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The dark side of the market?

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#1 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 02:59 PM

http://news.bbc.co.u...ica/6549197.stm

Buyer beware!

#2 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 03:35 PM

I've heard this argument before, and it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Here's why...

The vast majority of lunar and martian meteorites now being studied by scientists came from North Africa. If the scientists had to rely solely on meteorites collected from Antarctica, they would have much less material to study. The fact is, the majority of meteorites that come out of NWA are available for study by scientists. Whenever a private individual sends off a meteorite for classification, the classifiying lab keeps a portion of it for posterity and study. Every catalogued meteorite, regardless of origin, is available for study.

In fact, the same people who complain about private collectors are very short-sighted - because if not for private meteorite hunters, many of the world's most valuable meteorites (to science) would have never been found or studied. Universities and governments are not exactly combing the Earth looking for them - in this day of tight budgets, it just doesn't pay off to send a team to the Sahara desert on the school payroll.

The Meteoritical Society is *the* governing body of meteorites and their study. The MS also deals with solar wind, pre-solar particles, asteroids, comets, and related planetary topics. The MS not only welcomes private individuals, but a good number of the MS' members are collectors and dealers. Unlike many other disciplines of science, meteoritics embraces the amateur as a necessity.

When a meteorite is removed from it's original location, and that location is not recorded, then data is lost. But this data is secondary to the composition of the meteorite itself. Meteoritics is not anthropology or archaeology, so there is not great loss of potential because a meteorite was smuggled from it's original location. The location of the meteorite contributes little to it's scientific worth - unlike bones, pottery, or other ancient artifacts whose disposition and location may shed light on important related issues.

If museums and institutions want to stop purchasing/collecting meteorites that come out of North Africa - then they are cutting off their own nose to spite their own face, so to speak. *THAT* and not private collectors, will cause a major loss to science.

Regards and clear skies,

MikeG

#3 edwincjones

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 03:56 PM

I can see both sides of the issue, but MikeG is probably right that the "trade" in meteorites bring many more space rocks to museums and collectors.
If there were no trade, most meteorites would just set out in the desert.

edj

#4 edwincjones

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 03:58 PM

or, maybe the movie "Blood Meteorites" will be the followup to "Blood Diamonds"

#5 Glassthrower

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 05:37 PM

Like any rare commodity with a market value, there will always be the shadier elements trying to take shortcuts to make money. The Sahara Desert covers a lot of real estate, including some countries with Islamic fundamentalist governments or insurgencies. It's not unthinkable that some meteorites are smuggled out of Algeria and the profits might end up in some less than savory hands. But, for the most part, the majority of NWA meteorites on the market come out of Morocco, which is the most Western-friendly nation in/near the Sahara.

#6 Veridian

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 08:06 PM

"Caveat Emptor"

Ok,, I've read the article and it has much the same sound as the controversy of private collectors of art putting strains upon the acquisition of art by museums. More than one parallel here.

Were it not for the private collectors of art, there would not be much of a market. If museums were to control the market,, it would be a severely limited one and promising artists would most certainly be unable to exist. Private collectors keep the market going and keep it healthy in most every way. Ohh,,, and being largely unregulated, there is plenty of unethical dealing going on as well.

This is a good discussion and I'm happy to see Nick post this article and Mike's rebuttle to the article's content.

Thanks to you both. :bow:

Mark J.D.


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