Sunday, 19 October 2014


Watching antiques roadshow.

They have a spot on ivory. Antique ivory can be traded, new ivory cannot. Clearly killing elephants for ivory is bad and wrong and should be stopped. Even so, ivory from an elephant from 100 years ago is not something that affects elephants now. That elephant would have died by now.

The debate was on the idea that even old ivory feeds the ivory trade, and that old ivory should be destroyed to try and stop the trade.

Am I missing the point here?

If you destroy old, legal, ivory, you make it rarer. If I learn anything from watching the antiques roadshow, it is that rarer items are more valuable.

If old ivory is destroyed, it must make what is left more valuable and ultimately makes ivory (even new ivory) more valuable, not less. That has to promote trade in ivory, not reduce it!

What am I missing here?


  1. If trade in any ivory is illegal, nobody can claim his freshly-slaughtered ivory is "antique" and therefore legal. So any buyer is a criminal.

    It's worked so well with drugs.

  2. Although the value goes up, the market can shrink. I think anti-poaching groups would be much happier to see one butchered elephant and the tusks going for $4M on the black market, than a hundred butchered elephants with tusks at $40k each.

    This sort of thing helps keep big art thefts under control. Could a good team steal say, a Monet from the National Gallery? Probably. And in theory that's incredibly valuable. But who would buy it? Owning a blatantly stolen Monet is not something most collectors would be interested in. You'd have to keep it locked away, shown only to a handful of trusted people. So what's the point? And that means despite the apparent value the market is very small and so there are few opportunities for such thieves.

  3. I always thought that if elephant ivory was so valuable why has nobody set up an elephant farm to breed thousands of the things....

    1. They don't breed well in captivity, otherwise we'd already be breeding them like mad to make up for the falling numbers..