October 15, 2012
Meteorite Auction Considered The Holy Grail For Collectors
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
On Sunday, auctioneers in New York put some of the most notable meteorites from modern history up for bid and watched as many of them sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Chunks of Mars and the Moon were among the more than 125 space rocks that were made available during the private auction that brought in over $1 million dollars.
Prospective buyers packed the auction room at the Fletcher Sinclair Mansion located next to the eastern edge of Central Park.
“This offering transcends meteorites,” said Darryl Pitt, Meteorite Consultant for Heritage Auctions, which held the sale. “It's the Holy Grail for collectors of any stripe; acquiring a notable specimen of a centerpiece exhibit at a major museum is unheard of.”
The biggest sale of the day was four pounds worth of Moon rocks that were dislodged from Earth´s only satellite by an asteroid that struck the planetary body´s dark side. Bidders drove the final price of the lunar specimen to $330,000; slightly less than the pre-auction estimate.
As lunar meteorites are quite rare, with 135 pounds known to exist on Earth, buyers who have the means are willing to pay the sky-high prices to get their hands on them.
One item that attracted fierce bidding was a piece of the Seymchan meteorite that was found in Siberia in the 1960s and gained notoriety on the television show “Meteorite Men”. The 9-inch chuck sold for over $43,000; 12 times it pre-sale estimate.
The Peekskill Meteorite was another specimen up for bid that had an interesting history just on this planet alone. Probably the most videotaped meteorite ever, it streaked across the sky in the northeastern part of the United States. Seconds before impact, it burst into fragments, with one slamming into a Chevrolet Malibu located just north of New York City. That meteorite sold for just over $16,000.
One of the more famous meteorite fragments that went up for bid was one that originated on Mars. Dubbed the Tissint Martian meteorite, it was carried by Herbie Hancock in September of last year and cruised past stars of a different kind as the musician attended a celebrity gala at the Kennedy Center in New York. Curiously, that meteorite did not receive an opening bid.
Another meteorite that did not open received international attention in the days leading up to the auction. Naturally sculpted to resemble Edward Munch´s “The Scream” painting, the iron meteorite from the Kalahari Desert was valued between $175,000 and $225,000.
While some of the items did not sell, the auction was generally viewed as a success by those in attendance.
“There was a great deal of interest from collectors in the middle section of the auction,” Pitt told the website Art Daily. “We saw some superb examples well exceed their pre-auction estimates, in many cases more than double and triple.”
He added that the auction was a way for the winning bidders and those in attendance to reach out and touch outer space without leaving the ground.
“If you want to experience the marvels of the Earth, go to museums and travel,” said Pitt. “If you want to begin to contemplate the marvels of the universe, touch a meteorite.”