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Just like soccer? (March 25th)

Many pigeon fanciers also like soccer. And they also agree that the money that is going on in soccer is just insane. ‘Crazy’ is also my idea about a salary of 300,000 euros. Not per year but in a week. 1,500 million for one pigeon only, not in old Belgian francs but in USD is just as insane as 50,000 euros for just one baby.

Naturally you cannot compare soccer with pigeons. In soccer you know what you pay for: Players who have proven something. The man that paid more than a million also got a bird that had proven something. But that was as a racer and he did not buy it to win races, but for breeding purposes.

But will it as good a breeder as a racer? There are numerous examples of outstanding racers that were poor breeders. Think about ‘Paula 5000’ from De Mey, according to many the best racer ever and think about so many other iconic racers that failed as a breeder.

Pigeons is something different anyway. The results do not only define the value, but there is another criteria as well. The pedigree. It sometimes leads to hilarious situations. Recently a fancier auctioned all his birds. Among them was a youngster whose parents were both sensational racers. But the origin of the bird was obscure. And what was the outcome of the auction?

The birds with a great name in the pedigree were sold at very high prices, even though the parents were poor racers. The buyers were foreigners of course. For the pigeon that was supposed to be the best of the whole lot, so the bird with excellent parents but without great names in the pedigree, was little interest.

Fanciers who were visited by Chinese will know well what I am talking about. Many of them are hardly interested in the pigeons, but the more in the pedigrees. And knowing this many poor racers become resourceful. They fly to the East or to America where they brag with families and strains and fill their pockets. That is fine for me, but I myself would not find it fun making money with paper tigers.

Meanwhile many foreigners have paid a price for their naivety. They found that buying name birds is easy when you have the money, buying birds that can win races is another story. There was this ambitious American, loaded with money, but as naive as some of his fellow countrymen. For crazy money he bought ‘name birds’ but with the off-spring he became even a poorer racer than he ever was. Clubmates that never paid money for pigeons made a fool of him.  

The rich man followed the advice of friends here and began to buy other birds, not through the internet but direct from the fanciers. The birds cost a fraction from what he had paid before but only two years later he was somebody! As I said money makes people resourceful.

There was a time that shipping pigeons to China cost 30 euro per bird. To-day you pay ten times more, while shipping cost only went down throughout the last decades. For shipping pigeons to the Philippines the cost is 57 euro per bird, quarantine included. 57 euro per pigeon or 300? What a difference in a shipment of 1,000 birds. Who runs away with all that money?

Very few Chinese speak English and that opens doors to those who do. In the late 90-ies I was visited by two Chinese. They were brothers. One was a fancier who wanted to buy pigeons, his brother was the interpreter. We got a deal and the interpreter asked me to write down the price. Thus he could show his brother, the fancier, how honest he was. Years went by and then one of the brothers, the fancier, stood on my doorstep again. This time he was accompanied by his daughter, who had learned English at school. Again he bought some birds and asked if the price was still the same. I nodded. Then he paid and much to my surprise he put the double amount on the table. I frowned but soon things became clear to me. During his first visit I wrote down the price in Dutch guilders. The interpreter told his brother I meant USD and in those days one dollar represented two guilders. Let your children learn English, I advised Chinese from then on.

To-day most middle men are younger women. Some live here, others in their home land. For their work the fancier mostly pays them 20% commission. It stands to reason that they take the side of the seller during negotiations. The more expensive the bird, the more commission. Brokers in soccer make fortunes, but middle men in the pigeon business are not pitiful people either. Take that Chinese lady who lives in Belgium. She had a well-paid job and then about 5 years ago, an uncle in China asked her if she would buy some pigeons for him. So she did, things went smoothly, and later on a friend of her uncle also asked to buy some birds for him. Now she has given up her well paid job, she is only engaged in the pigeon business and drives a big Mercedes.

Some years ago a friend had a so-called old fashioned ‘room auction’. What do you think about the outcome? he asked. ‘It depends’, I said. There are two kinds of auctions. Auctions with Chinese and auctions without Chinese. This time there were no Chinese and the auction failed. Later on he had another auction. Unlike the first auction now the Chinese were present and the auction was a great success. You know what many fanciers do now when selling birds? They charge different prices. A ‘normal’ price for fellow country-men and double that ‘normal’ price for Chinese. To-day there are more and more mob fliers. They race 100 plus birds and have scores of breeders. Would they also have so many birds if there were no Chinese? Absolutely not!

The high prices that are paid for pigeons to-day kill the sport some say. Personally I do not believe that even one fancier will quit because of the big money that is paid for birds. When that bird was sold for more than a million numerous non/fanciers asked me about it. They knew it from the media. The whole country was confronted with the fact that ´we´ pigeon fanciers do exist. Nothing wrong with that, on the contrary.