Collector's Corner: Meteorites
By Zander Kaufman
You were told as a kid that money doesn't grow on trees, but it can fall out of the sky from time to time. The pastime of collecting meteorite has grown in popularity over the past couple of years due to several movies and a growing interest in the space sciences.
Today it is easier then ever before to start a meteorite collection of your own. Everyday, earth is bombarded by thousands of pounds of space junk, most of it being the size of a grain of sand, wich is what you see as shooting stars on clear nights. But every now and then a piece the size of your fist or bigger makes its way through the earth's unforgiving atmosphere.
If you don't have the time to go searching through strewn fields (meteor impact locations) for meteorites, you can find great deals online on auction sites like eBay. Prices range from a dollar to well over $5,000 for the very rare.
General cataloged meteorites sell for an average price point of a dollar a gram. The price rises or falls after you factor in the meteorite's historic value and composition. A specimen that was part of the asteroid that made the meteor crater outside of Winslow, Arizona might bring a higher price than one of the same size and composition found in another location.
For the first-time collector, I would recommend buying small samples to start your collection. Start with basic iron and stony meteorites. These are the least expensive and easiest to find online. By doing this you will have a better idea of the market, and you will be able to figure out what type of meteorite you want to collect.
It is also a must to buy only from sellers with established feedback for selling good quality meteorites. Meteorites are not easy to fake, and most of the fakes are merely misidentified, so be on the lookout and do your research.
You might find some sellers who claim they are members of a meteorite collecting organization or society. This is in no way a badge of honor. Unless they have good feedback for selling real meteorites as advertised, I would be cautious if you are not a seasoned collector.
There are some basic ways to identify a true meteorite.
- The object is attracted to a magnet--proof of Iron present.
- Unless the specimen has been sliced, it should exhibit a thin, dark layer. This is called fusion crust, caused by the object entering the atmosphere.
- If the specimen is a single whole piece, it should exhibit an aerodynamic shape, also caused by the entry into our atmosphere. This is the same of shape you would get if you where to hold an ice cube under rushing hot water.
Even with these basic principles, it's still possible to misidentify a sample. Especially with online auctions where you are unable hold the sample in your hand. I know for a fact that I have bought misidentified meteorites, which are known as meteor-wrongs.
This is another reason to start out small with your collection. By buying good quality pieces, you will start to learn the language. Iron, Stony iron, impact glass, and Slag are some terms that might confuse the new collector. There are books out there that will explain in great detail everything there is to know about meteors and meteorite collecting. High on that list is O. Richard Norton's "Rocks from Space." This book is a must. Considered by many, including myself, to be the meteorite collectors' bible.
Collecting meteorites is a much bigger field then most people realize. The love and enjoyment of collecting meteorites is almost universal. Even if someone has never seen a meteorite up close or held one in their hand, it always brings awe and a few wonders. And that is not a bad thing to collect.
American Meteor Society
A great commercial meteorite website
"Rocks from Space: Meteorites and Meteorite Hunters," by O. Richard Norton
"Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites," by Michael D. Reynolds
About the author:
Zander Kaufman (eBay User ID Dembones_usa) is a freelance writer from southwest Iowa. He has been published in numerous publications both in print and electronic from. In his spare time he collects Presidential Campaign memorabilia, Antiquated books and pulp-era Science Fiction. He may be contacted at zanderkaufman @ yahoo.com.
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