String Economics 101

Regular customers to the Gamut String Store will notice that the prices of strings have recently changed. The prices of the sheep-gut strings have gone up while the prices of the beef-gut strings have gone down. This price change is not due to any quality difference between the two strings, but rather it is because of the different ways in which the raw material is traded and a short explanation might help clear up some confusion about the price structure.

 Sheep-gut is traded on an international market as a commodity like oil, precious metals, etc. The material originates in some country like New Zealand or Australia and sold to brokers who have contracts with the producers. The material is then offered on the international market where it is bid upon by other companies who wish to purchase it for import into their local market. The price of the winning bid is dependent on the strict rules of supply and demand and thus, the price of the material can swing widely to the end buyer as the market ebbs and flows.

 As we have been told by our supplier, two events have conspired recently to drive up the cost of sheep-gut. One has been a drought in Australia that has reduced the available supply of material. The other has been the popularity of a small, spicy sausage in Japan and China. When we first started making strings we chose as our preferred material a size of casing that was not used and valued by the sausage industry and therefore we could purchase this size material for much less than other sizes of casings that were used for sausage. It is unfortunate that this spicy sausage uses the same size that we do and now we have to compete with that industry for material, which drives up the cost and reduces the available supply.

 In the last year the cost of this material has more than doubled and left us no choice but to raise the price of the resulting strings. More than that, the supply has become restricted and uncertain. We get our material from only one supplier in New Zealand, which is the only source that meets our standards of quality. We have purchased up all of this material that is available and our supplier is not sure when more will be coming in, but it will certainly be many months. We have enough stock on hand for quite a while to insure the availability of quality strings and assume that the market conditions will correct themselves in due course, but you will notice that the price of sheep-gut strings have gone up.  The prices of thicker strings have gone up more because the cost is dependent on how many gut ribbons go into the construction. Since the number of ribbons increases logarithmically as the diameter increases, the cost of the string increases proportionally.

  Beef serosa, on the other hand, has a completely different pricing structure. We purchase the material directly from the producer so there are no middlemen involved in the transaction to drive up the cost. In addition, this material is used only for string making so we don't have to compete with other industries for the supply. The result is a much lower cost that is not subject to the whims of a temperamental market.  Also, the beef serosa is available in different widths so we can purchase a wider material that has more mass that can build up the larger diameters if gut faster and thereby reduce the cost of labor, as well. All factors considered, beef serosa is a more economical material and sheep-gut and we have restructured the string prices to reflect this.

 Sheep-gut is not the only string making material that has gone up in price. Since the economy of the USA and other countries has been fragile for so long now, many people have been purchasing precious metals as an investment and as a way to shelter money. This trend has caused the price of silver to almost double in the last year, resulting in our need to raise the price of silver-wound strings. Each time we have to purchase silver wire for strings we have to pay more for the material, as we have to purchase it on the open market and whatever the price of silver is that day is the price we have to pay.

 At Gamut we are committed to offering strings to a wide range of clientele, so for those musicians who do not feel the need to make the expense of a sterling silver string we offer strings wound with nickel silver and copper wires as well as a string with one wire of silver and one wire of copper. There should be a wound string in our catalog for every price point.


Posted on December 11, 2011 .