[meteorite-list] Meteorite Hall of Fame and Shame - Part One
From: Michael Gilmer <meteoritemike_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat, 25 Jun 2011 15:58:28 -0400
I humbly present, a collection of the good and bad of meteorites.
Of course, I could not mention everyone and everything that was worthy
of inclusion in this list. To do so would require a massive tome that
I lack the time or skill to compile. But I thought this might be a
good start, and there may be more additions to follow.
No offense was intended to any worthy person or group that may have
been excluded. This article is largely a result of "stream of
consciousness" writing, so it is far from being complete or
First, the good :
METEORITE HALL OF FAME - (in no particular order)
1) Harvey Nininger
No single man has done more to advance the field of meteoritics or
champion private involvement in meteorites. Harvey was part
scientist, part hunter, and part capitalist. Many decades after his
contributions, his works are still considered authoritative despite
being a bit dated. One could say he is the Robert Burnham Jr.
(Burnham's Celestial Handbook) of meteorites and few names in the
meteorite field command the respect and admiration of Nininger.
2) Robert "Bob" Haag
Nininger passed the hunting-torch to Bob Haag, and Bob ran with it.
No man has done more to promote meteorites and put collecting on the
map than Bob Haag. To some, he is a controversial figure, but none
can argue his contributions to the field. Every hobby needs a "rock
star" and meteorites have Bob Haag.
3) The Meteoritical Society
There are few fields of science where the layman is genuinely
encouraged to participate and contribute. As an academic group, the
MS is open to laypersons and many collectors, dealers, and hunters
have used the MS as an interface to make contributions to meteoritics.
For being stewards of meteorite science and cataloguing tens of
thousands of meteorites, the MS deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.
4) The Tucson Show
No meteorite hall of fame would be complete without mentioning the
"Mecca of Meteorites", Tucson. Once a year, every year, meteorite
people from around the world descend upon the Tucson Gem and Mineral
Show. New acquaintances are made, old friends are gathered, and
thousands of meteorites change hands. Anybody who is anyone in the
field of meteorites can be found at Tucson. And those of us who lack
the opportunity to attend, can sit back and attend vicariously through
others. No single event captures the attention of the entire
meteorite world like the Tucson show. Old paradigms are broken, new
trends are set, and the pace of the market is often dictated by the
events of this annual gathering of meteorite minds.
5) Meteorite Magazine
Over the years there has been a single constant in the area of
meteorite publications. It is difficult to find a collector or dealer
who has not thumbed through the pages of this magazine. Copies are
collected and traded much like the specimens depicted within. Few
small circulation publications have such a faithful following as
Meteorite, and no other media venue has done such a consistently
good-job of reporting solid factual information about meteorites
without the usual misconceptions and sensationalism. The editors of
the New York Times could learn a thing or two from Meteorite Magazine.
6) Meteorite Times Online Magazine
For print there is Meteorite, online there is Meteorite Times.
Everything I said about Meteorite in #5 could also be said about
Meteorite Times. Paul and Jim have done a consistently great job of
promoting meteorites and making sure that factual and informative
articles about meteorites are available to the public for free.
The meteorite world and collectors owe a great debt to the people of
Morocco. No other nation or people has done so much to help the world
of meteorites. Think for a moment what the market would be like
without the ubiquitous NWA meteorites coming out of Morocco! Specimen
cabinets around the world are now chock full of achondrites and
planetaries, thanks to the tireless work of Moroccan nomads and
8) Good dealers everywhere
The flow of meteorites out of Morocco would be less meaningful if not
for the labors of dealers who purchase the stones, have them
classified, and make them available to collectors. For every bad
dealer in the hall of shame, there are 20 good dealers who add value
and provenance to every meteorite they touch. These dealers cut,
polish, document, and make available the best of the Saharan desert.
Some of these dealers make a living doing this, and some do it for
passion alone. The old saying goes - "Want to make million dollars
selling meteorites? Then start with two million dollars!". Very few
people are getting filthy rich selling meteorites, and these dealers
could take their talents to other areas of business that are more
profitable. But instead, the majority keep selling space rocks
because they love what they do.
9) Meteorite Central Mailing List
Tucson is the annual gathering of meteorite personalities, but the
Meteorite Central mailing list is the daily watering hole for all
things meteorite. For nearly 15 years, the "Met List" has provided
collectors, dealers, and scientists with a discussion forum that has
stood the test of time. We have Art Jones to thank for this and he
has been one of the most fair and hands-off of administrators that one
could hope for. Sure, the list is also home to a few trolls and
flakes, but that keeps things interesting. While the signal to noise
ratio of the list changes like the weather, one thing is constant - if
it has anything to do with meteorites, it will be discussed on the Met
10) O. Richard Norton
What collector has not thumbed through a well-worn copy of Rocks from
Space? Mr. Norton authored the definitive entry-primer for the hobby
of collecting meteorites and no meteorite book collection is complete
without it. His passion for meteorites for genuine and he was a man
of great class and distinction. Richard was the Carl Sagan of
meteorites - he could take a subject that is obtuse to many and make
it accessible to all. With his passing, the meteorite world lost a
true shining star. Every collector owes him and Dorothy a debt of
And now, the BAD :
METEORITE HALL OF SHAME - (in no particular order, since all of them
are equally pathetic)
1) The New York Times and William J. Broad.
One would think that a Pulitzer-winning author would fact-check his
information before publishing any article. Wrong. Mr. Broad authored
a terrible hit-piece on the meteorite market that is chock full of
inaccuracies, misconceptions, and bald-faced lies. This article
generated a lot of negative publicity for meteorites, meteorite
dealers, and meteorite collectors by painting us all as a bunch of
black-market criminals. In fact, Mr. Broad is technically the
criminal here for slandering and defaming an entire population of good
people engaged in a legal and ethical hobby. Luckily for him, he has
not been slapped with a civil suit for his negligent behavior.....yet.
2) The Federal Government - for harassing owners of legal moon dust.
Not only has the Fed wasted taxpayer dollars by pursuing the owners of
scotch-tape, but it has made criminals out of law-abiding citizens by
prosecuting the owners of tiny pieces of adhesive contaminated with
lunar regolith. Of course, this is the best use of taxpayer funds in
a time when budgets are being slashed and valuable social programs are
being cut to make room for seizing dusty squares of tape.
3) The Media as a whole
For constantly twisting the facts, butchering science, and spreading
misinformation about meteorites, the media deserves a spot in the hall
of shame. The media routinely publishes some of the worst tripe when
it comes to meteorite stories - presenting obvious Earth-rocks as
meteorites, giving scammers a venue to spread their lies, repeating
debunked misconceptions, and trying to sensationalize any aspect of
private meteorite ownership.
4) Authenticity scandals
Some people should know better and some are genuinely misinformed. We
have recently seen a spate of meteorite dealers who are
misrepresenting material for their own profit. This damages the
integrity of the entire market and collections everywhere. While one
expects a certain amount of bad apples in any bushel, some of these
dealers are intelligent and trusted individuals who betrayed their
friends, clients, and collectors as a whole. They know who they are
and they should be ashamed. An honorable person would fall on their
sword for it.
These people are different from those I mentioned in #4 above. These
are crazy people who insist that their rocks contain alien life-forms,
blood vessels, Martian fossils, or ancient DNA. They take common
Earth-rocks and present them as rare lunar meteorites on eBay, and
they clutter the market with fakes. Any sane person with an ounce of
common sense should know these specimens are bogus, but their presence
on the market is a constant distraction to honest dealers and
6) Two-faced behavior
We've all encountered this at one point or another. These are dealers
or collectors who bad-mouth other people behind their backs, but are
nice to their face if they want a sale or specimen. To get your money
or your rock, they will act like your best friend, answer emails
promptly, and do everything possible to make sure they walk away with
the object of their desire, whether it's the contents of your wallet
or polished part slice of a rare fall. Once they get what they want,
they will gossip behind your back, bash you on secret mailing lists,
and generally treat you like a red-headed stepchild. We see this in
any hobby, and unfortunately, meteorites are not different in this
7) Scientific and academic bias
Not every scientist is guilty of this, and the majority are good
people seeking to advance our understanding of the universe. But
there are a few who are vocal opponents of private meteorite ownership
and they do not pass up an opportunity to bash dealers and collectors.
This bias has existed since the time of Nininger and it persists to
this day. The tragic irony is, the same private involvement that they
loathe so much is also responsible for a bounty of exotic meteorites
that has greatly enriched the field of meteoritics.
8) Flakes and trolls
Just like scammers, every hobby has it's share of trolls and
trouble-makers. These people are not spreading bogus meteorites or
ripping people off. Instead, these people like nothing better than
stirring up drama and picking fights over trivial issues. Their
presence in the meteorite community is a constant distraction and a
source of noise that drowns out an otherwise-useful dialogue. We all
know one and there are probably a few reading this right now.
Whether it's copying marketing techniques or stealing another's ideas,
the meteorite world has it's share of copycats. If a dealer comes up
with a novel way to display or sell meteorites, you can bet several
more will eventually copy that idea without giving any credit to the
person who originally came out with it. Is it legal? Probably. Is
it ethical? No.
10) Unethical hunters
These are the people who go out into the field and search for
meteorites without any regard for laws or ethics. But unlike the
legions of good hunters, these few bad apples manage to piss off
landowners and turn public opinion against meteorites and hunters.
They leave open cattle gates, they trespass, they don't fill in their
holes, they leave trash on the ground (or cigarette butts), they
swindle landowners with sweet promises that are not kept, and they
take shortcuts to undermine other ethical hunters. Their presence in
the field is a slap in the face to good hunters everywhere.
Comments are welcome. For those who would like to throw vegetables at
me, please donate them instead to the nearest food bank. ;)
Galactic Stone & Ironworks - Meteorites & Amber (Michael Gilmer)
Website - http://www.galactic-stone.com
Facebook - http://tinyurl.com/42h79my
News Feed - http://www.galactic-stone.com/rss/126516
Twitter - http://twitter.com/galacticstone
EOM - http://www.encyclopedia-of-meteorites.com/collection.aspx?id=1564
Received on Sat 25 Jun 2011 03:58:28 PM PDT