Guide for First Time Buyers
Below are guidelines and tips for newcomers to the business in the genuine alligator leather trade, as well as those coming from the embossed/faux/or entry-level crocodilians like Caiman skin. First, we summarize what genuine American Alligator is: the species, its origins, the skins and finished leather. Next, we provide the necessary information to avoiding the scams, fraud, and dishonesty surrounding the industry.
We hope that by the time you are finished reading this 5 minute overview, you will have a better understanding of the species and the exotic leather trade to make an informed educated decision about the materials used in your upcoming projects. We also hope to convince you that we are the most knowledgeable and professional luxury material trader in the business with true wholesale market pricing.
About the American Alligator
The name “alligator” is an anglicized form of the Spanish word for “el lagarto” meaning “the lizard” in Spanish. The original settlers from the East who arrived in what is today Florida coined the name for the American Alligator, species A mississippiensis.
There are two common types of alligator: The American Alligator and the Chinese Alligator. The Chinese alligator is a smaller, endangered breed, but in contrast, the American Alligator (a mississippiensis) has made the most successful comeback of any near-extinct species, with an explosion in population over the past three decades. Today, over 1 million alligators in Florida and over 3 million in Louisiana. Improved conservation through lawful and regulated alligator farming have ensured the viability of the American Alligator while producing valuable commodities like hides or skins for both domestic trade and export. Businesses and end consumers can rest assured they are not only contributing to the success of alligator farming but also to the U.S. domestic and export economy.
Alligators are one of the earth’s oldest living species for over 200 million years. Baby crocodiles are born with an “egg tooth” to crack open their eggshell, and later grow over 75 teeth. Compared with the more globally prolific crocodile, alligators have a relatively wider snout and grow to be around 13ft (4m) long and a weight of around 800 pounds (360 kg).
Alligators prey on larger animals as they mature, graduating from worms and small fish to larger mammals (like deer) and other reptiles (lizards, turtles, snakes, and sometimes smaller alligators). While alligators generally avoid humans, they are highly instinctual and territorial; it is not uncommon for them to attack when provoked to protect themselves and their eggs (young are on their own as soon as the eggs hatch).
The American Alligator is today a very common species found in the southern swamplands of the United States around the Gulf of Mexico, primarily in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi and parts of Texas.
About the Exotic Alligator Leather Trade, Purchasing Power, and How to Order Alligator Leather
In the United States, is absolutely no comparison with the American Alligator in style, value, and availability.
Exotic leather, from farming to finished hides, is a highly niche trade and global commodity market. Many foreign tanneries and dealers claim their products are “Alligator”, but this is only a broad, loose definition they use to associate inferior materials. The American Alligator, specifically the species A mississippiensis, comes both wild and farmed from the Southeastern United States and is one of the most valued luxury American commodities in the global market worth more than oil, and slightly behind gold.
Until recently, most raw American Alligator skins were exported to Italy and France, limiting the availablity ot U.S. based designers who would pay 300% more per skin due to the transporting, paperwork, and middlemen adding to their markup. These large international buyers were overly selective and picked through the best skins, leaving ranchers and hunters with too many skins that are worth far less. Today, however, with the resurgence of Alligator in the United States, the playing field has changed: the farmers and ranchers now prefer to do their business domestically, giving priority to their U.S. dealers. For the purchaser, this means better prices often reserved for customers buying in bulk of 1000 or more skins. Our business enables the smaller designer to compete with larger luxury fashion houses with their own unique concepts and designs expressed in timeless alligator leather for American made goods for the conscious buyer who understands the quality of the product isn’t paying the mark up of brand advertising from conglomerate fashion corporations that are using the same materials.
How to Spot Scams, Middle Men, and Dishonest Dealers
Global competitors claim they have Alligator skin, preying on those who are not educated enough to understand the difference in the similar species of reptile. We have heard every painful story from our customers, industry colleagues, and partners. Below, we’re going to give you the facts about ordering materials in this highly specialized luxury trade.
Anyone offering to sell you American Alligator outside of the U.S. will often fall into one of several groups:
- Best Case Scenario – They offer genuine skins, but are unable to offer the best prices due to having already imported, processed, and re-exported up to 3 times before coming back to the United States.
- Moderate Case Scenario – They offer inferior material or their scraps of material, likely purchased at a discount from someone else locally who used them for their own purposes. You may get the pieces you need in the sizes you need them, but you’ll still be paying as much if not more than purchasing a full hide from a reputable dealer.
- Dishonest – They offer genuine skins, but charge you the price reserved for the largest skins, due to cutting the skins wide and including the worthless bony ends on the end and charging you for the unusable material. This is common among Caiman crocodile dealers, who tout their goods as genuine crocodile.
- Unethical and Deceitful – They offer Caiman crocodile at a lower (budget) price than Alligator, and claim it is genuine alligator, hoping the uninformed consumer cannot tell the difference. (To a leather expert, caiman skins are the lowest budget materials, relatively much smaller with bony scales not suited for the best luxury applications of genuine American Alligator leather.)
- Worst Case Scenario – They offer a fake alternative to an uninformed consumer and claim it is genuine. When you discuss the quality with them, they will either be unreachable, lie, or make it very difficult to return for a refund. To spot faux leather, look for repeats in patterns an dno imperfections, as these are immediately signs of a fake. They will claim it is genuine leather, but it is genuine cowhide priced at about $2 per square foot. Genuine alligator will never cost less than $200 per square foot.
In contrast, our U.S.-based Network:
- Maintains an ethical policy for all unused and undamaged returns.
- Have over a decade of experience in the full circle of exotic leather trading; from farming to skinning, tanning, finishing, quality evaluations, regulatory compliance, to advice in applications for finished products and maintenance/care as well as pattern markers, contractors, worships, and factories from within our network.
- Only sells at the absolute best market prices available for the quality and size of skins. In fact, we challenge you to find a better price point.
- Provides an inventory of over $10 million in raw, crust, and finished genuine American Alligator hides domestically. Legal exports are possible for all overseas clients who respect a $5000 minimum order to cover CITES, inspections, and professional services to ensure you receive all skins without delays (a 3-6 week process).
- Consults with you to determine the honest, correct amount of material required based on your project’s specifications. In addition, all paying customers can rely on further consulting and optionally recommendations through our network for the design, patterns, and manufacturing of finished goods.
Our reputable network takes the hassle away from you, ensuring the most of the genuine alligator you purchase with the best quality in standard or custom finishes, and for actual wholesale market prices.
Is your project right for us? Send us your contact information and brief detail of your project on the Wholesale Inquiry page, or if you only require 1 or 2 hides, visit our online store to see the current market rates.