[meteorite-list] Meteorites that can't get any, Casper the frendly theif, and a deeply stupid article

From: Darren Garrison <cynapse_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:37:26 -0400
Message-ID: <acluf41qbjdbcebiq2ve286mijjkmcn7u6_at_4ax.com>


Tyrannosaurs And Superheroes
David Serchuk, 10.21.08, 6:00 PM ET

The meteorite market has crashed to Earth, and will never reach the heights

In the late 1990s, during the great meteorite bubble, a gram of material from
the Martian Zagami meteorite could go for $2,000. Today it fetches $200. The
Christy's auction house sold a tenth of a gram of lunar rock for several hundred
thousand dollars. Today lunar material fetches $400 a gram.

What happened? What always seems to happen in a bubble: Demand lead to
speculative hoarding, which lead to oversupply, which lead to a crash.

The meteorite craze started in 1997, when European prospectors in the Sahara
found meteorites that, due to the dry climate, were practically virgin. At
first, the stones traded among just a few hands, but soon mania spread. Before
long, it began to display the usual signs of a bubble, including people sitting
on collections instead of selling them. That lead to what was once
inconceivable: a meteorite glut.

"By 2001 everybody and their grandmother was in the Sahara," says meteorite
dealer and appraiser Michael Casper. Nomadic tribesmen started dealing the
rocks, and over a million grams of once scarce material flooded the market. That
same year the craze imploded, and it hasn't returned.
In Pictures: Tiny Bubbles From Baseball Cards To Beanie Babies

A similar bubble occurred at roughly the same time in the fossil market. Through
the late '90s, animal fossils appreciated in price, fueled by novelty and the
plentiful money coming out of the tech bubble. The signal event of this craze
was Sotheby's (nyse: BID - news - people ) 1997 sale of renowned T. rex skeleton
"Sue" for $8.4 million.

"It was a surprising peak," says Peter Larson, paleontologist and president of
the Black Hills Institute. "It brought eight times more than I thought."

Fossil-mania ran wild. Hollywood players like Nicholas Cage, Ron Howard and
Leonardo DiCaprio maintained collections. Another T. rex, named Barnum, was
bought by a team of investors who paid over $1 million dollars, hoping to flip
the fossil. It eventually sold in 2006, for just $190,000.

The bubble began to deflate when would-be flippers realized that fossil-hunting
wasn't easy labor. "So much work and expertise needs to go into this," says
Larson. "It's not the same thing as picking up a meteorite, or a coin. Most of
the price (for a fossil) is in the labor."

Unlike in the meteorite crash, the higher end of the fossil world has held
value, even if it's not commanding the prices of the bubble's peak. "People
still want to put their money into something real that will maintain its value,"
says Larson. "Rice, corn and trilobites will always have some value."

One of the hallmarks of a bubble is that dealers find many different ways to
market and resell a single product. Take the comic book boom that started in the
mid-1980s. Comic book publishers would come to produce variant covers of the
same issue, inciting collectors to buy the same product multiple times.
Collectors then hoarded the books, ensuring a glut. Much like repackaged
mortgages, buyers found that a different cover on the same product was no
indication of safety, quality or long-term desirability.

Throughout the late '80s, and into the early '90s, the bubble grew higher, says
Joseph Koch, a partner in New York City-based comic book store Forbidden Planet.
There were far too many books for too few customers, he says. Dealers would buy
cases of comic books for $2000, and only sell a few of the comics, holding onto
the rest in hopes they'd go up in value. Like over-leveraged banks, dealers even
went into hock with their distributors to buy more cases.

Eventually it all backfired. Things came to a head during what is known in the
comics biz as "Black April," in 1993. A number of different comics companies
released heavily hyped books all at the same time, including Tribe, The Return
of Superman and Turok. Customers initially lined up to buy, and values rose, but
something went wrong. The problem, Koch says, was that collectors realized they
didn't own anything valuable, because there was no scarcity. "It turned out that
people had been buying comics by the case, and feeding them out slowly, but
there were more copies than people realized," he says.

The backlash was widespread. Stores went out business as collectors failed to
buy dealers out of debt. The new wave of books ended up not being worth all that
much, either. At the time, Ghost Rider was a hot title, and issue Nos. 4 and 5
traded for $10 each. Today they go for $2.50.

The pain spread to the comic publishers. Marvel Comics had two waves of firings,
and smaller companies like Valiant Comics folded outright.

Naturally, there were titles that emerged from the hype that have appreciated in
value. Few traders paid attention to the early issues of Earthworm Jim, but
today they trade at $10 apiece. You see, no one collected it.

And the top end of the comics market has not only survived, but thrived. A
pristine copy of August 1962's Amazing Fantasy No. 15, best known as the
introduction of Spider-Man, sells today for $360,000. Okay, Earthworm Jim, let's
see what you've got.
Received on Wed 22 Oct 2008 12:37:26 PM PDT

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