questionsare those "rare earth" magnets actually rare?

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If you believe in The Wiki:
The term "rare earth" can be misleading as these metals are not particularly rare or precious. Rare earth magnets are extremely brittle and also vulnerable to corrosion, so they are usually plated or coated to protect them from breaking and chipping.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare-earth_magnet

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The Wikipedia article is misleading. While neodymium isn't extremely rare in the sense that there is a relatively high concentration in the earth's crust, it's rare to find a deposit with high concentration that makes it economical to mine. I've seen some comparisons to copper, but these seem to be based on the assumption that we use lots of copper, therefore it must be common, which isn't really the case.

And around 97% currently comes from China, so it wouldn't take a lot to cause a major disruption in supply.

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Earth is pretty rare. In a Galactic sense.

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As others have said, it's not that they are rare, but rather they are made of neodymium, which is one of the "rare earth elements". The term rare earth refers to the lanthanides (first row of elements below the main block of the periodic table) as well as yttrium and scandium.

They probably think it's better marketing to call them rare earth magnets instead of neodymium magnets.

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To answer your question literally, these "rare earth" magnets aren't that rare because I've been seeing them - in various shapes and sizes, mostly balls - for sale all over the place.

To me, that makes them pretty commonplace, not rare.

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Actually, they're usually pretty well done. You can tell by the gray color in the middle.

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@springiswrath: I was just going to say that it depends on how long you cook them! :)

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If you go to amazingmagnets.com, they are very inexpensive compared to other resellers, and come in a great variety of sizes. Some are strong enough to really hurt your hand, if not break a finger. Bars. Disks. Rods. Rods with holes so you can screw them in place. Buttons. Balls. Flat squares.

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We import, I believe 80%+ of our REEs from China. Kind of scary.

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@mrzman: actually, the Wikipedia article specifically STATES that the term is misleading... or are you saying that the term is misleading which makes the title misleading, thereby making Wikipedias statement misleading, which makes the entire article misleading...? I feel mislead. I submit that YOU are misleading...