[meteorite-list] International Meteorite Market (Rebuttal)

From: Michael Gilmer <meteoritemike_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Jun 2012 12:09:23 -0400
Message-ID: <CAKBPJW-joftms-J4kpCHFs+BFUFM3tZ8NrjMTy+Z4-ThZ3-Xkw_at_mail.gmail.com>

Hi List,

I tried several times to post a rebuttal to this article, but it
wouldn't let me. So I will post it here.


Hi All,

I am afraid I came across as hostile in my first post. That was not
my intent. I would like to answer some points raised in the article :

Article - "Martian meteorites are known to sell for around $1,000 per
gram. As a result, Harvey added, ?The prices go up and up.?

Not true. Many Martian meteorites sell for much less than $1000/gram.
 Pieces of the new Tissint fall were selling for less than $400/gram
at the onset of the event. And one only has to look at Mr. Twelker's
Meteorite Market website to see several different Mars meteorites
selling for well under $1000/gram. Meteorites that are sold in
"micromount" form typically sell for high prices per gram, but this
does not translate to larger specimens. What a 10mg specimen sells
for is no indication of what a 10g specimen will sell for.

Article - "The market value of meteorites began to rise in the late 1990s"

WRONG. Meteorite prices began to DROP in the early 1990's due to the
increased availability of specimens coming out of Northwest Africa.
Prices have dropped dramatically since that time. Many old-school
collectors who built their collections prior to this period paid
$10,000/gram or more for lunar meteorites. Now, lunar meteorites can
be found for well under $1000/g. In fact, I just bought some lunar
material this week for under $500/g. The same can be said for rare
types like howardites and other achondrites. HED meteorites can now
be purchased for less than $10/g, prior to the 1990's, these same
meteorites sold for 10-times as much (if you could find them). The
author of this article would have seen this if she had bothered to do
any research beyond reading some sensational articles published in
other media outlets.

Article - "At a New York City auction in 1998, the American Museum of
Natural History spent a record-breaking $137,000 on a slice of a
pallasite meteorite, whose luminous amber-toned crystals gleamed
against a silvery nickel-iron matrix. Weeks later, an 18-pound iron
meteorite was sold for $97,000 at an auction in San Francisco. "

These were flukes and those prices have never been attained since
then. Auction prices are no indicator of the larger market. Two
anxious bidders can drive up the price of any item well beyond it's
true market value. Just take a look at eBay to see numerous examples
of collectibles selling for prices that are downright silly.

Article - "?The skill level that some collectors have to get stones
out of Africa rivals that of drug dealers,? says Dr. Harvey. ?It?s
clear that meteorites are so valuable to these collectors that they?re
more than happy to get them and worry about the cost in terms of
legality later on.?

This is wrong and slanderous. Sure, there are a few bad apples in
every group, including amongst scientists. For every unethical
meteorite hunter, there are dozens who uphold the law and adhere to
ethical standards.

Article - "But the quantity of meteorites being sent back from
Antarctica isn?t enough, according to Harvey. ?There?s lots and lots
of demand,? he says. ?If we magically started bringing back ten times
as many meteorites as we do now, they?d still all get studied.?

This is a half-truth at best. The ANSMET program brings back plenty
of material for research. Some analytical techniques only require a
few milligrams for research. A 10-gram chunk of meteorite will
provide enough material for several dozen graduate students. JSC has
vaults filled with hundreds of kilograms of material, and most of that
will never be used for research.

Article - "?We are competing within a commercial market, although we
have extremely limited finances,? said Dr. Smith. ?There?s a danger in
the price hiking of the market. Institutions without much money to
purchase things may be priced out.?

Not true. Institutions rarely (if ever) pay the same price that
collectors do on the open market. Institutions benefit from
partnerships with private hunters and often receive significant
amounts of free donated material. Museum curators are not bidding on
eBay auctions.

Article - "?We are competing within a commercial market, although we
have extremely limited finances,? said Dr. Smith. ?There?s a danger in
the price hiking of the market. Institutions without much money to
purchase things may be priced out.?

Again, not true. How many institutions are out there bidding on eBay
or purchasing from commercial dealers? Open market prices do not
reflect what institutions and museums pay. In fact, many scientists
and curators benefit from generous donations of material from the
private sector. Speaking for myself, I have donated material free of
charge numerous times to institutions for research.

Article - "Nevertheless, the sum well exceeded the museum?s annual
acquisition budget (neither Dr. Smith nor Pitt would disclose the
exact sum). Half of the money was put up by an anonymous
philanthropist, with dual American and British citizenship and a keen
interest in the museum?s meteorite collection."

Right here the article contradicts itself. The price paid was already
lower than market value, and half of that price was paid via a
donation from a private benefactor. If institutions have shoe-string
budgets to acquire material, that is not because of the private
market. Their low budgets are the result of bureaucracy and the
directors of those institutions who fail to provide the necessary
funds. The annual landscaping budget for many of these institutions
far exceeds the funds spent of specimen acquisition. What is more
important - planting flowers in courtyards or research?

Article - "The specimens that his team collects are sent back to the
Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where scientists with the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) identify the

The author does not know the difference between a meteor and a
meteorite. This is not just semantics - it shows a lack of general
knowledge by the author.


Galactic Stone & Ironworks - MikeG
Web: http://www.galactic-stone.com
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On 6/5/12, dorifry <dorifry at embarqmail.com> wrote:
> Interesting article:
> http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/the-international-meteorite-market/
> Phil Whitmer
> Joshua Tree Earth and Space Museum
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Received on Wed 06 Jun 2012 12:09:23 PM PDT

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