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Meteorites-do you sell your loved ones?

It's really coming down here in Florida today putting out the warzone fires
and the rain and dark skies are striking a melancholy chord for me. Since I'm
caught up on today's duties (hey, can't mow the lawn in the rain) I'd like to
take a sec and share my personal feelings about today's discussion of
meteorites as investments.

I've collected stamps, coins, gold and gold coins and watched the fever build
so that prices got absurd (remember gold @ $800/oz for a day?, Morgan silver
dollars @ $100?) but I had bought low. I was so smart. Darned, if I forgot to
sell "high". Prices always go higher, no? And I loved those objects of art or
commerce. Well, Morgan dollars are still cheap as is gold almost 20 years
later. Must be a good time to buy now before the next wave of hysteria.
Meteorites could follow the same path - who knows?

The stock market?  As a result of us yuppies (and other thoughtful, prepared
folks) planning for our safe,secure retirement, we continue to put all of our
"serious" money there. We've smartly diversified into international funds
(like the Indonesian fund), a little into REIT'S (still down on the year but
still highly recommended), and a S&P 500 fund (like GE's a "buy" at 30 times
earnings). Closer to the edge, we've thrown a little cash at Yahoo (with a PE
@ 450 - any year now it'll turn a profit, too). Too bad that last flyer on the
Y2000 stock didn't pan out, can't win 'em all. Stocks are the best investment,
ask my grandmother, she was around in 1929.

Meteorites as investments? Better than baseball cards? Beanie Babies? Coke
paraphanalia? (take your pick - the drug or the drink).

Why not? Compare them to coins.  Old, low mintage (read, "rare") seem to be
holding up.  They don't have to be made of gold, either.

But is it worth putting away 100 1998-S Proof sets?  Mintage 2,000,000? I bet

Baseball cards. They were hot, and now they're not.  Why? Who wants to buy
Carlos Baerga cards from 12 different companies, there's a million of them and
like potato chips, if that's not enough we'll make more. (I liked Carlos when
he was an Indian.)

Beanie Babies?  Do they have one called Lafayette.......yet?

We're living at the end of the "Golden Age" of meteorites.  They started to
figure them out in the 1800's.  Then Nininger came along. Our friend Bob made
them a marketable commodity and gave us Mars.  Blaine brought the world's
collectors the piece d' resistance in the first  "affordable" moon rock.

The little bumps in the road haven't been fatal but the first cracks are
showing in the wall.  There's been Farrell's follies. Casper's capers.
Darryl's dilemmas. And I'm personally responsible for boring several of my
friends to death bragging about some new "treasure" in a Riker mount. 

"I need a magnifying glass to see this and you paid what?"......

Everything in nature runs in cycles.  I believe that the people on this list
are definitely above "average" in intelligence, they research the market
before making enlightened purchases at what they perceive to be a fair value,
but we're still just humans subject to the cycle.  Someone today will consider
for the first time the purchase of a meteorite and after checking the usual
suspects will decline. Too expensive.  Someone else will choose to buy
something small for a few bucks.  Someone else will buy a piece of Mars @
$2,000/gm and be incredibly excited- what a deal!  No one's right, no one's
wrong. But we're all subject to the cycle. Some event will cause the values to
go up or go down.  Maybe they won't change much for years. This is an illiquid
investment with (on a world wide basis) few buyers and sellers. There will be
(and are now) little min-corrections among our favorites. The easiest to pick
out is Zagami.  $25/gm 15 years ago, then $100, $200 (hey, it's from Mars!),
than $500 ("look what I bought - a piece of Mars, sell it to you for $1,000"),
and finally $2,000/gm (you're kidding, hey mine's for sale @ $1,500).  Now
we're at $500 - $800 and no one's buying.  Everyone that wants some, gots
some.  Until the next wave of collectors comes around, that's the way it is.
But they will and the price will consequently fluctuate.

For us sophisticated, veteran collectors and dealers, it's time to move to the
next level. Recently, some have called for some type of regulation. So far,
the meteorite market has been an example of the purest form of capitalism.
Theoretically, informed buyers and sellers have met in a market of authentic
(99%) goods. The dealers, their numbers growing daily, have pledged fidelity
to offering only the finest material at the fairest price. Regulation? By
whom? This has been the most self-regulated arena on the planet. After all,
sell one mis-identified specimen and you'll suffer the consequences in nano-
seconds on the internet. 

What we need to now consider is the upgrading of our common interests by
becoming more particular in our collecting habits.  We've all purchased
specimens that weren't Grade "A" although we paid a good price.  I've received
from established international dealers with excellent reps, shoddy crap for
specimens that I'd paid over $100/gm.  Poor slicing, the wrong lubricant that
led to the specimen "bleeding", and not much elbow grease going into the
polishing.  I've had to ship them away, either back to the sellers (boy, they
love that) losing money shipping both ways, or sending them to a lab (more
lost $) to get them cleaned up.  Bottom line here is that we need to insist on
getting what we pay for. But you need to ask the right questions before you

Secondly, but along the same lines, we need to not lump all meteorites of one
type together when arguing their "worth".  The Mike's Blood and Casper, and Al
Lang come to mind when I think of dealers who offer different grades of
Allende (and others) at different prices.  Don't tell me that a specimen of
tired Allende w/o a CAI in sight is worth the same as a piece with a
brilliant, white CAI and primary and secondary crust.  One's worth $3 or
$4/gm, the other's worth $10 or whatever. Everything collectible that I can
think of is sold by graded condition.  We need to start becoming more
critically descriptive in our marketing. 

The debate on the investment value of meteorites forgets one crucial element
of the mix.  With stocks or coins or real estate, when one wants to sell, one
picks up the phone and calls a broker or dealer, you've got a lot to choose
from. While commissions are somewhat negotiable, it usually is 7% for real
estate and even less for precious metals bullion, and 20-40% for coins. If you
trade on the net, stock commissions are becoming negligible (sorry about those
capital gains taxes....)  Brokerage commissions are a known expense in these
investment areas. In meteorites, it's more common for the owner to attempt to
sell his specimen his (or her) self.  This represents the cutting edge of
entreprenurialism.  But think a second, most people don't want to even bother
with a yard sale, dealing with the public, dickering - and now they're going
to offer hundreds or thousands of $ of meteorites for sale?  What are the
credentials of you sellers?  Oh, your specimen has a label from someone else.
Or it doesn't.  This is really Axtell (CV3, $100+/gm), not Allende, right?
Can I send it somewhere to be verified? And do you take Mastercard? Discover?
A personal check? Can I pay you after I see it?  Will you take (a lot) less?
Selling meteorites is not for the faint of heart.

Meteorites as investments? If you bought from a dealer retail, then sell to a
dealer wholesale, chances are that your ROI will be minimal.

So why bother?  It's apparent from many of the letters to the list, that
wisely most of us aren't in this to get rich.

Maybe, eventually we'll just get even. 

There's been a lot of new "names" on this list and my (humble) advice to new
collectors is that they should go slow.  Do the homework. Read "Rocks from
Space" and then read it again. And again. Talk to everyone, go look at
meteorites somewhere. Then decide what turns you on.  Besides Mars rocks, I
enjoy contemplating Carbonaceous chondrites.  The Panspermian theory of the
seeds of life coming here from space. Ninety-one amino acids on Murch. The
fall of Orgueil in 1864, a piece of comet and I've got a gram-in-a-box.
Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and Allende all fell in 1969. Coolidge, a C4,
magnificent armored chondrules of mind-blowing manufacture. And hey, is anyone
out there paying attention, it's its own type.  Ivuna, Mighei, Vigarano and
Coolidge (and 179 gms of Loongana 001).

Once you figure the direction you're going, shop for the best specimen you can
afford.  When you get it, look at it and get confused - what is this stuff?
Go to the library and/or internet and find the papers written by the world's
greatest scientists on your specimen and exercise your mind muscle figuring
out what they say. This is not a hobby for wimpy, lazy brains.  The path of
that meteorite in front of you have started in a stellar nursery 4.55 Ga and
then traveled through the void of space, then it's scorching flight through
Earth's atmosphere and, SOMEBODY FOUND IT, kept it, hid it, died, the brother-
in-law sold it and you bought it from me, and McSween thinks it's a piece of
the crust of an asteroid bigger than Manhatten that collided with another at 5
times-the-muzzle-velocity of an automic weapon but somehow the crystal
structure in your meteorite wasn't "shocked". Wow, bring me another beer.

Meteorites as investments?  I'll confess that I'll sometimes buy several
slices or frags of a specimen, keep the best of the litter and sell the rest.
I'm Marsrox@aol.co and I've got a catalogue.  And its all gotten a little out
of hand. I love my Orgueil and Nakhla (and some others) like family members,
no, more like new girlfriends.  They've had an interesting "life", they're
beautiful, they've got character. To be an investment, you gotta sell. Would
you sell a loved one?

Nevermind that, the rain's stopped and I hear my lawn hollerin' for a hair

Happy Saturday,

Kevin Kichinka


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