For those of us who have become smitten by the allure of growing cycads for the sheer joy of it, there are a few additional aspects of collecting that deserve consideration. Years ago when I began to see mature cycads at many of the well-known public and private garden venues around southern California
, I was floored by their mysterious beauty. My desire to one day achieve some measure of the success of these great gardens was a goal worthy of pursuit. Well, I’m certain that my story is a fairly common one, but the reality soon set in that the acquisition of large cycad specimens like the ones that I so admired was proving to be beyond the reach of my starving student budget. It became clear to me that my goals were not going to change, but that my ability to achieve them would just take a little longer than I had originally thought. Early on it was clear that I had chosen one of the crown jewels of the botanical kingdom to pursue.
I know that it seems somewhat shallow to place monetary value on the individual items in one’s collection, but the monetary valuation of cycads is a market reality. And collectors who wish to do so can benefit from this aspect of growing cycads. Cycad valuations are driven by several primary factors: rarity, size/age, and beauty/desirability.
The pursuit of the rare is universal to collectors in general. The motivation to acquire what few others have creates a very intoxicating sense of satisfaction for the collector. As with nearly all things collectible that are rare, monetary valuations are commensurate. As it goes with cycads, some of the rarer, harder-to-find species, even of relatively small plants, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. There are collectors who will willingly pay these prices to acquire these exceptionally rare cycads.
With cycads, size equates to age. This is another factor that affects the valuation equation. Often a fairly common cycad species that has reached mature size can command prices that were once considered unthinkable. Size is the equalizer. Size can push a common species into the rarity valuation column, simply because very large old cycads are somewhat rare, and do not often become available. If you are fortunate enough to have a very rare cycad with great size, then your valuation has compounded.
For collectors, beauty and desirability are perhaps the purest motivation for collecting cycads. I say this because rarity and size are obvious measures of prestige, an ego response, amongst knowledgeable collectors; however I believe that beauty is more of an emotional response. This does not mean that beauty by itself carries no weight in the scale of valuation, but it doesn’t necessarily seem to be equal to rarity and size. Nor does it mean that rare and large plants are not beautiful. Some species that are very beautiful are relatively common, and therefore command valuations that make them more affordable to the beginning collector. Acquiring attractive affordable cycads is a fairly common pattern for the beginning collector.
Although many collectors consider it taboo to use the term “investment” when referring to their collectible plants, the reality is that the acquisition and competent cultivation of some of the rarer, highly sought-after species can in time out-perform certain well selected financial investment programs. I have personally had individually plants pay back dividends in the form of pups (offsets) and seed crop that returned 10 to 70 times my original investment within a 10 to 20 year period of time.
Again I will emphasize that my original motivation for collecting cycads was not to make a buck in return, but I sure do not object to the valuations gained along the way as my original investments reach maturity and become productive. Not only are cycads beautiful in garden and landscape settings, they are also botanical marvels that can attain great age, and grow in value.
Grow in Value and Prosper.