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Valuing Natural Treasures

The Financial Review today reports that the Australian Museum (www.austmus.gov.au) has valued its collection of nature specimens at $530 million. The process of valuation has been required by the NSW government for all State collections from mid 1990's onwards. Placing monetary value on public collections and talking about a Museum's "balance sheet" creates the uneasiness of "What if the government decides to sell it or privatise it now that there is a dollar sign attached to it".

The valuation methodology used however is of interest as it was done on a “recollection” cost basis, calculating how much it would cost now for the required number of people to travel to the original collection locations and find the same specimens (assuming it is no longer extinct). If specimens from Mars end up in the Museum's collection, the next valuation could be a few billion dollars on this basis!

In the same week, the National Trust has announced an updating of its list of Australian National Living Treasures. The Trust is seeking to replace the since deceased 15 of the list of 100 human living treasures established by popular vote in 1997. Let's hope the Trust is not moved to put a price on the head of these "treasures". You can view the 1997 list in the Resources section of FinDemn under "Lists". The merits of such a list are a little hard to fathom and it's also a bit hard to keep the "living" status up to date.

Posted Saturday, 17 January 2004


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