The annual pre-Christmas tradition of the Thompson fur table will take place again this year at St. Joseph’s Hall Dec. 20-21 but there won’t be as many buyers as there have been in some recent years.
The last surviving one of several such events established in Manitoba in the late 1970s in an effort to help trappers get better prices for their pelts, the annual fur table injects cash into the local economy as trappers who sell their furs usually turn around and spend that money at Thompson restaurants and hotels and also in stores as they complete their last-minute Christmas shopping.
This year, there will only be three buyers – the North West Company, which usually buys for for cash, consignment buyer Fur Harvester and Fab Fur. Absent from that list is North American Fur Auctions (NAFA), a Toronto-based fur auction house – the oldest in the world – which has traditionally been one of the consignment buyers at the Thompson fur tables. NAFA filed for creditor protection in early November as it was unable to obtain financing to fund continued operations. A list of creditors owed more than $1,000 each filed Nov. 7 shows that the company owed about $50 million as of that date.
“At this time, it is unlikely that NAFA will conduct its own auction in March 2020 for either wild or ranched fur,” said a Nov. 7 notice to creditors from NAFA CEO Douglas Lawson. “I cannot put into words how saddened I am that NAFA has left many of our loyal and dedicated consignors, buying customers and suppliers in this situation. There is no doubt that the industry is going through difficult times, and I can only say that NAFA expected to face these challenges together with you and work towards a brighter future for the trade.”
Dave Bewick, who long represented NAFA at the Thompson fur table, will still be present this year, this time on behalf of Fab Fur, says the Manitoba Trappers Association (MTA), which organizes the event
Last year, almost 6,000 pelts with an estimated value of about $307,000 changed hands at the tables, which were attended by 161 trappers. The average number of pelts per trapper was 37 and the average value per trapper was about $1,910.
Marten accounted for about 80 per cent of all the pelts exchanged, either for cash or for money to be paid later, minus a commission, when the furs are sold to global buyers. The average price for a marten pelt was $58 and 4,765 were brought in, for a total value of about $276,000. About 6.5 per cent of the pelts were mink, which sold for an average value of $10. About 3.5 per cent were muskrat, with an average value of $2 each. The only other type of pelt accounting from more than two per cent of the total sales was lynx at about 2.4 per cent and with an average value of $70 per pelt. Beaver, otter and red fox made up between one and 1.5 per cent of the pelts sold. Beaver went for $15 on average, red fox for $20 and otter for $30.
The fur table runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 20 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the following day. In addition to buyers purchasing pelts, there will also be trap sales by MTA, displays, craft tables and door prizes, along with a raffle for trappers and an off-site beading workshop.