculation is followed more
or less in all parts of the country. The holding and shov-
ing ahead of grades means great profit.
Numerous buyers, even in small towns, advertise,
send out price lists in quantities which often quote more
than the market. Some of these are taking a chance on
prices advancing; others expect to grade the goods
"worth the money."
The close observer of the best time to sell furs says
that just before the closing date for shipments to reach
the London January sales is best ; others say early Feb-
126 Fur Buyers' Guide.
ruary ; still others say latter part of December. February
has often proved the month of highest values, yet serious
breaks in value have taken place in early February from
prices ruling in January. A review of prices paid for
years back will probably show January the best month
While speculating is done in all furs and in all parts
of North America, yet skunk is the one article in which
it is carried on most. Why? For two reasons, one being
that the value of the yearly catch of skunk in America
is greater than that of any other fur — even greater than
all the foxes — black, silver, cross, red, gray, blue and
white combined. The other reason is that skunk are
classified not only as to primeness but stripe as well, thus
offering an excellent opportunity, especially as many
skunk are caught by boys and inexperienced men as to
the actual value.
Skunk is usually started off by the trade at the be-
ginning of the season at much lower prices than the
article is really worth and prices advance from time to
time until they may be anywhere from 20% to 75%
higher before the season ends. Of course, this article,
like all others, does go lower from the price at which it
opens at the beginning of the season but from 1890 to
191 5, a period of twenty-five years, figures will prove
that it advanced twenty times to where it declined five.
In other words, the ''speculator" who bought and held,
would have won twenty out of the twenty-five years and
lost five. This is in the ratio of winning four times and
While other furs usually advance from opening fig-
ures, due partly to the better quality of fur, yet the buyer
who speculates has found it profitable more times than
otherwise. One great danger to the buyer and holder
of raw furs is holding too long. In late February you
have shedders, rubbed, etc., to contend with. Even though
your collection is prime goods when springs begin to ar-
rive, it usually hurts the others as well, for not only is
price apt to ease ofif, but the assort will generally be more
severe. Sell when goods are still prime — mid-winter —
is a good rule.
Of course, water animals — otter, beaver, muskrat
are prime, except in the South, until late in April. Bear
is also prime until late May or even well into June in
the more northern parts. A few dealers who sell some
of their collection to manufacturers have found it profit-
able to have tanned not only certain prime skins but those
that are early caught and slightly blue pelts also late
caught which will not bring full price in the raw state,
but tanned, generally go in at full value.
When furs are forced by speculators higher than
actual values or market price, is a good time to sell.
Trappers and dealers throughout the country want to give
this careful attention and act accordingly. The demand
now, late December or early January, we will say is good
and prices high for nearly all kinds of raw furs. Is it
not a good time to sell? An extremely cold winter with
small catches might see prices stififen some on certain
articles later. At the same time is it not reasonable that
128 Fur Buyers' Guide.
an open AA^inter, with heavy catches, and only moderate
sales of manufactured goods, prices will be lower?
Some years ago trappers and collectors held their
furs until February and often profited by so doing. The
conditions are often different now. Then skunk started j
at about $i.oo for No. i and prices advanced. The same \
was true to a certain extent of other articles when the
quotations were moderate, or low, at the beginning of
In the far North and parts of the Rocky Mountain
states there is not as great an opportunity to speculate as
in the more settled states. Northern and Rocky Moun-
tain trappers are usually many miles from a town or rail-
road so that they do not bring their catch in more than
twice during a season and sometimes only once. The
catch here include foxes — all kinds — lynx, mink, mar-
ten, fisher, otter and beaver.
Instead of dealers and collectors being speculators,
as is the case elsewhere, in the parts of the country men-
tioned, trappers are the speculators not so much from
choice as from the fact that the oppportunity to market
is not to be had. Usually they snow shoe to a trading
post or some frontier village just before the holidays
with their catch, which is apt to consist largely of fox,
marten, lynx, mink and ermine. Taken year after year,
this is a good time to sell, as values are quite often at
their best then. The next sale is usually at the close of
the trapping season and may be anywhere from April to
June or even later, and includes not only fox, wolves,
mink, marten, lynx, cats, fisher, ermine but otter, beaver
and muskrat. The water furs, otter, beaver and muskrat
— they may be able to sell for full value but on the other
furs prices have ''gone off" from mid-winter even though
there has been no decline in actual market value. Thus
it will be seen that the ''speculation" — necessary holding
— by the trapper in the out of way places is to their sor-
row. During recent years, those who are not too incon-
venient to a post office have been sending out mail pack-
ages of the most valuable furs and the ones most apt to
PRICES OF LONG AGO.
PERHAPS fur handlers of the present time are inter-
ested in values of former years, especially many,
many years back. ''An Old Time List" is repro-
duced in this chapter just as sent out by Mr. E. C,
Boughton in 1879. At that time the writer was only eight
years of age but remembers well his lists as sent out a
few years later. Returns are a splendid guide to fur
values and one of these, dated as far back as 1873, is
herewith publish together with others in the 70's and 8o's.
Prices in the 70's. — In looking over my files of
fur sales of past years I came across the following which
may be of some interest, writes a Massachusetts trapper
and buyer, as far as a comparison of prices is concerned
between those of some years back and those of the
On March 4th, 1873, I received the following returns
from John G. Hayes, of Portland, Maine
2 Fox, No. 1
1 Mink, No. 1, Small
1 Mink, No. 1, Medium
1 Mink, No. 1, Large, dark...
2 Coon, No. 1
2 Coon, No. 2
11 Rats, No. 1
. . .
. . .
Prices of Long Ago.
6 Rats, No. 1, Small.
2 Rats, Kitts
At a later date, that of February 8th, 1877, I find
returns from Pember & Prouty, of West Broadway, N.
Y., the following:
2 Raccoon, No. 3 @
2 Skunk, No. 3 @ ,
2 Skunk, No. 4 @ ,
2 Rabbits @ .
9 Marten, No. 1 @ 1,
1 Mink, No. 1
1 Mink, No. 3
1 Fisher, No. 1 > "*. ,
1 Fisher, No. 2 S.
46 Muskrats @
12 Muskrats, Small @
15 Kitts @
1 Otter, No. 2
9 Fox, No. 1 @ 1
11 Fox, Ex. No. 2 @ 1
4 Fox, Good, No. 2 @ 1
2 Fox, Poor, No. 2 @ 1
2 Fox, No. 3 @
2 Fox, No. 4 @
1 Skunk, Half Stripe •
In an account of sales received from the same party
a month previous to this, best pale marten such as we
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Prices of Long Ago. 133
get in this region (Massachusetts) were worth $1.50 for
the best, and fisher skins sold for $14.00. On March 2d,
1875, fox were selHng for $2.00, Marten $2.75, spring
rats 30 cents. On another list, that of January 25th,
1884, I find with other furs I sold four No. i mink at
$1.50 each, also four small No. i at $1.00 each, one faded,
75c, one No. 2, 75c. Again on March loth, 1883, No. i
red fox sold for $1.65, No. i raccoon, 90c, No. i skunk,
The lowest price at which I sold fox was during the
year 1878, when I sold No. i skins for $1.35. I have
saved all returns from sales since 1872 and find them
quite interesting at times as regards the variation of
prices on the different skins.
An Old Time List. — The following is reproduced
from a list dated October 15, 1879. The firm is no longer
in business, but no doubt many will be interested in prices
paid at that time, as well as the way the list is gotten up.
I will pay the following prices, cash on delivery, for
Raw Furs up to the 30th of October, 1879:
Black Skunk Fall, 40 to 60
Small Stripe " 30 to 35
Wide Stripe " 20 to 25
Mostly White " 15 to 18
All skins very poor, with scarcely any fur on them,
6 to 10 cents.
Red fox from 25c for very poor to $1.00 for pretty
Wood grey fox from loc for very poor to 30, 40 and
134 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Fall muskrat, large ii, medium 9, small 7, kitts 3c.
Otter skins from $4.00 for large, to 50c for very
Mink from 8c for very poor to 20, 30, 40 and 60.
Opossum from 2c for ''trash'' to 12 for large.
Raccoon from 8c for ''trash" to 40 for large.
Send in your skins as soon as you get a few of each
kind together and I will assort them and send you a mem-
orandum of prices and check for same on the day I re-
ceive the skins, and will keep the skins just as I received
them until I hear from you. If not satisfactory, you can
return the check and I will return you the furs and pay
the freight to this city myself and you can pay it at the
other end. Send skins by express or some other quick
I will send List of Prices when requested.
Please drop a few lines and let me know if you are
getting in any skins and give any other information you
have. Also tell me if my prices are not fully as high
as other quotations.
Acknowledge receipt of this circular as soon as re-
If you send me any skins, send this circular in your
Muskrat, fox, mink, otter, opossum and wild cat
should be taken off the animal whole and stretched out
on a board about the shape of the animal and left to dry
three or four days, when it will do to take off and be
ready for sale. Raccoon skins should be cut open in the
middle of the belly and nailed out on a board and left
Prices of Long Ago. 135
three or four days. No skins should be allowed to dry
in the sun or near the fire.
Pay the expressage at home, if possible, for I fear
they overcharge sometimes at this end of the route. In
case they will not receive it, send them without.
No. 1 whole buffalo robes $7 . 50
No. 2 whole buffalo robes 6 . 50
No, 1 seamed buffalo robes 6.50
No. 2 seamed buffalo robes 5 . 50
NEWHOUSE CELEBRATED TRAPS.
Newhouse, No. 0, no chains $2.00 per dozen. With chains, $2.66
Newhouse, No. 1, no chains, $2.25 per dozen. With chains, $3.12
Newhouse, No. 2, no chains, $6.00 per dozen. With chains, $7.00
Less 30% discount. ^ ^ Boughton,
33 Howard St., N. Y.
Prices of Furs in 1885. — Mr. M. J. Wood, a travel-
ing raw fur buyer of many years experience and who
operated largely in the state of Michigan, furnishes the
following in connection with a lot bought in Southern
Michigan January 3, 1885. Mr. Wood bought furs for
about fifty years but owing to advanced age and ill health
retired in 1913.
January 3, 1885.
Mr. M. J. Wood,
Bought of L. D. Halsted, Coldwater, Mich.
For Henry A. Newland & Co.
Five sacks and two bales.
3 Blk. Cat @ .20 $0.60
4 Common Cat @ .10 40
Fur Buyers' Guide.
1 Sampson Fox
1 Ord. Coon. ,
4 Small Coon.
52 No. 1 Large Mink
19 No. 1 Large Pale Mink,
47 No. 1 Med. Mink
75 No. 1 Small Mink
18 No. 2 Extra Mink'
52 No. 2 Mink
63 Blk. C Skunk
1 Blk. Open Skunk.
74 y^ Ord. Skunk...
1 V-z Ord. Skunk
37 N. St. Skunk
47 Broad Skunk
25 Unprime Skunk . . .
7 Stagy Skunk
Cost $311.41. Too High.
Prices of Long Ago. 137
Coon and mink are not desirable in quality at the
cost in this lot. This same bunch of fur this season
(1913) would bring over $1,200.
Prices of Long Ago. — I always shipped to C. G.
Gunther's Sons, at that time a very good and reliable
firm. I send you herewith one of their statements for
furs I shipper them in 1887.
The statement referred to reads as follows :
W. W. Hubbard, Monroe Co., N. Y.
80 Muskrats, 2 fall $0.11 $8.80
30 Muskrats, kitts 63 .90
74 Skunk, 1 cased 1.25 92.50
18 Skunk, 1 brown and woolly 1.00 18.00 -
55 Skunk, 2 cased 75 41.25
33 Skunk, 3 cased 40 13.20
27 Skunk, 4 cased 20 5.40
4 Skunk, scabs 03 .12
2 Mink, 1 60 1.20
1 Mink, 2 40
2 Mink, scabs 10 .20
3 Red Fox, 1 1.25 3.75
6 Coon, 1. 80 4.80
6 Coon, 2 40 2.40
5 Coon, 3 20 1.00
9 Coon, scabs 06 .54
Off freight 2.75
We enclose check for the above. We have allowed
you full circular prices on skunk, but this article had de-
138 Fur Buyers' Guide.
clined 20% last week at the London ss(es, making with
the decHne in June last, 15%, in all 35f/i? lower than one
We shall send you our new circuU r tomorrow, quot-
ing No. I skunk at $1.00.
C. G. Gunther's Sons.
This old record should prove interesting to present
day fur shippers, and if they are inclined to kick about
present day fur values it will make them feel better to
remember that in 1887 No. i mink were worth 60 cents
and No i skunk $1.25.
W. W. Hubbard.
PRICE LISTS — Some large fur dealers send out
prices that are much under the market. This is
probably done so that their traveling buyers can
more easily buy of dealers as they often allow their
representatives to pay from 5% to 15% above quotations.
Such houses seem to feel that it is best to protect the
dealer trade and secure most of their collections through
Other firms, not having traveling representatives,
send out prices from 10% to 15% above actual market
value to induce shipments, expecting to make up for the
inflated prices in the assort — an easy thing to do after
the goods come in. The two illustrations show the ex-
tremes. There are many firms that quote correct values,
grade fairly and to whom shipments can safely be sent.
The High Quoter. — This class of dealers are not
only injuring the shipping trade but some at least have
hurt themselves. How? By sorting so severe that re-
turns were usually less than those quoting actual market
values. There are others who start out quoting about
correct values, but as some have raised skunk a nickel
or quarter, they go them better and add more, which
makes the article considerable above the market. Some
think this is the only way to get shipments, when in fact
140 Fur Buyers' Guide.
it does little good and only causes the dealers to "buck"
one another and later perhaps take it out of the assort-
Trappers and shippers, in all parts of America, are
learning to rely upon market quotations. When they
receive prices i(X)%, 50% or even 25% above, they feel
confident there is something wrong. If they ship any
furs to the extreme high quoter they generally request
same held separate and value submitted for approval.
Sale Reports. — Some dealers and many trappers
cannot understand hov^ it is that prices do not decline
or advance more in accord with the reports sent from the
London Sales. Exporters and large dealers know, as a
rule, whether or not such an article is in demand and
about what the results of the sales will be, the quantity
offered as well, having something to do with prices. The
advance or decline of most articles is anticipated (fore-
told) by dealers so that most of the changes have been
met or made in their prices. Watch prices of the various
exporters and large dealers just before closing date for
shipping to the sales. If demand is good prices are apt
to be advanced ; if catch large or demand poor, prices are
apt to be lowered to meet expected changes in price at
Skunk, Mink, Muskrat. — Throughout most of
America these fur bearers are found and the value of
their pelts is as much as all the rest — foxes, marten,
lynx, otter, beaver, weasel, bears, wolves, etc., combined.
Not only the great value of skunk, mink and muskrat but
the fact that they are caught and handled largely by boys,
farmers, inexperienced trappers and bought more or less
by this class before reaching the larger dealers, that so
much detailed information is deemed advisable. This
explanation is made especially for those in the far North
and parts where foxes, marten, beaver, lynx, etc., are
the principal fur producers.
Throughout the states bordering on the Gulf of
Mexico and north to the Ohio River also Arkansas, Okla-
homa and Missouri,
opossum is another
article of consider-
able importance and
coon in the same
states, even of greater
value than opossum
as they are found in
good numbers much
farther north. Civet
cat is another fur pro-
ducer of considerable
worth to trappers and
collectors, especially in
the Central Western
Worthless Skins. — So far there has been little
demand for moles or ferrets. Both of these animals pro-
duce a furred pelt. Brown weasel is variously quoted
from worthless to five cents ; rabbit about one cent each.
These four articles will no doubt some day become of
enough value that the pelts will receive more attention.
(1) FOX squirrel. (2) BELGIAN
HARE. (3) BROWN WEASEL.
142 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Groundhog and American squirrels have no fur value,
in fact, the pelts have no fur on them — only hair.
Cased and Open. — As is pretty generally known,
bear, beaver, badger and timber wolf should be handled
open and other furs cased. Some of the cased skins
should be turned as soon as dry as dealers prefer them in
that condition, especially fox, coyote, marten, lynx, wild
cat and fisher; raccoon may be handled either cased or
flat ; otter and weasel either flesh or fur out ; mink, musk-
rat, skunk and opossum should be flesh out.
Handling Wet Fur. — How do you handle wet fur;
that is, fur from animals that are drowned and which you
skin immediately, such as mink, coon, civet cats and the
like ? A good way after removing the skin from the car-
cass is to take it by the nose and swing it to and fro,
swinging it quickly as you would a whip to make it snap.
Take care in whipping the skin to and fro that the tail
does not tear oi¥. In treating the skin this way, you will
be surprised to see how much water you can get out of
it. Change and swing the skin holding it by the tail and
hind legs. However, I would not recommend this treat-
ment for very large skins.
Clean and Unclean Furs. — What are unclean
furs ? They are the ones that are fat, fleshy, mud in fur,
burrs in fur or tail, smeared with blood, etc. Clean furs
are free from all these.
Does it pay to clean raw furs? Yes. Why? Be-
cause they show the quality, look better, require less
work, less chance of spoiling and less risk. Good, clean
furs seldom spoil if properly cured, while unclean ones
Miscellaneous Information. 143
often do. Some lists say : "All furs must be well cleaned
to be No. I."
Up-to-date trappers realize that it pays to clean furs
and their outfit includes three very important articles,
namely : comb, brush, fleshing knife.
Tails. — Tails of mink, coon^ skunk and civet cat
often spoil. This danger can be eliminated by splitting tail
the entire distance, same as done with otter, tacking tail
out flat. Even with bone taken out (and this should always
be done) a good many spoil, especially in warm or rainy
localities. Tails are split before tanning these skins so
it does not lessen their value. Fox tails should not be
split but if the tip end were split, say a half inch, and a
little salt jabbed in with a wire or strong stick is advis-
able. Hang pelt head up so salty water will drip from
end of tail. Do not put any salt on pelt. Other skins
such as marten, fisher, wolf, can be handled same as fox.
Fleshing and Curing. — A trapper and collector
of many years' experience says : 'T have always found
that it pays well to give furs the proper attention as
thousands of dollars worth are ruined every year by im-
proper fleshing and stretching. Furs with the flesh and
fat on may cause the pelt to be damaged and often fur
slips so that pelts of this kind will grade Nos. 2, 3 and 4.
Get an old twelve-inch file, take it to a blacksmith,
have him taper the front end to a point, same as the other
end, so that a handle can be put on each. Now put on a
grindstone and grind all the rough off on both sides and
edges, leaving four edges. After all the roughness is
off, grind so that each edge is sharp, then you have four
edges to do the cutting.
144 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Select a pelt of little value to practice on — an opos-
sum is good — ■ as they flesh easier than most any other.
Slip the pelt on the fleshing pole, then take two nails and
drive through the ears into the pole. Drive only deep
enough to hold the pelt from slipping down and so that
they can be easily pulled out. Use the knife edgewise.
Use a little elbow grease to start the flesh. After you
once have it started you need not push very hard as it
will go easy, but be sure to have all burrs and mud off
the fur or you will cut a hole the size of the burr. Flesh-
ing may seem a little awkward at first but don't get out
of patience and it won't be long until you can flesh easily
and rapidly. Muskrat will seem to flesh different from
any other animal but they can be fleshed under the same
plan with a little practice. Muskrat, however, except the
thick pelted or with flesh and fat on usually do not need
As soon as your pelts are fleshed they should be
stretched. If they have to be left any length of time,
turn them fur side out or they may shrink. After furs
are stretched hang them up in a cool, dry place where the
air circulates freely by leaving windows open. If they
are kept in a closed room they will not cure well. Do
not dry by a fire as skins so dried are brittle and crack.
This outfit is intended for small animal pelts such as
skunk, coon, opossum, muskrat and others. Mink, mar-
ten, foxes, weasel and other thin pelted skins do not need
fleshing. I have tried many different tools and ways but
have never found anything equal to this outfit."
Northern Furs. — In parts of the Far North furs
do not reach market for some months after close of the
-< I— <
146 Fur Buyers' Guide.
trapping season. Perhaps the following from an Ed-
monton, Canada, paper showing date and number of each
kind of fur brought in by a large trader will be inter-
esting: ''D. Desjarlais, a fur trader of the Lesser Slave
Lake country, arrived in Edmonton from the north by
way ofAthabasca Landing on Friday, July 4, with his
winter's trade of fur consisting of 1,051 marten, 243
beaver, 57 bear, 109 lynx, 125 mink, 7 wolverine, 12
cross fox, 15 red fox, i silver fox, 12 wolves, 29 skunk.
133 ermine (weasel), 12 fisher, 10 otter, 7,190 rats, 18
pounds of castoreum. These were sold the following
Wednesday morning to the highest bidder for $12,000."
Dealers' Calendar. — January. — All fur bearing
animals caught in this month are fully furred. Will
grade No. i unless damaged in some way.
February. — Skunk, mink and marten, beginning to
fade are still prime, but not so good in color as those
caught in December and January.
March. — Most all rats caught the first part of the
month will pass as Spring, and average better sizes.
Coon, mink, skunk, etc., are springy or shedding.
April. — Beaver, bear, badger, otter and rats are
fully prime. Most all the other animals are shedding.
Some will grade as No. 2, others as No. 3. Unwise to
May. — Otter, beaver, bear, badger are shedding.
Most all animals are suckling their young. It's cruel as
well as unlawful to kill them.
June. — All furs now are called shedders and have
little" or no value. It is against the law to kill them. Let
them live and multiply.
Miscellaneous Information. 147
July. — Same conditions as in June, have no fur on
them, have no value at all. It is both cruel and unlawful
to catch them. Conform to the law.
August. — All kinds of fur bearing animals caught
this month will grade as unprime, being thin furred. It
is unwise as well as unlawful to kill.
September. — There is an old adage that every month
with R in it has fur value. It is true, but the first and
last, September and April, they have but little.
October. — No fur bearing animals should be caught
this month as they would only grade as No. 2, 3 or 4;
it is unwise as well as unlawful to kill.
Noz'ember. — Lawful to catch furs. Fore part of
the month furs will grade mostly No. 2. Latter part of
month Nos. i or 2, according to kind.
December. — Most all furs caught in December are
fully prime, of good color, except beaver, bear, badger,
otter, muskrat, which are best in the spring months.
Scheming. — Some skins In a certain locality are
"pushed" by the large dealer into a section that is worth
more. To illustrate : Central Ohio skunk, while quoted
less than Northern Ohio, are' really worth as much, for
the Central Ohio has the size, luster and quality of fur
equal to the best or Northern. Most dealers realize as
much for furs caught in the Central part as the Northern
dealer gets for those caught in that portion of the state.
This applies to several species of fur bearers in various
parts of the country, but not to all. Neither does it
apply to all states — Texas and California being among
the exceptions owing to their size. In others the various
148 Fur Buyers' Guide.
climates owing to altitudes, which range from sea level
to thousands of feet, mean considerable difference in fur
Tricks. — It is a case of the "pot calling the skillet
black," for there are trappers, buyers and sellers that will
resort to mean tactics, practically stealing, to get more
for their furs, yet they are all found out sooner or later,
so that the old saying, "honesty is the best policy," holds
good in the fur game as well as elsewhere.
During my more than thirty years' connection with
the trapping, buying and selling of raw furs, numerous
crooked transactions have been witnessed and otherwise
learned. One of the most common deceptions practiced
in the east and central west, especially by trappers, is the
tampering with white on skunk. Some cut out the stripe,
sew up and when partly dry turn fur out. Again the
stripe may be blacked ; others remove the white and draw
the black fur and hair over the bare spot using some
sticky substance underneath to cover up the defect; still
others have been known to cut out the white strip when
skinned, then turn the pelt fur out, not stretching but
selling when frozen.
If the fur of fox, wolf, coon, skunk, is rubbed, nine
times out of ten, such pelts will be flesh side out. As
these, with the exception of fox, are mostly handled that
way, unless the buyer is on his guard, "one may be put
over on him." Cotton mink and '^singed" otter are very
apt to be offered the buyers flesh side out.
Muskrat smeared with blood, to give the appearance
of Spring rats, is also resorted to in some localities by
those who wish to make "spring rats" out of those that
Miscellaneous Information. 149
belong a grade or two lower. Southern muskrat — largely
Louisiana — sometimes find their way north where
''somehow" they get mixed with other rats worth about
twice as much. This trick was worked pretty strong
some years ago. Louisiana and some other of the Gulf
of Mexico state rats not only average small but the fur
is short. Southern rats sent north is not apt to be prac-
ticed except when they are high. At such times they
have been found not only among village and town col-
lectors's goods but in trapper's and country buyer's col-
lections as well.
Some fur handlers, not only trappers but collectors,
are poor at figures and counting. Dishonest buyers have
been known to work the "forgot to pack" trick on them.
It is done as follows : Suppose that the seller says that
he will sell for certain prices, which he names for the
various grades on the different articles he has to sell.
They should say so much for the entire lot of furs but it
seems certain ones would rather sell on price and assort.
The buyer assorts the goods and figures them up but in
totaling ''forgets to pack" one, two or more, depending
upon the size of the lot. Suppose the correct totaling of
the lot is $340.60. We will say that the first column
under dollars was totaled fifty. Instead of "packing"
five, the buyer only ''packed" three, in which case, instead
of $340.60 the total would show $320.60, or $20.00 less
than the correct amount. Of course the seller could get
some one to figure up for him later providing he kept or
secured a copy of the assort. Then, if discovered, the
buyer would simply say a mistake in "adding and pack
150 Fur Buyers' Guide.
A good many of the larger trappers as well as many
country collectors like to have several buyers bid on their
furs. A trick that I have known buyers to work on their
competitors was to hand in a bid reading like this : "Pro-
viding no bid is over $ , I bid 10 cents more than
high man." While no business man would allow such
methods, yet I have known it to be gotten away with.
Northern vs. Southern Furs. — Many trappers
as well as some country buyers and collectors in the'
south, southwest and west do not realize the difference
in quality of furs from those sections compared with
farther north. This difference is more noticeable on
skunk, mink, coon, wolf, opossum and other land animals,
Beaver and otter hold up better than any of the other fur
bearers. The muskrat from all southern localities is
much inferior to those caught in central .and eastern sec-
Not only is the fur longer, denser and of better
wearing qualities but the pelts average much larger on
most of the different animals and what perhaps is least
known of all, the hide is thicker and stronger — hence,
better in the north. Why such is the case can be ex-
plained from the fact that where the fur grows long,
thick and heavy it requires a thicker hide for the hair
and fur roots.
While it is hard to define a dividing line between the
thin and thick pelt and fur sections, yet in a general way
the ^fortieth parallel, which passes through Philadelphia,
near Wheeling, W. Va., Columbus, Ohio, north of In-
dianapolis, Ind., near Springfield, 111., through northern
Missouri, the northern boundary of Kansas, north of
Miscellaneous Information. 151
Denver and through Colorado, then leaving the fortieth
parallel and north along the western boundary of Wyo-
ming and Montana. While some thick pelted skins are
secured as much as a hundred miles south of the line
mentioned they are from the mountainous and hilly parts.
On the other hand, some thin pelts are secured north of
Manufacturers are mostly wise, too, about where the
best pelts come, from and this accounts for dealers being
able to pay more for furs from the best sections, namely,
where the fur is long, heavy and the hide thick so as to
turn out the best finished product. Manufacturers,
dressers and tanners allude to pelts from the south as
"soft," which means thin leather, thin underfur and tears
Quality of fur is governed mainly by the weather.
Altitude (height) don't make as much difference as many
think. Along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast,
where it is warm, furs are of poor quality but along the
Atlantic Coast from New York north, where it is cold,
furs are of good quality. Down around Southern Florida
or the extreme southern parts of Texas or California
coon caught during mid-winter, that is in December or
January, may and in fact are often blue pelts. This is
explained from the fact that the fur growth is short and
the hide thin. Nature does wonders in providing a coat
of fur and a suitable hide for the root growth of fur
bearing animals in the various parts of the country. This
accounts for the difference m value of the various skins
for commercial use.
FOXES BLACK, SILVER, CROSS, ARCTIC.
SILVER FOXESy. — These foxes are found more often
in the provinces of Canada than elsewhere yet they
are found in Alaska and occasionally in some of
the most northern states of the United States. The best
specimens are the most valuable fur bearing animals on
earth. With an increased number of wealthy individ-
uals who demand costly furs, the preservation and prop-
agation of animals which produce such furs, is becoming
an absorbing enterprise. The supply of the better grades
of fox as well as certain other wild furs is not adequate
to meet the demand of recent years therefore hunters
and trappers can not be depended upon to furnish suffi-
cient quantities. In fact, unless breeding animals under
scientific fur farming methods is followed, some valuable
species are sure to disappear from earth entirely.
Silver foxes in all their color variations are only
chance colors of the common red, yet these valuable
colors are only produced in the north. A black fox is
merely a dark silver specimen, which may occur in a
litter of pups from red parents. It is rather strange that
a pair of silver foxes do not produce some red pups but
experience has proved that silver parents breed silvers
almost without exception. Realizing the tremendous pos-
sibilities in fox breeding, as a money making venture, a
large number of individuals and companies have gone
Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 153
RED, CROSS, SILVER FOX SKINS.
(1) Red, length of body, 36; tail, 21^; width, 7% inches.
(2) Cross, length of body, 35'/^; tail, I8V2; width, 7 inches.
(3) Silver, length of body, 36 J^ ; tail, 18; body, 7% inches.
154 Fur Buyers' Guide.
into the business and some on a large scale. Most of
such farms are situated in Eastern Canada, both on the
mainland and several islands. In the years 1912 and
191 3 more than $12,000,000 capital was incorporated and
invested or held in reserve for fox breeding. More than
7,000 red foxes and crosses were purchased for breeding
purposes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince
The market price of highest quality in black fox
skins range from $500 to $3,000 but on account of the
eager competitive demand existing to secure the best
stock for breeding purposes, superior black foxes have
sold for as high as $35,000 per pair. It can not be fore-
told what effect increasing the supply of silver foxes to
considerable numbers will have on market values; but if
the supply is large, prices obtained in the past and at
present can not be expected.
A large amount of data is obtainable in regard to
previous attempts at fox breeding. Much of this infor-
mation does not concern the average reader because of
non-success. Some of the failures resulted because of
poor fencing, lack of warm, dry nests for the young,
mothers not being separated by family pens from the
other adult foxes and many of the pups were killed.
Prices were not high enough to warrant continued and
extensive experiments by those who possessed the neces-
sary capital and enthusiasts usually lacked the means to
make further investigations. But when prices advanced
along in the 90's and woven wire fencing came on the
market, all was changed. Former doubt and hesitancy
Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic.
gave way to optimism and capital to invest in Fox Farm-
ing was abundant.
Color Variations. — The prime object in silver fox
breeding is to produce the darkest shades of color. The
red fox is red on the back and white underneath with
black ears and legs. The
Bastard is red above and
dark beneath the body
land on the neck with
darker points. An infe-
rior cross fox is mainly
red and dark above with
silver patch down the
back and over the shoul-
ders and hips. A good
cross is somewhat red
on the sides, neck and
ears, dark below and sil-
very over the back and
rum'p. Light silver is
silvery all over except
possibly the neck; is
dark underneath and
white on tip of tail.
Dark silver is black all
over except tip of tail which is white with some dark
silvery hairs that are only noticed by close examination.
Silver foxes produce the same colored young, never red
or cross, except that an amalgamation of silver and red
hairs sometimes occurs that is neither silver nor red but
a sort of roan. Red foxes usually produce red but on
occasions a litter will contain one cross or one silver pup.
silver fox carcass.
156 Fur Buyers' Guide.
When silver and red are crossed the product is red
pups with blacker markings than is natural in the red fox.
These foxes are spoken of as "Bastards" by furriers. If
a bastard is mated with a silver, the results are usually
50 per cent of silver pups. Bastard reds have been known
to produce one silver in a litter and sometimes dark
enough to be termed black. Silver foxes are never alike
in color unless black. In a collection of silver skins, it is
seldom that any two will match very closely. One will
have a white tip to the tail while another only shows a
few hairs of white. Some have white patches on their
legs or breast while the main coat is silver or black.
Cross fox skins are of various colors and value. The
darkest are hard to distinguish from the silver while the
pale are only a few shades darker than the best red skins.
Some very good red fox skins are secured from parts of
Montana, the Dakotas, etc. On the other hand the cross
secured there are generally quite pale and often coarse
haired. Such skins are worth little, if any, more than
the best grade of reds.
Perhaps the illustration — Silver Fox Carcass —
showing a good average size and color silver as caught
by a trapper in Alberta, Canada, will convey the idea as
to the relative shades from silver to cross, cross to red,
remembering that the best shades of red are worth about
as much as the poorer shades of cross.
The Best Silver Fox. — A silver fox skin may pos-
sess many faults. It may be blue pelted, when it is
termed unprime, or it may be springy or it is rubbed in
places, which, if only slightly rubbed, damages greatly an
Poxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. i57
158 Fur Buyers' Guide.
otherwise valuable pelt. Some skins of valuable foxes
have been poorly handled or damaged by dogs or badly
shot or are greasy and heated. The best skins are black
on the neck wherever silver hairs do not predominate.
To be exact in our description, the color is a bluish black
over the entire body and the under fur is of a dark shade
also. The darkest of silver foxes have slate colored
under fur that is dark to its roots.
In the best skins only a few silver hairs appear and
are evenly distributed throughout the coat. Softness,
termed silkiness, determines the value as well as the color.
There must also be gloss. It is caused by fineness and
general physical condition of the animal and locality
where it grew. A good, well furred silver fox skin will
weigh a pound or more, even as much as 20 ounces. Size
also is taken into consideration. The finest and most
valuable silver foxes are probably found in Prince Ed-
ward Island where fox farming is being carried on.
However, few are killed by those engaged in fox farming
except the culls and old ones. The fur here is prime in
November but none are killed until December. A fox
eight months old is full furred and as large as the old
ones. The young fox has less silver than when three
years old or more, but the fur of a young fox is usually
softer on account of fineness than is found in the older
Both silver and red foxes from Prince Edward
Island have sold at the London sales for the highest
prices, a fact that indicates their superiority. When
black colors occur in any of these island foxes, they are
usually possessed of exceeding fineness and luxuriant
Poxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 159
fur. The finest silver or black foxes held in captivity
on tjae island came from ancestors that were dug out in
the same territory. The silver and red foxes found in
/Alaska in the regions of the Yukon and Athabasca Rivers
TWENTY-EIGHT SILVER FOX SKINS.
These skins were bought by a trader in the Peace _ River Country
of Canada, from trappers in the spring of 1914, but owing to the war
brought only $3,200.00, as they did not reach ,the European market until
fall. The pile on the ground are red fox skins.
are often very valuable, the fur being long, heavy and
lustrous. Some valuable skins are also secured from
Quebec and other eastern provinces.
When a black phase of color occurs in one of the
pups of wild red foxes, the fur is usually of the finest
i6o Fur Buyers' Guide.
character and may command a small fortune. Silver
foxes and their allies, the cross and patch foxes, inhab-
iting Labrador and Newfoundland are heavy furred but
somewhat coarser than those found elsewhere. It is be-
lieved that the sea breeze here affects the fur but as the
finest furred foxes are produced on other islands of the
sea, the above theory does not appear reasonable.
Much must be known in order to grade silver or
black foxes for what they are worth. A lack of such
knowledge may be very costly. A Michigan fur buyer
once found a supposed black fox pelt in the course of
his travels. The price asked was $i,ooo. He finally
secured it for $700. In time he sold it for $40 and the
purchaser was also beaten for it was only a dark red bas-
tard fox and was worth about $10.
No silver or black foxes are found in Southern and
Central United States and are not numerous in Northern
parts. The cross fox is more common and instead of
being marked with red, black and silver like those in a
far northern range, they are mostly red all over, except
that a stripe several inches wide, almost black, crosses
the shoulders and another starting from the scalp crosses
the other in the center and extends well down the back.
Of course markings vary in different foxes and scarcely
any two are exactly alike but often differ materially.
In purchasing fox furs the buyer must ever be pre-
pared for fresh surprises in the matter of quality and in-
dividual markings such as he has never seen before.
This relates particularly to the different variations in
silver, cross, patched and bastard foxes. The grading
of straight red foxes is a simple matter compared to
Foxes — Black^ Silver^ Cross, Arctic. i6i
handling and appraising foxes of various color phases,
mixtures or blends.
Final Value of Silver Fox Fur. — Silver foxes
of lov^ value are worth from $40 to $75 or $80 according
to paleness and how well furred. Medium dark and fine
will sell at $150 to $300. Dark and fine with luster, $500
to $1,500 and choice black as high as $3,000. The major-
ity run to pale and medium shades and often a whole
winter will not see one black fox pelt taken in a wide
It requires experience as well as expert judgment to
be able to determine the value of the varying shades of
foxes from red to cross, cross to silver and the many
different shades of silver to the very best specimens
which are black. Of course the quality of fur in such
valuable skins must be exa^jiined as well as the color con-
sidered. Size also is a factor in determining values when
a pelt is being examined that is worth hundreds if not a
thousand or more dollars.
The three pelts shown on page 153 vary but little in
size or primeness. The first is an ordinary red secured
in Central Canada sections and worth (191 5) about
$6.00; middle one is a cross and worth three times as
much or $18.00; the third is a silver but not very dark
yet worth thirty times as much as the red or ten times
as much as the cross or $180.00.
Measurements of various raw fur skins are usually
as shown, that is, if the fur side is out the figures indi-
cate fur side ; if pelt side shown, measurements were
taken on pelt side. Not only foxes but the measurements
of various other furs are mostly taken on side as shown
Fur Buyers' Guide.
in illustration. A skin measured on fur side must be
larger (wider) before it classes large than if measure-
ments had been taken on flesh or pelt side.
"Arctic Foxes, Blue. — The blue fox ranges the
more Southern latitude of the
Arctic regions, rather between
the habitat of the Arctic white
fox and the land of reds and
silvers. They inhabit Alaska,
certain islands of the Behring
Sea and other territory adjacent
to the polar regions.
Species and Color. — Both
blue and white foxes are one
and the same species. They are
the polar or Arctic foxes, the
only difference being phases of
color. White is probably the
natural color, as the number of
blue fox skins secured are about
one-tenth of the number of
white pelts taken. The blue
furred strain of the polar fox
sells for $20 to $75, which is
several times more than those of
white fur command. The blue
color in this fox is not an indigo
or sky blue but more on the
order of the blue seen in the
fur of maltese cats.
blue fox pelt.
Large — Length nose to
root of tail 35; tail 16;
total 51; greatest width 11;
shoulders 10 inches. This
pelt represents an average
large from the Blue Fox
section which is Northern
Alaska and Northern Can-
ada including the islands
in the Arctic Ocean.
Foxes — Black, Silver, Cross, Arctic. 163
Sizes. — The average weight of the blue fox is 10 to
13 pounds, live weight, though some specimens will weigh
much more. The female weighs on an average of 7 to 11
pounds. About 8 pounds may
be said to represent the weight
of the largest number. The
average length of male blue fox
skins when cured and ready for
market is 30 inches and the
width II inches at rump. The
tail is 14 to 16 inches in length,
making entire length nearly 4
feet. The fur of the male is
usually of better quality than
that of the female and the fur
of a male two or three years old
is the choicest of all.
White Fox. — The white
fox occupies or lives in the polar
regions ranging much nearer the
pole than the majority of blue
foxes. On account of a less
food supply, it is thought the
white species are smaller than
the blue, which are better fed.
The white fox in winter has a
coat of clear white fur exter-
nally, of good length, but the under fur is not so white
but of a yellowish hue. They are white in winter and
brown in summer on back and sides and a drab color
underneath the body.
arctic white fox
Large — Length nose to
root of tail 30; tail 15;
total 45; greatest width 9;
shoulders 8 inches.
164 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Price of this fur has been low compared with the
blue variety. Trappers have never made any great effort
to catch white fox owing to its value. A change in fash-
ion summer of 191 5, when white furs were worn around
the fair sex neck caused this article to rise in value.
White fox, however, is one of uncertain value as the
uses to which it is put are constantly changing owing to
the peculiar furry fancies for white furs.
FOXES RED, GREY, KITT OR SWIFT.
CHE RED FOX — RANGE. — Alaska, Canada, its
islands and practically all of the United States are
inhabited by foxes. Aside from the common grey
and kitt fox, all other foxes are red or of that
species in chance colors and numerous variations. Freaks
of color in the red fox are not common in the United
States but occur often in Canada, Alaska, Labrador and
other sections of the far North. As red is the prevailing
color, our purpose is to discuss that natural coloring
alone, only making such departure as is necessary to men-r
tion the several shades of this, so called red, production
Naturalists have divided the red fox into at least
five sub-species. Different strains might exist in the
same breed of foxes or other wild animals just as they
do in domestic animals or poultry but it is only fair to
assert that any difference as to size, color and quality of
fur in the red fox must be assigned to location in a
geographical sense, character and quantity of food ob-
tained, together with the survival of the strongest in a
particular type ; but after we are through speculating, the
red fox of Alaska and the red fox of Southern United
States are one and the same as regards species. If we
should plant a Northern climate with red fox stock from
Fur Buyers' Guide.
South Carolina, a few generations in the Northland
would bring out a far different type of fox no doubt.
The largest, longest furred and most brilliant colored
WELL HANDLED CANADIAN RED FOX SKINS.
These pelts were from foxes caught, skinned and stretched by
the trapper who had them and himself photographed before selling.
red fox inhabits Alaska and other sections of its most
Northern range, although there is said to be a very few
of an extra large type and the largest of all foxes which
Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift. 167
inhabit Kodiak Island. Newfoundland and Nova Scotia
red foxes are of good size, the fur long and heavy, but
rather coarse and the colors pale. Quebec, New England
and the Adirondack region of New York produce some
The fur and color of red foxes differ in every North-
ern district, as well as in the sections of the United States.
The Kamchatka red fox is superior to all others in length,
fineness and luster. The average red fox is red or yel-
lowish red on the back and sides, the tail rather darker
than the body and tipped with white. The belly is either
white or a dingy white and the ears and lower portions
of the legs are black.
Size. — The largest of the species mentioned will
measure 4^ feet, tail included, and some specimens still
more, depending upon length of tail, which measures
from 16 to 18 and even 20 inches. In Northern and
Central sections of the United States, 30 inches from tip
of nose to end of pelt, where tail joins, and 8 to 8^
inches wide at base for the cured skin, represents a large
skin. Medium size is about 2 inches shorter, a trifle
narrower and the small sizes in the same proportion. In
many cases the principal difference is in length. A small
pelt will be shorter than a medium but not much more
narrow. A skin may be appreciably shortened by stretch-
ing it wider than it should be.
This fur bearer varies wonderfully but is usually
largest in the Northern states and Canada. An excep-
tion, however, is noted in a skin from Tennessee that
stretched in correct proportions yet had a length of 5 feet
and 5 inches. The fox was said to have weighed 19
HEAVY FURRED NORTH
Large, length of pelt, 32; tail.
18; total, 50 inches; greatest
width, 10; shoulders, 8%. Prime
pelt caught February 18. Meas-
ured on fur side.
ONTARIO FULL FURRED,
GOOD COLOR RED.
Large, length of pelt, 36; tail,
18^/^; total, 54 H inches; greatest
width, 101^; shoulders, 9. Meas-
ured on fur side. Many skins
from the Provinces of Eastern
Canada and Northeastern United
States are of this class.
Foxes — Red^ Grey, Kitt or Swift.
MICHIGAN REDS — PELT AND FUR OUT.
Dimensions as shown (fur side in) : Length
of pelt, 32; tail, 18; total, 50; width at hips, 8;
shoulders, 7 inches.
Dimensions same sized fox (fur out) : Length
of pelt, 30; tail, 18; total, 48; width at hips, 9;
shoulders _ 8 inches.
These skins are just ordinary sizes for Southern
Michigan, Wisconsin, Northern Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Pennsylvania and Northeastern states.
Other Central and Southern states somewhat
average of good
Northern fox is
around i o
pounds and the
tail, is some 4
feet 6 inches in
length, but of
ing upon width
For a skin that
will stretch 32
inches, it will
require a board
36 inches long
by about 8
inches at base.
should begin to
taper about 10
inches from the
nose' of the
are thin and ten-
der in pelt and
care must be
taken in skin-
ning that the
skin is not torn.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
It will not do to have a fox pelt on the stretcher until
fully dry. Not only is there danger
of tearing it in removing but turning
a fox pelt that is fully cured, may
rip it. The head and nose will be espe-
cially difficult to turn. As the pelt is
to be sold fur side out, it should be
removed from the board and turned
when about half dry. Three or four
days will be sufficient for a partial
drying as a rule. The fox pelt is
thin and never burdened with grease
and so dries quickly. When turned,
a thin board should be inserted to
hold the shape until fully dry. If
the fur contains burrs or mud or is
matted through, having been wet be-
fore skinning, should be combed and
Color and Quality. — A No.
I fox pelt is prime as to color on
flesh side when it is all red or white.
The fur should be long, thick and
fine and a bluish or mouse color from
just below the surface to the roots.
Outwardly there must be a liberal
CENTRAL NEW YORK supply of guard hairs of even distri-
LARGE RED. butiou, the tips of which are silvery,
36^Ya!i;i85ftot°al 'liy; while the fur itself is a fine bright
i2fs\'^uiSl* An"^in. ^^^' ^uch skius scll at the top mar-
Sred"?n¥u/sid"." ^^^^' kct price when wcll handled. A skin
Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift.
that is not quite so fine, will have all the requirements
mentioned, except that the color, instead of being a deep
Large, length nose
to root of tail, 34;
tail, 18; total, 52
width, 10; shoulders.
TWO NEW HAMPSHIRE REDS
— LARGE AND MEDIUM.
(1) Large, length of pelt, 34;
tail, 18; total, 52 inches; greatest
width, 10; shoulders, 8.
(2) Medium, length of pelt, 30;
tail, 16; total, 46 inches; greatest
width, 8; shoulders, 7.
Measurements taken on fur side.
red, is yellowish, and instead of a large, full furred tail
with a shade of black mingled with the red, the tail in
the second case is greyish and dull in coloring and per-
172 Fur Buyers' Guide.
haps small and unattractive. Some foxes are of a very
poor color in mid-winter, the worst ones being of a straw
or dead grass shade. Such skins must sell at a lower
A young fox of one or two years, is usually well
furred and the color good, while the coat of an eight or
ten year old fox will be greatly faded. It may be from a
buff or dun shade down to a smutty white. Again we
have a prime skin of good color and the under fur is
perfect but there are no guard hairs and the whole coat
appears flat without them. Another prime skin is rubbed
in spots, lessening the value according to how much it is
rubbed. The cause may be lice or fleas or mange, which
induced the victim to so chafe himself. Sometimes a fine,
large, well furred pelt is defective through being rubbed
at the hips. Another is well furred and of good color
until the hips are met and here the fur is decidedly grey,
as if crossed with the grey fox. All of these ofif colors
and qualities are not worth top prices.
Primeness must also be taken into account. The
slightly unprime are blue pelts termed No. 2. Such a
pelt may seem well furred at a little distance but a closer
view reveals its coarseness in a superabundance of top
hair. If such a skin had been take a month later, it would
have been No. i, but unprime it sells for one-fourth to
one-third less. No fox should be taken of poorer quality
than No. 2 but No. 3 and No. 4 are quoted.
A No. 3 is black on the pelt side and the growth of
fur is small. No. 4 are trash and not to be considered.
Skins that are torn, badly shot and much bitten by dogs,
are damaged, and even if prime are not No. I. The poor-
Foxes — Red, Grey, Kitt or Swift.
est sample of red fox is the Samson. Probably this
name had its origin in the account of Samson and the
foxes as told in the Scriptures. Certain
it is that this poor specimen bears a
singed appearance as if it had been
through a burning bush. Not only is
the coat burned in appearance but the
growth is scanty, kinked and curled at
the ends, which turn toward the head in
little locks and is clotted and matted to-
gether. The Samson is of small size
and the supposition is that ill health is
the direct cause of its being undersized
and its fur a distorted perverted growth.
The value is low — hardly enough to war-
rant skinning and handling.
Grey Fox — Range. — The grey fox
inhabits the Central and Southern states
and portions of the West. It is also
found on the Pacific Coast but is most
plentiful in the Southern States. While
differing somewhat in size, as to section,
the general dimensions of the animal
alive is about 36 inches including the
tail. The fur is far inferior to that of the red fox and
the value is correspondingly low. There is a mountain
species or strain of the grey fox which is much better
furred than those of the general country. The fur is
longer and darker colored, the contrast being that between
light and dark grey. The back is furnished with the
longest hair, which is rather coarse, is darkest through
nose to root of
tail, 24; greatest
width, 7^; shoul-
ders, 6^ inches;
tail, 15; total, 39.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
the center and lighter on the sides. The
tail is long and darker than the body on
its upper side and the sides are often
tinged with red. The grey fox tail is not
so large and full, as adorns the red fox.
Uses. — Although a cheap fur grey
fox is serviceable and is made up by the
furrier in great variety for the class of
trade who must use furs of moderate
cost, sometimes it is dyed black or blue
and sold as imitation of other furs.
Sizes. — As to
sizes of grey fox.
Large, tip nose to
root of tail, 34; tail,
16; total, 50; greatest
width, 8; shoulders,
7^ inches. Although
nose is stretched some
inches too long, yet
the pelt is large, rep-
resenting the larger
sizes from the hilly
and mountainous parts
of Virginia, Mary-
West Virginia, etc.
nose to root of
tail, 23; tail, 14;
total, 37; greatest
width, 7; shoul-
ders, 5% inches.
Medium, nose to
root of tail, 26j4;
tail, 15; total,
41p2 ; greatest
width, 8;_ shoul-
ders, 6H inches.
Foxes — Red^ Grey_, Kitt or Swift.
the value is so low that the grader will make but little
difference in skins if disposed to be fair, the only distinc-
tion being to class the extra small ones by
themselves. As to quality, the raw fur firm
quotes four grades, but as a No. 2 or
slightly unprime skin is only worth 60 to 75
cents, it can readily be seen how meagre
a sum a No. 3 or 4 will bring. It is only
a waste of time to skin, handle and deal
in such poor peltries and it is hardly worth
while to give any directions for assorting
them. If compelled to buy No. 3 and No.
4 foxes of any kind along with a purchase
of other desirable goods, class such where
they belong, remembering that their value
is but little.
The grey fox falls far short of the'
red in cunning. He is much easier trapped
and when driven by hounds, his run is
short and only in small circles. It never
leads away for a long run before the dogs
and either goes into the ground or ascends
a tree which it can do almost as quickly as
a cat, while if the red is compelled to tree,
it can only ascend a leaning trunk.
The illustration showing six grey fox
red especially skius bringfs out forcibly the fact that
around ears. *=> ^ J
where furs are shipped and the! dealer
wishes to take advantage in the grade, that can easily
be done. From description underneath these skins*
it will be seen that there is a difference in length
v^ E s T V I R-
Large, nose to
root or tail, 27
tail, 15; total, 42
greatest width, 8
inches. The fur
on head, hind legs
and tail which
shows dark on il-
lustration is quite
Fur Buyers' Guide.
of five inches between largest and smallest, half inch in
width at tail and one and one-half at shoulder, yet all
were graded as large. These foxes were caught by a
SIX southern PENNSYLVANIA GREY FOX SKINS.
(1) Length of body, 31; width at tail, 10; shoulders, 8% inches.
(2) Length of body, 31; width at tail, 9^^; shoulders, 7>4 inches.
(3) Length of body, 80; width at tail, 9%; shoulders, 8 inches.
(4) Length of body, 29; width at tail, 9%; shoulders, 7^ inches.
(5) Length of body, 27%; width at tail, 9^/^ ; shoulders, 8% inches.
(6) Length of body, 26; width at tail, 9^/^; shoulders, 7 inches.
Length of tail varied 2 inches, being 15 on No. 6 and 17 on No, 1,
others between these lengths.
trapper in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, which is one of
the most southern in that state, bordering on the state of
Maryland. A buyer who makes many classifications and
usually sends out prices above market would have graded
Foxes — Red, Grey_, Kitt or Swift.
about two large, two medium, two small and probably
paid 10% to 20% less for the six than the buyer quoting
much less but grading more liberal — in
fact, to state it correctly, will say honestly.
Kitt Fox. — This small fox only
measures about 18 inches to two feet in
length. It is a light grey in color with
long, interspersed white hairs. The sides
are a tawny yellow and the belly is white.
It carries a full tail when in fur about one
foot long, which is grey except on the
under side, where it is yellow and the
guard hairs tipped with black. The fur
is rather dense, soft in quantity and the
pelt is light in weight. Its fur value is
somewhat less than that of the grey.
SWIFT OR KITT jt jg fo^^d principally in the South-
FOX PELT. .... V- 1 1 • A 11
Large length ^^^ parts 01 British Columbia, Alberta
nose to tail, 22; ^^^ Saskatchewan in Canada and in the
tail, 12; total
length, 34; great- xjuitcd Statcs from the Dakotas west to
est wiath, 7%;
shoulders, 6 j-^e Pacific Coast, which includes Mon-
tana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, al-
though it is in other parts of the West and Northwest.
It is never found in the Eastern, Central or Southeastern
This animal is said to exceed in swiftness most other
fur animals and is often called "Swift Fox." It has never
been very plentiful, but of recent years has become scarce,
yet its fur is quoted.
RANGE. — This valuable fur animal inhabits an ex-
tensive range of territory, being found from the
Arctic regions to the Gulf of Mexico. Alaska,
Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Labrador,
North Eastern United States and the Lake Superior re-
gion yield the most valuable skins on account of dark
colors, fineness of fur and gloss. The least valuable mink
come from the Gulf States, the climate being so warm
that a thick winter coat would be a burden.
Shades of Color. — No mink is ever strictly black.
A dark brown is the nearest approach to black. While
more dark mink are found in the far North and East
than in the Central Western and Southern sections of
North America, still a good many skins taken in the best
sections are only a medium brown and some are light
brown or pale. The most valuable mink pelt is not only
dark on the surface, but the fur is dark clear to its roots.
The grader determines this and also its fineness and den-
sity by blowing into the fur until it separates. The mink
along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts north are
especially valuable, having both size and color.
Besides being dark, fine, thick and having luster or
gloss, the perfect skin must contain a proper amount of
guard hairs. They should be darker than the rest of the
fur and contain much of the gloss. They should stand
out, bristling and lively in appearance also. Some mink
pelts that have a good coat of fur in general are lacking
in guard hairs, either having been rubbed off, or else for
some unknown cause, none have grown. Many a well
furred mink is dull in color and possesses no luster what-
ever. This statement does not apply to Northern mink
FOURTEEN NORTHERN WISCONSIN MINK SKINS.
The first four and last one are medium, the other nine large. The
large average about 25 inches from tip to tip, 3i/^ at hips, 3 at shoulders;
medium average tip to tip 23 inches, 3 at hips, 2% at shoulders. These
skins class with the Lake Superior sections and Maine, where none are
large but dark, fine furred and among the most valuable in America.
or any particular section but anywhere that mink are
Sizes and Handling. — The next consideration is
size and manner of handling. Northern mink are so
much smaller than those of other sections that we are
almost justified in pronouncing them a distinct species.
A so-called large mink of the North country is smaller
than a medium sized mink of Central United States and
Fur Buyers' Guide.
a medium Northern mink is smaller than one rated as
small a few hundred miles South. Canadian mink and
those of Maine, North Michigan, North
Wisconsin and similar latitudes require
boards for the three sizes about as fol-
lows : Large, width at base 3^ inches, at
shoulders 3 inches, length of board should
be about 28 inches, length of skin when
stretched, from tip of nose to end of tail
24 to 26 inches. Medium size, width at
base of skin or hips 3 inches, at shoulders
2j.^ inches, length of board 28 inches,
length of stretched pelt from tip to tip 22
to 24 inches. Small, width of board at
base 2^ inches, at shoulders 2 ir^ches,
length of board 26 inches, length of skin
from tip to tip stretched, about 20 inches.
It will be readily seen that the North-
ern mink are very small compared with
their cousins inhabiting Illinois and sim-
ilar sections, which I shall mention and
yet the small species are far more val-
uable, just as a five dollar gold piece ex-
ceeds the more bulky silver dollar in worth,
no^e^ ^? %oot ^*of ^^ ^^ movc southward into Southern
tail, 22; tail, 8;
total, 30; greatest
width, 4; shoul-
ders, 3% inches.
Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Penn-
sylvania and similar sections we find mink
much larger, a little coarser in fur, not so
glossy and fewer dark ones. They average a good brown
in shade from November ist to about January ist. After
that they begin to fade. Some pale skins are secured at
FOUR LAKE ERIE AND SIMILAR MINK.
(1) Large (tur out), length, end of nose to tip of tail, 27; greatest
width, 5; shoulders, 4 inches.
(2) Large (pelt out), length, including tail, 28; greatest width, 4;
shoulders, 3% inches.
(3) Medium (pelt out), length, including tail, 24; greatest width,
3%; shoulders, 3^/4 inches.
(4) Small (pelt out), length, including tail, 22; greatest width, 3^/^;
shoulders, 3 inches.
Both large mink were of same size before being turned, namely, 2'8
long and 4 inches at hips. These sizes are about correct for the best
grade of skins from the Lake Erie and Southern Lake Michigan sections.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
all times. Mink of these sections average as to size for
large, 28 to 31 inches, tail included when stretched, the
board being 3^ to 4 inches at base and 3^ to 3^ at
shoulders. Medium size, length from end of nose to tip
of tail about 26 or 27 inches, width of
board at base 3^, at shoulders 3
inches. Small, total length boarded
24 inches, width at base 2^ to 2^,
at shoulders 2^4 inches.
Aside from the sizes in boards
given there are between sizes, such as
large-medium, also extra large and
extra small. An extra large mink, if
well furred and the shade borders on
the dark order, is worth more than
ordinary large skins. On the other
hand, if an extra large skin is pale
and coarse, or poorly furred, it may
not be worth sO' much money as a
medium size well furred and of good
color. It is often difficult to buy an
extra, large mink of poor quality at
its actual value, the owner being of
the set opinion that it should sell for
a good price on account of size alone.
An unusually small or kitt mink is
worth less than the quotations on
41/ • ^sSidlrs^'^sy small skins. Sometimes a buyer will
iglhfthtSge'mS P^y ^ large mink price for a large
NoftTenf^" A^kansal' "^^^^ium, taking his chance's on getting
Eastern Oklahoma j^jg moucy back. He may do it to
and Kansas. -' -^
Large, length of
pelt, 20; tail, 9; total.
hold his trade to beat some competitor or through seem-
ing generosity when he can do it because prices are ad-
Mink taken in states bordering the Gulf of Mexico
are of moderate size but reddish
in color and the fur is short and
thin. They are the least valuable
of any mink except the so-called
''cotton mink." The latter ap-
pear to be a freak and occur in
several states, Central, South
Central and West. The general
appearance of the Cotton mink,
at first sight, is similar to any
ordinary mink but blowing into
the fur discloses that it is white
as cotton from just under the
surface to its roots, hence the
term "cotton." They are only
worth from 25 cents to $1.50.
Cotton Mink. — It may
surprise trappers, buyers and
dealers to know that in some
localities of the Central West,
'^^tYtTmink.'"'^^ there are a good many ''white
Large, length, nose to root Underground" or cotton mink.
?9y.f \?ektelf 'wittk, '°4yJ; The following letter dated De-
shoulders, 4 inches. Note ^ , - 4.^ ^
how nice and clean pelt is CCmbcr 28th, IQIO, frOm a trap-
scraped. The dark spot on ^ tt 1 /^ i. T J'
left shoulder is from hide per of Howard Louuty, incUana,
getting bloodshot from being
caught in steel trap by left -^JH orOVC interesting :
184 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Dear Sir : — I am sending you under separate cover
one small, pale mink, what is called here a cotton mink.
I don't see them quoted in any price list. Fully one-half
of the mink that we get here are cotton. I have trapped
in Arkansas, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana
and never caught any any place but here. Local buyers
pay from 25c to $1.50 for them here, although I sold one
this winter to a local buyer for $2.50, but it was a large
one, 33 inches long, tail and all.
W. E. Waddell^ Howard County, Ind.
The mink which Mr. Waddell sent was medium
sized, but on parting the hair or blowing the fur, the
under part was white — hence the name, ''Cotton Mink."
Howard County is some fifty miles north of Indianapolis,
Indiana, being in North Central Indiana, a section that
produces very good skunk, coon, rats, etc. Why there
are so many cotton mink is a mystery.
In the Central Western States from Ohio to Iowa
and south, there are more or less cotton mink, but in no
section have we ever heard of so many as in Howard
County, Indiana. Several years ago, when buying furs
at GallipO'lis, Ohio, a buyer in Pickaway County, Ohio,
which is only about 25 miles south of Columbus, sent in
a shipment containing 8 mink, 5 being cotton. Outside
of this instance, we do not remember of seeing more than
two cotton mink in a shipment containing 50 or more
Through the section where cotton mink are found,
it is doubtful if there are many sections where over 5%
are cotton. This, of course, is only guess work. Dealers
seem to vary a great
MINK SKIN, LARGE,
Length, nose to root of
tail, 25; tail, 9; total, 34
inches; greatest width,
5; shoulders, 4^/^. This
is only about an average
of the large size secured
in parts of Iowa, Min-
nesota, the D a k o t a s,
deal as to the value of cotton mink,
all the way from 25 cents to $1.50.
In certain sections such as
Western Indiana, Illinois and por-
tions of the West and Northwest,
including parts of Manitoba, Sas-
katchewan and Alberta, Canada,
mink of unusual size are found.
Specimens have been caught that
measured on the stretching board
36 inches from end of nose to tip
of tail, 6 inches wide at base and 5
inches at shoulders. Such dimen-
sions are rather unusual but the
general run of this brand of mink
is very large, the average being
about 34 inches from nose end to
tail end, 4^ to 5 inches wide at hips
and 4 to 4J^ at shoulders and the
other sizes in proportion, The
medium and small are about two
inches shorter in length and a half
inch less in width respectively.
Aside from Western large
mink and the exceptionally small
breed of the North and Northeast,
it is not difficult to give the dimen-
sions in boards required for the
rest of the country. First I will
observe that 28 to 31 inches from
tip to tip will constitute a large
Fur Buyers' Guide.
mink for the Eastern, Central and Southern states when
on the drying board. Width about 3^ inches at base and
3 at shoulders. Certain large skins will exceed these
dimensions, however, by an inch
or more in length and a half inch
It will be seen that skins
vary somewhat in size in each of
the three grades termed, large,
medium and small. There can
be no exact standard or hard and
fast rule to follow for no two
beans nor any two snowflakes
are exactly alike. Even if two
mink were of exact proportions
before going on the drying
boards, if two different trappers
owned and had the handling of
them, stretched pelts might be
quite different in measurements.
One might be overdrawn to its
limit of length and cured on a
board much too narrow and the
other may be stretched on a
board much too wide so that the
pelt is greatly shortened. As
furs come from a legion of trap-
pers and in all styles of han-
dling, the eye of the fur sorter
becomes so practiced that a
glance is sufficient to determine
TWO LARGE INDIANA
(1) Length of pelt, 18;
tail, 9; total, 27; greatest
width, 4%; .shoulders, 4^
(2) Length of pelt, 19;
tail, 9; total, 28; greatest
width, 4%; shoulders, 4^
These pelts would have
looked better if they had
been stretched a little longer
and not so wide. Measure-
ments were taken as shown,
size, whether stretched wide, narrow, uniform, flaring or
pointed. Practice alone is all that can accomplish this
eye discernment in grading for sizes.
I have given a range in each size
in my remarks for the above reasons
that handling differs with different trap-
pers and also in stating length of skins,
for one large mink may have a tail 6
inches in length and another of same
size, carry a tail 7 or 8 inches in length.
A mink should not be stretched too long
and narrow. The stretcher should fill
the body well as to width. If the dryer
is too wide, the pelt will be shorter than
looks well and justice has not been done
t(.^ the head and neck. The proper shape
is a board that fits the pelt fairly snug
and is of uniform width until the point
where shoulders will come en the board
has been reached. Here the board or
other stretcher should be a half inch
narrower than where the hips come and
should taper rapidly to the nose and still
Medium to large, j^ot finish with a sharp point. Such
length, nose to root ^ ^ -^ ^ ^
of tail, 171/2; tail, 61/2; handled mink as this have the right ap-
total, 24; greatest ^ .
wdth, 4; shoulders, pearaucc and will sell at highest mar-
3% inches. Tail split ^ °
and tacked out flat by ]^qi priccs auvwhcre. There are in-
trapper to cure. ^ -^
stances where some amateur trapper
dries a nice mink pelt on a wedge-shaped board, much
like the capital letter A. Such a cured pelt is worth
about half the market price for well handled skins and
do not sell well anywhere on earth.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
The best timber for drying boards is white wood —
poplar, basswood, cottonwood,
and white pine — or any soft
wood where straight grain and
toughness is combined. Hard
woods are not satisfactory. It
is difficult to shape and dress,
and nails driven into them draw
hard, and some break off. Most
hard woods when used in making
thin boards, split easily. Stretch-
ing boards should be y^ of an
inch in thickness, no thinner,
after they have been planed on
both sides. When shaved into
proper form, the corners are
rounded and sanded, turning out
a smooth finished board on all
sides, to which fur will not stick
obstinately when the pelt is dry
and removal is attempted. Boards
should be a little longer than the
(1) Large, length, nose expcctcd pelts SO that there is
to root of tail, 18; tail, S^/^; ,.-.,.,. .
greatest width, 31/2; shoulders, room for a hall mch holc m the
3 inches. , - , . ^
(2) Medium, length, nose souare cud SO that skms may be
to root of tail, 16; tail, 8; ...
greatest width, 3; shoulders, huUPf UO OU uails OT bC StruUgf OU
2% irches. . ^ \ ., , . ,^ "^ ,
These skins represent those wircs while drying. Many a val-
secured from the Southern
ranges of the Allegheny uablc pClt UOt hung haS been
Mountains and include parts ...
of West Virginia, Virginia, rumcd by miCC,
Kentucky, Tennessee and
North Carolina, being rather J)^q holdcr of mluk pcltS
dark and silky, tor so tar ^
south, although averaging should SCC tO it that the boUCS
TUCKY MINK SKINS.
are removed from tails or they may rot and fall off, dam-
aging the pelt considerably. Trappers sometimes neglect
to remove the tail bone and the buyer may find it a rather
difficult job to remove the bone after the tail has dried
down but it can be done by using
a sharp knife to rip it on under
side from root to tip and by
carefully cutting around the
bone, peel it out.
Mink should not be taken
off the stretching boards until
thoroughly dry, or they will
wrinkle and can not be made to
look smooth afterwards. Avoid
drying green skins in a close
room, by the heat of stoves or
other artificial heat. It turns the
flesh side of prime skins dark
and gives them an unprime ap-
pearance. Drying by the heat
from fires or the sun, causes
skins to become brittle so that
they will break easily and go to
pieces in the process of tanning.
Drying should be done in the
shade where it is cool and there
^^^^^^Tx.'ll^A^.^f.T^^^ is a good circulation of air so
CANADA MINK ^
SKIN. that curing is affected through
Length, nose to root of natural evaporation only.
tail, 22; tail, 7; total, 29; ^ •'
rtachS.'''^'his'i'i„1°S's'"'fS Degrees of Primeness. -
ciught'Tn. "coio?,* b™™'" No. I or prime skins are full
190 Fur Buyers' Guide.
furred and entirely white on the flesh side, except that
this appearance may be accompanied by a slight fleshy
red where skins have not been closely scraped. No. 2's
are full furred but there is too much top hair and the
flesh side is of a bluish cast. No. 3's have about one-half
of a winter coat, or growth of fur and the general appear-
ance is hairy. The flesh side is dark, almost if not quite
black. No. 4's have but a very small growth of fur and
the pelt is black. In some sections mink can not lawfully
be caught while in the No. 3 and 4 stages and dealers in
such sections dare not buy them. No. 2's are not for-
bidden for the reason that certain ones prime up late and
a few that are slightly off in primeness may be expected
after the trapping season has opened legally.
Mink should be left as they come off the boards with
flesh side outward and so presented when marketed.
Why foxes and marten are turned fur side out before
marketing and mink left unturned, it would be hard to
tell except that it is a custom. There is one advantage
in leaving mink fur inside. Mink fade quite rapidly
when exposed to light so if skins are not turned, fading
is largely avoided.
Buying From the Trapper. — General market quo-
tations value mink not only for size and primeness but
also as to color, whether dark, brown or pale. At this
point the writer feels impelled to offer the beginner in
fur buying a few words of advice. When mink are prime
and at their best in color which is from November ist
until early January, do not endeavor to buy them and
assort for color if you wish to accumulate mink furs in
any quantity worth your time. He who assorted mink
for color has long ago been driven off the ground among
country fur buyers. When mink are sent in to some
house on consignment, grading can be done as they see
FOUR NORTHEAST CANADA MINK SKINS.
Length 01 body, inches 24 2'2 22 20
SJJ^th ^t tail inches... 41/2 41/4 38/4 43^
Width at shoulders, inches 3% 314 314 4
Length of tail, inches 9 s^^ SV^ 9
These skins are about an average for size and color as caught in
the eastern half of Canada.
fit, but not when you try to buy of the trapper in person.
Most country buyers work on the rule that a good, prime,
straight mink pelt in late autumn and early winter is
192 Fur Buyers' Guide.
worth full quotations for dark mink, unless the fur
should be extremely pale. If a trapper has a collection
of six, eight or more good mink he many times holds them
at a flat or average price. Dark brown and pale all go
together and he will sell in no other way. Of course
there are cases where a mink or two can be secured at a
real bargain but most trappers are well informed now-a-
days and the novice soon learns to stick for every last
Liberality is the keynote to successful fur buying
and he who gives the trapper a little the best of it as
often as he can, is sure to make friends who will hold
subsequent furs for him. Buyers who have only handled
skins of mink caught in their immediate locality can
hardly believe the variation in size from different parts
of the country. The following measurements are a few
that have been brought to my notice :
A Minnesota mink, 37 inches from tip to tip.
An Oklahoma mink, 32 inches from tip to tip.
A New Jersey mink, 32 inches from tip to tip and
43^ inches wide at hips.
One from Alberta, Canada, 37 inches from tip to
tip, 6^ inches at hips and 5^ at shoulders. Note espe-
cially the extraordinary width.
One from Minnesota, 38 inches from tip to tip, 5^-^
inches at hips and 4^ at shoulders.
Two South Dakota mink, each 38 inches from tip
A 32 inch mink caught along Houlston River, Ten-
Two North Dakota mink, each 36 inches from tip
Two Iowa mink, 33 inches from tip to tip. The
largest weighed an even 5 pounds.
Two from the state of Wash-
ington (dressed) each 36 inches
from tip to tip.
One from Central Ohio, 37
inches from tip to tip.
A 4/^ pound mink caught in
the Riding Mountains of Manitoba,
Four Kansas mink, the largest
stretching 35 inches and weighing
45^ pounds — the others about 4^4
A Massachusetts mink, 35
inches from tip to tip and weighing
3 pounds 14 ounces.
A Lake Superior region mink,
33' inches from tip to tip, weighing
Four from an Illinois trapper
that measured from tip to tip : one,
35^, one 35>^, two 34 each.
No doubt these measurements
and weights are much above the
average, for large, from the states
and provinces mentioned, yet they
Mink caught in the Lake Supe-
YUKON RIVER VAL-
LEY MINK SKIN.
This is a dark furred
pelt but note how much
white it has on the belly.
Neck and throat to fore-
legs being nearly all
white while a narrow
strip extends entire dis-
tance. About an average
sized skin from Yukon
Valley, being 22 inches
from nose to root of tail;
tail, 8; total length, 30;
greatest width, 4% ;
194 Fur Buyers' Guide.
rior region, Maine, Eastern Canada, are small — usually
under 3 pounds and when stretched less than 3,0 inches
from tip to tip. Owing to their color and fine fur they
are worth more than skins from the Northwest that will
average a half larger but much lighter in color and coarser
The inexperienced mink collector will do well to
remember that size alone does not represent mink values.
Should over large skins for a certain locality be offered,
and big prices accordingly wanted, more than likely such
skins are not native. It only costs a few cents to mail
one or more skins a few hundred miles.
RANGE. — Muskrat are like mink, one of our most
common and widespread fur bearers. They in-
habit territory from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico
and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Naturalists
claim to have separated no less than five distinct species
in this fur bearing rodent. Be that as it may^ the dealer
is unable' to distinguish any difference, except that locality
affects the rat as to length and thickness of fur and heft
of pelt. The muskrat of the Western states is thinner
in pelt and shorter in fur than the Eastern and Central
states rat. Those of the Gulf states are' so short in fur
as to be worth only about 60% of what is paid for rats
of the Eastern and North Central states. The most val-
uable of all are the black rats found on the salt tide water
that overflows the marshes along the shores of the East-
ern states, mainly from Virginia north to New Jersey,
where, in some localities, the per cent is 25 or even more
of the entire catch.
Habits and Quality. — When inhabiting rivers and
streams, muskrat live in dens in the banks, the entrances
of which are under water. The channel leading to the
nest ranges upward so that the nest at its end is several
feet above water where the banks are high enough to
admit it. River bank dwelling rats are heavy in pelt and
196 Fur Buyers' Guide.
well furred. Rats that inhabit lakes with muddy margins
and swamps, swales and ditches live mostly in houses.
The fur is thinner and the pelt lighter than that of the
bank rat. The house is a conical dome erected about
three feet above water. It is composed of flags, reeds,
grass, roots and mud and is mud plastered to exclude the
frost of winter. The house is three to four feet in
thickness at its base. It is roomy inside and the walls
are about 6 or 8 inches thick. A stool or seat is erected
inside from the same material that comprises the house.
This seat or rest is depressed and contains the nest where
the rat lies comfortable and warm and feels no effects of
the storms and biting wintry blasts. Here he lives in the
darkness of an underground world for several months
while thick ice covers the water. When food is desired
he must dive to bottom and secure the roots of flags and
pond lilies which he brings up to his snug home and
Where rats inhabit places that are poor in vegetation,
not so good a coat of fur will be found as where the
needed food is plentiful. This condition will be found
in uninhabited regions where the forests keep out the
sun and so retard the growth of grass, flags, lilies, reeds,
etc., which rats require for food and house building. On
the waters of such wild territory, rats are not numerous
and their fur is thin and the pelt light and papery. Veg-
etable food is not departed from by the muskrat except
that clams are eaten to some extent where plentiful and
claims attention. The rat carries the mussel upon shore
and leaves it until dead, when it is easily opened.
Mating occurs in March or early April and the kitts
are born the latter part of May or the first of June. Four
to eight constitute the number in a litter. Old rats fre-
quently produce a second litter and the early spring kitts
sometimes mature and rear one family the same season.
This rapid increase is all that prevents the rat from be-
coming extinct under the persistent trapping and hunting
by man and boy. The rat being easily trapped, it becomes
a victim to the small boy's first efforts at trapping. Where
plentiful, expert trappers often bend all their efforts in
trapping rats alone.
Uses of Muskrat. — In recent years this fur has
been employed in a wide range of uses and under several
fanciful names to promote its sale. When plucked,
sheared, and dyed, it is ''Near Seal." Made up into capes,
collarettes, boas and muffs, it becomes Canada Mink,
Brook Mink, River Mink, etc. Men's caps are made of
it and overcoats lined with it. It is used to trim cloaks
and milliners use it in trimming and making winter hats.
There are various uses not necessary to enumerate. Rat
fur is attractive, whether made up natural, dyed or
blended. The fur is popular and were it not for the fact
that the leather is not very lasting, it would rival the
mink on account of less cost. But it is warm, rich in
appearance, the service fair and it will no doubt maintain
its favor indefinitely. Several million skins are marketed
annually and at a single London sale three million were
Primeness, Grading and Size. — Muskrat taken in
late fall are furnished with a fair coat of fur but do not
become full prime until early spring. The flesh side of
Fur Buyers' Guide.
fall rats is dark or bluish, no signs of primeness, except
a few red spots or streaks that will widen later as prime-
ness advances. Towards the end of November some skins
MUSKRAT PELTS PROPERLY AND IMPROPERLY HANDLED.
Top row fairly well skinned, stretched and handled,
poorly skinned, stretched and handled.
have improved in quality to the extent that they are
termed Winter rats. In such skins the pelt is at least
one-half red. Some dark spots remain in the pelt until
early March when the pelt becomes entirely red or flesh
color with a white background, when they are entirely
prime and are termed ''Spring rats."
Only three sizes should be made in grading fall rats.
Large and medium sizes go together. Undersized skins
of fair thickness are termed small and very small papery
skins are the kitts. Skins that measure 5/^ to 6^ inches
at hips and a half-inch less at shoulders and are 14 to 16
inches in length, class large and medium. A few skins
are taken with dimensions, when dry, 17 or 18 inches in
length, 7 inches wide at hips and 6^ at shoulders. Skins
5 inches wide and 12 to 13 long are small. Kitts 8 to
10 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide. Papery pelted
mediums belong in the small grade of good heft and the
papery pelted small go with the kitts. Winter rats large
and medium class as one grade if of good weight in pelt
and full furred. Thin skinned large and medium go with
large Fall, and small papery Winter go with small good
heft Fall rats.
In a lot of 30 muskrat skins as caught by a trapper
in Wyoming, the largest measured 15 inches in length, 5
at hips and 4^ at shoulders. The average was much
smaller, being only 12 long with a width of 5 at hips and
4^ inches at shoulder. This size would be graded as
small from Ohio, or other rat producing states east of
the Mississippi river. The pelt also was very thin, in
fact, papery rattling when handled, yet the fur was good
length, thick and heavy. Such skins, however, are not
very valuable as pelt is thin and tender requiring care
in tanning and manufacturing.
Quite a large per cent of rats in Spring are damaged
by cuts received in fighting. These must be graded down
Fur Buyers' Guide.
according to how much damaged. One or two cuts places
a pelt one grade below and if badly cut and scored it is
next to worthless.
SPRING MUSKRAT SKINS.
(1) Large, length, 17; greatest width, 6^; shoulders, dVz inches.
(2) Medium, length, 13^; greatest width, 5%; shoulders, 5^/4 inches.
(3) Medium, length, 13J^; greatest width, 6; shoulders, 51^4 inche^
No. 2 is not properly stretched — too pointed. ^"^^ " '" "■"
right but should be pelt side out.
No. 3 is shaped all
In Central, Eastern and Northern sections primeness
covers a good share of March and half of April. After
this there will be some signs of shedding, such as becom-
ing blackish around the fore legs, neck and head, as the
result of numerous roots of summer hair that are coming
in. Taking rats much beyond the last of March should
be discouraged, for early April finds most of the females
pregnant. Such slaughter is folly and ruthless waste.
Care of Skins. — In skinning rats the pelt should
be takferi.oif entire, ears, eyelets and noses. Pelts when
torn off at the ears and eyes appear mutilated and it short-
ens them sufficiently to bring a full sized skin down with
the small. All surplus fat and flesh should be removed
at the time of being placed on the drying board. These
forms should come near to fitting each size in pelts so
that the skin may not be strained and make the fur thm
through covering too large a surface. The back of pelt
should cover one side and the belly the other, not stretch-
ing sidewise with a fore leg on each side of the board.
Draw skin to full extent and use 6 or 8 nails to a side,
pulling out the slack points and hold tight while driving
nail. Do not remove pelts from boards until thoroughly
dry. If partly green when removed, the pelt will wrinkle,
perhaps shrivel. Avoid drying under the influence of the
sun or fires. It turns pelts dark, giving an unprime ap-
pearance. It also makes them brittle so that they will
break. Dry only by natural evaporation in cool, venti-
lated rooms. See that pelts are not hung in leaky barns
or sheds where they will be dampened by rain. They will
mildew and this nearly ruins them. Mildew also occurs
when a large number are thrown in a pile and not turned
over frequently and also when hung up together in com-
pact bunches. Sweating and mildew both damage rats
c^Onsiderably. Cured skins should be strung on a wire,
passing it through the noses and leaving a little space be-
tween each pelt and its neighbor.
202 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Stretching Boards. — Boards for drying should be
uniformly oblong, somewhat narrowed at the shoulders
and taper rapidly from thence to the nose. However,
rats do not want to be tapered so decidedly as skunk.
Just taper enough so that the head and neck is stretched
to its full extent, no more and no less. Boards should he
y^, of an inch thick, planed both sides and after being
formed, the corners are rounded and sand papered. The
timber should be soft but tough such as whitewood, bass-
wood, poplar, Cottonwood, etc. Such timber as yellow
pine, gum or sycamore is hard to work and splits badly
when dressed thin. The board should be at least i8
inches long and near the base a half inch hole should be
bored to hang up by when pelts are drying.
In making stretching boards, patterns of the different
sizes should be made first and all boards laid out by these
established forms so that sizes will be exact, instead of
hewing them out by guess. Wire stretchers are used to
a great extent and have the merit that skins will dry
sooner on these open forms than when hugging a board,
but where timber exists wood stretchers are still largely
used. A good supply should always be made ahead and
ready for use.
Buying and Selling. — The matter of buying and
selling are important topics. Not many muskrat collec-
tions in recent years have been purchased from trapper
and country dealer on assortment. The custom prevailing
is that of buying flat or average. So well established
is it, that but few will sell according to grade. Buying
flat is largely guesswork and the figure asked per skin,
as they run, is usually high enough to make the odds
greatly in favor of the seller. Instances of substantial
losses being sustained by him who secures the goods are
not lacking. The writer has seen cases where 25 cents
flat was demanded and paid and such collections only
graded 19 or 20 cents average and even as low as 17
cents. A loss of $5.00 per hundred on a large bunch
amounts to a snug sum in pocket for one and out for the
other. The usual reason for such shortage between price
paid and real value lies in the large percentage of small
rats and kitts the lot contains. On the other hand, col-
lections have been purchased that sold for a ten or fifteen
cent raise a few weeks later, $10 to $15 per hundred,
$100 to $150 per thousand.
The buyer may be compelled to buy average and still
he should not be expected to go it blind and buy a pig
in the bag. If a speculator has his rat collection corded
up and will not permit inspection the chances are that
the skins underneath do not compare at all with the
outside display. The shrewd possessor of a rat collec-
tion is not likely to place them on sale for a flat price
with the worst side exposed or even as the lot will aver-
age. On the outside small rats are few and kitts none.
On the interior 10% to 15% of kitts, large and small, lay
concealed, if the buyer did but know it. And this pro-
portion will hold as a rule in all collections of Fall rats.
Every lot of much size also contains more or less of dam-
aged skins. Shot, torn, mildewed, gnawed by mice,
poorly handled, unstretched, shriveled, burned by coat
of grease, all have to be deducted from the rest and as
they each count the same as a straight pelt, averages are
inflated and a fictitious value placed on the collection.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
If a collection of rats
there will be a far larger
weights than if taken from
LARGE AND MEDIUM MUSK-
(1) Medium, length, 13; width at
hips and shoulders, 5 inches.
(2) Medium, length, 14; width at
hips and shoulders, 5 inches.
(3) Large, length, 15; width at
hips, 7^; shoulders, 5^/^ inches.
None of these skins were stretcked
are all of the swamp variety,
percentage' of kitts and light
rivers and other streams and
large clear lakes. This fact
often sees two collections
in the same locality that
differs very much. One
buyer relates that he pur-
chased two rat collections
about 30 miles apart. Brass
owned one lot and Bowser
the other. Brass has a
good lot of Fall rats mostly
of good heft as to quality
of pelts and a minimum
number of kitts. "I paid
Brass 30 cents flat," said
the buyer. "Bowser's lot
contained a large percent-
age of kitts and small and
I could not offer but 25
cents average for them. The
next time I visited Bowser
he called me to account.
'I hear you paid Brass 30
cents for his rats/ he said.
*Then you come right along
the same day and only al-
lowed me 25 cents for mine.
What kind of a man are
you ?' Explanations d i d
no good. Bowser did not listen to them, even when I
showed a statement from my firm that the Brass pur-
chase at 30 cents was a much better deal than the one
where 25 cents was paid. Bowser would not sell me an)
f ursjd^ing th^ rest of the season."
_ af-brings the fur buyer new battles to be
bought and he copes with his adversaries best who is
prepared to pay the price asked for furs and grant the
seller's own terms in assorting. The proprietor of one
large fur house instructs his traveling buyers to make
no deals for rats on a flat basis unless he is allowed to
inspect the lot sufficiently to see how they run for sizes,
kitts, percentage of Winter's, etc. Even then he would
a little rather that no flat buying be done and such oppor-
tunities to trade be passed by. For he declares that sel-
dom does a lot so purchased sort out the value that has
been paid. This brings us to the question of fictitious
values and selling furs by unfair methods, to make money.
Often a collection that is held for a high average offer
has been purchased at a flat price and a high price. If
any money is to be made, the lot must sell at a still higher
average when unloaded on the next man. It would be
interesting to know how the big dealer at the main fur
center comes out on such a lot of fur as we have been
describing when a half dozen small buyers have handled
them and each made a rake off in profit.
In most localities rats are trapped ofif so closely that
but very few live to be old and of large size. We may
expect then that the average in any collection will run
medium for size with quite a proportion small, light and
kitts. He who ships a lot of these young rats to some
Fur Buyers' Guide.
firm whose price for ''Extra Large" is attractive, is made
to realize painfully in his returns that the large rat is
woefully lacking. Seemingly
they endeavored to assort
them all tO' small sizes, so he
The muskrat supply keeps
up well considering the enor-
mous numbers taken each
year. Although thousands of
trappers were at work har-
vesting muskrats in the Fall
of 1912 and it was believed
in some quarters that rats
were wiped out, the Spring of
19 1 3 saw more rats caught
than ever known before. The
Spring catch was heavier than
the Fall. Where all the rats
came from was a mystery.
So long as there is water
there will be rats. But no
matter how numerous they are
in a certain place, drain the
water ofif and in a month the
rats which existed there are
but a memory. Restore the water after a lapse of ten
years and the rats as quickly return in a single season.
Water powers are being developed on rivers everywhere
and the widespreading ponds thus formed are very soon
inhabited by muskrats. The delay is no longer than until
EXTRA LARGE ILLINOIS
This skin, on pelt side, meas-
ured as follows: "Length, 19;
greatest width, 8%; shoulders,
71^ inches. Not one skin in
a thousand is this size as the
Extra Large quoters know.
vegetation starts. Many such artificial ponds have be-
come worthy of the best trapper's attention and thou-
sands of rat furs are taken from them. Not only is this
fur a valuable resource but the flesh is fast becoming an
article of food and in some quarters it has a market quo-
tation. Trappers in close touch with the large cities ex-
pect to market the carcass as well as the pelt. In dry
seasons rats appear to be the least numerous and in wet
seasons when swamps and ditches are filled and the lakes
and streams are at a good head, rats are unusually plen-
tiful. Considering the rapid natural increase, well
watered sections will not see the rat extinct very soon.
RANGE. — Skunk inhabit practically all of the United
States and a large portion of Canada — the south-
ern part. This fur bearer is so common and of
such value that it yields more money than any
other fur taken in the latitudes where it abides. Such
skunk as inhabit regions of snow and low temperatures
are much superior in quality of fur to those taken in the
milder zones as is true of all fur bearers. Northern and
far Eastern prime skunk fur is long, thick, a blue black
and glossy, while in the warmest sections fur is shorter,
thinner, pelt smaller and fur not so glossy. Skunks are
partial to a settled country and are never numerous in
wild sections very far from man and his works. They
are quite fearless and also lawless, frequently making
^quarters under deserted houses, barns and other build-
ings. If not molested they will bring forth their young
and rear them in such proximity to human buildings.
Species and Sizes. — Skunk differ so much in size
and in general appearance in various sections of the
country that we are warranted in the' presumption that
there are different species of the same' animal. In por-
tions of the Northwest they are very large, exceeding
those orf all other sections for size to a marked degree.
To illustrate: An ordinary sized male skunk of Central
and Eastern United States will require a stretching board
8 inches wide at base and 6 at shoulders and 24 inches in
length ; many a large Western long stripe will need a dry-
ing board 10 inches wide at base, 8 at shoulders and 30
inches in length for the pelt alone, tail not included. On
account of superior size they are worth 50% to 75%
TWELVE LONG NARROW STRIPES AND ONE SHORT.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Length of body,
inches 21 22 22 21i/4 18 22'y2 22 22^4 22 21 213^ 25 21
Width at t a i 1,
inches 9>-sy2 9 9 9 8 9i^ 9 8% 8^^ 10 9 S^^
Width at shoul-
der, inches 6 6^/4 6 6 5^4 534 5 6 5% 5i^ 6i^ 6^4 6
Length of tail,
inches 14 14% 14 13 12 14 131/^ 15 14% 13 121/2 16 13 _
These skunk were caught by a trapper in Wisconsin — note how uni-
form they are (with the exception of No. 12) in stripe and size. No. 12
is a No. 2 or short.
more than the same marked skins of similar latitudes
where the average is much smaller. A part of the wide
range inhabited by these large skunks is North Iowa,
Minnesota, the Dakotas and Northern Wisconsin. Four
grades as to amount of white a pelt may contain are com-
Fur Buyers' Guide.
mon to all other sections, being termed Black or No. i.
Half or short stripe or No. 2, Long narrow stripe or No.
3, and Long broad stripe or No. 4, also called white.
Years ago a skunk skin to be a No. i must have no
more white than that which covers the scalp, but as this
THREE NO. 1 OR BLACK SKUNK.
(1) This is what is called a star black.
(2) The two thin white stripes and the small spot o£ white at rump
do not lessen the value.
(3) Stripes are a little wider and longer than on the middle skin,
yet this is a skunk of the No. 1 grade.
fur became more valuable and in strong demand, grading
became so liberal that two thin forks of white extending
from the crown two or three inches downward was per-
missible and later on good sized skins were rated No. I
when short narrow stripes went down to the point of
Such is the custom when assorting for No. I's under
ordinary conditions, as to business prosperity and exist-
ing world's markets. If the market is
demoralized for any cause, then the as-
sort becomes less liberal and sometimes
so severe that it approaches the old
days when a No. i could contain no
more white than the palm of one's hand
will cover. If a star black skunk is
undersized, such as is locally termed a
''Kitt," it is worth no more than a No.
2, or half stripe and should be so
graded. If very small, it is not worth
so much as an ordinary sized half stripe,
because the amount of fur is less.
There are many variations in the
markings and to assort some odd
marked ones, requires careful judgment
to place them where they belong. If
stripes are broken or branched or of
irregular width or length the total
amount of white portion must be esti-
mated after taking into consideration the size of the pelt
that is being examined. Sometimes a skin exhibits a fork
of white, one of which does not extend below the shoul-
ders while the other reaches to the middle of the skin.
Ordinarily such a skin would be classed as No. 2 but there
are instances where it will pass for No. i. To be so classed
it must be a large, well furred skin and the stripes very
slight, about ^4 o^ ^^ i^^h in width.
NO. 1 OR BLACK.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
NO. 2 OR SHORT.
No. 2's are those skins with stripes
not more than an inch wide running to
the middle of back or an inch less or an
inch beyond the center. If very narrow
the stripes may extend 2/3 of the length
of pelt and grade No. 2. An undersized
half stripe belongs a grade below with
the No. 3's. Especially is this true if
the skin is very small and the stripes
heavy as to width. Small skins with
very short forks of white grade No. 2,
when if the skin was of ordinary size,
it would grade No. 1
No. 3's carry stripes
not over an inch wide
in ordinary sizes ex-
tending the entire
length or within three
inches of the tail root.
If a skin is extra large, a wider stripe
is allowed than if of ordinary size.
Usually a stripe one inch wide is the
limit and ^ to ^ inch wide stripes
make a good deal better No. 3.
Extra small half stripes belong with
the No. 3's and a large No. 3 with the
narrowest stripes are really worth
more money than a very small No. 2.
Undersized No. 3's belong a grade
down with the No. 4. Long stripes
NO. 3 OR LONG.
having one narrow stripe and the other extra wide,
should be graded as No. 4 or broad.
No. 4's are long broad stripes whose combined width
will aggregate more white than there is of black in the
back of a pelt. Also as previously stated, very small long
narrow stripes are graded No. 4. Lil)-
erality in grading depends somewhat
upon circumstances. If a trapper, buyer
or shipper should offer a lot of skunk
that were all small, from a section
where they average much larger, it is
fair to suspect that the large skins have
all been kept back, perhaps with a view
of obtaining an extra price for them,
and at the same time secure the full
market price for the small sizes offered
The illustrations of the four grades
will convey a good idea of these skins,
as skunk are sold on these, or similar
grade, by all dealers unless selling flat.
Some shipper sends a trial ship-
ment about as follows: 25 No. i, 7 No.
2, 17 No. 3, and 5 broad. Now in the
entire list of 25 No. i, there is not one
straight skin for that grade. They are
either undersized or stripes reach al-
most the middle of skin, or are too wide and other ob-
jections prevent them from even entering the doubtful
list. Only 7 No. 2's and all ought to go No. 3. Faults,
undersized, stripes reach almost to tail, exceeding broad
if only extending half way. The 3's are mostly too broad
NO. 4 OR WHITE.
214 Fur Buyers' Guide.
and should be graded No. 4. The small allowance for
broads, there is no doubt about, for their backs are nearly
When such a job as the foregoing is put up to test
the buyer's generosity and common sense, can he be
blamed if the owner of such a lot is disappointed with
the returns ? The dividing line is so closely drawn in the
different grades of skunk as between buyer and seller,
especially when this fur is in big demand and prices high,
that many a quibble arises. Even under the most liberal
grading, the owner sometimes demands assortments that
can not be granted by any buyer that is sane. A fur
hunter offers a single skin on the local market. It is an
ordinary sized one, freshly caught and has never been on
the drying boards. Two forks of white extend below the
shoulders midway between that point and the middle of
the back. He insists that it shall sell for No. i. The
buyer is liberal in all cases but declares this skin can
never sell for No. i. Not only do the stripes go most
too far down to grade No. i, but they are heavy as to
width. The owner is confident of his position and goes
away to try some other buyer.
Selling a skin for what it is not, many times means
an extra dollar for the seller and a dollar donated by the
buyer. Some raw fur firms make four sizes in each of
the four grades of skunk. Their quoting is Extra Large,
Large, Medium and Small. Now in such a range of
sizes, it is easy to quote confusing prices and unheard of
high prices for Extra Large. The facts are that the quo-
tations for Extra Large are but a sop paraded before the
eyes of the prospective shipper as a bait to induce ship-
ments and cover up the deficiency in prices quoted for
medium and small. It is rare that you will ever ship
any skins of such proportions that they will be invoiced
Extra Large and net you that big, attractive figure.
SIZES OF MARYLAND SKUNK SKINS.
(1) Large, 22' length of pelt; (2) length of pelt, 19; (3) length of
pelt, IS inches. Greatest width, 8%, 7%, 6%. Measured on pelt side.
These dimensions were furnished by a trapper who selected three from
a large number — largest, smallest and average.
In Fall and early Winter when the majority of
skunk taken average good sizes, there should be no dis-
tinction in sizes, except where now and then a Kitt or
2i6 Fur Buyers' Guide.
extra small may be found. If you do have an occasional
small pelt in your lot, the buyer will not lose if he grades
it merely for the amount of white. For every small skin
he is getting a dozen or more large ones and some that
are extra large. We will admit that a few extra large
skins alongside of the small ones make the latter appear
rather insignificant. Skunk skins average much larger
early in the season than they do during the spring months.
Evidently they go into winter quarters fat and hide in
prime condition but towards spring when they become
active again, they are not only poor in flesh but the hide
has apparently shriveled, at any rate it is smaller on the
same skunk than when that animal was fat. Skunk skins
will not only average larger but are much more glossy and
black during the months O'f November, December and part
of January than later.
Prime and Unprime. — Prime skunk are full furred
and will be white on the flesh side after being cleaned
of fat and the red flesh which often sticks to pelt. The
pelt that is not quite prime will be of a bluish cast on the
flesh side and can even be seen through a coat of grease.
When the skin has been scraped clean the blue appear-
ance of unprime pelts will stand out clearly. If caught
so early that there is but little under fur and the pelt side
is black, the skin is of no value and is termed trash, scab,
The blue pelt or unprime No. i as to amount of
white is graded down with prime No. 2's and the blue
pelts No. 2 go down in the grade of prime No. 3's. Un-
prime No. 4's are cut in price below market price for
prime No. 4. Some fur bearers of the same species
prime up sooner than others. Two
skunk caught at the same time and
in the same neighborhood may find
one prime and the other blue pelted.
At first sight both may appear prime
but comparing them side by side the
difference will be noted, not only in
regard to color of pelt but the blue
pelt will be found lacking in under
fur and will present too much top
Care and Handling. — Skunk
are universally fat in Fall and early
Winter. A heavy blanket of fat
covers the body which is left on the
carcass in skinning and still a second
coat of grease lies next to the skin.
This should be scraped away clean
from the skin when it is intended to
hold this fur for any considerable
length of time. The tools are a sharp
wooden knife or a dull drawing
knife. A beam of rounded timber
flattened on upper side is made by
champering it to such a taper that it
will receive any sized skin. It should
be incorporated in a shaving horse
so that the operator sits astride as
he works. However, in the large fur
IOWA LARGE SKUNK
Length, including tail,
44; greatest width, 9;
shoulders, 8 inches. This
skin is nicely handled —
note how well fleshed and , . , ,^
stretched, even the tail houses scrapmg bcams are usually
is split and tacked out
mounted so that the workers stand
Fur Buyers' Guide.
but must bend over them as they work. Scraping is done
by downward strokes from head to rump and care must
be taken not to scrape so close as to draw out or expose
the hair roots.
While skunk skins are being held, those that are dry
and removed from the stretching boards, will remain in
good condition if clean and they are strung on a wire
which passes through the noses, and kept separate. Short
wires or strong cord are attached to the main wire at
intervals of a few feet and made fast to hooks or screw
eyes overhead to prevent sagging. The pelts should be
strung and not allowed to press each other and there
should be ventilation and a circulation of cool air admit-
ted much of the time to keep down any tendency in pelts
If fat skins are not scraped and are held long in
moderately warm rooms, there is much danger that the
grease will heat the pelt and loosen the fur. Sometimes
such skins exhibit a yellow or creamy color and are waxy
to the touch. Ten chances to one they are burned and a
slight pull on the fur will bring away a good lock of it.
If burned, and the fur is loose, such skins are called ''fur
slips" or "pullers" by country dealers. Pullers have no
value whatever. They are past redemption. Sometimes
skunk furs that are free from fat but green and uncured
are thrown in a pile or left in a sack closely packed until
they become tainted. If the odor that arises is that of
pronounced decay, the probabilities are that they have
sweat, loosening the fur and that it is ruined.
Skunk should not be salted. Brine forms, drips on
the fur and spoils its appearance. It also toughens the
pelt so that it resists the process of tanning. The bone
should be removed from tails to prevent rotting, and one
more word in regard to scraping. Green skins do not
scrape well as the fat is tough in character but when pelts
have hung two or three weeks, the fiber of this fat breaks
down and becomes oil. This is the time to scrape, for it
can be done easily and clean. When this oil stage is
attained, therein lies the danger of heating, and every day
they are neglected at this time is hazardous.
Shedders and Rubbers. — After skunk become
prime but few defects will be found for some weeks ex-
cept that a skin or two may appear at times affected by
mange. If mangy, the under fur will be lacking, the skin
scaly and scabby. There is little or no' value in such
pelts. In the latter part of winter there are some rub-
bers. Lice or fleas cause the animals to get under some
log or snag and chafe themselves until the fur is worn
off down to the skin. This damages a pelt greatly. A
spot rubbed in the back no larger than a penny places a
skin one grade below and if rubbed the size of a half
dollar it belongs two grades below. If the rubbed sur-
face is as large as the palm of a man's open hand, it is
By March ist in central sections and two weeks
earlier in South Central states, skunks begin shedding.
All trapping and otherwise securing this fur should end
abruptly before the shedding stage has arrived. But as
it does not, something must be said in regard to market-
ing them. In a collection of these springy skunks, will
be found shedders in different stages, some only slightly
affected while others are bad shedders. To distinguish
Fur Buyers' Guide.
skins that are shedders is not difficult. The flesh side
has lost the flint white appearance of winter skins and is
very red and bloodshot and the fur is thin or woolly or
There is no hard and fast rule for grading and val-
uing shedders. They must all be examined separately,
regardless of white markings and valued according to con-
dition. Many trappers and local buyers are not compe-
tent judges of springy skins and having accumulated a
bunch, will fight strenuously against the poorest skins
being placed one and two grades below, as they belong.
Some may be about worthless and yet the owner can not
or does not want to see it. About the best way to han-
dle the springy skunk question is to grade strictly with-
out liberality in regard to colors. Establish a reduced
price on all grades and low enough to meet conditions or
money will be lost for rarely can springy skunk be bought
In Winter a good many skins are brought in green
and frozen with the fur outside. They are hung up in
this condition or perhaps thrown in a heap. While it
remains cold, this will do but when soft weather comes,
they must be turned fur side in and stretched on boards
or they will become slippery which is the next thing to
spoiling and the fur loosening. If not placed on boards,
they also shrink greatly in size in a short time and in a
pronounced way, about the neck and head.
Sizes and Shapes of Boards. — As previously re-
marked, the large Western long stripes sometimes require
a board 30 inches long, 10 wide at base and 9 at shoul-
ders. The medium and small in these skunk will require
boards about 2 inches less in dimensions all around for
each succeeding size. All other states Northeast and
Central for the full sized skins require a board about 8
inches wide at base, 7 at shoulders
and 24 inches in length, not including
the tail. Medium size, 22 long, 7^
at base, 6>^ at shoulders. Small, 18
long, base 6, shoulders SV^- South-
ern skins are of smaller size. South-
ern Ohio and Indiana are smaller
than those of Michigan and the East-
ern states. Ohio skunk have a larger
percentage of blacks or No. i than
any other state. Often an Ohio col-
lection will run 50% to No. i. A
large number in this section are star
blacks, having no more white than a
white scalp. Of course there will be
skins that will require boards be-
tween sizes of those I have men-
tioned. There must be a little vari-
ation for each grade.
There is also a great diflference
in the way skins are handled by dif-
ferent men. The proper shape for
skunk boards is uniformly oblong.
They should taper quite rapidly from
CALIFORNIA LONG jj , ^ j ^ ^^ shoulders
NARROW STRIPE. "^ ^^^""^^ uciuw wntit
Large, length of pelt, will come, to the HOse and yet not
^:f' gre'itesrw'idth! end iu a sharp point. One trapper
ur'ed'^on^fur''side. ^'^" shapes his boards uniform and an-
'i:22 Fur Buyers' Guide.
other makes the head and shoulders portion too wide so
that the nose is not filled and finally shrivels and dries
down hard and pointed. It makes the pelt shorter than it
should be. A third trapper forms his boards long and
narrow as if skunk required an exaggerated mink board,
or cat skins were going to occupy them. The result is
that the hips and body lack much of being filled out to
their full extent. The skunk is comparatively short in
body with small neck and head and boards should be'
shaped accordingly. Buyers should always have a good
supply of stretching boards on hand.
Speculation. — So far as the writer has been able
to ascertain there is more wild, reckless buying of skunk
furs than in any other when prices are high and demand
strong. When there is undue excitement and over-con-
fidence in the future exists, hardly two men can be found
of the same mind when it comes to old established rules
in grading. Both may be eager to buy, but one of them
must be the victor and carry off the spoils even if his
better judgment tells him he has beaten himself.
Brown, a country buyer, leaves a bunch behind with-
out buying it because the owner wants to sell his half
stripes for No. I's and his broad stripes or No. 4's for
No. 3. Brown is hungry for furs but prudence for once
interposes and is heeded. He does not dare buy the lot
on such an assort. Smith, a second buyer, comes along
shortly afterward. His appetite for skunk skins is wolf-
ish. He has just sold a bunch he had bought on an ex-
aggerated assortment to a buyer in the pond of specu-
lators who is just a little bit bigger fish than himself. He
made a dollar and a half clear and it has greatly stim-
ulated him. Now with blood in his eye he says to the
owner of the bunch Brown had left, 'I'll take 'em on
your assort." Having secured the lot Smith must now
endeavor to find one a degree wilder than himself to un-
load on, if he is to make anything or even get his money
back. If he becomes nervous over the deal, he may for-
get scruples of honesty and proceed to doctor up his pur-
chase a bit, as a counterfeiter might a five dollar bill, to
make a fifty of it. He pulls or shaves out some of the
white stripes to shorten them by a half and so become
good No. I's. Others where such work would be too
noticeable because of length and width of stripe, he black-
ens with shoe blacking or whisker dye. The broad stripes
bought as No. 3 can not be improved, which causes some
With all his cunning, skins thus tampered with are
easily detected in daylight. The white stripe shows
through on the flesh side although it has been blackened
and there is a noticeable contrast between blackened fur
and the real thing. So Smith makes it a point to sell
some evening when the falling shades of night prevent a
close inspection. One trick in severe cold weather is to
shave the white portion from a half stripe while green,
keep it fur side out, lap the shaved furrow together and
let it freeze. I once saw a bunch of six or more which
had been so treated and were all sold for black skins
while frozen like a rock. Not many buyers will escape
being taken in by this scheme. Aside from deceptions
practiced, the prevailing excitement is sufficient to cause
plenty of irregular if not dishonest doings.
Floating reports about the country as to what this
one and that one received for his furs and what such
and such ones have been offered is such stimulating gos-
sip that buyers having a
few dollars to invest become
keyed up to a fever pitch.
They race and run and hire
teams, if not owning one,
each striving to head the
other off and get to the spot
where a few pelts are held,
as if the gold of the Klon-
dike lay in them. They go
without meals, are up early
and late and the few hours
stolen for sleep are restless'
and beset by dreams of bat-
tling to secure a share of the
precious loud odored peltries.
The country buyers are
not alone responsible for this
excitement. It is promoted
by the large fur firms who
flood the country with spe-
cials every week, each suc-
ceeding list coming out
higher than the previous ones
of competitors. Certain firms
become so anxious as to say, "Send in your furs. We
will take them on your own assort and valuation or re-
turn them and pay express both ways if our ideas are too
Large, measured on pelt side,
length, 22H; tail, 13; total, 35i^;
greatest width, 9%; shoulders,
7% inches. Same pelt measured
on fur side, length, same but
greatest width, 10%; shoulders,
far apart." Trappers receive the same quotations that
are sent to buyers which excites them accordingly and
makes it hard to buy from them. Unless the local buyer
will pay extreme prices and be extremely liberal in grad-
ing, the trapper will take a chance in shipping his furs or
at least threatens to do so. For a time there seems to be
no end to excited buying and exaggerated liberality in
grading. Finally, all of a sudden there comes news of a
drop. Prices have been forced too high, says the big fur
firm and the market is demoralized. Values are about
20% lower and still further reductions may be expected.
The effect of this news- on the army of small buyers
is like a 12-inch shell sent from the forces of an enemy
to explode among them. There is a great hurry to un-
load holdings now and this still further weakens the mar-
ket. Losses are sustained and accepted with the best
grace possible, after which there is a scurry to cover.
Trappers and skunk diggers keep at work and the fresh
catch must be sold but suddenly they come to realize that
there are no buyers. Last week there were plenty of
buyers but now they are conspicuous by their absence.
They have all dug themselves into retreats before the
Memy, a broken market.
Now a good many are driven to shipping their catch.
The returns show, besides a big cut in prices, that liber-
ality in grading has been supplanted by extreme rigor
and severity in assorting. A skunk does not go No. I
if having much white except the scalp. Unless a long
stripe is really narrow, it is a No. 4. No doubtful ones
go to the shipper's benefit now. Some are thrown a grade
226 Fur Bt de.
helow where they should stand and assort is made in sizes.
This all represents the difference between a booming,
over-confident condition in the market and the reverse
when capital is timid and traders panicky.
Wild speculation in furs should not obtain any more
than if dealing in grain or vegetables and perhaps would
not were it not that there are so many grades in furs and
such a difference in views as to sizes, qualities, colors,
etc., which affords a wide margin for speculation. There
is also a sort of fascination about handling furs which
induces more middlemen dealers to enter the field than
is necessary, more in proportion to what are needed than
in the handling of any other commodity.
Shipping. — Of course, skunk skins in some states
are larger than in others, but the average is pretty much
the same in any locality. The quotations vary somewhat
for the various states and localities but those best in-
formed do not see any necessity for quoting extra large,
large, medium, small. Many reports from those that
have shipped tend to show that the "size" method of
quoting is not for the best interest of the shipper although
some reliable firms do so quote.
When sending furs out on consignment to the large
fur houses, there is system to be observed as well as in
buying. First, see that the skins are clean as to grease.
Pack in sacks standing on tails or noses and snugly. Do
not double up and wrinkle any dry pelts. Place your as-
sort in an envelope and address on the outside. Put this
in with the furs. See that the sack is well sewed up and
properly tagged. Write a letter at the same time noti-
fying the receiver of the shipment and request that the
furs be held separate until you can accept or reject the
returns. Every trapper and handler of skunk furs should
be interested in its conservation and continuance on the
face of the earth. Such enormous wealth has accrued
from it and will yet, under proper regulations, that it
should be and is a concern of the nation. If the skunk
should become extinct, it would be a greater calamity to
us than the loss of a dozen dreadnought battleships.
CIVET CAT. *
RANGE. — In a general way the section inhabited by
this animal may be said to be between 30 and 40
degrees north, although there are few if any north
of the Ohio River in the states of Illinois, Indiana
and Ohio. Neither do they range east of the Allegheny
foothills in the Carolinas or Georgia ; there are, however,
a few along the east coast of Florida. They are also
found north of 40 degrees in the west in Iowa, Nebraska,
southern Minnesota, southern Wyoming, all of Oregon
and along the coast of Washington and north into British
Columbia. They are much more numerous in parts of
the Central West than a few years ago.
Description. — For some unaccountable reason this
diminutive specie of skunk is generally called civet. It
is also known as spotted skunk. This animal (call it
what you please) is provided with a peculiar odor some-
what similar to the skunk, but not so powerful to carry
a long distance through the air. To many the odor, at
close range, is as nauseous and offensive as skunk per-
fume. It rarely, if ever, exceeds a foot in length and the
tail is shorter than the head and body combined.
Size and Color. — This fur producer, like the com-
mon large skunk, varies much in size and also in the
amount of white in the fur as well as in the pattern of
■ ■■ ■ WW-* ■ '
NORTHERN OKLAHOMA CIVET.
Large, length, nose to tail, 16; tail, 11;
greatest width, 6%; shoulders, 514 inches.
Measured on fur side.
the spots or short
stripes. The skin is
strong and the fur,
especially from its
good, but owing to
s o many white
spots the fur is not
In making up the
so-called civet, no
effort is made to
eliminate the white
as the fur is used
matched in such a
way as to harmon-
ize one skin with
another. The made
up article is really
a novel and showy
one, price consid-
ered. The illustra-
tion of North Ok-
lahoma Civet i s
made larger than
the others of these
skins for the pur-
pose of showing
more plainly length
and quality of fur.
The skin, while a large one, is not much longer or wider
than two of the others shown and dimensions given. The
illustration of the three average size furnishes a good
idea of the pelt side.
Civet furs are secured
in considerable quan-
tities in parts of the
Central West as well
as most of the South-
Grade. — Value is
not determined by the
amount of white as is
done with skunk for
they are all well
marked with stripes.
Considering the small
size and numerous
spots and stripes if
assorted, they would
all be No. 4 or white.
The skins, however,
are classified as to size
only — large, medium,
small. A good many
do not even classify
as to size but buy flat,
paying according to
primeness and locality from which received. Those from
the northern localities, such as Southern Minnesota, Iowa,
Nebraska, etc., being most valuable as not only are such
best furred but the skin is stronger so that the manufac-
CIVET CAT — AVERAGE SIZES.
(1) Small, length body, 11; greatest
width, 4; shoulders, 3>4; tail, 9 inches.
(2) Medium, length body, 12%; greatest
width, iY2; shoulders, 4; tail, 9 inches.
(3) Large, length body, 14; greatest
width, 5; shoulders, 4;^; tail, 9 inches.
Average sizes for skins from Northern
and Central civet states. Southern states
smaller. Note these dimensions are pelt
tured article has greater wearing qualities. Different
states and localities produce skins of various sizes but
the following dimensions of pelts, flesh side, for the three
sizes will be found practically correct :
Large, length from tip of nose to
root of tail 15, width at hips 5>^, shoul-
ders 5 inches.
Medium, length from tip of nose to
root of tail 13, width at hips 5, shoul-
ders 4^ inches.
Small, length from tip of nose to
root of tail 11, width at hips 4>^, shoul-
ders 4 inches.
Of course, the shape and thickness
of boards used in stretching will have
something to do with sizes but it is pre-
sumed that skins are stretched on boards
properly shaped and not over Yz inch
thick. The following are actual dimen-
sions taken from a Southeastern Ne-
braska skin: Length, from nose to root
of tail 15^, tail 11, width at hips 6>4,
shoulders 5 inches. The illustration show-
ing pelt side of three skins and measure-
ments on flesh side was furnished by a party who has
handled large quantities of civet cat furs.
Price. — So far the price of civet fur has been low,
ranging from about 25 to 75 cents for prime raw skins
in ordinary years and 5 to 20 for unprime. To a certain
extent this article is governed by skunk values, for when
skunk are in good demand it naturally stimulates call for
A fairly large
ments taken on
fur side. Length,
nose to root of
tail, 15H; tail, H;
61/4; shoulders, 5
RANGE. — This fur bearer inhabits practically all of
the United States and a portion of Canada. In
widely separated sections there are considerable
variations as to size, color, length of fur, etc., but
as its habits appear tO' be essentially the same everywhere
it can not be said that different species exist. Probably
environment, climate and food have most to do in the mat-
ter of growth and character of the fur and as regards size.
Size. — The largest coon inhabit Wisconsin, North
Iowa and the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas.
Good sizes are found in Michigan, North Ohio, North
Indiana, North Illinois and the Eastern States but the
average is noticeably smaller than those of the North-
western states mentioned. South Ohio, Indiana, Illinois
and North Missouri coon are smaller than those inhabit-
ing the North range of the same states. The farther south
the coon is found the smaller is the average size, the
thinner are they furred and it is also shorter. One fea-
ture that makes any well furred skins valuable is heft or
thickness of leather in the pelt when tanned. North-
western, Central and Eastern are possessed of good leather
as to thickness. South Missouri and Arkansas coon are
thin in leather and the lightest weights of all come from
the Gulf States and Pacific Coast.
Size of Skins and Quality. — Different sections
produce so many sizes in coon and various styles of han-
dling that it is practically impossible to set down very
positive dimensions in the matter of measurement. The
best we can do is to give the approximate sizes found in
a certain locality or range of territory. The buyer in
RACCOON skins - WELL AND POORLY HANDLED.
(1) Large, dark Northwestern well handled, length nose to root of
tail 30; width at hips and shoulders, 24 inches.
(2) Central section medium, poorly skinned and handled. Length
nose to root of tail 20; width half way between hips and shoulders, 16
inches. Correct handling would have added at least one-fourth to its value.
each section must become informed as to what constitutes
a large, medium or small pelt for his locality, not only as
required by the large fur dealer but he will also be gov-
erned in a large measure by custom among local buyers
with whom he must reckon.
234 Fur Buyers' Guide.
In some quarters grading coon has become so liberal
that small sizes have almost disappeared. Unless a skin
is very small it is termed medium and good sized me-
diums, if well furred, grade large or at least bring a large
coon price. Under such strained liberality in grading coon,
the majority of all prime skins sell at one price, almost
the only departure being that Extra Large bring a special
figure over the ordinary sizes. No skins are termed small
unless greatly undersized and on the kitt order. This,
hov^ever, has nothing to do with correct grading or meth-
ods followed elsewhere. The object of these lines is not
to set any new standards in grading as to measurements
of pelts, but place before the reader such dimensions in
inches for them as is fair to all concerned and likely to
be accepted by the large dealer.
A fair standard of size for the Northwestern coon
is as follows : 24 x 28 inches, 26 x 28 and 24 x 30. These
are measurements for full sized skins and mean width
across base of stretched skin and length from tip oi
nose to root of tail. Three dimensions are given as
representing different ways of handling both square and
flaring. Large sizes also are not exactly the same before
being stretched. Two coon may each come under the
head of large and one be two inches longer than the
other. Medium and small sizes in Northwest coon meas-
ure about an inch less all around as sizes recede.
In North Central sections and the Eastern states
extra large skins will equal those of the Northwest.
Ordinary large sizes measure 22 x 24, 20 x 26, and 20 x
28 inches. Medium, 18 x 20, 18 x 22, and 20 x 22. Small,
16x20 and 14x22. These measurements represent va-
rious ways of handling as well as variation In coon of a
certain grade before being skinned. South Central sec-
tions such as South Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Mis-
PRIME LARGE AND SMALL ARKANSAS COON SKINS.
Small — Length of pelt, 13 J^; tail, 9; greatest width, 12; shoulders, 12
Large— Length of pelt, 21; tail, 9; greatest width, 19; shoulders, 19
These skips are what are known as square stretched — many skins are
handled in this way by Southern hunters and trappers.
souri, South Pennsylvania and similar latitude find the
coon an inch or so less in width and length than the
skins of the North Central sections. The skins of Ar-
236 Fur Buyers^ Guide.
kansas and South Missouri and similar latitude are still
smaller and the smallest coon of all inhabit the Gulf
States and Pacific Coast.
The fur of Northwestern coon is long, thick and
dark grey, sometimes tinged with dark brown. The pelt
is heavy also. There are, however, some skins of light
grey as found in all furs regardless of section. In the
North Central states the skins are weighty as to leather
and the color varies from light grey tinged with brown
to dark greys with brown and black effects. Occasionally
a decided black pelt is taken of superior value. The
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois coon are lighter colored as a
whole than those about three degrees of latitude farther
North. The farther South we proceed the smaller are
the sizes with thinner pelt and shorter fur. Arkansas
and South Missouri skins are the last in fairly well furred
skins. In the Gulf States the smallest, thinnest in pelt
and shortest furred of all coon exist except those of the
Pacific Coast which are only a trifle better in the fur
market. Full sizes of these semi-tropical coon are 14 to
16 inches wide and 18 or 20 inches long.
The photograph showing Northern and Southern
Coon Skins is an interesting one, showing as it does the'
general ways these skins are handled in the different
parts of the country as well as the color of the fur. No.
I shows a large, dark and silky New Hampshire skin,
cased, which is the method used by most trappers and
coon hunters in not only New Hampshire but most of the
New England states where skins run well to this char-
acter. No. 2 shows a large, light colored, short furred,
square and nicely handled Louisiana skin which is the
method used by the best trappers and coon hunters not
only in Louisiana but most of the states bordering on the
Gulf of Mexico as well as other Southern localities.
It will be seen by the figures given that there may
be as many as three' dimensions under one head. It de-
NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN COON SKINS.
(1) Large, Cased, New Hampshire— Length of pelt, 25; tail, 10; total,
35 inches; greatest width, 10; shoulders, 8.
(2) Large, Open, Louisiana— Length of pelt, 22; tail, 9; total, 31
inches; width, hips and shoulders same, 19 inches.
pends upon a slight difference in the size of animals and
also in what manner the pelt is stretched. If two coon
of exact size were to be stretched by different men, one
will make a large skin of his coon while that handled by
the other man will only go medium. It depends upon
Fur Buyers' Guide.
dimensions and shape. Give two large skins of equal
size to different men and when stretched one measures
20 X 24 while the other is 18 x 26. One of them endeav-
ored to stretch his pelt square
but made it too long and con-
sequently too narrow. But
for all that the dimensions are
different, they are both large
Primeness and Handling.
— A No. I or prime skin is
full furred and the flesh side
is entirely white with a thin
film of fleshy red covering it.
A No. 2 in quality is full
furred but still hairy and the
flesh side bears a bluish ap-
pearance. A No. 3 contains
about a half growth of under
fur but the whole pelt is very
hairy and the pelt side is
black. A No. 4 possesses but
a very small growth of fur,
is nearly all hair and very
short and the pelt side is
black. In one state where the fur bearers are protected
by law during a closed season, no trapping can be done
early enough to find pelts in the No. 3 and No. 4 stage.
Trappers found with them in their possession are fined
iud the dealer who buys such pelts is fined and the pelts
confiscated and destroyed.
COON SKIN, early
Length of pelt, 2'3; tail, 8;
total, 33; greatest width, 18;
shoulders, 14 inches. Poorly-
handled, skin salted, size medium
but owing to season caught No.
2 or lower.
The Raccoon. 239
All prime skins do not grade No. i. It depends upon
how well furred and other conditions to be mentioned
later on. If a large prime coon is very poor in fur, it
goes down into the No. 2 grade. If badly handled, torn
or shriveled or perforated by many shot or is badly bit-
ten by dogs, tail bone left in and partly rotted or darkly
bloodshot from the manner in which it was killed, it is a
No. 2 or No. 3 according to condition. A prime skin small
and badly handled, is not worth so much as a large No.
2, well handled and not damaged.
Coon being an animal which lays on a heavy supply
of fat, the pelt should be cleaned of all loose fat at the
time of skinning. After the skin has been stretched two
or three weeks, the fat will break down in tissue and
assume an oily character. This is the time to scrape the
pelt clean and it should not be neglected if these furs are
to be held long or they may be heated by the oil and
cause sloughing of the fur or at least loosen it so that it
may be pulled away easily. Care must be taken not to
scrape a pelt with such vigor as to draw out the fur or
expose the roots. Scrape just close enough to remove
the grease and no more.
Coon are sometimes stretched by the careless, in-
different, or ignorant with such a coating of fat that it
becomes oil, turns rancid, yellow and thick and shortly
the fur roots have been heated and sweating occurs,
which loosens the fur. Such a skin is ruined. The long
coated coon often become filled with burrs of the dock
in the back and hips and the tail may be a solid knot of
the fur matted with burrs. These should be removed
with a curry comb and brush, being careful not to pull
240 Fur Buyers' Guide.
out . the fur. The whole coat should be cleaned and
combed out and brushed so as to give it a presentable
appearance. Certain trapped coon wallow in sticky clay
in their efforts to escape until the fur is balled and matted
together. When this condition becomes dry, whip it with
sticks and after being broken up, comb and brush and
shake it out clean.
The trapper of the Northern and Eastern sections
believes firmly that there are two species of coon. He
will tell you that there are the common grey coon inhab-
iting the hills which are not very large and do not care
so much about being around the water as tha other kind
of coon. The other species he calls the swamp coon, de-
cidedly larger, darker colored, longer furred, long legged
and capable of a long run when pursued by dogs.
Brought to bay, he is a very strong, fierce antagonist for
any dog to cope with and sells his life dearly. This
species inhabits the river bottoms, spring brooks, swampy
lands, and never strays far from water. This is a pet
view of the back country trapper and we are not disposed
to contradict and disturb him in his opinion, if we had
grounds for argument.
In some years the darker colored skins are worth an
extra price and at other times no difference is made be-
tween them and ordinary colors, unless a pelt is strictly
black. As a rule, coon are dyed and but few made up
naturally so that dark shades are not in superior requ^'^t
or more valuable.
Coon are handled both square and flaring. If evenly
done, either of the two styles sell equally well. If
stretched square, a nail is driven in the end of the nose,
after which the principal efforts are directed in drawing
the skin upward and outward at the shoulders to make
square corners and attain the same width that the skin
will be at its base
when all is tacked.
This method shortens
a skin more than
stretching slightly ob-
long but the average
w i 1 1 be w i d e r. A
trapper known as one
of the best square coon
skin stretchers d e-
scribes his method as
follows : Skin as usual
but split nose and head
down even with ears;
stretch outj^oth points
of nose — one each way
— and nail. Next pull
out and nail longest
part of each front leg ;
then pull up and nail
balance of fore legs.
You now have the top
stretched and have
used more than a
dozen nails. Now be-
gin at top right hand side, nailing down, using a nail about
every inch but do not stretch. Now begin at top on the
other side and stretch and nail as you go down. You
will now find that the skin is loose through the center.
HEAVILY FURRED CENTRAL
This pelt, although not properly stretched
measured as follows: Length of pelt, 30
tail, 8; total, 38 inches; width at hips, 22
shoulders,^ 18. Neither front or hind legs'
included in measurement.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Catch hold of tail and pull down and nail, also nailing
from tail each way across. The job is now complete and
if correctly done, the skin is square.
This fur is handled both cased and open. The large
PRIME NORTHEASTERN COON SKINS.
These five skins are all large and dark, representing the best skins
from Pennsylvania, New York and New England States. Skins taken
from full grown coon are usually 26 or 27 inches long with a width of 10
and heavy northern skins are preferred cased (skins from
all other sections open), yet no difference is made in their
value. Cased skins from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North-
ern Iowa and Nebraska require boards up to lo inches
The Raccoon. 243
at base. If handled square, the largest would stretch
about 26 X 32, or thereabouts. In any case, the first move
is to tack the pelt at wide intervals all around to deter-
mine its size. Some points will be long and of no use
to the skin. Tack them temporarily. When the probable
dimensions of a pelt has been determined and laid out by
boundary nails, begin and pull out the skin between these
guiding nails and tack about one inch apart, keeping them
in a straight line. This is the plan to follow for sides,
bottom and all around. When fully nailed it should be
tight like a drum head. The finishing touch is to trim
off shanks and little flippers of skin that extend beyond
the main dimensions and spoil the appearance of the pelt.
Custom in the handling of skins must be observed
just as established requirements in grading can not be
ignored. There are a good many defects in coon furs,
some of which are : unprime, heated, faded, scorched,
thin, rubbed, tails rotten from bone being left in, woolly,
no guard hair, and shedders. It is rather difficult for
the amateur buyer to make money on coon furs. Either
he grades against himself for sizes, or buys unprime at
prime prices, buys No. 3's for No. 2 and 4's for 3's.
Sometimes a collection of November coon will not assort
more than 25% prime. They may be well furred and
good sizes and still a trifle blue. The longer held and
dryer the unprime become, the bluer the pelt will be. We
have seen pelts that when fresh were only slightly blue
but became almost black after being held two months.
In Northern latitudes the majority of coon are prime
by November 15th, a few earlier and some later, depend-
ing upon weather conditions, whether seasonable or not.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Shedding occurs in
two or three weeks
Length of pelt, 29; tail,
131/^; total 421/^; width at
hips, 14%; shoulders, 12
inches. Open, this skin
would have stretched at
least same length (29)
and 29 across hips and
24 at shoulders.
come charitable and
quality that is not in
Central sections by March ist and
earlier in the South. Not all are
shedding at the same time but the
majority are and all will be in the
same stage in a few days. At this
time the flint white color that is
seen in skins of winter quality gives
way to a very red and almost crim-
son color as if drenched in blood
and dried. The fur becomes thin
or woolly and theguard hairs crum-
pled at their tip ends. In some
skins of late winter the guard hairs
are entirely absent, which gives an
otherwise good coat of fur a flat
appearance. When springiness be-
comes still more pronounced skins
become bluish in spots, particularly
around the head and fore legs. The
taking of coon should stop at once
when signs of shedding appears.
The shedder is most difficult to sell.
Nobody wants them. The blue pelts
of late fall are far preferable.
Always remember that while
buyer and seller are trying to deal,
friendship is set in the background.
The owner is going to drive as hard
a bargain as possible. If you be-
so overpay the market and buy for
the goods, he has fattened his pocket
The Raccoon. 245
while your purse has become correspondingly lean. You
will not make any profit and it may be difficult to get the
money back that you paid when you come to sell. San-
ity should always govern a buyer and such lots of furs
that he can not buy on a fair assortment and at prices
somewhat near market values, he should pass by.
Do not strive to bag all the furs you come to and
compete with the plunger and imprudent buyer you know
of who has a hard time of it to sv/ing out even when he
sells. It is better to buy a hundred dollars worth of furs
and make a profit than to secure a thousand dollars'
worth and make nothing. And besides, the lack of profit
is the larger amount of work to be done in caring for the
big, unprofitable lot.
RANGE. — The scope of country inhabited by opos-
sum is more restricted than that which marks the
bounds of any other common fur bearer in the
United States. The so-called cotton states are the
real opossum country, and still the northern boundary of
its habitat extends into Central Pennsylvania, North
Ohio, North Indiana, North Illinois, Southern Iowa, etc.
It is not very plentiful, however, after leaving the cen-
tral portions of the states last mentioned.
Opossum are the only marsupial, or pouched animal,
of the Western Hemisphere. The young are born when so
small as scarcely to be out of the embryo stage. They
are at once placed in the pouch by the mother and each
of these little blind, hairless mites seize a nipple and be-
come so firmly attached that it is impossible to separate
them from their hold. If the body be pulled sufficiently
strong, the head will separate from the neck and still
cling to the teat. In five or six weeks the young are about
the size of mice and in two months are able to leave the
Size and Color. — The length of a full grown opos-
sum is about i8 or 20 inches excluding the tail, which is
bare and scaly like that of a rat. The color is of a grizzly
grey, often mixed with black in the half grown ones and
sometimes nearly white in the older animal. As to the
character of its food, it consists of fruit, grain, vege-
tables, small mammals, young birds, eggs, insects and it
will also make occasional forays on poultry. It grows to
OPOSSUM SKINS — VARIOUS SIZES.
(1) Large— Length, 24; greatest width, S^^; shoulders, 8 inches.
(2) Length, 22; greatest width, 7^/^; shoulders, 7 inches. Will also
(3) Medium — Length, 19; greatest width, 6; shoulders, BVo inches.
(4) Small— Length, 14; greatest width, 5%; shoulders, 5 inches.
These skins represent a fair average grade for the Northern opossum
States. In Southern States average sizes are somewhat smaller.
full size in about eight months if food is plentiful. Ap-
proximate sizes are :
Extra large, 9 inches at base of skin, 8 inches at
shoulders, 22 inches long.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Large, i8 to 20 inches long, 8 at base, 7 at shoulders.
Medium, 16 to 17 inches long, 7 to 7^ at base, 6 to
6y2 at shoulders.
Small, 12 to 14 inches long, 5^ to 6 at base, 5 at
Extra Small, about 5x1-?.
SIX MARYLAND OPOSSUM SKINS.
(1) Small— Length, 14; greatest width, 6; shoulders, 4^/^ inches.
(2) Small— Length, 151/^; greatest width, 6%; shoulders, 5% inches.
(3) Medium— Length, 20; greatest width, 7^^; shoulders, 6 inches.
(4) Medium— Length, 18; greatest width, IV^; shoulders, 5l^ inches,
(u) Large— Length, 261/^; greatest width, 10; shoulders, 7% inches.
(6) Large— Length, 221/^; greatest width, 9; shoulders, 7 inches.
_ These skins show the relative sizes — large, medium, small— yet No. 3,
which is 20 inches long but only 6 wide at shoulders, is classed laro^e by
There are also many kitt opossums caught, no larger
than a half grown muskrat and some no larger than a
large barn rat. Such sizes are worthless.
Its Fur and Uses. — In its northern range the opos-
sum is in fur of marketable quality about four months,
dating from November ist to March ist. Previous to
this they are unprime and hairy with but little under fur.
After March ist they begin to shed the winter coat and
return to hair again in a few weeks. The fur is made
up both natural and dyed. When colored it is used to
imitate skunk fur, called by the furrier black marten.
Collarettes, boas and muffs and many other things are
made of opossum.
Grading, Sizes and Primeness. — Opossum furs
are more difficult to grade than any other on the list of
native furs. A skin may be prime in pelt but have no
fur, a condition not often found in any other fur. The
sizes are large, medium and small, and as to primeness,
the grades are Nos. i, 2 and 3. A pelt that measures 8x18
inches may be termed large and the two smaller sizes one
inch less in width and about two in length successively.
A No. I opossum is not only white on the flesh side but
is full furred. If poorly furred it must be graded No. 2
or No. 3 according to how poor it may be in fur. If the
pelt is prime but there is no fur, the skin is classed as
trash and of no value.
The pelt side of No. 2 possesses a yellowish cast
when dry and the fur is hairy. If containing no under
fur, it is trash. If not well furred, a No. 2 is graded
No. 3. No. 3's are unprime in pelt and have but a small
growth of fur. The poorly furred and damaged prime
skins also go into the No. 3 grade. All opossum which
have no fur and only hair are trash and have no
value. Among the early caught will be a good many
that are trash. A collection of opossum skins that
are all early caught and unprime are the most undesirable
Fur Buyers' Guide.
peltries that the fur handler can purchase. The demand
for early opossum is not good and the outlook for making
a profit on them is not encouraging. More than 500,000
opossum are marketed in a season and besides the fur
value, the flesh is quite highly prized. Not only is it
eaten commonly by the inhabitants throughout its range,
but it finds a ready sale
in the large cities.
Opossum pelts are
very fat in late autumn
and early winter and
should be scraped to pre-
vent heating. Leave pelt
side out. Opossum skins
are often bought flat but
unless the buyer is fa-
miliar with skins from
that particular locality,
the seller may try to
work him by offering a
skinned lot, that is, part
of the largest and best
taken out. In buying
flat, all worthless pelts,
either large, furless,
badly dog chewed and
very small are thrown
LARGE CENTRAL WEST .'^"*- P"" Auctuates but
OPOSSUM. is largely governed by
Length of pelt, 30; greatest width, 10; S k U U k ValuCS which
shoulders, 8 inches. A very large skin, , • i (.. , . . .
the largest out of hundreds, represent- artlClC, aitcr bcmg dyed,
ing Southeast Iowa, Northern Missouri •, • i ^ • •. ,
and Central Western Illinois. it IS USCd to imitate.
Buyers who usually can quickly judge whether the
fur is prime at a glance at the flesh side of pelts, may be
mistaken on this article. Opossum caught weeks before
the fur is full length and even with little or no fur, only
hair, in some instances, have an
apparently prime pelt. The ex-
perienced buyer, however, knows
that when unprime they show a
dark blue spot on the under side
at the throat. The plainer such a
spot or spots, the poorer furred.
Some trappers also know this and
those inclined to be tricky are
careful to leave considerable' fat
on and around head and neck.
West Virginia being located
south of the Ohio River, those
not familiar with the fur pro-
duced there, will be surprised at
not only the quality but the size'
of some of the fur bearers. This
is especially true of opossum,
which are also as well furred gen-
erally as those farther north. One
of the best average collections of
opossum that the writer ever saw
was secured from territory lying
between the Great Kanawha and
Little Kanawha Rivers. This col-
lection was secured from trappers
principally in the counties of Jack-
Length, 26; greatest
width, 10; shoulders, 7
inches. Very few opossum
are as large as this one.
Considerably dog chewed.
252 Fur Buyers' Guide.
son, Roane, Wirt and Calhoun. They were not only well
furred but very large average size, perhaps 50 would class
At Catlettsburg, Kentucky, in the 90's I bought a lot
of more than 1,000 opossum secured from the Sandy
River country or Southwestern West Virginia and North-
eastern Kentucky. These were fairly well furred but the
sizes were much smaller than fifty tO' a hundred miles
north. For many years I traveled and bought thousands
of opossum and other furs on both sides of the Ohio
River, from Pittsburg to Cincinnati, so I know the sizes
from the different localities. It has also been my privilege
to stand in the fur assorting room of New York and St.
Louis dealers and see lots from all the opossum produc-
ing states opened and graded. Strange, but skins that
came in from the territory between the Great and Little
Kanawha Rivers of West Virginia, averaged better furred
than other southern localities and apparently as well
furred and larger than those north of the Ohio River.
Some' splendid skins are, however, secured in Southern
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, parts of
Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia. Farther
south, even though having size, the fur is not so dense
and is shorter.
Probably 75% of the opossum are from the states
bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas,
Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee. Several states
immediately north of those mentioned are, however,
really in the opossum country, including Virginia, Ken-
tticky and Missouri. Further north they are not so plen-
tiful and as already stated very few are found north of
Central Pennsylvania, North Ohio, North Illinois, South-
ern Iowa, etc.
WOLVES AND COYOTES.
CHE TIMBER WOLF — RANGE.— The large grey
or timber wolf inhabit Canada, Alaska and the
West and North sections of the United States.
There are a good many packs of these wolves at
the present time inhabiting North Michigan, Wisconsin,
Minnesota and Maine, They constitute a scourge among
the deer supply and in spite of high bounties to encourage
wolf trapping and hunting, the animals appear to be on
the increase in places. Large bounties have been the
means of some wolf hunters making wolf taking a dis-
honest source of revenue'. They make a business of
hunting up the young in Spring while they are helpless
in the nest. From four to six pups are frequently secured
irom one lair. They are nursed and grown for a few
months until large enough to claim the bounty paid for
adult wolves, when they are killed. These men never
kill the mother wolf if it can be avoided. It would destroy
the "Goose that lays the golden egg." This manner of
securing wolf bounties is unlawful and those who work
such schemes are careful to keep it secret.
Species. — Owing to a number of varieties, perhaps
different species, there is considerable difference in size
and color. In Florida there is a small black wolf; in
Alaska and Northern Canada the Arctic wolf, the color
Wolves and Coyotes.
BLACK AND GREY TIMBER WOLVES.
Large— Length nose to root of tail, 60; tail, 20; total length, 80;
greatest width, 25 inches. This pelt shows rare specimen of the black
timber wolf and was secured in the Mackenzie River District of Canada.
Large grey timber wolf from Mackenzie District, Canada. Length
nose to root of tail, 58; tail, 20; total, 78; greatest width, 24 inches.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
WHITE TIMBER WOLF, NORTH-
WESTERN CANADA. .
Length of pelt, 49; tail, 20; total, 69;
greatest width, 23% inches. This pelt is only
an ordinary sized one.
of which is pure
white with black
tipped tail, as well
as a black specie ;
the Red wolf of
Texas and the
Brindle wolf of
Mexico. The most
however, is the
grey wolf, often
called the Timber
wolf, Lobo and
Wolf to distin-
guish it from the
prairie species. All
according to nat-
uralists, belong to
the group known
as Timber wolves.
Size and Color.
— Timber wolves
are from 5 to 6
feet in length in-
cluding an 18 or
20 inch tail. The
color varies from
plain grey to spec-
imens that are al-
most white in the
Wolves and Coyotes. 257
far North and a litter sometimes contains one or more
black whelps. In Northern sections prime^ perfect skins
are thick furred and silky. The hair between the shoul-
ders is coarser and longer than that which covers the
rest of the body. Occasionally blue wolves are found in
the far North.
Uses. — Well furred timber wolves are specially
adapted for making sleigh and automobile robes and driv-
ing coats. They are also dyed black, brown and blue and
are often sold under fictitious names when made up into
boas, muffs, capes, collarettes, etc., being called blue
wolf, blue lynx and other fancy names to help sell the
goods. Wolf is also much used for floor rugs in homes
and offices, especially west of the Mississippi River, and
thousands of the best skins are tanned and made up by
taxidermists. Wolf fur is moderate priced, although
used throughout the civilized world.
Grading. — Not only sizes, but color, quality of fur
and condition of pelt must be taken into consideration.
The color may vary from almost black in the Florida
pelt to white for the Arctic region skin. The majority
are grey, being darkest on the back and dusky on shoul-
ders and hips. The fur is usually long and shaggy.
Wolves from the north and mountainous sections are
usually darker, fur finer and silkier than the fur of those
from a level or prairie country. In states or provinces
where the topography varies from plains to high moun-
tains, such as much of the Rocky and Cascade Mountain
country, the quality of this article varies from good to
poor. Take the' state of Colorado, for example: The
high mountain-caught will average with a level country
258 Fur Buyers'* Guide.
farther north, foot hills with Northern Kansas and Mis-
souri, plains with Oklahoma and similar.
Sizes are hard for the inexperienced to determine,
for remember that a large wolf may weigh anywhere
from 75 to 150 pounds, depending upon where caught.
One weighing 75 pounds, of the Florida specie, is large,
while the largest from Alaska and Northern Canada may
weigh up to 150 pounds. By far the majority of pelts,
classed large, will be greys of the Southwest, West and
North with weights varying from 75 to more than 100.
It is from size of pelt that the dealer judges, but how is
he to know, when receiving shipments, unless familiar
with the peculiarities of the various skins from the va-
rious sections, but that the pelts were originally from an-
other part of the country than from which he received
them? Maybe where caught, skins which the dealer
grades as medium are considered large. Again, the inex-
perienced dealer may put medium into large.
The buyer who expects to handle this article, from
all parts of the country, will find that assorting sizes
correctly is not learned in a day, week or month but takes
years to master thoroughly. Shedders, rubbed, poisoned,
scalped, early caught, summer killed, etc., are all met with
in the buying of wolf to which must be included the as-
sorting for sizes — large, medium, small — also Nos. 2,
3, and 4.
Wolf should be handled open. It is difficult to give
the exact sizes for large, medium, small, owing to the
varying size of this animal in different parts of the
country. From end of nose to tip -of tail the average
size for the skins from the Northwest are approximately :
Wolves and Coyotes.
NORTHERN LARGE GREY TIMBER
Length nose to root of tail, 64; tail, 21:
total, 80; width, 151^ inches.
Large, 5 feet, 6
Medium, 5 feet,
Small, 4 feet,
full furred pelts
are often taken for
No. I of a smaller
size than one not
so well furred or
improperly h a n-
dled. A No. 2 is
not full furred and
pelt at least partly
unprime or a prime
scalped. No. 3 is
apt to be unprime
in both pelt and
fur, although a
prime pelt may be
so badly handled
or damaged by
dogs to so class.
No, 4, no fur, un-
prime pelt, badly
torn by dogs or
26o Fur Buyers' Guide.
Wolves from the different parts of the country vary
in size but undoubtedly the largest come from the far
north including parts of Alaska and Canada. It seems
that from the North country there are also more colors
and in addition to the gray variety are a very few black
and some white. The illustration of Northern Large
Grey Timber Wolf Skin shows to what immense size
the wolf in the North attain. This pelt, including tail,
is 85 inches or j feet i inch long. Pelt is cased yet is
15^ inches wide, equal to 31 if split or open.
Coyote or Prairie Wolf — Range. — The coyote
is a small wolf inhabiting the Plains States. It is found
as far south as Texas and north into the western por-
tions of Canada. The Hudson Bay Company handles
several thousand skins annually. The Canadian coyote
is fuller furred than those of Western United States.
Color. — The color is grey or grizzly with dark
tipped guard hairs. The under fur is slate blue as a rule
but sometimes brown. The best, longest and thickest
furred skins are inclined to coarseness. Prairie wolf take
dyes well and it is used extensively in robes, coats, muffs,
boas and for other purposes where long furs are wanted.
Value and Uses. — The fur varies from flat and
coarse in the South, Southwest and parts of the West to
fine and silky in the North and high mountain localities.
The latter are much more valuable but numbers small
compared with the less valuable skins. Thousands of
the best specimens do not reach the regular fur buyer or
collector but are sold to taxidermists and made into rugs,
robes, etc., usually at prices above fur values. If skins
have been scalped, it detracts about one-third from the
value of the pelt.
Wolves and Coyotes.
Grading. — Coyote are classified large, medium,
small, Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Skins should be cased, for open
they are not so desirable by about 10%. This fur from
varies and to the
trade is known as
soft, silky, ordinary,
coarse, hairy. D i f-
fereni parts of the
various sized pelts.
The following di-
m e n s i o n s are of
stretching board pat-
terns much used by
Large, hips 10
inches, shoulders 9
Medium, h i p s 9
inches, shoulders 8
Small, hips 8
inches, shoulders 7
Length of board
4>^ to 5 feet, although the largest skins will be only
about 4 feet from end of nose to tail.
A No. I large, medium or small must be prime in
fur and pelt, but may vary somewhat from sizes as given.
No. 2 skins are those! secured before the fur is thick or
SOUTHWESTERN CANADA DARK AND
LIGHT COLORED PRAIRIE WOLF
Large, Dark — Length of pelt, 46; tail, l7;
total, 63; greatest width, 13; shoulders, 11
Small, Light — Length of pelt, 31; tail, 13;
total, 44; greatest width, 12; shoulders, 9
inches. Both measured on fur side.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Wolves and Coyotes.
full length. A No. i pelt, scalped, becomes No. 2. No. 3
are those with their fur and pelt damaged, torn, etc. No.
4 are those with little or no
fur growth, badly torn by
dogs or otherwise.
Coyote skins while vary-
ing in size, are stretched dif-
ferently. One hunter or
trapper may stretch as long
as possible, regardless of
width, while others use wider
boards. The total length of
large skins will, therefore,
vary several inches. The
long stretched skins will
probably be 10 to 12 inches
wide at root of tail and i to
2 inches narrower at shoul-
der. Other skins may be 13
inches but taper to 9 inches
or less at shoulders, the wide
stretched skin, of course, be-
ing the shorter. A medium
is an inch smaller than large,
both at hips and shoulders
and 3 tO' 5 inches shorter.
A small is about the same
under medium as medium is
less than large.
The buyer of this article
must be on the look-
Length of body, 45; tail, 13;
total length, 58; greatest width,
111/^; shoulders, 9 inches. Fairly
large for that section, but fur is
not long or thick.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
MEDIUM AND LARGE PRAIRIE WOLF SKINS.
(1) Medium^ — Length of body, 36; tail, 14; total, 50; greatest width,
12; shoulders, 10 inches.
(2) Medium — Length of body, 36; tail, 14; total, 50; width at hips
and shoulders same, 12 inches. Both skins are from the Province of
(3) Large — Length _ of pelt, 38; tail, 16; total, 54; greatest width, 13;
shoulders, 11 inches. Skin should have been stretched longer and not' so
wide. This skin is from Western Nebraska. All three measured on fur
Wolves and Coyotes.-
out for those affected with mange. Such skins are of
Httle or no vakie. Many are also poisoned. Such skins
are apt tO' be dam-
aged, especially hair
loose. When this
article is cased and
offered for sale pelt
side out the fur
should be examined.
The two Rocky
Prairie wolf skins
shown here are both
large, measuring as
follows: (i) Length
of body 41 >^, tail 16,
total 57>^ inches;
greatest width 14^,
shoulders 9>^. (2)
Length of body 4o;
tail 16. total 56 inches;
greatest width 14,
shoulders 9. These
skins are probably
overstretched at the
hind quarters as a
glance at the skins
will indicate. A fur-
ther and somewhat
more careful observa-
tion of the skins will
TWO LARGE, ONE MEDIUM, COLO-
RADO PRAIRIE WOLVES.
(1) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tall, 17;
total, 59; width at hips and shoulders same,
(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 34; tail,
16; total, 50; greatest width, 12%; shoul-
ders, 10y2 inches.
(3) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tail, 17;
total, 59; width at hips and shoulders same,
Although the center pelt is 9 inches
shorter than the others width is greater.
This pelt should have been stretched
longer and not so wide. All measured on
Fur Buyers' Guide.
show that (i) is darker especially on hips and tail than
(2) yet the two were caught on the same ranch and
within a half mile of each other.
There is considerable difference in shade or color of
the prairie wolf or
coyote skins in the
same locality as well
as in the different
parts of the country.
Color does not have
much to do with the
value as it is the
soft, silky skins that
are most valuable
and these may be the
lightest colored as
well as the dark.
The illustration —
Timber and Prairie
Wolf Skins — show-
ing a hunter and
trapper of the Lake
holding up a timber
wolf skin with three
of the prairie wolf skins hanging against the building
shows the difference in sizes. The timber wolf is large,
measuring from end of nose to tip of tail 7 feet, 9 inches ;
width across shoulders, toe to toe, 5 feet, 3 inches ; width
at narrowest part 2 feet, 6 inches. The three prairie wolf
skins are also large but measure only from nose to tip
of tail, 5 feet; width, cased, 12 inches. The three skins
are practically all of the same dimensions.
TWO ROCKY MOUNTAIN SECTION
PRAIRIE WOLF SKINS.
Wolves and Coyotes.
RANGE. — There are at least ten species of the
land otter, four of which are American. The
otter in general outline is that of a giant or an
exaggerated mink and its habits are much the
same. It is never found living far from lakes and
streams and its farthest departure from water is seen
in its travels overland from one stream to another or
from stream to lake as the case may be. The range
of the otter covers practically the entire Western Hemi-
sphere, that is, both North and South America. It does
not take kindly to the encroachment of the settlers and
is never numerous in a settled region.
Quality. — The finest furred skins come from Lab-
rador, Canada, Nova Scotia and the York Fort district
of the Hudson Bay Country. The best otter as to fur
and color come from East Maine where they are very
dark. The poorest qualities come from the Gulf and
Pacific Coast, the pelt being heavy and the fur short
and light colored. The average color is a liver brown,
the under side of the body being still lighter colored.
When the top hairs have been plucked out, the under
fur assumes a shade from light tan to golden brown.
From some sections certain otter appear singed, the
guard hairs being wilted down as if burned. This
condition detracts greatly from ordinary values. Con-
sidering that the otter is found from Alaska to Labra-
dor and from near the Arctic Coast to the very southern
parts of the United States (a distance of 3,ocx) miles
north and south) this fur shows
but little variation in size, color,
or quality. This is because they
are much in the water. The tem-
perature of the water in Winter
is about the same all over the
United States, Alaska and Canada.
While Southern otter average much
lower, it is partly due to their be-
ing caught before mid-winter and
before cold weather has primed
them. Strange, but true, more ot-
ter are caught in October and No-
vember in the Southern states than
Primeness. — There are four
degrees of primeness in otter and
the same considerations that apply
to the different stages of primeness
NORTHWESTERN OTTER SKIN.
Large — Length nose to root of tail, 40;
tail, 17; total, 57; greatest width, 9; shoulders,
7 inches. This pelt represents a good average
large for the New England States, New York,
Pennsylvania, the Virginias, Michigan, Wis-
consin, Minnesota, Canada, etc. About the
only sections where otter average much larger
is from Florida and other states bordering on
the Gulf of Mexico, as well as parts of the
Northwest — Oregon, Washington, British Co-
270 Fur Buyers' Guide.
in mink, apply to otter, the prime being all red or
white on the flesh side, while the No. 2's are bluish
and the fur more hairy than the No. i and the whole
coat may be short. The No. 3 is very short in fur and
coarse hair predominates and the pelt is black. No. 4
are black in pelt and there is hardly any growth of fur
as to quality and length, being mainly short hair.
Sizes. — Otter vary greatly in size. While the
largest skins may measure 4j/4 feet in length, not includ-
ing tail when on the drying board and 9 to 10 inches in
width at the hips, a small skin may not be more than
30 tO' 34 inches and 7 inches wide. The tail is 14 to 18
inches or longer occasionally.
Stretching Boards. — The general shape of otter
drying boards is the same as for mink, holding their
width well and not tapered until the shoulders are
reached, where they should be about an inch narrower
than at base of skin. For the neck and head the board
tapers moderately rapid so that if a skin is 8 inches
at the hips when on the board and 7 at shoulders, it
will be about 6 inches across the ears and 4 inches where
eyelets come on the board. Boards should be made
of three sizes from such tough, soft wood as poplar,
whitewood, cottonwood, basswood or white pine, }i inch
thick, planed and sanded and in length from 4^^ to 5^
feet. Boards for medium should be ^ inch narrower at
hips and shoulders than for large ; small, ^ inch less
at both hips and shoulders than medium. Some claim
that otter should be stretched a little different and recom-
mend boards of the following dimensions : -
Large — Length nose to
root of tail, 35; tail, 22;
total, 57; greatest w'Jth,'
10; shoulders, 9^4 inches.
This pelt was stretched
too wide, especially neck
and forequarters. Note
great length of tail
which indicates a large
Large, hips 91^ inches, shoul-
ders 7 inches.
Medium, hips 8^ inches, shoul-
ders 6^ inches.
Small, hips 8 inches, shoulders
The larger skins will often
measure better than five feet from
tip to tip. Tails should be split,
stretched out and tacked. This fur
is always cased and should be left
fur side in, otherwise it will fade
In buying otter skins it is
necessary to know primeness and
sizes or a blue pelt may be bought
for No. I and a medium bought for
large or a small graded medium.
Shade of fur and whether singed
or not must be ascertained. The
next consideration is section from
which skins come, Western and
Southern being worth far less than
the Eastern and Northern skins.
Now and then an otter is caueht in
localities where none have been for
years. Such skins, according to the
opinion of the owner, are always
No. I and large. Like mink, otter
vary considerable in size in
different parts of the country.
2J2 Fur Buyers' Guide.
although skins averaging largest are from Florida, while
the largest mink are caught on the plains of the North-
west. A few otter pelts brought to our notice measured
Two from British Columbia, 62'^ and 65 inches
from tip to tip.
One from Ohio, weight 40 pounds and measured
Three from Maine exactly alike being 61 inches from
tip to tip and 8 wide.
One from Oregon, 75 inches from tip to tip.
Two from Michigan, each 66 inches from tip to tip.
One from Washington, 64 inches from tip to tip.
Three from Massachusetts, largest 57 inches and
weighed 30 pounds.
Few animals are as difficult to skin as the otter.
The hide is not only tough but can not be pulled or
peeled off, necessitating much use of the knife. The
tail is large, gristly, requiring the use o^ a knife con-
stantly. To skin the tail is more of a job than' to re-
move the pelts, of a half dozen mink.
Some handlers' of furs buy pelts occasionally on the
animal, that is, carcass and all. Unless a party, so buy-
ing, has been a trapper, knowing about how a pelt will
look when skinned and stretched, compared with same
on the carcass, his judgment may not be of the best.
No doubt many will be interested in the measurements
of an otter as caught and after the pelt is on the stretch-
ing board. The illustrations herewith show a fair sized
otter of the Lake Superior region the same day caught
with trap on foot and pelt on board. The descrip-
tion under tlTe two illustrations show that the pelt was
stretched 10 inches longer than the carcass and the tail
i^ inches longer. It will be seen from illustration, how-
ever, that the pelt was stretched rather long and narrow.
NORTHERN MICHIGAN OTTER AND PELT AFTER SKINNED AND
. Before Skinning — Length of body, 2S%; tail, I6I/2; total, tip to tip.
45 inches; around hips, 14%; around shoulders, 14 inches.
Stretched on Board — Length of pelt (nose to root of tail), 38U:
tail, 18; total length, 56^^ inches; width at hips, 7%; shoulders, 7 inches.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
PEACE RIVER OTTER.
Large — Length, nose
to root of tail, 38; tail,
18; total length, 56;
greatest width, 8; shoul-
ders, 7 inches. Pelts se-
cured in Northern and
Western Alberta. Rocky-
Mountain sections of
British Columbia and
Yukon are similar.
The following information was
furnished by a party who handled
•"housands of Canadian otter skins,
principally from the Eastern Prov-
inces, buying largely direct from
Otter get prime, that is, white
smooth pelt, very late in the au-
tumn, even in northern latitudes
not much before the loth of No-
vember. All amphibious animals
change the looks and appearances
of their pelts three if not four
times during the twelve months. I
mean otter, beaver, mink and musk-
rat. When unprime in the summer
months the pelt is of a burnt greasy
color, this is when the hair is thin-
nest, September and October the
pelts become of a slate blue color,
hair thicker and about October 20
the blue color becomes spotted with
white and hair much thicker and
of a rich appearance. From the
latter date, if cold weather sets in,
the pelt changes very quickly to
pure white, with a smooth glossy
finish. After the cold winter
months have passed these changes
take place in reverse order, back to
the thin greasy skin of the summer.
The male becomes prime much before the old female
as the latter suckle their young very late in the year.
The otter is only really prime and well furred between
November 15 and March 15. Like the beaver, when the
March sun has its strength, the otter delights in sliding
down crusted slopes and basking in the hot rays, both
of which stunts are detrimental to the fur.
The ordinary size of a full grown male otter is :
Length, from nose tO' root of tail, 40 inches; greatest
width, 9 to 10 inches.
Female otter, full grown, length, nose to root of
tail, 30 inches ; greatest width, 8 to 9 inches.
Any buyer having skins offered him with the fur
side out to be suspicious, either, that the pelt is damaged,
or not prime. I maintain the only exception tO' this rule,
of having the flesh side out, would be with the colored
and valuable foxes. With them it is necessary to see
the full hair to properly estimate the skin's value.
In Canada the darkest and richest otter skins come
from the Labrador Coast, north of Lake Superior and
the Mackenzie River.
RANGE. — The range of the beaver once covered
about all of America where there was timber of
the kind this animal used for food. At present
this interesting fur bearer is found mainly in Can-
ada and Alaska. There are few beaver today south of
Upper Michigan, Northern Minnesota, Northern Wis-
consin, Northern New York and Maine. There are, how-
ever, some on the Pacific Coast, in the Rocky Mountain
States and a few in certain Southern States.
Years ago this fur bearer was nearly extinct in the
United States, but under timely laws that afforded a per-
petual closed season, it has increased surprisingly so that
from some sections complaints are heard on account of
dam building having flooded large areas, in killing val-
uable timber and doing other damage. The catch is now
limited by law in most states and provinces sO' that noth-
ing short of reckless law violation will bring them to the
point of total destruction again.
Size and Color. — As otter resemble the mink in
outline, so does the beaver remind one of a giant musk-
rat, to which species it belongs. The length is from two
to two and a half feet usually although some are as much
as three feet, not including the tail, which is nine or ten
inches. The weight of a full grown beaver varies from
40 to 60 pounds and even more.
The color runs from light brown to dark brown.
The under fur is a mouse color, is less than an inch in
length and is protected by stiff guard hairs two or three
inches long on the upper part of the body. The fur is
shorter and dense on the under side of the body and the
whole coat is waterproof. While the ordinary color of
Small — Length, 24; greatest
Width, 17 inches.
SOUTHERN BEAVER SKIN.
Medium— Length, 28; greatest width,
beaver is nut brown, there are extremes in paleness and
dark shades. The lightest colored specimens, as well as
largest, are found in the Pacific Coast and Rocky Moun-
tain states usually. Some skins that come from around
Hudson Bay are nearly black.
Handling and Grading. — Beaver should be
stretched round, rather oblong and open. Some are
cased, handled, but this is not desired by the trade. Large,
Fur Buyers' Guide.
24x28 inches and up, providing furs are in good con-
dition. Pelts, of course, are not all stretched oblong,
many being round and in that condition, 26 x 26 is equal
to 24x28. Many pelts are much larger, 27x31, and
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ even larger. Me-
dium, 21 X 25 and up
tO' 23 X 2"] inches or
18x22 and up to
20 X 23 o r there-
about. Kitts, under
18x22. Skins from
states average some-
what larger. Beaver
Castor is bought by
the pound. Beaver
skins were bought
by the pound during
early days. A large
skin, when properly
fleshed, would weigh
about lYz pounds,
an extra large one
up to i^ pounds. Beaver should be handled open, being
one of the three B B B, or Beaver, Bear, Badger. The
other fur mostly handled open is the Timber wolf.
Primeness. — ' Beaver skins present different degrees
of primeness, depending upon when caught, the same as
muskrats. The prime pelt is red and white fleshed while
the No. 2 will be bluish and the coat hairy. No. 3 are
SOUTHWESTERN LARGE BEAVER
Lerxgth, 39; greatest width, 30 inches.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
still more dark pelted and coarse in coat and lacking in
under fur which is short. A No. 4 may be termed a scab
or trash, of little or no value. Beaver skins should be
cleaned of flesh and fat to prevent heating the pelt and
so destroy the fur.
The value of beaver pelts does not vary as much as
most of the other fur
bearers of America. Be-
tween the largest and
best Northern skins and
those of the South or
elsewhere there is but a
variation of about $2.00.
Neither has this article
undergone the radical
fluctuations in price like
some of the other
articles of recent years.
Beaver was one of the
first animals hunted and
trapped for fur in
Medium - Length, 28; greatest width, America and in the earlv
23 inches. J
days was one of the
chief articles of commerce with the Old World. Not
only are beaver pelts valuable but the flesh is eaten and
the castors are valuable, being used in the manufacture
■of perfume. They are also used by trappers in making
scent to lure fur bearing animals. There is always a cash
market for beaver castors.
Beaver, otter and muskrat being water animals,
there is not so much difference in the priming up time of
WESTERN CANADA BEAVER
fur and pelt as with other fur bearers in the various parts
of North America. The pelt of the beaver averages pretty
much the same thickness, making no difference where
caught. This is accounted for from their being so much
in the water. The
greatest variation is
in color and quality
A trader who for
almost fifty years
bought beaver pelts
by the thousands
over much of East-
ern and Central
Canada says :
Prior to the
coming over into
Canada, beaver were
always bartered or
bought by the skin,
large prime, mid-
dling prime and
small prime. The
buying of these
skins by weight was
an unfortunate innovation, as many unscrupulous trap-
pers and small traders called on their ingenuity to add
weight to the skins passing through their hands. This
was done in many ways. However, anyone used to han-
dling clean, pure skins would at once detect any abnor-
mal surplus weight.
HUDSON BAY COUNTRY BEAVER
Large — Length, 40 inches; greatest width,
31 inches. Some very large and dark skins
are secured from waters flowing into Hud-
282 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Beaver in the three sizes mentioned and understood
to be killed in prime season weigh, with very little va-
riation : Large, i;^ pounds; middling, i to i^ pounds;
small, 10 to 12 ounces.
In dimensions the three sizes were:
Large, lengthwise 34, width 24 inches.
Middling, lengthwise 24, width 18 inches.
Small, lengthwise 21, width 14 inches.
Beaver in the Northern part of Canada become
prime about the end of September and remain so up to
about the twentieth of March. They are at their very
primest both as to color and richness of fur during No-
vember, December and January. The darkest skins come
from clear water lakes and rivers, while the browner and
light colored ones are taken in grassy and swampy sur-
roundings. This characteristic of darkness of color ap-
plies to all amphibious (water) animals. Beaver, otter,
muskrat and mink are of richer and darker fur when
they inhabit clear water. I have often astonished an In-
dian by picking out a certain skin and saying, ''You killed
or caught this in a clear water lake."
While the beaver retains his deep, rich, fur until May
or June the fur has lost its value as a prime skin by the
action of the March and April sun rays. These animals
delight to pass hours in those months basking in the sun,
the consequence is the color of the fur is bleached sev-
eral shades lighter and the ends of the hairs are hooked
and crinkly as if singed by a hot iron.
BEARS BLACK, GRIZZLY, POLAR.
CHE BLACK BEAR. — RANGE. — According to
the naturalist there are only three distinct species
of bears in N^orth America, which are the Black,
Grizzly and Polar. The Brown, or Cinnamon, is
merely a color phase of the Black Species. This is the
smallest bear of the three species. Its range is wide,
covering at one time a good portion of the United
States as well as Canada, Alaska, Nova Scotia and New-
Color and Quality. — The best skins come from
Canada. Those from the interior of Alaska are good
but along the southeast coast are somewhat coarser.
The British Columbia Bear is coarse in pelt and thinner
furred as the coast is approached. Pelts from the in-
terior are generally long and heavy furred. The color
is distinctly black on the surface and brown underneath,
though in some jet black specimens the fur retains almost
the same hue to the roots. A large Black Bear, when in
good condition, will weigh 400 to 450 pounds or more,
but the lower figures constitute a large bear. If one is
found weighing around 600 pounds, it may be termed
Hundreds of skins are still secured from the North-
ern New England States, Adirondacks and Allegheny
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Mountain regions. Those caught in Pennsylvania and
North are well furred^ if taken in proper season, but
in size seldom exceed 300 pounds. Some very nice pelts
are also taken each season in the northern parts of Mich-
EASTERN BLACK BEAR SKINS.
Large — Length, tip to tip, 70; width at shoulders, 64; hind quarters,
58 inches. Had feet and claws been left on spread or width would have
been about a foot greater.
Medium — Length, tip to tip, 58; width at shoulders, 64; hind quarters,
60 inches. Claws and feet on.
These skins are full, large and medium for bears from the New
England States, New York and Pennsylvania. Those from the Virginias,
Carolinas and otker Southern States average somewhat smaller.
igan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are far more
bear skins handled yearly than generally supposed. From
the United States some 5,000 and Canada about 3,000 are
sent to Europe for the sales each year. Others are used
in this country so that the catch is probably around
Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar.
10,000 annually. Of the brown, or cinnamon only a
few hundred are secured each season — probably 200
Uses. — Black bear is used for many ordinary pur-
poses where a long, shaggy, black fur is desired, the
WISCONSIN BEAR SKINS.
Medium bear, 5 feet 4 inches from tip to tip; width at shoulders from
claw to claw, 5 feet; narrowest part, 3 feet.
Small bear, 4 feet from tip to tip; width at shoulders same; narrowest
part, 2 feet 6 inches. Bears much larger than the medium here shown are
secured from not only Wisconsin but Michigan, Minnesota, etc.
principal advantage being in its natural color which re-
quires no dye to blacken. The fur of cubs is very soft
and is suitable for coat collars, muffs and boas. Bear
is used extensively for driving coats, rugs and sleigh
286 Fur Buyers' Guide.
SizES^ Handling^ Etc. — This fur varies from
large to cubs, including yearling and two years. It is
also classed large, medium and small as well as No. 2,
3 and 4. The skins also vary considerable in size, owing
to age and condition the animal was in when killed.
A bear hunter and trapper who has caught more than
two hundred during his time, principally in Michigan,
sends the following dimensions of the largest of his
catch : Lengtl), 8 feet, 2 inches ; width, 7 feet, 4 inches.
The best bear is prime in pelt and the fur thick, even
with a good growth of guard hairs, the entire coat being
soft and glossy in the best. Off qualities are the un-
prime thin furred, rubbed on hips, flanks, neck, etc. No.
2, in primeness, are hairy and the supply of underfur
is less than on prime pelts. Nos. 3 and 4 are practically
all hair and of little use except in the making of the
cheaper driving robes. A large per cent of bear skins
offered the buyer are of the lower grades and smaller
sizes from the fact that the animal is killed whenever
possible. As a result many bear are killed durmg sum-
mer and early fall months.
Canadian Skins. — The black bears of the North-
ern parts of Canada are at their best and primest just
after the berry crop and just before they hibernate for
They mate in early July and bring forth their young
in February. They generally have two at a birth, oc-
casionally three, but this is the exception. The cubs of
the last winter hibernate with the dam the second winter,
thus, when the hunter digs out a den in March or April
he generally finds cubs of two sizes.
Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar.
Touching on the primeness of skins, the very finest
for richness of fur is found on a two-year-old just be-
fore denning up. Good skins are also gotten from den
bears up to the end of January, unless a he-bear has
denned in some
ragged hole, or
has been partly
exposed to the
weather. He re-
tains his good
coat of fur
longer than the
erally take up
their bear traps
around the tenth
of June. After
that date both
male and female
shed their coats
rapidly, and the
skin for three
months only rep-
resents the hide
for leather. Ap-
forblack bears in
the North Coun-
ROCKY MOUNTAIN BLACK BEAR SKIN. ^^Y ^^^ aboUt aS
Large — Length, 79; greatest width, 49 inches. rOllOWS !
288 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Large male bear, length, 6 feet, width, 4 feet.
Full grown female, length, 5 feet, width, 3 feet.
Two-year-old cub, length, 4 feet, width, 2 feet, 6
inches. There are, of course, exceptions to these meas-
urements but as an average or normal size the fore-
going is a fair average.
The grading of bear skins for valuation is so evi-
dent that almost any handler of fur can do it correctly.
When the skin is coming common the hair is off in
patches, reaching up the sides, till at last there is only a
ridge of old hair along the back bone. In August the
new hair comes out all over, is a deep black, is full, but
as yet short in length. From the end of this month, the
hair becomes glossy and richer as the days go by.
In a year of mountain ash and other late fruit the
bears keep out later, sometimes holing up only after con-
siderable snow is on the ground. Pelts taken at this time
are always good color and heavy furred.
Grizzly Bear — Range. — The Grizzly Bear once
inhabited all of the Rocky Mountain Range where it
found a natural place tO' den in the rocky caverns. It
inhabits Alaska and the Mt. St. Elias Grizzly is of the
largest size and is frequently termed the Silver Tip. It
is now extinct or practically so.
Color, Size, Etc. — The Grizzly attains to a length
of 8 feet to 13 feet and weighs from 800 to 1,100 pounds.
It is the largest of all bears. Probably the average
weight of the males is about 800 pounds. The fur is
rather coarse and while the general color is grizzly grey
some specimens are light colored, almost white and
yellow grizzlies occur and in fact all shades from light
Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLY BEAR SKIN.
This pelt is only about an average size for the large yet measured from
nose to tail 10 feet 9 inches; greatest width (shoulders) 10 feet 6 inches;
hind quarters 9 feet 3 inches. As these skins are largely used for rugs they
should be carefully skinned around head as well as claws left on pelt.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
to dark Grizzly are found. The skin is thick and heavy
and there is a growth of hair between the shoulders
of such length as to form a well defined hump. In
the best skins
this hump adds
greatly to beauty
and value. The
value of the skins
is just about the
same as the com-
mon black bear
when sold to the
regular fur trade
to be used for lap
robes, coats and
rugs. Few skins,
however, are thus
sold but are
tanned and made
up by taxider-
mists where they
command a much
higher figure. The
head and claws
must be left on to
prices. In Alaska
brown bear have
been killed, the
pelt of which
measured 10 feet
from tip to tip.
BRITISH COLUMBIA BROWN BEAR SKIN.
Medium — Length, 74; width at hind quarters
and shoulders, 41 inches. Pelt heavy and full
Bears — Black, Grizzly, Polar.
arctic ocean region (GREENLAND) POLAR BEAR SKIN.
Large — Length nose to tail 10 feet 8 inches; greatest width (shoulders)
10 feet 2 inches; hind quarters 9 feet. This skin is off a fairly large only
as the neck is longer than other species, which accounts for length. Most
skins are either mounted or used for rugs, so must be carefully skinned to
command highest value.
2.^2 Fur Buyers' Guide.
The Polar Bear. — The Polar Bear has a wide
distribution. It inhabits the western shores of Iceland,
the coast of Greenland and the northern extremity of
Norway and Sweden. It is found on St. Matthew Island
in Behring Sea and in the Arctic Regions of Canada
Color, Size and Quality. — The polar bear is
white the year round. Both feet and legs are covered
with long, coarse hair. The feet are provided with long,
powerful claws. The Polar Bear grows to a large size,
in fact, it is but little exceeded, if any, by the Grizzly.
Specimens have been known to weigh i,ooo pounds and
some skins measure ro feet or more. The tail is only
about 4 inches in length and the neck is longer than in
other bears. It is bold in disposition and will fight
fiercely, though not with the tenacity of the Grizzly.
Food. — ■ Polar bears feed upon fish and seals and
yet its own flesh is said to be palatable and is preferred
to seal flesh by the Esquimaux. The best skins come
from Greenland and being well cleaned of oil by the
natives, the fur does not turn yellow as it would if left
in the grease. This fur is made into rugs and robes and
is sometimes dyed black. The milk white skins are the
most valuable and in the best request. Ofif qualities are
the dirty whites or dingy yellowish skins. The number
of skins sold yearly in London is only some 200 to 300
although they do not all reach that market. The annual
production probably does not exceed 500.
RANGE. — This animal is much Hke the mink in gen-
eral form and is about like the mink of Western
United States for size. The range is Canada,
Alaska, Labrador, Nova Scotia and Northern,
North Western and North Eastern United States. Penn-
sylvania is about as far south as it has been found.
Color, Etc. — The general color is nut brown,
though pale skins are yellow, and dark skins almost black.
The yellow colors are worth the least and the really dark
skins are very valuable. The tail is thick and bushy, ap-
pearing more like fox fur than in being closely allied to
the mink. There are many shades of color between dark,
brown and pale, such as orange, cinnamon, golden yellow,
etc. The guard hairs are tinged with a much darker
color than the under fur.
Sizes and Handling. — Marten are assorted for
colors and also sizes, large medium and small. Most
skins grade into the first two sizes, small skins being few
in any original trapper's lot of this fur. Marten are dried
on boards, shaped the same as for mink. Before being
thoroughly dried, skins are removed from the boards and
turned fur side out and in that way presented when of-
fered for sale. Thin boards should be inserted after be-
ing turned to firmly establish the shape and prevent any
Fur Buyers' Guide.
tendency to shrivel or wrinkle. The entire hind legs and
feet are usually skinned out and left on the pelts of mar-
ten, even the toe nails being left in the fur of the foot
after being unjointed from the foot itself. Why this is
done any more than with mink we do
not know, except that it is a custom
just the same as the entire leg and
foot of lynx is skinned out and left
on the pelt.
General Remarks. — But few
furs possess so wide a range of val-
ues. From about $2.00 for small pale
to $30.00 for large, well furred skins
of the darkest shade. Every section
produces a particular type of marten.
Some are fine in coat, some are'
coarse and different districts turn
out various shades of color. Idaho,
Montana, Wyoming and other Rocky
Mountain States produce yellow
shades of marten almost exclusively.
Those from the New England States
and the Adirondacks are never of
the darkest shades.
As marten are usually found
high up among the mountains their
BRITISH COLUM- fur is fine but in some localities the
BIA MARTEN i • i- t,. -u
gj^jj^ color IS orange, light brown, etc.
Large — Lergth of Marten is the first of the fur bearers
pelt, 21; tail, 10; total, , • ^t, t. i. j: J
31; greatest width, to prime Up, evcu though not found
inches.^ °" ^^^' ^ in the high altitudes. A fur dealer
of Maine who has traveled along the coast north to Lab-
rador, says : ''Marten in that country are prime by Oc-
tober I, having a beautiful and glossy coat." While
marten prime earlier than other furs, as a rule, they shed
out in the Spring a good deal earlier, becoming thin
furred and woolly in March, even in the North,
which greatly reduces their value. The buyer who knows
furs, even though he has never handled many marten
skins can detect the rubbed and shedding much easier
than to value correctly the varying shades of color that
are characteristic of this fur. It is not always the largest
marten skin that is most valuable — a smaller dark one
may be worth double a larger but lighter colored one.
This article is assorted large, medium, small, Nos. 2,
3 and 4 and further as to colors. There are few very
small — mostly large and m^edium. Neither are there as
many No. 2 and below as with most furs, the reason
being that marten is the first fur animal to prime up in
the fall. It is also largely caught by experienced hunters
and trappers and is correctly skinned and handled. Skins
on the stretching boards for the three sizes are approx-
Large, 4^ inches at hips, 3^ at shoulder, length,
nose to root of tail, 19 to 20 inches.
Medium, 4% inches at hips, 3^4 at shoulders, length,
nose to root of tail, 17 to 18 inches.
Small, 334 inches at hips, 3 at shoulders, length, nose
to root of tail, 15 to 16 inches.
Pelts are usually turned by trappers before' they are
thoroughly dry and kept and marketed fur out. Buyers,
therefore, must take length of fur into consideration if
Fur Buyers' Guide.
they judge sizes from dimensions of boards used in
stretching. No. 2 are those caught before fur and pelt
are full prime. Nos. 3 and 4 are few and far between.
They are the summer caught, badly damaged, etc. Color
WASHINGTON MARTEN SKINS, PALE.
(1) Small — Length of pelt, 16; greatest width, 3%; shoulders, 3 inches.
(6) Small — Length of pelt, 15; greatest width, S^/^; shoulders, 3 inches,
(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 17; greatest width, 4; shoulders, 3 inches.
(5) Medium— Length of pelt, 17; greatest width, iy^; shoulders, 8 inches.
(3) Large — Length of pelt, 19; greatest width, 414 ; shoulders, 3% inches.
(4) Large — Length of pelt, 20; greatest width, i^; shoulders, 4 inches.
values can only be learned by experience' and close obser-
vation. A very dark, fine furred marten may be worth
$30.00, a brown, fine furred, same size, $15.00, same size
in lighter shades from $5.00 up to $15.00. Very few
skins class dark except from certain localities in Canada.
The average value of the Hudson Bay Company collec-
tion of marten for the past fifty years was only $4.80,
while mink averaged for same time, $2.00.
Values since 1900, of course; have been higher. Per-
haps the years from 1900 to 191 5 the Hudson Bay Com-
pany collection of marten averaged $8.00 and mink $3.50
in London, but remember, about $1.00 for marten and 50
cents for mink must be deducted for expense in selling.
Marten are a difficult fur for the buyer and collector to
make any money on. Trappers usually think that they
do not get full value for this article. As values are de-
termined by both size and color it is no wonder that those
who handle a very few are often mistaken as to their
value. The darker the skin, the more valuable, and as
most marten are pale or of a yellowish cast they do not
command anything like the darker shades.
Marten, like all furs, has its ups and downs. Prices
since 1900 up to about 19 13 were higher than for somei
years previous. Even before the outbreak of the great
European war values had declined wonderfully, so that
during recent years the average value of all skins —
United States and Canada — was probably around $5.00.
A trader, who for many years was in position to see
and handle thousands of marten skins yearly from va-
rious parts of Canada, says :
Marten differ very much in darkness and richness
of their fur. Those that are trapped in mountainous
countries with a mixed growth of forests, being smaller
and lighter in color. The best skins come from the black
spruce country of Labrador and portions of the Macken-
zie River country, especially down near the mouth of that
Fur Buyers' Guide.
river, or around 65 degrees and north,
of a rich, dark brown color and of a
ance. They are from a half larger to
twice the size of skins caught in the
higher lands where the growth is birch,
25 are prime in
North and in
are prime two
ing a thin skin,
white, or prime,
on the flesh
side, very rap-
the female. I
marten in Feb-
ruary, after a
three days' rain
and thaw, the
They are large,
very rich appear-
Large, Dark, Mackenzie
River — Length, IdV^; tail,
9; total, 2'8%; greatest
width, 414; shoulders, 4.
Fur of under side or belly
Large, Dark — Length,
20; tail, lO; total, 30;
greatest width, 4%;
shoulders, 3% inches.
Wrinkles in skin are
from folding. A val-
uable specimen, being
darker than the average
taken from Maine or
the Eastern Provinces
bellies of which were as black as in summer, the hair, of
course, being unaffected. A few days subsequent cold
weather brought others back to the original state of
primeness. The dark or finest martens are very easily
graded or classed. They are all dark that come from the
part of the country designated. They differ one from
another only in the length of fur, size of skins and rich-
ness. Those, however, that are caught in the mixed soft
wood country vary very much in size, color, and fullness
of fur, and can even be graded into firsts, seconds, thirds,
fourths and fifths in value.
Considerable value and appearance is taken away
by the very slovenly way in which some of this class of
skins are gotten up. These ordinary marten are caught
by all manner of people, from shanty men, railroad men,
down to farmers' boys. Many of these people use any
kind of old thing to case the skin on, out of all proportion
both in length and breadth. In buying furs along the
frontier of civilization I have often had to have skins
soaked in water and when thoroughly wet, re-cased into
something like proper shape.
Marten, born in the Spring as they are, reach almost
full growth by the time the trapping season commences.
The female becomes unprime much earlier than the
male. Generally, if the season remains cold, the trapper
continues his endeavors for marten up to the first week
The size of a well proportioned male marten is as
Length, nose to root of tail 20, width at base 5, shoul-
ders 4% inches.
300 Fur Buyers^ Guide.
Female, length, nose to root of tail 17, width at base
4, shoulders 3^ inches.
These measurements are for the dark and best as
before mentioned, that is, those from Labrador and the
Mackenzie River Country near the Arctic Ocean. Mar-
ten, both male and female, from other localities, will
average considerable smaller.
RANGE. — The largest member of the marten family
is represented in this fur bearer. The length of
body is 24 to 30 inches and the tail from 12' to 18
inches in length. It bears a number of names,
such as Pennants Marten, Pekan, Black Cat, etc. The
former range of fisher covered the greater portion of
North America but continued hunting and trapping has
reduced its territory to parts of Canada, Alaska, Cali-
fornia and other parts of the Pacific Coast. A very
few are still found in the Rocky Mountain States,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, the Adirondacks and
Northern New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The
name fisher is misapplied and not appropriate, for while
it will eat fish, it does not catch them. Neither does
it inhabit the shores of streams and lakes from choice
but is partial to high, dry, wooded and rocky sections
where the country is hilly and rolling or even moun-
Fur, Color and Quality.. — The fur is coarser
and not nearly so valuable, size considered, as that of
the marten. The general color might be said to be
dark brown, yet some specimens are quite pale while
others are almost black. The general color is black
or very dark on throat, legs, belly and hind parts; head,
302 Fur Buyers' Guide.
shoulders and upper back grizzly, with grayish white;
tail, a brownish black. The fur is not as fine and soft
as that of the marten, although longer. Fisher is made
up largely into boas and muffs.
Handling and Grading. — This article is handled
cased and should be turned fur out. Skins are classed
large, medium, small and the darker, the more valuable,
the grade for sizes being:
Large, 7^ inches at hips, 6 at shoulders.
Medium, 6^ inches at hips, 5/^ at shoulders.
Small, 6 inches at hips, 5 at shoulders.
The length of an average No. i pelt from end of
nose to root of tail is about 32 inches, although some
are an inch or two longer, while others are as much
shorter, depending much upon the width stretched. It
is not uncommon for skins to measure upwards of 50
inches from tip to tip. The tail is long, full and bushy,
being quite valuable, perhaps more so than the tail of
any other of the fur bearers.
Fisher are also classified as to color — dark, brown,
pale. The best — darkest — come from the North. This
article should largely grade dark and brown for it is
found only in the timbered localities.
No. 2 and lower grades are the poorly furred and
unprime skins but with the exception of some rubbed
and a few otherwise springy few classify below No. 2.
The size also runs well to large, being more than both
medium and small if correctly handled.
The yearly catch was never very large and of
recent years has been somewhat further reduced. The
VARIOUS SECTIONS FISHER PELTS — LARGE, MEDIUM, SMALL.
(1) Small — Length, nose _ to root of tail, 22; tail, 15; total, 37;
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6 inches.
(2) Large — Length, nose_ to root of tail, 30; tail, 18; total, 48;
greatest width, 9; shoulders, 7 inches. _
Both are rather light-colored, being dark only on hind quarters and
tail. Skins from the Hudson's Bay section.
(3) Medium — Length, nose to root of tail, 25; tail, 13; total, 42;
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6i/^ inches. This pelt is from the Rocky
Slountains and is about an average color of those secured from eithef
Canada or the United States.
(4) Medium — Length, nose to root of tail, 23i^; tail, 151^; total, 39;
greatest width, 7%; shoulders, 6 inches. This pelt is from the Lake
304? Fur Buyers' Guide.
annual catch is now probably 5,000 or thereabout. The
Hudson Bay Company offerings of recent years has
varied from 2,^000 to 3,000 and another 1,000 is sold
by other firms in London yearly. Perhaps another 1,000
are used in America. By far the larger part of the catch
is made in Canada. The average value of this article
for fifty years prior to 1909 was only about $8.00 in
London, During the years of 1910, 191 1 and 1912 it
scored, in sympathy with other furs, a heavy advance.
A buyer of fisher skins, in various parts of Canada,
for some twenty-five years says :
I don't know how this animal got the name "fisher.'*
There is nothing characteristic of the name about him.
One might call him a "big marten" for he is of that
family, resorts or lives in the same coi?ntry, feeds on
the same food and without any distinguishing appearance
from his cousin, the marten, except in color and size..
They at times are found in the low lands and swamps
but their usual home and resort is the mountains and
along the foot-hills.
The fur is of a brownish grey color and when
prime, which is about the same time as the marten,
they have a heavy, rich coat of fur. The skin itself is,.,
strong and durable. The principal market for its use,
for many years, has been Russia.
The Indians trap them as readily as marten in
figure four deadfalls only made heavier and larger.
Fisher are more plentiful from the Ottawa River west,
being seldom found east of the Sagueiiay River or north
of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The length of a full grown male, from tip of nose
Large — Length, nose to
root of tail, 31; tail, 19; total,
50; greatest width, 8; shoul-
ders, 7 inches. This pelt is
not only large but about as
dark as they get.
to root of tail is from 26 to 28
inches, width, 7 to 8 inches. The
female is usually two-thirds this
size. The tail on both sex is
fully half the length of the body.
A very strong, pungent odor
pertains to these animals. While
not as objectionable as that of
the skunk, it is still far from
In grading these skins for
value, size must not always sway
the buyer, the darkest and finest
fur being more often found on
the smaller sizes and females
than on the extra large ones.
As already said the duration of
the prime state of these animals
coincides very closely with that
of the marten, from October to
early April. During most of this
period the skin is white and the
fur rich and glossy.
The fisher is not like the wol-
verine, maliciously destructive.
In destroying marten deadfalls
he is merely endeavoring to get
at the bait. When the trapper
constructs a deadfall sufficiently
large he catches as readily as a
CHE CANADA LYNX. — RANGE. — The Ameri-
can or Canada Lynx is found throughout most
of the wooded parts of Canada. It is fairly
plentiful in Alaska and the Pacific Coast States.
It is seldom found south of North Michigan, Wisconsin,
Minnesota and Maine. Nova Scotia and Eastern Hudson
Bay produce the softest and best furred skins. Cali-
fornia and north-west lynx is coarser in fur and in
shade more red than those of the best sections.
Color. — In the severest climate lynx are the lightest
colored but the fur is thick and soft. The feet have
great pads or cushions of thick hair to protect them from
snow and frost. The upper part of the under fur is a
sort of red brown but next to the skin it is drab or
blue. The blue skins are quite rare but the drab or
maltese color when found, is very handsome. The fur
on the belly is much longer than on the back; it is
about three inches in length, soft and white with rather
dim, dark spots. The tail is only two or three inches
long and the ears are furnished with tufts or tassels
of dark hair. In all specimens there is a beard or fringe
of whiskers which encircles the face. The whiskers are
white and bristly and the claws keen and retractile.
Sizes and Uses. — A moderate sized lynx is about
three feet in length and stands eighteen inches high.
The hind legs are very much longer than the front
ones. Lynx lose
coat in summer
and are covered
hair. The skin
is rather thin
except at the
neck and head
where it is much
thicker as if it
were a provision
of nature to pro-
tect the males
Lynx fur is used
both natural and
dyed over a
large part of the
Many skins are
dyed black, some
brown, blue or
TRAPPER, LYNX AND SKINS.
The middle pelt is one taken from same sized
animal as the one being held up. Note how
large and furry the feet and legs are.
fur of the belly makes handsome boas, muffs and trim-
mings. Large increases in the catch of lynx occur every
two or four years. On these occasions increase appears
to be caused by rabbits being periodically plentiful, which
is the natural food.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
Handling and Grading. — Skins should be cased
and turned fur side out by the catcher as soon as dry.
Lynx is assorted for sizes and Nos. 2, 3 and 4. The
NORTHERN AND NORTHWESTERN LYNX SKINS.
(1) Small — Length of pelt, 31; tail, 4%; total, 35i^; greatest width,
10; shoulders, 9 inches.
(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 35; tail, 5; total, 40; greatest width, 11;
shoulders, 10 inches.
(3) Large — Length of pelt, 40; tail, 6i^; total, 45%; greatest width, 12;
shoulders, 11 inches.
Northern section skins, measured on fur side.
(4) Large — Length of pelt, 43; tail, 5%; total, 48%; greatest width,
10; shoulders, 8 inches. Ontario skin — measured on pelt side.
(5) Large — Length of pelt, 42; tail, 5%; total, 47%; greatest width, 12;
shoulders, 10% inches.
(6) Medium — Length of pelt, 36; tail, 5; total, 41; greatest width,
11; shoulders, 10 inches. Northwestern section skins — measured on fur side.
best, finest and heaviest furred are from the far North.
This fur is not assorted for color. Grades according
to sizes are :
Large, 1 1 at hips, 9^ at shoulders ; length, end of
nose to root of tail, 38 inches.
Medium, 9^ at hips, 8^ at shoulders; length, end
of nose to root of tail, 34 inches.
Small, 8% at hips, 7^ at shoul-
ders; length, end of nose to root
of tail, 30 inches.
Very few lynx other than prime
skins are secured. The No. 2 and
lower grades will be the rubbed and
shedding mostly, as few are caught
in the fall before they are prime.
Those early caught will be short in
fur, having a "flat" appearance and
the pelt as well may show unprime.
Sizes, as given, will, of course,
vary somewhat in the skins from dif-
ferent parts of the country. Again
some pelts may be handled different
from measurements given. If
stretched wider, length for large will
be less, while if handled narrow,
length will be more. A smaller, well
handled and full furred skin will
go for No. I than if not properly
The catch yearly is probably much more than the
offerings at the London sales would indicate, as thou-
sands are used in America by taxidermists and furriers.
More than three-fourths of the catch is in Canada.
The following was furnished by a party who was so
Medium— Length of
pelt, 36; tail, 5; total,
41 inches; greatest
widthj 11; shoulders,
8; hind legs when
Fur Buyers' Guide.
situated that he saw thousands of lynx skins brought in
and sold or traded to the Hudson Bay Company, at
various Canadian posts :
The Canadian lynx (loup cervier) is common all
over the wilds of Canada. Their stamping ground is in
and around young growth
of timber, such places
being the home of rab-
bits, partridge and other
small game which con-
stitutes the lynx's prin-
The fur of these ani-
mals while not very long
is of a fine, silky texture
and of a pleasing grey
color. Unless in an un-
prime' state the skin is
not very strong and has
to be handled with care.
In the summer months
a lynx is the most de-
jected and miserable
looking animal that
roams the forest. They
are almost utterly devoid
of hair, so with his short
stump of a tail and un-
gainly walk he must be
the butt of all other peo-
ple of ''the glades."
WHITE AND blue LYNX SKINS.
(1) Small — Length of pelt, 23;
greatest width, dVz inches. This skin
was secured near Great Slave Lake, in
the Northwest Territory.
(2) Medium — Length of pelt, 88;
greatest width, 8; shoulders, 7 inches.
This pelt was well furred. In the Far
North an occasional skin of this color
as well as white are secured. The blue
one was caught in Yukon.
The skins are classified as follows: Large (he);
female; small. (Dealers in the United States, I believe,
classify large, medium, small). By small I mean of either
sex, kitts of the Spring. Many of these kitts are killed
by the trappers early in the winter before they have
reached their full growth. These kitts
when killed in December and January
are about half the size of the mother
lynx. They are beautifully furred at
that time, but lack in size. The three
sizes are about as follows :
Large (male) length 48, greatest
width 12 inches.
Medium (female) length 40,
greatest width 10 inches.
Small, length 30, greatest width
These measurements are from tip
to tip, not nose to root of tail.
Like all other animals, if they are
well fed while growing, they develop
out bigger. I wish to state here that
the sizes I give, with reference to size
of lynx skins, are' more of an approx-
imate to the ordinary run than a fixed
size, just as some men are six feet tall
and some only five.
When the lynx is prime the pelt
side is pure white with a clean, waxy
surface, while the fur is of a mottled
steel-blue grey and very fine texture.
Large — Length of
pelt, 421/^; greatest
width, 9; shoulders, 8
312 Fur Buyers' Guide.
In the unprime state, or staged, the fur is scant, of a red-
dish color and the pelt side is either black spotted or all
black. When in the common state the skin is utterly use-
less for either fur or leather.
Prime lynx became in great demand some years
ago and the price bounded from three to four dollars
each to twenty and twenty-five dollars. Fashion in furs
makes the price and no doubt the future, as the past, will
see fluctuations in the value of this article.
WILD CAT OR BAY LYNX.
RANGE. — The wild cat is really a small type of lynx
but differs from the true lynx in being much
smaller, short furred and mottled. The tail is very
short like that of the Canadian lynx which has
given it the name of bob cat in the western part of its
range. It inhabits practically all of the United States,
except the central portion and part of the west. It is
found in the Eastern States, Virginia, Texas, California,
Colorado and other Western states as well as those bor-
dering on the Gulf of Mexico and the lower Mississippi
Color. — The color and markings of wild cats vary
greatly according to section. Those of the Western states
are pale grey ; of California, a reddish cast ; of the South,
spotted. The coat is often ringed and mottled, but some-
times plain brown, and there are occasional maltese spec-
imens. Skins are sometimes three feet in length by lo
or 12 inches in width when cased. Wild cat is a useful,
cheap fur. A few are dyed to imitate true lynx.
Grade and Handling. — This article from the best
sections (where the fur is soft, long and silky) is known
to the trade and in some price lists as "Lynx Cat." Some
years ago many skins were handled open but they should
be cased unless sold to taxidermists for rug or robe pur-
Fur Buyers' Guide.
poses. While it really makes little or no difference yet
most cased skins are turned and marketed fur out. This
fur is assorted
sizes which are:
Large, 9 at
hips, 7 at shoul-
ders, length, nose
to root of tail,
Medium, 8 at
hips, 6 ^ at
length, nose to
root of tail, 32
Small, 7 at
hips, 55^ at
length, nose to
root of tail, 28
s i o n s will, of
skins from the
various parts of
the United States. Trappers using narrower or wider
boards must be taken into consideration when assorting
as well as primeness and quality of fur. The lower
WILD CAT — LARGE, MEDIUM, SMALL.
(1) Small — Length, end of nose to root of tail,
28 inches; greatest width, 7; shoulders, 5%.
(2') Medium — Length, end of nose to root of
tail, 33 inches; greatest width, 8; shoulders, 6%.
(3) Large — Length, end of nose to root of
tail, 40 inches; greatest width, 9^; shoulders, 7%.
This is an unusually ^ large skin. All measure-
ments taken on fur side.
Wild Cat or Bay Lynx.
grades will be the early caught, generally an unprime
pelt and little or no fur. Such skins grade down to Nos.
2, 3, 4 or go into trash. The judge of
fur skins will be able tO' tell into which
they belong; others can best learn
from experience. Total yearly catch
is probably double the quantity offered
at the London sales.
There is considerable difference
in the size of wild cat in the various
parts of the country as well as in the
quality of fur. The illustration show-
ing an average large wild cat is taken
from one caught in the mountain re-
gions of Pennsylvania and measured
as follows: Length, end of nose to
root of tail 38, greatest width 8>4,
shoulders 7 inches. Some skins from
the New England states as well as
New York, Pennsylvania and even
farther south in the Allegheny Moun-
tains are somewhat larger. The di-
mensions of the skin shown are also
a fair average for large from other
sections of the' country such as North-
ern Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota,
etc. Occasionally skins are secured that are much larger.
A trapper who has trapped in various states east of the
Mississippi River sent measurements of one he caught in
Northern Michigan that was 4 feet, 11 inches from end
Fur Buyers' Guide.
of nose to claws on hind legs when cased stretched, 8
inches across shoulders and 15 at hind quarters. This
trapper, who has caught probably fifty wild cats in his
time and seen as many more caught by other trappers,
says that the one
described was the
largest he ever
saw. This would
indicate that one
in a hundred at-
tain to this size
even in the Lake
which may be
said to include
parts of the
country — mainly
Rocky Mountain sections — many skins are handled open
for rug purposes. Where taxidermists want the skins
for rug or robe making they often pay more than the
skins are worth upon the market for general use. Skins
should be in perfect condition to' meet the demand of tax-
idermists and while large skins are usually in best de-
mand, others, of course, are bought. The open skin was
taken in one of the Rocky Mountain ranges and repre-
LARGE WILD CAT SKIN OPEN.
In certain parts of the country a good many
skins are used for rugs. Value for this purpose
depends not only on size but claws must be left
on as well as head properly skinned.
Wild Cat or Bay Lynx. 317
sents a skin of bright color. This skin is above the
average for even large skins, being 40 inches from nose
to root of tail, 34 from toe to toe across shoulders and 17
at narrowest part.
The buyer of this article should keep in mind that
wild cat, bay lynx, catamount, lynx cat, or whatever
name this fur may be known by in your locality, can
readily be told from the Canadian lynx in that the hair
is shorter and coarser, the feet smaller and not so heavily
furred as the Canadian lynx. Wild cat furs are often cov-
ered with small spots, small dots or stripes, etc., as per
the illustrations shown of these furs while lynx are prac-
tically of one shade of color, same as mink, marten, fox,
coon, muskrat, beaver, otter, etc.
Wild cat are seldom found in Canada while the Can-
adian lynx inhabits, more or less, all states bordering on
Canada. The lynx being the more valuable of the two
furs, inexperienced buyers should keep in mind that a
few black hairs apparently grown in the ears of a wild
cat don't make it a lynx skin. There are "tricks in all
trades" and some even change the saying to "the fur
trade is all tricks/'
CATS HOUSE AND RING TAIL.
RANGE. — This fur bearer, of little value, house pet,
game, poultry and bird destroyer, also mouse and
rat catcher occasionally, is plentiful throughout
America, being even more abundant in the cities
than elsewhere. It is found under the kitchen stove to
the deep forests. Scat !
Uses. — Although the house cat pelt and fur com-
mands a small price, from 25,000 to 55,000 have been
sold during a year in London. Perhaps as many are used
in America, so that the catch is well up tO' 100,000 yearly.
This article is used extensively for children's furs such
as boas, muffs and for trimming coats.
Value and Color. — In the raw condition from first
hands skins are usually worth 5 to 10 cents for kittens
or half grown, 10 to 15 for mottled and sundry colors,
20 to 30 cents for prime, full sized, well furred black and
solid maltese. How well or how poorly furred the domes-
tic cat may be largely depends upon its living quarters.
There are many homeless cats, living entirely in the open,
upon what game they can catch. These wild or semi-
wild cats live by day under barns, old deserted houses,
etc. I say by day for when the house cat becomes wild,
it quickly takes on nocturnal habits and is but little abroad
Cats — House and Ring Tail.
The fur of the wild house cat is far superior to that
of the pet cat that has warm rooms to sleep in. Cats of this
kind are frequently singed from getting too close to the
stove. It is not uncommon to find such shedding during
the coldest weather. The woods cat, as hunters and trap-
pers sometimes term the wild house cat, is usually large,
long and lank, often giving the hounds of the coon hunter
a stiff chase to tree. Every one that
is killed and skinned adds a few cents
to the fur hunters. At the same time
a small game and bird destroyer has
been put out of the
ists today in the
minds of many en-
lightened persons in
regard to killing
cats. They believe
that such an act will
bring bad luck. We
are unable to see
that life is any
dearer to a cat than
to a fox, mink,
J skunk, coon or any
other animal that is
killed for its fur.
Grading. — Boys
and the inexpe-
Large — Length, nose
to root of tail, 26;
greatest width, 7; shoul-
ders, 6 inches.
Large — Length of
pelt,_ 28; tail, 10; total,
38 inches; greatest
width, eVz; shoulders,
5%. Measured on pelt
Fur Buyers' Guide.
rienced trappers are the greatest cat pelt producers, yet
thousands are killed and skinned by hunters and trappers
if caught. This fur should be cased.
The fur is of satisfactory quality dur-
ing December, January and February.
The best furred pelts are from the
Northern states. While the article is
of small value, yet it is classed not
only for sizes large, medium, small
but as well for colors, not dark, brown,
pale, but black, maltese, sundry. Black
and maltese are practically of the
same value and worth more than sun-
dry or other colors.
Cat skins should be stretched long
and narrow, more the shape of fox
or mink, rather than short like skunk.
The following dimensions are much
used by trappers in making boards for
the various sizes :
Large, 6^ inches at hips, 5^ at
Large— Length nose cViniilrlpr<;
to root of tail 20; ^i^uumcib
greatest width 9;
shoulders 8 inches.
Pelt should have cVinii1r1<=>rc
been stretched longer ^iiC>lilueib
and not so wide,
also poorly skinned.
Medium, 6 inches at hips, 5 at
Small, 5^ inches at hips, 4^ at
Length of large from tip of nose to root of tail, about
30 inches, medium 26, small 22.
Ring Tail Cat — Range. — They are found only
in the warmer parts of the Southwest and West, namely
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California and
Cats — House and Ring Tail.
North several hundred miles along
the Pacific Coast. They are more
plentiful in Mexico than any portion
of the United States unless it would
be Southwestern Texas.
Size and Handling. — This fur
producer is about the size of the mink
or civet cat, the
weight of a grown
one being seldom
much over four
pounds. The skins
should be cased and
may be marketed
either fur or flesh
side out. The aver-
age hide will be
only about 4 inches
wide and 26 from
tip of nose to end
of tail — about half
of which is tail.
Grading. — Val-
ues have ranged
from 10 to 75 cents.
so called from the
many rings on tail,
having more than
coon) are not
graded for colors,
Length, nose to
root of tail, 18;
tail, 18; total, 36;
greatest width, 5;
inches. Classed as
Large— Length nose to
root of tail 20; tail 20;
total 40; greatest width
514; shoulders 4^/4 inches.'
This pelt represents a
large and well furred
specimen — in fact one
of the very best.
322 Fur Buyers' Guide.
only as to sizes, large, medium and small and degrees of
primeness. While the fur is soft and fluffy, absorbing
dye readily, the quality of fur is poor. The color is a
light, greyish brown on back, lighter on sides and belly.
There are a good many unprime, both as to pelt and fur,
offered the fur trade, coming as it does from so far
south. The No. 2 may, therefore, be those not prime
in fur or a damaged pelt, owing to warm or wet weather.
Nos. 3 and 4 are those with little or no fur growth, or a
badly damaged pelt. The total catch is only a few thou-
sand yearly and mostly sold to dealers in the Southwest.
RANGE. — This thick pelted animal, and of rather
small value, from the fur point of view, is found
mainly west of the Mississippi, being most plenti-
ful in the prairie sections of the West and North-
west. They are also occasionally found in Wisconsin,
Michigan and other states as well as parts of Southern
Canada. It is not found in Labrador or Alaska.
Description. — It forms a branch of the weasel
tribe, characterized by a long body, short tail and it se-
cretes an odor. This animal is one of the most powerful
of the weasel species. They are great diggers, having
long claws, strong feet, with neck and shoulders a mass
Color and Value. — The color of the hair and fur
is grey and yellowish — grey on the outside and yellow-
ish underneath; on legs and neck dark or nearly black.
Two light colored lines mark the head from nose to base
of skull. This fur has certain uses but the hair itself is
of most importance, being used for paint and lathering
brushes, depending upon length. In order to be of most
value, the fur should be 2 inches long or even 3 if guard
hairs are' to be taken into consideration. Sometimes the
coat of a prime badger is only about one-half inch in
length. Such extremely short coated skins are almost
worthless, even though the pelt is large and prime.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
BADGER SKINS — OPEN AND CASED.
(1) Large, Open — Tip of nose to root of tail, 32; tail, 7; greatest
width, 22; shoulders, 20 inches.
(2) Large. Cased — Tip of nose to root of tail, 30; tail, 6; greatest
width, 11; shoulders, 10 inches.
Handling. — This is one of the few articles in which
it makes little difference whether handled open or cased,
being worth practically the same. Most skins are, how-
ever, handled open. Skins are usually in fur from No-
vember until March
or a little later, espe-
cially in Northern
of pelt is sometimes
of no consequence as
regards character or
fur growth, in the
badger's coat. The
pelt may be prime but
fur so short or en-
tirely lacking that the
skin has little or no
value. Opossum is
the only other pelt
that may be prime
or lacking in fur. The
"prime" opossum pelt,
but not having full
fur growth is easily
detected by the experienced opossum fur buyer by the
small dark spot or spots on the neck of such pelts — see
page 251. Badger have no such marks, although a glance
at the fur side is sufficient.
Badger are assorted for sizes — large, medium, small.
No attention is paid to colors but length and condition
of fur is considered. As this fur is handled more or less
OREGON BADGER, OPEN.
Large — Length of pelt, 34; width, 20
inches at hips and shoulders.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
both cased and open
a No. I skin handled
either way is not only
illustrated but the di-
Large, open, tip of
nose to root oi tail 32
inches, width at base
22, shoulders 20
inches, tail 7 inches.
Large, cased, tip of
nose to root of tail 30,
width at hips 11,
shoulders 10, tail 6
Medium will b e
about four inches
shorter and two
inches narrower at
hips and shoulders
for open skins and
one inch at hips and
shoulders for cased.
Small will be about
the same proportion less than the medium is under the
large. Buyers of this fur should remember that a prime
hide does not always mean a full furred one. The total
catch of badger is something like 10,000 a year.
NORTH DAKOTA BADGER, OPEN.
Large — Length of pelt, 291/^; tail, 7;
total, 361/^; greatest width, 23; shoulders,
2iy2 inches. Short furred although caught
RANGE. — The territory in which this animal is still
occasionally found reaches north to the Arctic
Circle and South to the Great Lakes on the East-
ern side of the continent and as far South as Colo-
rado and Utah in the West. They are probably most
plentiful in Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia and the
Northern portions of the Rocky Mountains, although not
Color and Quality. — The body is covered with a
thick, wooly, under fur while the top hair is long and
coarse. The general color of the body is a dark or dusky
brown with a much lighter strip crossing the shoulders
and extending down each side. The fur is of fair value,
being used mainly for rugs and robes, although used to
some extent in fur articles for wear — muffs, capes, trim-
Handling and Grading. — This article should be
cased. To the fur trade it is known as wolverine but
hunters and trappers perhaps know the animal best (or
worst) by some of the following names: carcajou, glut-
ton, mountain devil, skunk bear. The average sized
grown animal will measure 30 inches or thereabouts,
from end of nose to root of tail so that the pelt will
Fur Buyers' Guide.
stretch fully 3 feet from nose to root of tail. The length
of tail is some 13 inches. The shape of the skins will be
about the same as the larger coon
skins when cased.
This fur is graded large, medium,
small and further as to color, the finer
furred and darker being most valuable.
Skins are prime from the middle of
November until March. The No. 2
are usually the rubbed or shedding,
as few are' caught or killed early in
the season. The yearly catch is not
large, being probably under 3,000.
General Remarks. — It is a most
mischievous animal on the trap line.
Being very difficult to trap itself be-
cause of an inordinate degree of sus-
picion, it visits the trap line, springing
traps, carrying away baits and hiding
them and also destroying any such
furs, as valuable marten, it may find
in the traps. Many a trapper has
abandoned a certain neighborhood
when a wolverine found it and began
its depredations on the trap line.
Some wolverines are trapped, how-
ever, by hiding the bait, as in a cache,
instead of placing it out open and con-
spicuous. Through its efforts to break
into such a bait concealed place, it forgets to avoid traps
that may lie concealed.
Large — Length,
nose to root of tail,
51 (tail ofif) ; greatest
width, 91/^; shoulders,
81/^ inches. This pelt
is stretched several
inches longer than
the average large.
The wolverine feeds on mice, v^oodchucks and other
small animals and on the carrion of large game, either
left behind by hunters or that have been wounded by
them and lost. Wolverines are active throughout the
winter and are great travelers, covering many miles in a
A trader who in his many years' experience was lo-
cated in several places in Can-
This animal, under the
name of wolverine (or car-
cajou) and several other
names, is known all over Can-
ada, being heartily detested by
trappers wherever found. Its
fur value is not great, size
considered, but as a destroyer
of fur in traps it has no equal,
often following a line of traps
Except at the mating sea-
son you rarely find more than
one at a time in quite an ex-
tent of country. Over this
well defined country these sol-
itary marauders beat up and
down, destroying, devouring
and defiling whatever they
find. The wolverine can give
points to any fox, in cunning,
and he seems imbued with a
Medium — Length, nose to
root of tail, 30; tail, 12; great-
est width, 18; narrowest part
back of shoulders, 14 inches.
This pelt was not properly
stretched. The spot on back
is of a different color than
balance of fur. Spots or
stripes of this or similar kind
are on all wolverines.
330 Fur Buyers' Guide.
fiendish impulse to do all the michief he can. Authen-
ticated stories of what this ''bush devil" has done would
fill pages and from any one not conversant with the wilds,
would hardly receive credence. With the cognomen of
''Indian Devil" he is well named.
A full grown is about 34 inches long, nose to tip of
tail, 10 inches broad and is, when prime, of a dark coffee
color with an orange stripe, more or less well defined run-
ning down each side. The ears are rounded at the tip
and the tail is about a quarter the length of the body.
The skin or pelt is very strong and durable and the fur,
which is thick, wears well and does not change its color
by the sun's rays as most other furs do.
Cased, with the pelt side out, traders not well versed
in skins have been known to purchase one of these, think-
ing it was a fisher. One can always tell the difference
by the tail and ears. A fisher's tail tapers off to a sharp
point while that of the wolverine terminates abruptly as
if chopped off in infancy. The ears, as I have said, are
rounded and set closer to the head.
Considering the skins of these animals are so rare
and their durability unsurpassed, it is strange they do not
command a higher price with the manufacturer.
Wolverine, like fisher, are very partial to the flesh
of the porcupine and they are the only two animals I
know of that deliberately a.ttack and successfully compass
the "quilly gentleman."
RANGE. — While the ordinary weasel covers a wide
range of country, it is of practically no value ex-
cept where inhabiting a latitude sufficiently cold,
in the winter months, that the ordinary brown
coat turns white. The "white weasel country" includes
all of Alaska, Canada, Newfoundland, New England
States, those bordering on Canada, Wyoming, Colorado,
South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Northern parts of Illi-
nois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Color. — The only milk white weasel skins are the
ermine or stoat of Europe. They are more valuable than
the American weasel, its near relative. The farther north
the weasel is found in this country, the better furred and
whiter as a rule. No weasel are strictly white. Even
the best skins are tinged with yellow. All weasels every-
where are brown in summer. In the colder regions the
coat begins to turn white in October and by the middle
or last of November all are white. In the meantime there
are many intermediate shades, such as white streaks, run-
ning through the brown, or else the coat is spotted, or
half white and half brown. Others are a reddish grey
when the turning white hairs are blended with the brown.
None of the various color markings are worth more than
the brown, which has been 5 cents or less.
332 Fur Buyers' Guide.
Value and Uses. — Prior to 1900 white weasel was
of little value, selling for about 10 cents for the best
skins. About the years 1904-5 the price advanced won-
derfully, as high as $1.50 being paid. Of more recent
years values have ranged both above and below the dollar
mark for best. Weasel are used for trimming coats of
some dark fur where the contrast between black and
white or brown and white makes an extremely attractive
and showy garments, suitable for riding coats, street wear,
etc. The demand for this article seems to be greater in
the European countries than on this side.
Sizes. — This fur animal varies greatly in the sec-
tions where it turns white during the winter months and
what is large in some places would be called medium in
others. Some of the largest sizes noted are :
Massachusetts, 2>^ inches wide, 21 from tip to tip,
6 of which was tail.
British Columbia, one of the largest of 61 caught
measured 22^ from tip to tip, 9 being length of tail. The
smallest in this lot was only 8 inches from tip to tip.
One selected from a lot of over 100 as caught by
trappers from all parts of the white weasel country meas-
ured 2^ inches wide, 26 from tip to tip, 9 of which was
I have found three or four distinct sizes of the white
weasel, writes a Central Minnesota trapper. The figures
given are the measurements taken by myself from the
skins of the white weasel last winter, and as I had forty
skins to select from, the average from the figures given
are correct. The measurements given are from tip of
nose to tip of tail. The length of tail runs from two
and a half inches
on a small weasel
to six inches on
an extra large.
legtii of white
t:p to tip.
Extra Large — 17>^
Large — 15 inches.
Medium — 13 inches.
Small — IQi^ inches.
buyer, who has
of the skins
i g a n, Northern
Ohio, Indij^na and
Illinois, says : ''A
large weasel on
the drying board
will measure i8
or 19 inches, tail
length of skin
alone being about
12 inches, width
in widest place
MINNESOTA PRIME WEASEL SKINS.
_ Tow row are medium, ranging from UVz to 16
inches long, including tail; greatest width 2V'>-
shoulders, 2. . /j.
. Bottom roware small, ranging from 13 to 14
inches long, including tail; greatest width, 2'
shoulders, 1%. '
The length of these skins is sufficient to grade
better, but they were stretched long and narrow.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
2^ to 2% inches. It is rare that width is 3 inches.
Medium sizes are from one to two inches less in length
and nearly the width of the large skins. Small, or kitts,
are 13 to 14 inches in length including tail and the width
at base of skin is about 2 inches.
Handling and Grading. — Weasel should be cased
and left fur side in when removed from stretching
WEASEL skins -fur AND PELT SIDE.
(1) Large, Fur Out — Length tip to tip, 19; greatest width, 2%;
shoulders, 2^/4 inches.
(2) Large, Fur In — Length, including tail, 18; greatest width, 2%;
shoulders, 21/4 inches.
(3) Medium, Fur In — Length, including tail, 17; greatest width, 2;
shoulders, 2 inches.
(4) Small, Fur In — Length, including tail, 13; greatest width, 2;
shoulders, l^^ inches.
(5) Greyback, or in the turning stage from brown to white.
boards. This article is assorted for sizes, large, medium,
small and also as to colors, white, stains, greybacks, etc.
As already shown, sizes in the different parts of the
country vary, yet the following figures are based on actual
measurements of skins from
various parts of the country:
Large, length to base of tail
13 inches, tail 6 inches; over all
19 inches, width at base 2>^
inches, at shoulders 2>4 inches.
Medium, length to base of
tail II inches, tail 5 inches;
over all 16 inches, width at base
2!4 inches, at shoulders 2
Small, length to base of tail
9 inches, tail 4 inches, over all
13 inches, width at base 2 inches
at shoulders i^ inches. These
measurements are about stan-
dard size but some variation
should be allowed. A weasel
measuring 12 inches to the base
of tail is usually graded large,
while others will be larger than
the figures given.
Buying from first hand, that
is the catcher, is usually on
grade. In addition to large,
medium, small, skins are fur-
ther classified white, yellow.
SIX ONTARIO, CANADA,
Top row are each lli^ long,
exclusive of tail; 214 wide at
tail and 2 at shoulders.
Bottom row, 10 long, ex-
clusive of tail; 1% wide at
tail, iVz at shoulders.
Tails on all are practically
of same length — 4 inches.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
greybacks, etc., the "yellow cast" from many localities
being as high as two-thirds, including those badly
"stained" to some only slightly. Dealers know all this
and if buying flat, figure on same. No brown
or grey backs are taken on a flat deal unless
The dividing line between the brown and
the "white turning," generally speaking, is
near 41 degrees north latitude or Central
Pennsylvania, North Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
South Iowa and Nebraska. In the Rocky
Mountain region and high altitudes they are
found somewhat further to the south. The
annual catch is probably more than 300,ocx),
two-thirds being secured in Canada.
This small animal, like most of the other
fur bearers, varies in size not only through-
out Canada but in the "ermine" states of the
United States. A trapper of the Lake Su-
perior region, who has probably caught a
thousand since the writer became ac-
quainted with him and in whom we have
confidence, furnished the following from
his returns :
Large, tip to tip 18, tail 5 to 6, hips
2, shoulders i^ inches.
Medium, tip to tip 15, tail 4 to 5, hips i^, shoul-
ders i}i inches.
Small, tip to tip 12, tail 3 to 4, hips i^, shoulders
This trapper keeps a record of sizes, date caught,
Length of pelt,
15%; tail, 81/2;
greatest width, 3;
White Weasel. 337
shipped, etc., so that his figures must be correct. Meas-
urements are for pelt side. If fur side is out, add about
Yi inch for hips and shoulders for the three sizes.
Note that a 6 inch tail is the longest mentioned (this
perhaps is an average) for from other localities where
the skins are an inch or two longer and proportionately
wider, tails frequently measure two inches more, or 8
inches. The length of tail is usually considered a fair
guide as to the size of skin but not always.
RANGE. — The former range of this valuable fur
bearer was from Santa Barbara Islands, just off
the coast from Los Angeles, north along the coast
of California, Oregon, Washington, British Co-
lumbia and Alaska to the Aleutian Islands and across to
Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands off the northern coast
Since 1912 the catch has been small and the range
of the few remaining seems to be confined to the Aleu-
tian and Kuril Islands.
Size and Handling. — A full grown sea otter meas-
ures from nose to tip of tail, anywhere from 4 feet to 4
feet and 6 inches. The largest weigh up to about 80
pounds. The skin is very loose on the body and when
stretched or ''nailed out" on a frame, the largest have
been known to be as much as 8 feet 6 inches from tip to
tip by 3 feet wide. Skins are handled both open and
cased. The white hunters, as a rule, skin by ripping up
from end of tail along belly up to the under lip, then from
the middle of the breast down each fore-leg and from
the anus down the inner edge of each hind-flipper (leg).
The pelt is then stretched in much the same way as a
coon. The otter hunters call this ''staked out."
The native hunters skinned their otter *'on the
round," that is, a cut being made along the inner edge
of the flippers (hind legs)
through the anus and down the
tail. The skin is taken off by
gradually cutting and pulling
down over the body and head.
The pelt being stretched on
boards and when wedged a full
grown skin will measure 6 feet
6 inches to 7 feet from tip to
tip, having a width of 14 to 15
inches at hind quarters and 10
to II at shoulders. Regardless
of which method is used in
skinning and stretching, much
care is taken to remove all fat,
etc., and the skin scraped and
dried. The cured skins when
dried are turned fur side out.
Fur and Color. — The fur
is from i to i>< inches in
length, very fine, soft, dense
and silky with many longer
hairs which are coarser and
stiffen Near the pelt the fur
is of lustrous, pearly whitish
color, gradually darkening to-
wards the ends so that the out-
side is black in the best skins and various shades of brown
in others. The finest skins, black, have white silyery
SEA OTTER PELT.
340 Fur Buyers' Guide.
hairs scattered quite evenly, about ^ inch apart all over.
Pelts of this kind, if full size, properly furred and tipped,
of a uniform color throughout (head excepted, which is
probably white) is considered a No. i skin and commands
a good price.
The next grade is somewhat lighter, yet dark colored,
although it may be well furred and tipped. Next is the
dark brown skins and then those of lighter shades, which
may or may not have silvery tips. Next are the rusty
brown and last the ''woolly" skins which have short fur
but few or no long hairs and the color may be an ash-
grey or mouse. Some pelts of this description look as if
the fur had been clipped with shears.
Degrees of Primeness. — Of course, the various
grades as described, have different degrees of quality.
With perhaps the exception of the best grades of black
fox, size, perfection of fur and evenness of color and tips
are of first consideration. There are some pelts large,
well furred, even in color, but the tips are not evenly
distributed and in some pelts there are none, on others
there may be a ''woolly" patch (sometimes in the middle
of the back) which greatly detracts from its value. Again
other are of a beautiful black, furred evenly and tipped
from shoulders to end of tail but the head and belly are
white or practically so. In others the tips have a singed
appearance or may be slightly curled up, while still
others the ends appear broken off. The imperfect skins,
as a rule, are those of full grown animals. Young and
not full grown are usually even colored and fur of the
same quality throughout but the silvery tips are often too
Sea Otter. 341
abundant and close. In some skins the longer hairs are
not silvery, as they should be, but may be black or brown.
The buying of sea otter was a ticklish business, espe-
cially where competition was strong, for it took expe-
rience and judgment to be able to correctly classify the
skins into the proper grade. The animal now, however,
is so rare that very few traders, even along the Northern
Pacific Coast or the Behring Sea, see a pelt much less get
an opportunity to buy one. Skins are always prime and
range in value from $200 to $1,000. This animal is now
quite scarce, dwindling from upwards of 5,000 in the
early 8o's to 1,000 in the 90's and to a few hundred since
1900. In 1913 only 81 were caught.
RANGE. — The range of what used to be best known
as panther once included all the timbered and
mountain sections of the United States. At pres-
ent it is found in the Rocky Mountain States and
those bordering on the Gulf of Mexico; in Canada it is
probably found in parts of British Columbia ; it is pretty
generally distributed over Mexico.
Description. — This animal, known under several
names, such as cougar, puma, panther, catamount and
mountain lion, is the largest of the cat tribe in either
North or South America. Mountain lion is a powerful
beast of prey, is short haired, of a light tan or fawn
color, although some have a grayish coat and still others
yellowish brown, according, no doubt, to age and season.
A large male will measure nine or ten feet from end of
nose to tip of tail. Ordinary sizes, however, do not ex-
ceed about 8 feet from tip to tip. The weight of the
large ones is from i6o to 175 pounds. Heavier ones have
been killed but the weight of the most are less than 150
Habits — This bloodthirsty animal is very destruc-
tive to deer and other game — even worse than timber
wolves. It also kills stock for ranchers located in the
foot hills near mountains. Owing to its game and stock
killing, there is a large bounty on mountain lion scalps in
most of the states where it is found. Most of the blood-
curdling tales told about panthers, painters, mountain
lions (they are all
one and the same
animal) are lies pure
and simple. . Ordi-
narily, this animal is
a coward, afraid of
Uses. — Skins are
used largely for rugs
and to some extent
for robes. Large,
command a good
price, when accept-
able, for rugs with
mounted heads. For
such purposes there
can be no defects in
the coat, neither can
skins be scalped or
to collect bounty.
The toes and nails
must bei left on and one missing is a defect.
Handling, Price, Grade. — Strictly speaking, the
skins do not belong in the fur class. "Mountain Lion,
$2.00 to $6.00," is about the way this article reads on the
fur lists of those who quote them at all. Not being what
is properly a fur skin, many dealers in raw furs do not
WESTERN MONTANA MOUNTAIN
The mountain ranges of Montana, Wyom-
ing, Colorado, New Mexico and all states
west to the Pacific, as well as those of South-
ern British Columbia and all of Mexico, are
the section from which skins of tkis animal
are principally received.
344 Fur Buyers' Guide.
handle the skins. The skins have a hair growth only —
no fur — which is short and not dense.
Skins should be handled open for they are used
mostly for rugs and robes. Those who trap or kill moun-
tain lions derive the most money through the existing
bounties paid by the respective states. The majority of
skins that are sent to fur dealers are those on which
bounty has been collected and many have been scalped
or otherwise damaged. The value of such pelts range
from about $2.00 to $6.cx) or maybe a little more.
Dealers in furs classify the skins according to size,
large, medium, small. Color makes little or no difference.
The large sizes, measuring 10 to 11 feet, that we read
about being killed, dwindle to 9 feet or less in reality.
The average full grown, in fact, will measure 7 feet or
thereabouts more often than 8 or more. A pelt that will
measure 5 feet from end of nose to root of tail is a large
skin; medium, about one foot less, and small, six inches
to a foot under medium. Of course, these measurements
will vary somewhat.
SEALS — FUR AND HAIR.
-jn|LASKA FUR SEAL — RANGE. — This seal —
p4 the most valuable — inhabits Behring Sea and
J I the rookeries (breeding grounds) are the St. Paul
and St. George Islands which constitute what are
known as the Pribilof Islands. Other than during the
breeding season they range southward.
Description. — An average male seal will measure
about 6 feet long and weigh near 400 pounds. They have
been known to reach a length of "jYz feet and a weight of
600 pounds. Females are much smaller, weighing 150
pounds or less and are usually a few inches under 4 feet
in length. The color of the guard or long hairs is chest-
nut brown to black of males although the old are much
mixed with grey, especially on the back; females are
usually lighter colored than males.
History. — From millions of seals which came to
the Pribilof Islands to breed when the fur first came into
fashion, the herds dwindled to probably 50,000 by 1910.
From 1890 to 1910 the North American Commercial
Company had the exclusive right to the seal industry,
paying an annual rental of $60,000.00 to the United
States, in addition to $7.62^ per skin and 50 cents for
each gallon of oil shipped from either St. George or St.
Paul Island. There was a further revenue tax of $2.00
upon each skin.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
The seal industry has been a very profitable source
of income to the United States Government but owing to
pelagic killing (unlawful) by not only Americans but
others, in July, 191 1,
the United States,
Great Britain, Rus-
sia and Japan en-
tered into a treaty
which provides for
the prohibition of
pelagic or open sea
sealing for a period
of fifteenyears. Dur-
injg the same year
(1911) the United
States enacted a pro-
land killing of seals
on the Pribilof Is-
lands for a period
of ten years, except
under certain condi-
tions ; a few thou-
sand are killed as
food for the natives
and skins sold.
While this val-
uable fur producer
is not apt to regain its former large numbers, yet with
the protection now given, the herds should and no doubt
will, largely increase.
FUR SEAL SKIN, DRESSED, NATURAL.
This fur is very coarse looking in its
natural state but when plucked is soft and
Seals — Fur and Hair.
Killing and Handling. — During the palmy days
of the industry, when 100,000 were taken annually, the
entire number was
handled in about six
weeks, June 14 to
August I St. While
the seals might re-
main on the islands
longer, the fur de-
teriorates after the
latter date. Expert
skinners can remove
a pelt in a minute
and a half, yet four
minutes is the time
After the skins are
flayed off they are
salted and placed in
piles, "hair to fat
and salt between."
If this is not done
at once and the
weather is warm, an
hour's d e 1 a y w i 1 1
spoil it. If salt is
not properly applied
or skins allowed to
lay too long without
flaying (removing flesh and fat) the skin becomes pinky.
FUR seal skin plucked.
A plucked skin is one having had the long
outer or guard hairs removed.
34^ Fur Buyers' Guide.
Grading. — The skins are assorted as follows .
Middlings, Middling and Smalls — 4 to 5 years.
Smalls — 4 years.
Large Pups — 3 years.
Middling Pups, Small Pups — 2 years.
Extra Small Pups, Grey Pups — i year old.
The general color of males is a dark grizzly, but
sometimes yellowish or a light brown. The under fur is
thick and heavy and of a deep red color. Skins not in
prime condition are known as "stagey."
Hair Seals. — There are several different varieties,
or species, such as the Greenland, Harp, Foetid and
Hooded found in the North Atlantic around Greenland,
Labrador, Newfoundland and south as far as the New
England Coast. These should not be confused with the
pelt and fur of the Alaskan fur seal which -furnishes the
valuable article, known as sealskin, to the trade. The
hair seals are valuable for oil and the skins are used for
making leather only.
PELTS, HIDES, SKINS.
JTTlHILE the majority of those that handle furs will
fl A I not be particularly interested in this chapter,
^^r there are fur buyers who handle more or less
sheep pelts, hides, calf skins, etc.
Sheep Pelts. — In many states the sheep pelt trade
is of more importance than is generally known. Travel-
ing country fur buyers handle a good many thousand
each year. The writer, during the winter of 1892-93,
bought about 2,000 pelts from farmers in Gallia and
Meigs Counties in Southern Ohio. At that time the hilly
farms of that part of the state were covered with sheep
(some of them dead) which I bought from 10 cents up.
Those at 10 cents I skinned — hard, cold, disagreeable
work — but I made good wages.
No doubt there are places now where the buying of
sheep pelts would add materially to the fur buyer's in-
come. In addition to pelts from sheep that have died
from disease and improper care, farmers kill for mutton
and often have a number of pelts ranging from shearling
up. Country and town butchers at certain seasons have
pelts for sale.
Wool on pelts with a growth of ^ inch or less is
classed as shoddy. The wool is not worth as much per
pound as longer growth. Pelts bought green should be
350 Fur Buyers' Guide.
salted. A large pelt, during the summer season, will re-
quire about a half gallon of salt. Butchered pelts are
worth more than those that have died from disease, as
both pelt and wool are valuable, whereas the diseased
pelt is of little value except for the wool. Pelts are class-
ified as follows :
Packer and Country sheep pelts.
Packer and Country lambs.
Packer and Country shearing.
Montana Butcher dry pelts, full wooled.
Utah butcher dry pelts, full wooled.
Colorado and New Mexico dry pelts, butcher.
Montana and Utah murrains.
Dry flint shearlings, good stock.
Dry flint shearlings, damaged.
Colorado and New Mexico, country collections.
Packer pelts are
those taken off by the
large packing houses
where thousands of
sheep are slaughtered
each week. The aver-
age buyer will not
bundle of sheep pelts. handle any of these
as they are sold in car
lots direct to pullers, tanners, etc. Sheep pelts are done
up in bales of some six to a dozen, depending upon length
of wool. The two strings (hide sisal) should first be laid
down and crossed. Bottom and top skins should be pelt
out so as to keep wool as free from dirt as possible.
Pelts^ Hides, Skins. 351
Hides, Calf Skins. — The opportunity to buy hides
and calf skins will depend largely upon how near you
are to some established hide dealer. Where there are
such it may not pay to handle as the margin of profit will
be small. If no dealer is near, you should be able to
gather up a good many, especially during the fall and
early winter months when farmers kill for their own use.
In localities where the dairy business is carried on exten-
sively most calves are either killed and skinned or soon
vealed so that many skins are sold.
The classifications of hides and skins are as follows :
No. I and 2 heavy steers, 60 pounds and over.
No. I and 2 heavy cows, 60 pounds and over.
No. I and 2 buff hides, 40 to 60 pounds.
No. I and 2 side-branded steers, all weights.
No. I and 2 side-branded cows, all weights.
No. I and 2 bulls, all weights.
No. I and 2 extreme light hides — 25 to 40 pounds.
No. I and 2 calf skins, 8 to 15 pounds — no skins
with kip hair.
No. I and 2 light calf skins, 7 to 8 pounds.
No. I and 2 kip, 15 to 25 pounds.
Deacons, 7 pounds and less.
Slunks, skin of an unborn calf.
No. I and 2 horsehides — all weights.
Pony, colt skins and glue stock.
The usual difference between Nos. i and 2 hides is
one cent a pound in extreme (25 to 40), buffs (40 to 60),
and heavy cows ; one and one-half cent a pound on steers,
Fur Buyers' Guide.
calf and kip. Bulls, branded steers and cows generally
sell flat, not selected. Horse hides, hog skins, deacons
and slunks sell at so much per skin. Size and free from
rubbed ( dragging) determine grade and value of horse
Hides are also further classified green, green salted,
dry and dry flint. A green hide is one as taken off the
animal and includes tail bone, horns, sinews, etc., not
salted. A green salted
is one that has been
salted folded or
spread out for at least
24 hours and up to six
months or even
longer. A dry salt is
one that has been
salted but left spread
out where it will dry
out within a couple
of weeks. A flint is one that has been dried without salt.
The price increases from a green to a flint but as the
weight decreases there is little, or no difference, in the
price that a hide will bring in the several ways that it may
be handled. When hides were cheap there was but one
cent difference between each classification, namely : green,
7 cents per pound; green salted, 8 cents; dry salted, 9
cents ; flint, 10 cents. Now, that values are much higher,
the spread between each classification is greater. Sup-
pose a green hide weighs 60 pounds and is worth 10 cents
a pound or $6.00. The same hide^ salted a few days,
weighs about 50 pounds, therefore, the green salted must
HIDE (CATTLE) DONE UP, TIED,
READY FOR SHIPMENT.
Pelts, Hides, Skins. 353
bring 12 cents a pound to realize $6.00. If made a dry
salted, the weight is further reduced, say to 40 pounds,
when price must be 15 cents to equal $6.00. The same
hide not salted becomes a flint and weight reduced, we
will say to 30 pounds, when price must be advanced to
20 cents to equal $6.00.
Although the writer spent several years upon the
road buying not only furs, roots, sheep pelts, but hides
from butchers, mostly green salted, yet he was not sure
as to shrinkage of hides under the various ryiditions
handled, therefore, secured the following from a dealer
v/ho has been in the business for years, buying and han-
dling several car loads of hides each month :
"Green hides in summer will shrink out 12% to 15%
by salting, making them green salted. These same hides
in winter will not lose more than 10% and be green salted
hides. Beef hides are better in August, September, Octo-
ber and November. After that they get long haired and
shaggy up to March and in general worth 10% less in
price. In the South hides get grubby in December and
stay grubby about 90 days. In the North they do not get
grubby until, say February, and stay grubby for about 90
days. Of course, in a great many sections, from lack of
swampy land and care given to cattle, they have no grubs
at all. In April and May cattle running on new grass,
their hides will shrink 15% on account of moisture in
hides. The weight of green hides is about 15% more
than green salted, 30% more than dry salted, and 50%
more than flint dry. This is a very close estimate of
weight in different stages."
354 Fur Buyers' Guide.
In some sections grubs are much worse than others.
In the latitude of Southern Ohio they usually make their
appearance by the last of November or the first days of
December. Further north they do not make their appear-
ance before January and in some localities there are none
whatever. One grub, if it has eaten through the hide,
even no larger hole than a straw, makes it a No. 2. Grubs
will be found on the back near the rump and can be de-
tected by the appearance of the hide which shows a
bloody or ''jelly like" substance.
A cut anywhere in body of hide makes a No. 2, so
that careful skinning should be done. Calf skins that are
badly scored (so that the thumb nail can punch through)
is as bad as a hole and such skins go into the No. 2 class.
There is a class of hides known as ''packer" but the hide
buyer will not come in contact with any. These are the
hides taken off in the large slaughter houses, principally
of the West, being uniform, closer trim and only coarse
special hide salt is used in curing.
Where salt is cheap It is safest to handle hides by
salting, for during warm weather they may spoil instead
of curing properly. The high altitudes, Rocky Mountain
sections, produce many flint hides.
Hides are done up in separate bundles, hair out, for
shipment and tied with a special hide twine or sisal. The'
fur dealer and country buyer of hides, if having no reg-
ular hide twine, use binder twine doubled or first class
wool twine, yet neither are strong enough for large and
Deer Skins. — The summer coat is short and the
hide is of the best quality for leather then. When the
Pelts^ Hides, Skins.
hair is long on deer or cattle, it detracts from the hide
to support such growth. Deer skins should not be salted.
The process of tanning and dressing deer skins to make
'he buckskin of commerce, is different from the pre-
liminaries relating to preparing cattle or horse hides,^
which are cured in salt. Salt toughens deer skins and
makes tanning difficult.
A BUNDLE OF DEER SKINS — WINTER COAT.
Summer deer skins are almost unknown now on ac-
count of game laws everywhere which prohibit such
slaughter, it being unlawful to have in one's possession
skins of grown deer in the red or summer coat or fawn
skins in the spotted coat. Deer skins are bought by the
pound and classed green, dry salted and dry. Like cattle
hides, the value per pound increases from green to dry
but as weight decreases there is little or no difference in
price per skin. A few elk, antelope and moose hides are
still marketed. They, like deer skins, are mostly sold
W weight and classified green, dry salted and dry.
ROOTS GINSENG AND GOLDEN SEAL.
GINSENG DRYING AND GRADING.— Wild gin-
seng should be dug carefully so as to not cut or
bruise the roots as this hurts their sale. After dig-
ging, wash just enough to get the dirt off, but in
no case attempt tO' make the root white. If a brush is
used to get the dirt out of crevices it should be used very
lightly and never so that when the root is dry it will not
show dark or dirt color at the bottom of the creases that
run around the roots. Gray or yellow gray is about the
color desired but of the two extremes it is better not to
wash at all than to wash too much.
In drying, the roots should always be placed in the
shade and should be laid on a screen or sieve and in a
place where there is free circulation of air. It is not
necessary to remove the fiber roots of wild ginseng, the
same as it is with the cultivated. The practice of string-
ing roots and hanging them up to dry cannot be too
Fur buyers generally make about three grades of
wild root — Northern, Middle and Southern — although
some dealers go so far as to grade it by states. The
practice of grading In this manner comes not from the
quality of the roots in the different sections of the country
but from the practices of the collector. In the North the
Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal.
SMALL PIECES, NATURAL SIZP:, OR
roots are never strung
on strings, neither does
the Northern man collect
seedlings and pieces of
stems. The Chinaman
wants whole roots with-
o u t blemish and no
Chinaman or dealer can
tell whether whole roots
of fair size are from the
North or South.
Note the illustration,
showing at natural size,
what is found in
large quantities in
many lots of
GOOD WILD GINSENG ROOTS — REDUCED IN SIZE.
Fur Buyers' Guide.
root. Such trash is absent in the wild collections from
the North. The presence or absence of this trash really
makes the difference in price between Northern and
Southern wild root.
The illustration — Good Wild
Roots — are reduced in size. Roots
of this class will demand top price
for wild root if free from trash ex-
cept the fiber roots that naturally
If the digger would leave the
little roots to grow he would get as
much money for what he did collect
as he would if he added the trash.
Later, he or some one else would have the pleasure of
digging a good root in place of one almost worthless. The
digger of wild ginseng finds not only small but all shapes
of roots. This is caused from the hard soil, rocks and
tree roots among which it grows. The illustration of
SMALL WILD GIN-
OREGON GINSENG, GREEN, JUST DUG.
Roots — Ginseng and Golden ^ al.
1- ^^ ■
• Sit: ;«<■
small wild is natural size, but not^ as well the shape m
which it grew — down, then up, then down.
Buyers may have some root offered them green, so
they will be interested in knowing how much green it
takes to make a
pound dry. Inhere
ig^no correct rule to
go by, or rather one
that will answer for
all seasons and for
both wild and culti^
vated. Spring dug,
or say up to August,
will require about 4
pounds to dry a
pound; fall dug,
about 3 pounds and
5 or 6 ounces. In
parts of the North-
west, such as the
state of Oregon,
roots dry heavy^.and
3 pounds will about
make i pound dry.
In the pile of Ore-
gon green ginseng
there was 90 pounds when dug. This root is short and
thick set — chunky — with very little fiber root and will
dry out 30 pounds, or very near it, of marketable root.
The root is cultivated and was dug the latter part of Sep-
tember. Some raisers in the Northwest have tried to
WEST VIRGINIA WILD GINSENG,
Fur Buyers' Guide.
dispose of ginseng similar to the roots shown as being
wild. Eastern dealers say there is no natural wild grow-
ing in Oregon but that wild transplanted from some of
the ''ginseng country" farther east does well there.
ST GRADE OF CULTI-
The illustration of West Virginia Wild Ginseng Just
Dug shows the genuine wild as it grows in that state. The
majority of these roots are large and when dug in Sep-
tember and October about 3^ pounds of green will make
one of dry. This proportion will hold where the roots
are very late dug regardless of sizes. Early in the season
it takes about 4 pounds of green to make one of dry,
Ginseng and Golden Seal.
iuaking iif .aJtference whether the roots are large, me-
■j, v>r small. These weights are based on green roots
— just dug. If oitered for sale after being dug a few
days they are partly dry and, of course, less amount will
make a pound when dry. ^2c
Wild ginseng, as well as golden seal, is z^^"*^- '
bought not only by fur dealers but produce
men and druggists. The latter, as a ruh
do not handle large lots, buying mainl
from diggers who are apt to have a
few ounces, or pounds, at most. Cul-
tivated is usually dried by the grower
who then sells to some of the larger
Cultivated Ginseng Roots. —
The same instructions as to digging
and drying wild roots apply to these
except greater care must be used to
have plenty of air or use artificial
heat.. This is necessary, as the cul-
tivated root is larger and dries
slower, being liable to sour and
spoil if not properly handled. There
is really no accepted method of
grading cultivated ginseng but
its value is determined owing
to its likeness to wild. The
vnld root, grown as it is,
among trees and other
plants that sap the soil of
its fertility, takes up much ^^ ^^wE^i^toor.^^^^'^^'
Fur Buyers' Guide.
moisture, makes a very slow growth ^. "d for
acquires age before its size would tempt tVxe -^
lector to dig. This slow growth
and great age gives it the
quality the Chinese like. Cul-
tivated, therefore, is classed
largely according to its resem-
blance to the wild root.
Good wild root seldom has
lateral branches, is of light
weight in proportion to its
choice grade of
around the root rather
than up and down.
The body of the root
is spongy or corky
and will bend some-
what before it will
break. In grading cultivated the first, or best grade, m 'st
come as near to having the above characteristics as pob-
sible. The illustrations of the three roots, page 360, are
such while the single root, page 361, represents those of
IRREGULAR SHAPED ROOT.
Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal.
This grade of root is light weight but not so light as
the wild. A bushel basket well rounded up and shaken
down will weigh just about 25 pounds. One other test
for roots of this grade is that you should be able to take
a sharp knife and shave ojET thin slices without their
breaking. Roots of the same grade
otherwise, if on attempting to shave
off a slice will crumble and break
into small pieces, are not as valuable.
The two straight roots repre-
sent a choice grade of roots though
not as large. These are small roots
that have been crowded and stunted
in their growth and closely resemble
the wild. See page 362.
Next in value we would class
roots that have the above named
valuable traits except they are irreg-
ular in shape. Such roots when
well wilted, in process of drying,
can be helped in shape a little by
bending in side roots and wrapping
a narrow piece of cloth around them
until dry. This quality of root if
extremely sprangly and having
many large straggling side shoots
is of low value and at times prac-
tically unsalable. A root of this
character can be helped some by
breaking- off the sprangles as indi-
SMOOTH SKINNED i , , • • , •,,
HARD GINSENG. cated by the Imes m the illustration.
Fur Buyers' Guide,
Note marks or lines like this / across the small roots
which are from ^ to ^ inch from main root. Root is
still green. See illustration, page 362; Irregular Shaped
A still poorer grade of root is the smooth skinned,
hard root which is generally caused by digging the crop
too young or before it is ma-
ture. It is also sometimes
caused by light, sandy soil.
The defects in roots of this
kind are hard to bring out in
illustrations but can easily be
recognized by the eye. The
root is hard, very heavy for
size, cuts under the knife hard
and brittle. The skin shows
few or no wrinkles around the
root. This and the sprangly
roots are of the lowest grades,
roots or roots of
the shape of the
three which are
unsalable save when
broken up and sold
as coarse fiber at
Small roots when short and thick
TRANSPLANTED WILD GINSENG ROOT
about $1.00 a pound
set are salable.
There is one other grade of dry ginseng root that is
desirable but of rather uneven quality. We allude to
transplanted wild root. Illustration — Transplanted Wild
Ginseng Root — shows an exceptionally good root of this
Roots — Ginseng and Golden Seal. 365
class. The neck of the root is small, which is very desir-
able. ^ Shape is also good and the wrinkles show well.
Root is rather hard yet it represents a good type of root.
In preparing roots for market the fine fibrous roots
should always be removed and kept separate. It is a
question if the average grower should attempt to trim or
sort his roots beyond this. He is not familiar with the
demands or orders of the dealer, therefore is liable to trim
ofif and lose weight where he need not. Better to send to
an honest dealer and let him do the sorting and grading.
The Chinese are very expert and will look at a pile
of root and decide very close what it is worth, even
though there may be a half dozen grades in the pile. In
other words, if you have ten pounds of root worth $6.00
per pound and another ten pounds worth $4.00 per pound
and mix them together the chances are that you will get
fully as much. The Chinaman wants to get the good root
so will pay $5.00 or maybe a trifle over, rather than
under. At the same time he seems to know exactly, by
looking at the pile, how much good and how much poor
root there is in the lot.
All pieces of root should be sorted out and sold by
themselves as coarse fiber.
Golden Seal. — There is little to be said about dry-
ing the wild seal root other than to wash clean and dry
in the shade, taking care that it dries properly so as not
to mould. Cultivated seal requires much more care in
washing but must be washed clean even if the body of
the root has to be broken in order to do it. After the
roots are fully dried they should be placed in some tight
package to keep them from the air and light as this root
366 Fur Buyers' Guide.
loses strength fast. The fiber root should not be separ-
ated from the rhizome (main root) and no care need be
taken to avoid breaking either the rhizome or the fiber
Golden Seal, fall dug, either wild or cultivated, dries
out about same as ginseng, namely, 3 1/3 pounds of
green making one of dry.
There is but little difference in the value of Golden
Seal whether from the garden of the grower or the dig-
ger who secures the wild. Neither is there a difference
in the value of this root from the various parts of the
country. Buyers, however, must be on the lookout for
frauds and deceptions as there is a root that very closely
resembles Golden Seal found in some parts of the country
which has little value.
Note. — Those e specially interested in Ginseng,
Golden Seal, Seneca and other marketable plants will find
in "Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants," a book of 367
pages, price $1.00, a much more complete description of
the various plants, where found, with illustrations of
both the roots and tops.
A Book of Information on Raising Fur-Bearing Animals. Tell ing
all About _ Enclosures, Breeding, Feeding. Habits, Care, Etc.
THIS book is now in its FIFTH EDITION. It is
the recognized authority on raising all kinds
of fur-bearing animals. All of the questions
asked, or you may wish to know, are answered in
detail in this book. It is the only guide for those
who are contemplating the raising of fur-bearers
for profit, and its accurate descriptions of the
animals and their habits, when in the wild State,
make it interesting and valuable to all.
The information has been secured from reliable
sources, mainly from those who have already
raised the various animals. A part was taken
from the United States Government reports of
Foxes— More than forty pages are devoted to foxes. The business of
handling valuable foxes as carried on in Canada is explained.
Mink— The chapter on Mink Raising is more complete than in the
earlier editions and as well illustrates a minkery showing: 1st, floor plan;
2nd, end view; 3rd, completed building.
Marten— A chapter on Marten Raising has also been added.
Skunk— This chapter contains 35 pages of information as well as 11
illustrations. One of the illustrations shows skunk skins and how they
are graded. Removing scent sacs is fully explained and illustrated by
two drawings or diagrams showing the scent sacs and how far and
where to cut to expose sacs and ducts. After looking at these and read-
ing explanation anyone can easily remove the scent sacs.
Chapter Headings— Read them and it will be seen at once that this
is a very practical book, covering the subject of Fur Raising or Fur
Farming thoroughly. Book contains 278 pages, 5x7 inches, printed on
good paper, with 49 illustrations and drawings. The book contains 16
chapters as follows:
I. Supply and Demand
II. What Animals to Raise
IV. Laws Affecting Far Farming
V. Box Trap Trapping
VI. Fox Raising
VII. Fox Raising in Canada
VIII. Skunk Raising
IX. Mink Raising
X. Opossum Raising
XI. Muskrat Raising
XII. Raccoon Raising
XIII. The Beaver and the Otter
XIV. Marten Raising
XV. Killing, Skinning & Stretching
XVI. Deer Farming
If you have ever thought of raising fur-bearing animals, better send
for this book at once. Maybe after reading you will conclude to go into
the business, for there has been money made at the business and will be
for years to come by those who are suited to the industry— the book tells
this and lots more.
This book bound in cloth will be sent postpaid to any address for 60c.
A. R. Harding, 75 N. Ohio Ave., Columbus, Ohio
For Hunters, Trappers,
Fur Farmers, Ginseng and
Golden Seal Growers, etc.
Below we list books published by A. R.
Harding, any or all of which would be valuable
to any outdoor man. The prices quoted after
each book include postage, so that there are
no additional charges. Should you wish them
insured the cost will be 5c extra, to Canada cost
to register is loc. If two or more books are
ordered together there is a reduction of loc on
60c books, and 25c on $i.cO' books.
Bee Hunting, 80 pages, paper 25c
Mink Trapping, 190 pages, cloth 60c
Fox Trapping, 200 pages, cloth 60c
Steel Traps, 333 pages, cloth 60c
Canadian Wilds, 277 pages, cloth 60c
Deadfalls and Snares, 232 pages, cloth. 60c
Land Cruising and Prospecting, 200
pages, cloth 60c
Fur Farming, 266 pages, cloth 60c
Science of Trapping, 245 pages, cloth.. 60c
Hunting Dogs, 253 pages, cloth 60c
Ferret Facts and Fancies, 214 pages,
Wolf and Coyote Trapping, 252 pages,
Camp and Trail Methods, 274 p., cloth. 60c
Science of Fishing, 258 pages, cloth 60c
A Trip on the Great Lakes, 212 pages,
3001 Questions and Answers, 396 pages,
The Cabin Boat Primer, 276 p., cloth. . . $1
Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper, 318
pages, cloth. $1
Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants,
318 pages, cloth $1
A. R. HARDING,
7S N. OHIO AVE., COLUMBUS, OHIO.