One thing you'll no doubt notice when you start shopping for a crested gecko is that prices can range from around $35 to $1,000.
Why would I spend $300 to $1,000 on a gecko when I can get a crested gecko for $50 at Petco?
You might find yourself saying "I could see that for something less common like a leachie or chahoua, but not a crested gecko!"
In reality, the most popular reptile species in the pet trade all have extreme high and low priced versions. Normal leopard geckos go for $19, yet new morphs commonly bring several thousand dollars. Ball pythons can also be had for around $19, but the newest and most popular morphs fetch prices in the tens of thousands. It's because of their popularity as a pet that normal specimens are bred in numbers and can be had for cheap...but their popularity also causes demand for higher end specimens amongst breeders and serious hobbyists.
So to answer that question, a $300 crested gecko, to many breeders, is more valuable than a $300 leachie or chahoua. This is because they're easier to breed, more predictable, more popular as a species and because they will produce more offspring.
B) I just couldn't see spending $300+ on a gecko. That's just crazy!
I agree, it is crazy if you're looking at that $300 gecko and trying to imagine putting it in the terrarium in your living room. I'll be the first to admit, that notion sounds about as ridiculous as a $300 pet fish...and yes, they do have Japanese Koi (fish) in the tens of thousands.
However, if you're looking at it from a breeder's standpoint, you're seeing the potential of breeding that gecko and creating or adding to a project that will make you thousands of dollars every year...and these things live a good 15-20 years, so the initial investment really is minimal if you actually stick with your projects!
This brings up another valid point...selectively bred bloodlines (which is essentially what designer crested gecko morphs are) hold their value far longer than a stander "On or Off" co-dominant or recessive morph. With selectively bred lines, it's hard to over produce them because you have to use good looking males and females in order to get the best results. If it's your project, you control how many you produce and how many you sell....once you sell a reptile with a new co-dominant or recessive mutation, the genie is out of the bottle and now you have competition to help dictate the pace at which you move forward in the project. Along that same train of thought, selectively bred appearances can be improved upon for literally decades, but with a mutation, there's generally a dead-end...that is until the next mutation pops up.
Some breeders, such as myself, set out to create their own new designer morphs or bloodlines. Sometimes a breeder will have a project that he or she wants to start....let's say it's going to be a Red Harlequin Pinstripe Super Dalmatian. When a breeder wants to put together a project like that, they could start with red harlequin pinstripes and red dalmatians or super dalmatians. If they were to start with solid reds, dark colored harlequin pinstripes and regular tan/brown dalmatians, such a project would take an extra 5+ years and would also require the breeder to raise a lot more geckos....so yes, the designer geckos might be more expensive up front, but not if you're trying to develop something in particular.
When you're starting a designer morph project that you plan on refining for the next several years, it only makes sense to start with the best geckos you can, even if it costs you more up front. That's a small investment compared to the dividends you'll make every year while you refine your new project. In a case like this, buying high end stock up front will save you a ton of time, ultimately allowing you to take that project much further in a much shorter amount of time. In these cases, there's really no other option if you want to end up with a line that people will talk highly of.
The best of the best geckos cost more because...
A) The generations of work it took to finally produce that gecko. I can't speak for anyone else, but if you see me post a $500+ gecko, it's because that gecko is special in one way or another. Either it's from a new, unique project with a ton of potential - or it's one of the nicest examples I've ever seen of that particular project - or maybe both.
No breeder in their right mind is going to sell something that represents years and years of hard work for the same price as a guy who didn't even pay attention to what the parents looked like. And no customer in their right mind should expect him or her to!
B) When we work years and years to create something new, we want to see that project continue in the hands of other breeders. The last thing I want to do is sell one the most advanced geckos we're producing to someone who isn't going to take the project seriously, like a professional breeder or serious hobbyist would. Bottom line, if you don't plan on putting that kind of gecko into a serious breeding program, we would rather someone else buy that gecko.
Don't take it so personal...
Sometimes you'll see people griping or complaining on the forums about another breeder's gecko prices. This is nothing new. It's usually due to the fact that they're new to the reptile business and don't understand, or they're trying to put down another breeder in order to further their own efforts.
1. Go look at Ball Pythons, Fat Tail Geckos and Boa Constrictors. If you think $1,000 is high for top dollar crested gecko, you should sit down before you start looking at how high prices can get on these other species. Ball Pythons and Boas get into the tens of thousands of dollars and fat-tails are in the several thousand dollar range.
2. Nobody is asking or even suggesting anyone spend this kind of money on a pet - in fact, you'd have to be rich or naive to do so. Even if you're looking for a trophy display animal, you can get an incredible gecko for far less than you would spend on the best out there. Often times, a gecko that's 20% nicer looking than what's commonly available might cost 200% more. Why? Because if you're a breeder, that's how you take your stock to the next level...and when everyone wants to do that, supply and demand start dictating prices.
3. Dare to compare - If you're comparing apples to apples, and you know what you're looking at, you'll realize that only a select few of our geckos go for big bucks...and when a gecko hits the $500+ range, you can bet you won't find many (if any) like it for sale anywhere else. The reality is that 95% of the geckos we sell are under $200 and at least half of those are babies that sell for $50 or less