An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine

This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Meteorite Dealer Michael Blood.  

What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?

There was never a time I was NOT interested in meteorites except before I ever heard of them. However, I just sort of naively never knew you could possibly own one, yourself. Therefore, it wasn't until I met a friend of a friend one night about 15 years ago that I learned differently. He is a San Diego fellow who has been collecting for many, many years. He is one of the most single minded individuals you will ever meet. In all the years I have known him he has never spoken more than a few words about ANYTHING other than meteorites, dinosaurs and lasers. He is, without any doubt in my mind, the most  knowledgeable person (with the possible exception of Bernd) in the meteorite world I have ever encountered. (I once asked about a meteorite he had never seen and he knew all the facts about it that were in the "blue book." He May well have what others call a "photographic memory"). In any event, he told me about meteorites that night & I pumped him for info for about two and a half hours. However, it wasn't until about six months later that I ran into him at the San Diego County Fair in the Gem and Mineral display area where he had about 30 feet of display area full of meteorites and books, etc. It was there I spent another two or three hours and bought my first meteorite. From there, I read FIND A FALLING STAR by Nininger, and that was the end of all sanity.

What was your first meteorite?

My first specimen was, of course, a Canyon Diablo. Affordable and representative of the only fall with which I was familiar prior to that time. The irony here is, at that time Bruce had a couple of slices of Esquel the size of playing cards. They were, of course, stunningly beautiful. However, they were an incredibly "expensive" $200! That would be such a steal today.

Do you still have it?

Probably, but I no longer know which one it is. I have always saved the best Canyon Diablo specimens that have come through my hands.. I have dozens of them. There is something about CDs that "do it" for me. So, I have one by my seat in the den, one on my key chain, several on my desk, one on my motor home key chain, etc.

Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?

Over the course of time, I have gone through various areas of interest. Currently, I am obsessed with meteorites that have struck and/or killed things cars, mailboxes, horses, cows, barns, etc. Of course the ones that have struck animals are particularly appealing and Sylacauga, which struck the woman is one of my REALLY treasured specimens. (I had to trade both lunar and Martian specimens for that small piece). Did you know a specimen of Plainview struck a horse corral? That is not generally known. I own a NICE slice of that one. I would kill to get THE Juancheng specimen that flew through the roof and landed in the pot on the stove or the Barwell specimen that flew through the window and landed in a plant pot. I have to, instead, content myself with other specimens of the same events. I was tickled pink to get even the tiny fragments of the incredibly rare Burnwell (HH) that crashed through the roof of a porch in 1900. I am ever "on the hunt" for specimens such as these. Can't get enough of them. Tickle me silly. (of course, I had a perverse interest in the now famous Kichinka-Balke debates over existence or nonexistence of the "Nakhla dog.") For a long time, I was especially focused on SNCs before the African invasion. There were only 6 non-Antarctic falls, but only Zagami was readily available, and though Shergotty and Nakhla were possible to get, they were still rare and VERY expensive. However, Governadore Valadares and Lafayette were impossible to get and though Chassigny had, at one time been available in the not too distant past, it had been only a few grams and they had all disappeared into personal collections before I had "discovered" meteorites. It is still the most difficult to obtain. When I was able to get Lafayette and then Governador Valadares, I was ecstatic. I had traded the farm earlier to get a few dozen tiny flakes of Chassigny, so, now I had all 6 of the non-Antarctic specimens. I put together tiny sets and sold enough of them (including some to institutions) to cover my costs to that point and even make a little. I also sold small, mg sized specimens to a Canadian at this time. He broke those suckers up into such small pieces he was able to sell so many it reminded me of Jesus feeding the multitudes with a few fishes and loaves of bread. Of course, he is now famous starting with the now famous "Bessey specks" and using the capital from that and other blooming sales and LOTS of hard work to then go onto becoming by far the largest importer of African material in the US. Along the way, we became friends and I am very happy for him in his prosperity. He has a cheerful approach to life, a good sense of humor and an all around nice guy. Back to the SNCs, it was only a couple of years until the African material came trickling in, however. There was a great deal of suspicion about much of this material as to when it was found, how it was being introduced into the market and what were actual separate falls, etc. Therefore, I lost
substantial interest in SNCs at least in keeping a "complete set" of them. Pallasites are a passion I cannot afford to indulge in as fully as I would like, but my macromount collection of them is continuously, if slowly, increasing. I would LOVE to have softball sized slices of very known variety. Whole stones have always been a favorite of mine, and I collect multiples of any fall I can get pea to marble sized specimens of with near 100% fusion crust. Of course, Holbrook is a classic and, again, Bob Haag's giant bowl full tickled me endlessly. But I like large whole stones, as well, and one of my favorites in my collection is the 35kg main mass of Markovka. I smile every time I look upon it.

Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?

Hardly. My wife has many, many fabulous qualities, but I must content myself that she has an inkling of appreciation of tektites. And it is interesting how she developed even that. She is a social worker caring for foster care children and keeps an office they often visit. She has it full of stuffed animals and some beautiful amethyst geodes and other mineral specimens I have given her over the years. A few years ago she saw a pile of broken Tibetanites in my office and asked about them. I told her what they were and that I wouldn't sell them, but couldn't bring myself to throw them away due to their rarity and "vibes." She asked if she could give them to children & I was pleased at such a destiny for them. Some time that same year she accompanied me to a local Gem Show where Edwin Thompson was set up. He is a friend of ours and at that show He had some moldavite and she heard him giving his rap to an interested neophyte and she then became somewhat appreciative of moldavite. (Never mind that I have by far the best moldavite collection I have ever seen..). I am grateful, though, even for that degree of interest. I also appreciate getting no flack for the vast quantity of time and travel I put into selling meteorites and we have a great time going to the Tucson show in our motor home. I have a nephew in Albequerque who has hunted with me in the Glorietta and Correo strewn fields, but not because he has any particular interest in meteorites though he found a much larger specimen of Correo than I did. He and I just enjoy the hell out of one another's company, so, he goes with me. So, that is about the best that can be had in my family. I have given nieces & nephews meteorite specimens which they think are "cool" but no one else has caught the disease as I have.

Do you have any special approaches to collecting? (Type collection, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics, etc. or any and all that you like.)

Not really, though, as I said, I am particularly fond of whole stones. Thin sections delight me Perhaps my "best" collection consists of my macromounts. I collect by Type, keeping different drawers for each category. My micromounts are cool, too and, of course, my "hammers," each of which nailed something. Who could ever have "enough" SNCs and Lunars. I am pretty hopeless, I go for it all. Except the sliced irons, due to San Diego humidity and salt air.

Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?

That would be hard to say I have ABOUT 180 macromounts in my display cabinet, but many, many more I have not mounted and labeled yet (I make all the labels the same), I have dozens and dozens of whole stones fist size and up and dozens and dozens of marble sized stones, and most of these are duplicated in my macromount collection and then I have a tone of micromounts, as well. Then there are about a dozen whole irons. Oh, and over 100 thin sections, but most of those are also duplicated in the macromount collection. So,
it would be a good day or two worth of work for two people to come close to being able to produce any sort of list. I am not as well organized as I would like.

Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?

Many of my fist sized stones and irons are in a barrister's book case (the kind with glass doors that rise up like garage doors). The 15 to 25 LB irons are sitting out on top of cases, desks, etc. The 95 LB New Campo is on the fireplace hearth in the den. My macromounts are in a far out chest of drawers from India with very shallow drawers, my micromounts are in a couple of small wood shallow drawer units, my thin sections are in a couple of 100 count thin section boxes, and I have about 20 blue print drawers of what are called 'Flat Files' that are incredibly wide and deep and hold a variety of things such as amber with insects, pre-Columbian artifacts, arrowheads, meteorites, tektites, etc. Then I have a 20 foot long shipping unit that is absolutely impenetrable that has some meteorite stuff in it, too. so, there is a considerable combination of ways I keep my meteorites.

In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?

Wow, that is nearly endless there is trying to keep up with the newsletter, making labels, digital photographs (how did we live before digital photos???) my web site, constantly checking the web sites of others, eBay (buying and selling, though not really much on eBay), writing articles, taking orders by email, ordering by email, communicating with other collectors and dealers by email, making fliers for meteorite
auctions..jeez, the list could go on forever.

What got you interested in becoming a meteorite auctioneer?

Ever since I was a kid and heard the auctioneer song, and later heard the tobacco auction in the TV ad in the 50s I have been utterly fascinated with the auction scene. Then, when I lived in Idaho for a few years in my 20s, I would go to auctions, which are quite common there. However, it wasn't until I was well established as a meteorite dealer that I accidentally came across a convention of auctioneers in a San Diego hotel that it occurred to me I could offer something different at the Tucson and Denver shows - an auction. So, I researched all the auction schools and went to the best one: The Missouri Auction School. I worked my tail off and passed their graduate exams and became a certified auctioneer. It takes a surprising amount of practice to have just a decent "chant," but I have a natural knack for "tuning into" a group of bidders to promote "action" and keep it fun. I have been fortunate in getting a few non-meteorite gigs to keep in practice "in the off season" and make a few bucks as well. I became interested in Didgeridoos a couple of years ago and I convinced the organizers it would be worth while to do a didgeridoo auction at the annual Joshua Tree Didgeridoo Festival. It was a raging success from the first year, so, that is some extra fun I have gotten into, as well. I keep telling myself I should organize an antiques auction in the gay community in San Diego (which is large and has both good taste and a very large upper middle class contingent) but I am ALWAYS so far "behind" in my meteorite commitments and there are always college papers to be graded, and and.  A crucial part of doing auctions in Tucson & Denver, for me is the social aspect it brings to the meteorite community. There is nothing like an auction to bring people together at those shows. You can always count on connecting with whoever's at the show at the auction. Then, of course, there are the meteorites, so, there is the excitement of getting something new and fascinating for your collection, or, in some cases, just getting a chance to SEE something you will never see again. Then, if you are selling, there is the possibility two or more people will get carried away in the bidding and will HAVE to have what you have put on consignment - that creates a lot of excitement - there is the opportunity to see and socialize with other collectors and dealers... it just brings so much to the table for everyone. It is a totally unique animal unto itself. It is like nothing else.and.

Do you ever hunt for meteorites?

I think I really must be the world's most unlucky "meteorite hunter." (If you can call me that, at all). I have hunted Gold Basin for several days (with NO success, even when I was with John Blennert, and meteorites jump from the ground into that guy's pockets!), a full day in Glorietta (NO success) a full day in Lucern Dry Lake (NO success), two days at 29 Palms (NO success), several days over several years at Hollbrook (NO success, even when I was with Steve Schoner, one of the world's best hunters and KING of Hollbrook)..seeing a pattern here? I DID hunt Correo morning and evening for 2 weeks absolutely determined not to quit until I found a meteorite. I thought I might even fail that one, except on the very last day I finally found my little 11.82 gram beauty. There is something about knowing it came from SO far away and no other human had ever seen it, let alone touched it. So, hunt, yes, find, almost never!

What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?

Well, there is no possibility of a single answer to that one. I have 4 or 5 I could, perhaps narrow it down to. They are each, literally, "world class" specimens in one way or another. I have a fabulous oriented Millbillillie that weighs 224 grams. Just fabulous. Then I also have a 17 LB Gibeon that is so totally regmaglypted it looks like a giant Imilac "skeleton." I have the famous Nininger oriented Passamonte what a dear thing that is. Then I have a PERFECT nosecone oriented 20 gram Gao. There is the unique "hollow" meteorite that was featured in VOYAGE! and the 35 kg main mass of Markovka. I have a full slice of Felt 'B' with the L5 and L3.5 matrixes displayed on the face of the slice in perfect halves. Then, I have the fabulous Sahara 99028 that is in two pieces and with black fusion crust with evenly patterned splits from centuries in the desert sun. So, I guess that is 8. There are several others near & dear to me, but those guys are certainly especially precious
to me.

Thumbnails Of Favorites
(please click image for full size)

Oriented
 Millbillillie
17 lb
 Gibeon

 

Oriented
Passamonte
Nosecone
Gao
Hollow
Meteorite
Main Mass
Markovka
Felt "B" Sahara
99028

What makes these of special interest?

The Millbillillie is SO visually zappy you can just SEE the speed at which the "face" was abraded away, leaving regmaglypts and flow lines in the beautiful fusion crust with only about 1% broken showing that fabulous chalk-white interior and such rare material and, for me, so HUGE a specimen. The Gibeon, as I said, is just a mind boggling example of regmaglypt sculpture. The oriented Passamonte. Well, I read Nininger's account of finding the second half of that specific stone early in my days of meteorite madness.. to own it is just amazing. The perfect oriented Gao looks like a model of what a "classic" oriented meteorite "should" be, if there ever were a perfect one. And there it is. The hollow meteorite is just a stinking trip. The size of a soccer ball, and about 60% there, with "walls" thick enough that the hollow core is about the size of a baseball. In addition, it is highly eroded, and in 4 pieces, which fit perfectly together. VERY visually impressive piece. The 35Kg Markavka.. well, I doubt I will ever own another stone that large! But, who knows, perhaps I shouldn't create limitations for myself but it IS huge. In addition, it is an H4, somewhat more rare than an H5 and far more rare than an L6, so, that is nice, too. But the biggest thing is it is like having a stinking asteroid sitting on the desk next to me! The Felt 'B' with those L5 and L3.5 constituents so perfectly split down the center of the slice and the slice is such a visually appealing shape to begin with I don't know WHAT exactly it is about the Sahara 99028, but the moment I saw it I thought it was one of the most visually appealing specimens I had ever seen. The broken piece off the end, displayed with separation and the ancient desert weathering combine to just do it for me.

What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?

I have several "favorites" one being Camel Donga. What a meteorite! I have never seen more beautiful whole stones than Camel Donga. Esquel has to be one of the absolute all time greats! I have both in my collection actually, a very nice piece of thin sliced Esquel just not one of those "sheets" that you see now and again that are whole slices I have SEVERAL Camel Donga specimens, including several
oriented ones.

What meteorites are currently on your wish list?

GOOD QUESTION! I think I avoid asking myself this because the meteorite market has been so slow of late I haven't had the resources to even think of indulging myself in my personal collection. I wouldn't mind a tiny speck of that SNC of which there were only a few grams TKW. I really want to get a decent macromount of the Glorietta Pallasite and of Marjalahti, as well. If I had substantial resources, there are many I would allow myself to want: a decent sized full slice of metal rich Portales Valley would be nice, LOTS of different Pallasites at least the size of a playing card hell, let's get one of each known variety. In this scenario, the list is nearly endless. You get the idea. I am a meteorite freak and I really do want one of EVERYTHING no kidding, even the H5s and L6s a HUGE collection of macromounts with one of everything in fact, I collect as though that is what I will eventually accomplish, though that is almost certainly not the case, but, as they say, it is the journey, not the goal. I take a great deal of enjoyment occasionally pulling out my macromount drawers one at a time and just digging them. That is one of the things visitors most enjoy doing, as well. So, whenever I can afford it, I don't pass up ANYTHING of macromount size, unless it appears to be a poor representative of that event, or my pockets are cash shallow which is quite often!

What methods have been most successful in building your collection?

(Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading... etc) I have used every method known to me, from my pitiful personal hunting in strewn fields, purchasing as a dealer in quantities, purchasing individually from other dealers, purchasing by mail, over the internet, at shows, purchasing on eBay, acquiring through trades.. I have even bought a few at my own auctions (though I try to leave the goodies for my buyers when the entire bidding group is not bidding on something that is clearly a steal, however, then I will jump in and bid myself, which is legal {for an auctioneer to bid in his own auction as long as it is a consignment item & NOT his own item} in every state but Road Island them Road Islanders won't put up with such audaciousness)

Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?

I actually have a more comprehensive collection of Tektites than meteorites which, when you think about it,
is not that hard to do, since there are a very finite number of Tektite types, while there are thousands of meteorite falls and finds. I have the finest Moldavite collection I have personally ever seen. I put it together keeping the very best one or two specimens from every shipment I got from a Czech Republic digger I work with. He has sent me the most amazing material. He introduced me to the name, "Hedgehog" for the ultra "pointy" type Moldavite that looks like a pin cushion. I now have an actual Hedgehog - a living and breathing animal, inspired by my Moldavite collecting. Once I had the best "stretch Tektite" I have ever seen, bar none, including the photos and reproductions of Nininger's. It was utterly spectacular. However, I sold it for $6,000. Six K will go a long way in making you "well," as they say. However, I have ALWAYS felt ambivalent about parting with that specimen. Man, was that ever a killer piece. If I ever won the lotto, I would make that buyer very happy buying it back. You know, that would be an interesting question to ask any dealers you interview in the future: "What specimens have you sold you would most like to have back?" I bet we would hear about some AMAZING stuff. In any event, that is one of my greatest "losses." It is very interesting being a dealer, especially one with limited funds and a HUGE appetite for collecting, such as I. One is ALWAYS tempted to contribute first to one's collection and make $ second. However, with limited finances, you must function the other way round. Boy, if I had in my collection some of the beauties I have sold! Especially painful are the ones that pass through your hands on  consignment.. I remember a stinking SHEET of Springwater! That thing was HUGE and not very thick, either - and I sold it for someone for about $18K. While that is a lot of money, let me tell you, that was one hell of a piece! I also sold a Tambp Quamado etched slice that was the best I have seen. Actually, I traded that one, as I did own the piece. I will not collect cut irons. Not living in San Diego. The rust problem is just too heartbreaking. Now, if I were Ron or Jim Hartman man, their work just doesn't rust. but that's another story.

Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)

Yes. I try not to, but sometimes, the buying opportunity I get is for something I HAVE to cut. While I don't do much, I like to think of myself as doing an excellent job. I use only 96% alcohol on stones or actually "dry cut" the very precious material, using an 004 blade. I used to be a lapidary, so, I know a little about polishing, but I just use 120, 200, 360, 400, 600, 800, 1,000 & 1,500 grit paper on glass. I much prefer using emery to sand (emery has a hardness of 9 vs. 7 for sand). I rarely use ALL those grits. Some material shows MUCH better at a rougher grit some best at as fine as you can get, others in between. On irons and Pallasites I use oil. But I avoid cutting either except in exceptional circumstances. There are plenty of people out there who specialize and I am not afraid to pay the best. Personally, I would only use Ron or Jim Hartman for irons and/or Pallasites and Russ Kempton (of NEMS) for stones. There is no finer work being done than by those individuals, though I have heard great things about several others and they May do as well, but I know these people's work first hand and their work is of phenomenal quality.

Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?

In my office I have air conditioning (the only room in my house with AC) which drops the humidity level and for the winter, I have a dehumidifier. However, as I stated above, I just won't collect cut irons and only sell them in small quantities I can sell quickly. It is just too painful to see such beauty destroyed by rust.

Is there anything else you would like to add as we conclude this interview?

Yes. I think one of the greatest things about collecting meteorites is connecting with so many fabulous people. Pretty much without exception, meteorite collectors (and dealers) are particularly intelligent, more often than not, well educated and tend to be very interesting characters. Just look around at the richness of characters with which we are surrounded. There are plenty of opinions and not everyone is in agreement all the time - but conflicts of perspective are almost always worked out and the group, overall, is a truly warm community of characters. I am very grateful for that.