The Value of Koi - Part 1

Why are koi expensive? And what contributes to the price tag? Those are commonly asked questions and the answers given are often generalized and dismissive rather than educational.

Prices are not always set as profit on costs… prices reflect the ennobled value of a koi. There’s a big difference in such thinking.

A top quality koi is not a chunk of (wet) gold. Gold has a perceived value, but the actual price of gold fluctuates depending on supply and demand. That cost relates to the cost of production. If I own gold, it can be valued at the ruling price of the metal, and I can sell it at whim should I think I can make a favourable profit. The gain or loss on my original investment, will depend on the current buying and selling prices... and how patient I can be in waiting for the most opportune moment to capitalise on market demand.

A top quality koi should rather be equated with an investment in art. When I buy a work of art, it is not only the actual painting or sculpture for which I pay, but I am also buying into the fame of the artist which grew out of an appreciation for what the artist has come to represent: talent, skill, interpretation, and expression. Even so, one buyer will be willing to put a higher price on a work of art than someone else whether for the sake of the privilege of owning it, or for recognising that its market value has not yet maxed out and that a good return on investment awaits in the future.

A price is set somewhere between the minimum the seller is willing to accept and the most the buyer will pay. That is what determines the price of a regular commodity. If the commodity is something exceptional in the view of the buyer who wants it more than anyone else, then all rational thought is forgotten. Such as in the anecdotal story of the koi collector who promptly traded his Rolls Royce for a show winnining koi.

Koi have similar values to that of gold and of art. However, a koi has a limited lifespan and will in time cease to exist unless it can be immortalised in a photograph or preserved by taxidermy. And unlike a precious metal or a work of art, a koi can change for beter or worse in its lifetime.

What drives the price of koi, is the expectation of how its potential will unfold in time to come. A good example is the development of a Mako Showa from Momotaro by the name of “Lion Queen”. (Read the full story HERE)

2 years

3 years

4 years

6 years

Mako Showa Lion Queen 2 years

Lion Queen 3-years

Mako Showa Lion Queen 4 years

Lion Queen 6-years

63 cm

77 cm

84 cm



We acquire a koi for its rarity, aesthetic charm, and its expected future performance. We also pay for the intrinsic ennobled investment which it represents: the accumulation of the efforts and vision of many generations of breeders to create ornamental charm through genetic molding. A koi came about through skillful breeding and it has the potential to carry its qualities over to a next generation. It is therefore not only for the value of what it is, but for what it can become, and for what it can reproduce, that will dictate the price tag.

We will next discuss other issues which determine price such as how a koi’s qualities are judged, and the actual costs from the time of breeding to the time of selling.

Servaas de Kock