Ball python prices run as little as dinner for two at a nice restaurant or as expensive as buying a nice used automobile, depending on numerous factors. Geography and the local market can affect the cost associated with these popular pet snakes. Health, origin, different genetic traits, and the age of a particular snake all influence its value and, therefore, the price a breeder sets. More often, the snake's individual characteristics play the biggest role in pricing.
Every market is different regarding the pet snake trade. In areas where ball python breeders or python populations are high, prices typically dip due to a large supply. Laws of supply and demand apply to ball python prices just like any other commodity. Countries, regions, or cities where pet snakes are uncommon will experience higher prices for pythons when purchased through a traditional pet store. Ordering from a breeder in another area with higher python populations can reduce the price, but shipping expenses then become a factor in overall cost.
Prices for adult pythons are usually higher than young hatchlings. Typically, a breeder or python owner has invested more time, energy, and expense to raise a python to breeding age. As such, the snake's value increases. Since more is known about an adult snake's temperament, feeding habits, and possibly breeding capabilities, breeders can offer more guarantees and thus demand a higher price.
Whether a particular ball python is captive-bred or imported also greatly affects its price. Captive-bred ball pythons are those snakes hatched by breeders. Historical information regarding genetics, diseases, previous exposure to pathogens, and other information is available, which can increase ball python prices. Imported pythons may be wild-caught as hatchlings, have unknown or undocumented health issues, and little information regarding lineage. While some unscrupulous importers charge as much for these pythons as captive-bred, their value is not truly the same to breeders and collectors.
Above all other factors, genetics have the most influence on ball python prices. Breeders, collectors, and pet snake owners place a great deal of value on colors, markings, and other genetic traits. Rare or hard to find color pattern variations are understandably more expensive than pythons with normal coloring. For example, Mojave ball pythons, known for yellow, brown, and gray coloring, are considerably more expensive than normal ball pythons with typical brown, black, and gold coloring. The expression of recessive traits or the right mix of dominant traits is difficult to predict, therefore snakes that express specific traits are considered more rare and thus more valuable than others.
Experienced breeders with large and varied collections cross-breed ball pythons specifically to develop new color combinations, known as morphs. When an unusual or particularly appealing color pattern appears, breeders will keep and raise that hatchling for future breeding purposes. The goal is often to produce a new morph. Much effort goes into experimenting and documenting breeding history to establish something of a recipe for producing specific color patterns. Expending such effort over several years understandably lends to higher ball python prices for certain types of morphs.