Classifying a meteorite involves considerable lab work and is the heart of
beginning to understand a given specimen. It requires considerable expertise
We dare say that no one can just simply look at meteorites (or images of
meteorites) and form reliable and valid conclusions as to their classifications.
Hot desert meteorites are frequently cut by dealers who are looking
for achondrites but no one can consistently classify meteorites by visual
inspection alone. While many dealers with considerable experience can
somewhat reliably tell the difference between an H and an L meteorite, one
simply cannot reliably tell by visual examination whether a given specimen
is, for example, an L or LL. If classification is important to
you (for some it is and for some it is not) Ask the dealer why he
or she thinks the specimen is a certain class and whether or not the meteorite
as been examined by a reputable lab (not someone's child's science class
Sometimes you will see a seller refer to meteorite that has been sliced so
"you (the buyer) can see the inside of what it looks like," or to "verify
that the rock actually is a meteorite." Okay, so far so good - no problem.
However, the same seller may also state that the meteorite is unclassified,
so you may have a really rare type on your hands once you buy the rock from
the seller. Who knows, it could be from the moon or from Mars!
Don't be fooled by this. The cut face does allow you to see the inside
(which is a legitimate claim) but the seller may not be entirely honest.
In actuality, the seller (or someone else) has cut a slice into the
meteorite because they are looking for achondrites which, as a group, are
rare and more valuable than "ordinary chondrites." Once the seller
is satisfied that they do not have an achondrite, and assuming they know
what they are doing, the pitch "you may have a valuable find" is extremely
unlikely. Not impossible, just unlikely.
Again, there is nothing wrong with buying a cut meteorite and you may actually
have a rare find on your hands but it is unlikely if the meteorite is being
sold by a knowledgeable seller.
Let's say a dealer sends out a list of meteorites for sale, which is
soon followed by another list of meteorites for sale, some of which are the
same meteorites as those on the first list. The second list contains
language which states that the meteorites are for sale at a discount from
the first list, say 20%. At first glance, this sounds like the dealer
is willing to lower his asking price in order to make a sale and the
potential buyer is happy to see such a discount from the first list and is
considering making a purchase at the new, discounted price. But wait,
the potential buyer notices that meteorites on the second list have suddenly
jumped up in price by 20%, the exact same amount as the discount! So
what happened to the discount? It just disappeared, like our respect
for that dealer.
The eBay auction site can be a place for some exceptionally great deals on
exceptional meteorites. Many of the exceptional pieces in my collection
were obtained by bidding at eBay.
eBay can also be a place where average deals can be had on average meteorites.
Many of the average pieces in my collection were obtained by bidding
eBay is also rift with rip-offs, con artists, and fraudulent claims about
meteorites and meteor"wrongs." None of these have ended up in my
Here are a few, shall we say, "inaccuracies" we have seen on eBay
"This meteorite is from Halley's comet!"
- There is no scientific evidence that
any piece of
Halley's comet has fallen as a
"This meteorite contains emeralds!"
- There is no scientific evidence that
any meteorite contains emeralds.
"This meteorite contains the dead bodies of insects from Mars!"
- We don't know whether to laugh
or cry over this claim.
"If you buy this meteorite (or tektite) from me, peace, love joy and happiness
will flow from it
and fill your body with cosmic goodness!"
- Ditto (although curiously,
ice cream has that same affect
"I know absolutely nothing about meteorites but a magnet does not stick to
it is very light for it's size, it's covered with green and purple sticky
stuff, it's full of holes
from one side to the other and if you look closely you can see the outline
rings (complete with Cassini division) here. It just HAS to be a meteorite!
My reserve is
- Where do we start...?
In short, every business caveat applies to eBay, especially "buyer beware."
As we have stated many times if you want to collect meteorites you have
to become knowledgeable in the field, including being able to differentiate
fact from fiction and you see a lot of fiction on ebay.
Collector Ken Newton has a really good "about me" eBay page that has
some nice examples of meteor"wrongs" that have been offered on ebay.
If you are new to meteorites and you plan to bid on ebay, please
check this URL before you do:
Meteorites and Meteorwrongs on Ebay
A final ebay warning. A winning bidder can lose
by being too trusting. Educate yourself to Ebay/Paypal's limitations. Look for the logo and purchase from IMCA members.
Imilac is a pallasite meteorite. A pallasite is a mixture of olivine
(a mineral) and metal (iron) in roughly equal amounts. When properly
sliced and prepared, many pallasites are quite beautiful.
Unfortunately, this is not (usually) the case with Imilac many specimens
of Imilac. You see, the olivine in many specimens of Imilac weathered
away a long time ago, so what is left is the metal. In fact most Imilac
on the market consists of small fragments of twisted metal.
Now, there is nothing wrong with buying and placing in your collection a
piece (or pieces) of twisted metal Imilac but you should know that in most
cases, this is what you are getting. You will see this a lot on eBay.
The seller describes pallasites and talks about how beautiful they
are (particularly when backlit so the light shines through the transparent
olivine) but the image is that of a piece of twisted metal; not at all like
the description. We have seen Imilac with olivine but this type is the
exception. If you are interested in buying a specimen of Imalic and
the seller does not provide an image or it is not clear that he or she is
selling a twisted metal variety, ask the seller which type it is. All
pallasites are not the same!
Nantan is an iron meteorite that is known for is ability to rust away to
nothing, a fact that many sellers of this meteorite fail to mention. You
can buy lots of Nantan on eBay. You may as well be buying shale when
you buy most Nantan. Yes, you can find it cheap but Nantan is truely
a meteorite to stay away from unless you are willing to accept that the
overwhelming majority of specimens will fall apart over a very short period
An oriented meteorite is one that maintains a stable orientation during it's
passage through the Earth's atmosphere such that it develops a rollover lip
and certain flight markings such as flow lines. Oriented meteorites
often (but not always) have an angular protrusion and the meteorite spins
about this axis. The rollover lip forms on the trailing edge of the
meteorite and the flow lines form on the leading edges(s).
The problem with sellers selling so-called oriented meteorites is that sometimes
they are not. Orientation is a special characteristic of a meteorite
which is not common. Orientation is the exception, not the rule.
Therefore, it is my opinion that the seller should point out why he
or she feels that a given specimen is oriented. It would be like saying,
"this meteorite is special" but not pointing out why the specimen is special.
If you are considering purchasing a meteorite which the seller states
is oriented, but the seller doesn't state why, then ask what characteristics
make that specimen oriented. If a seller could not tell you or appears
to be vague, we suggest you walk away from the deal.
Prices can vary from seller-to-seller by as much as 500% for essentially
the same material. Back in Nininger's days, meteorites often went for
$1.00/pound (454 grams). Not anymore!
Here is the way to determine how much one buyer is willing to pay for a given specimen.
WB wrote "With very few exceptions (e.g., lunar or martian material) I generally
start with a mental price of $1.00/gram, then I add or subtract from that
value. I take into consideration the various features of the specimen (slice
vs. whole vs. fragment vs. endcut, presence vs. absence of crust, degree
of rust for both irons AND stones), presence of interesting inclusions (for
example, a nice big CAI in a slice of Allende or huge graphite nodule in
a slice of Canyon Diablo), witnessed fall vs. find, carefulness of preparation,
any particular scientific, cultural, or historical significance (yes, I like
good stories associated with certain specimens (e.g., Beaver was used as
a doorstop in a jail for many years)), the usual going price and other factors.
I then arrive at a final "what-is-it-worth-to-me" figure. If
the specimen is at or near that figure I just might purchase or bid on it.
If it is above, I pass and wait till next time."
The last factor mentioned "the usual going price" needs further mention.
If you are to become a knowledgeable collector, you have to become
familiar with the prices of individual specimens. Do not judge
individual dealers prices in this discussion but we would think it highly
unlikely that one would pay $10.00/gram for Allende. Why not? Because
the going rate for Allende and $10.00/gram is the upper extreme.
Would you pay $10.00/gram for Allende? Well, only you can decide
Now, a word about dealer tactics. Some dealers seem to delight in informing
you that a given price for a given specimen they are selling is extremely
low and therefore a very good deal. Sometimes is it and sometimes the dealer
just wants to make a sale. Again, you have to do your homework and
understand the pricing structure of different meteorites. There are some
dealers who are fairly consistent in pricing their material above most others
and there are dealers who a fairly consistent in pricing their material below
the mean. No one dealer is the absolute highest and no one dealer is
the absolute lowest on all material. You have to do your research on
dealers and the material they offer.
There might be a time when say, a slice of meteorite A is worth more than
another slice of the same specimen. For example, using the criteria
above, one would value a slice of Allende which showed nice big CAIs more than
one in which no CAIs were visible, all other things being equal. Purple
haylite (salt) crystals are known in a few pieces of Zag but since most pieces
do not show this property, one would value a slice which shows haylite more
than a piece which did not.
If you really want the specimen but you feel the price is not right, try
negoitiating with the dealer. Offer to pay directly and not through
paypal so the seller avoids paypal fees. Offer some material in trade.
What is the worse that could happen? The dealer does not accept
your offer. If this is the case then you have lost nothing.
Is a given specimen worth what a dealer is asking for it? Through
your research, only you can decide.
The Sikhote-Alin Iron meteorite fall of 1947 produced two different kinds
of iron meteorites. One kind is called a whole or complete individual
and has thumbprints (regmaglypts). The other type consists of what
looks like a twisted piece of metal with sharp edges that resembles shrapnel
from an exploded metal bomb. Indeed, this second type is called simply,
"shrapnel." In general, the thumbprinted type typically sells for more
than the shrapnel type.
The problem is, sometimes the seller is actually selling a specimen of shrapnel
but they don't identify it as such. I have mostly seen this at auctions
at ebay but I have sometimes seen this on dealers websites as well. Sometimes
the seller describes both types of meteorites in the item description but
fails to specify which type they are actually selling.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the shrapnel type. Indeed, We have several
pieces in our collections. We think they are quite beautiful and are a
testament to the enormous potential energy stored within a large meteoroid
traveling at incredible speed and the shearing forces which can break apart
a meteorite. But if you have seen pictures of a beautifully crusted
and completely thumbprinted individual and you find a "Sikhote-Alin" specimen
offered for $.15 - $.20/gram, this will most likely be the shrapnel type.
Knowing this, if you are not sure what type the seller is selling you
should ask before you bid or buy.
| Tektites (size)
Tektites come in many different sizes and shapes and indochinites are relatively
The problem is, some sellers describe relatively small tektites as being
"huge" or "rare in this size" (smaller). They make it appear as though a
30 gram tektite from China is in some way extra large and hence rare and
hence more valuable. Having sold countless kg of tektites from China,
one seller explains, "that based solely on size, a 30 gram Chinese
tektite is neither rare nor deserving an inflated price (such tektites can
be had for pennies/gram)!"
|"Unique" or "Very Unique"
The word "unique" literally means one-of-a-kind, as in
no other like it. This word is often applied to the shapes
or physical characteristics of a given specimen. In these cases, one may safely classify this
observation as "dealer hype".
The problem is (yes, you guessed it) every meteorite is unique, depending
on your level of analysis. If you take two slices of say, Ghubara (an
L5 chondrite found in Oman in 1954) the chondrule pattern will, of course,
not be exactly identical but it would be misleading to describe each slice
as being "unique." Describing a meteorite as otherwise one of a kind
is like implying that a given snowflake is unique and is therefore worth
more than than other snowflakes.
Be careful with the word "unique." Take the seller to task and ask
what makes a given specimen "unique." Is there some unusual property about
the meteorite, such as a rare (but not necessarily unique) inclusion or is
it simply because the seller liked the shape (therefore, making all meteorites
unique). Truely unique meteorites deserve a premium, but there are
actually very few truely scientifically unique meteorites.
|Watered Down Meteorite
Have your ever purchased a meteorite from a website or
ebay and noticed that the meteorite doesn't quite match the image you saw
on the computer screen. Maybe the specimen you are holding in you hand
lacks the luster or contrast that you saw when you purchased it based, in
part, upon how nice the image looked. Well, what may have happend is
the seller wet the specimen before taking a picture. Wetting a rock
makes it shine very nicely, particularly the cut face of stone meteorites.
The chondrules and matrix really stand out. If you suspect this
has happened, don't hesistate to ask the buyer if the image or specimen was
altered in any way
Similarly, many digital cameras have a "vivid" setting, which increase contrast
and makes colors more vivid. If a specimen looks too good on the screen
or if it doesn't look right when you receive it, always contact the