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which meteorites deteriorate...which are bad investments?
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- Subject: which meteorites deteriorate...which are bad investments?
- From: Peter Abrahams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 13:32:58 -0700
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I don't think that very many members of this list are buying meteorites as
investments, so I'm not trying to change any minds here. But I agree with
the recent post that meteorites are bad investments, for these reasons:
1. The recent appreciation in value of meteorites has been accompanied by
an increase in the stock market, real estate, and most other investments.
An idea that these rocks are good investments has to compare them to other
investments, some of which are insured, are more liquid, more durable, and
much more in demand by the world.
2. Many meteorites deteriorate, by rust, hydration, or handling. Miles
often breaks apart if stored in the air, and other silicated irons are
similar. Brenham often rusts and crumbles. Gibeon slices often rust, as
do a good number of other irons when sliced. Toluca and some other irons
rust as whole specimens. C1s are very fragile. Saratov is an example of a
very friable meteorite that can crumble from handling, El Hammammi is
somewhat less fragile. 'Micromounts' and small pieces become worthless to
a scientist when handled.
This list is from memory, I am certain there are others. It is true that
careful storage will minimize much of this.
3. As discussed, within some decades, rocks from the moon, Mars, and
asteroids will be imported to earth, very possibly diminishing an
investment (I think its fairly certain that lunar meteorites will decrease
in value when moon rocks are available).
4. There are very good opportunities for dishonest people in this field.
Some rare meteorites are easy to fake with other meteorites, or gravel, or
concrete, and unless sophisticated tests are run on them, some are hard to
detect. If several fake meteorites were to be widely disseminated, the
value of all could be significantly diminished. It is reassuring that the
only flagrant examples of this to date (that I'm aware of) are Bethany's
substitutions (Window Butte became Nova 003, in addition to his Nova 001.
I'm not sure of the origin of Nova 002). The very nature of the field,
where very valuable things fall from the sky and someone gets it for free,
encourages the shabby behavior we've seen lately.
5. Most importantly, guessing which meteorites will appreciate has never
been easy. 10 years ago, a friend was advised by experienced collectors
that the best investment was 'big irons'. That hasn't proved to be true,
so far. Another friend invested heavily in any unusual carbonaceous
chondrites, and he has done a lot better (and has a more interesting
collection). The very rare types have been a better investment, but if
value depends on extreme scarcity, any sizeable new discovery can lower
values; what if a 30 pound howardite were found just after you paid top
dollar for a piece of one?
6. There are more than a few meteorites that have declined in value, most
because of continuing supply or new sources, including:
--Sikhote Alin, which was available at high prices for a long time.
--Gao, admittedly the early specimens had fresh crust that later finds did
--Brenham, as word got out about its rust tendencies.
--El Hammammi, see below
--Broadening the definition a little, Libyan desert glass.
7. When investing in meteorites, you're at the mercy of the dealers, who
can lower their prices and make it difficult for the earlier customers to
recoup their investment. Very recently, El Hammammi, almost all of which
was owned by one dealer, was sold for $1.50 a gram (and it seemed a good
deal at that price), then .75 a gram, and a recent post to the list
indicated that it was offered at .25 a gram. There are many examples of
meteorites which are entirely owned by one dealer. I don't think dealers
do this lightly, but sometimes circumstances dictate a drop in price.
8. In my opinion, the idea that meteorites are good investments is a very
destructive influence on the field. It will cause specimens to be
overpriced, locked up, & hoarded; and will greatly tend to attract
dishonest dealers. What this means is that many scientists & collectors,
including me, will do everything they can to discourage investors & prevent
this travesty. Realistically, there is nothing we can do, but would you
invest in a home if you knew that the neighbors were against anyone using
the property as an investment?
There are some reasons to think they are good investments. Many have
appreciated recently. Some of this is because scientific work has
established interesting histories for these rocks.....CAIs as interstellar,
Mars rocks possibly containing biological elements, primitive CCs as
cometary, etc. This work will continue to tend to inflate the value of
The major reason for appreciation in value is because of increased demand,
as new collectors enter the market. This might continue as well. We've
all seen how appealing a 'rock from space' is to kids.
There is additional one consideration, even for those with noble intentions
who are buying because of interest & love. These rocks are very expensive,
and my opinion of my expensive hobbies is that I should think twice about
heavy investment in anything unless most of that money can be recovered if
need be. It's one thing to spend a few hundred on something unsaleable,
but to spend many months of wages on a collection, I need to feel that I
can recover most of that investment, if I need to. This is obviously a
I wrote this from memory & in a hurry. I think there are other reasons to
believe that meteorites are poor investments, and certainly other
meteorites that have declined in value or tend to self-destruct. I'd like
to hear other thoughts & examples of this.
Peter Abrahams, firstname.lastname@example.org
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