THE COST OF QUALITY
In the past few years have you noticed the decline of quality in goods and services we purchase in the US? The short-lived coffee pots, footwear, tools, batteries, auto parts, etc? Unlike the deteriorating aspects of quality, have you noticed that the prices in most instances have not decreased? We seem to be paying more for less in every facet of our economy. The fact is that we as consumers have been tainted by the trend of making inadequate purchases, and therefore seek out the lowest price. In this article I want to discuss the cost of quality in taxidermy and why choosing either the cheapest or most expensive price may not always be the best alternative.
When you look at the finished mounts on your wall what do you see? Hopefully you don’t simply see a bunch of dead animals, birds or fish hanging there. Hopefully you view them as an investment of time and money for an array of artwork that sparks a memory of a special hunting or fishing experience; an experience that will someday be the focal point of countless stories told to your children and grandchildren. My emphasis is to try and convince you to observe taxidermy work in your home as an investment. When you think in terms of investing you do a little research, focus on quality, and seek out the best product or service for the money. It is similar to the investments that credible taxidermists have made. For example, I invested a lot of time and money to successfully complete my training and graduated from an accredited taxidermy school; I didn’t just watch a few videos, buy a taxidermy license at Wal-Mart, and call myself a taxidermist. I committed myself to learning all aspects of the trade to become the best taxidermist I could. For those reasons I display my framed taxidermy graduation certificates and Iowa business permit on a wall in my small shop. To me they are a symbol of credibility, commitment, and quality.
“The Bitterness Of Poor Quality Remains Long After The Sweetness Of Low Price Is Gone”. I read that my first day of taxidermy school and it has stuck in my head ever since. Until I became a taxidermist I never realized how much work and attention to detail “can” go into a specific mount. I say “can” because there is a difference in the work ethic, precision, attitude, and quality of work among taxidermists. You will notice this in their work immediately when you see it. Some mounts have artistic expression and others have a generic appearance to them. For example, none of my deer mounts look the same. You can look at every deer I have mounted and you will not see the same expression on any two deer. That isn’t because of chance; it is because I ask questions about the hunter’s experience and remember that when it comes time to mount the animal. I use that story and think in terms of the deer’s perspective and recreate that expression on the customer’s mount. Another aspect of quality is the outsourcing of work. For instance, the tanning process alone is probably the most labor intensive and crucial part of the mounting process aside from field care. If not done properly the longevity of your mount may only be a few years. Many taxidermists outsource their tanning to commercial tanneries while others tan their hides themselves. I am not saying one is better than the other, but personally I like to do my own tanning because it provides assurance that it is going to be done properly using the latest and greatest products and methods. I know that if I do the work then shortcuts will not be taken and I won’t have any surprises. There are other methods and techniques that can be incorporated into the mounting process that will add significant detail to your finished product, and if requested these methods should be realized when you receive your quote.
Next I want to talk briefly about pricing. It is obvious that there are always going to be price fluctuations from taxidermist to taxidermist across the state and country. Some seem to be outrageous and some make me wonder how they make a profit. At times I wonder what people must be thinking when they pay an unreasonably high price for a specific mount when shopping around a little would yield them the same quality mount for a little less money out of their pocket. Each taxidermist has their own particular reasons for their pricing and that is none of my business. My advice is to just do a little research. Has the taxidermist gone to an accredited school? Are they listed on websites such as taxidermy.net? What are their turnaround times? Do they outsource work or do they do it in-house? All of these factors can contribute to differences in costs among taxidermists. There are also the stories that you read about…
“such and such taxidermist can do really good work when he/she wants to.” To me that is unacceptable; if you cannot emphasize quality in all your mounts then you lose your credibility and you may as well get out of the business.
Probably the single most important factor this year in a price increase will be the merging of the top 3 most popular taxidermy supply companies in the US. Prices for certain materials and supplies increased last year by 10% in some cases, and with this merger it is said to increase even more this year. My concern is that this merger will affect the quality of the products we purchase due to the lack of competition. There are still a few supply companies out there though that are not willing to sell out and I am sure they will start absorbing a lot of business.
I hope I have given you a little insight to the cost of quality. My intent was for you to understand some of the elements that affect the quality of your mount, and why some taxidermists may charge the way they do. A high or low price doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of their work; you need to do your research, ask a few questions, and make a few phone calls. In closing I just want to say that you don’t necessarily have to pay a lot for good quality taxidermy services, but you don’t want to be lured in by the extreme opposite as well. Just remember that there are several taxidermists out there that charge a fair price for competition quality taxidermy services that are eager to take in new customers.