This story was originally written for “The Fusion Crust”, the newsletter of the IMCA. Recently, I made another high dollar trade that actually began many, many months ago. However, it took the fall of the Park Forest stone meteorite through the ceiling of Noe Garza’s home to give this trade the push it needed. As I was thinking this more recent meteorite trade, I remember many of the same feelings as I did during the trade described in the following story. Therefore, I saw it as fitting to share it once again.
The Anatomy of a Trade
Gibeon for Johnstown at 1:1?
by Martin Horejsi
Part of the fun of trading meteorites is the surprise that awaits you when opening the package containing your new specimen. Since meteorites are really their own commodities containing any value one decides to place on them, strange things can happen when trading meteorites. And so goes the story here.
I was working as a middleman in a large institutional meteorite trade. As is often the case when rare or large specimens are traded, smaller ones enter the arena to “grease the wheels” so to speak. Part of this particular institution’s reason for holding a meteorite collection was for teaching purposes. Therefore, I saw an opening to toss in a nice little slice of Gibeon to supplement the teaching portion of the collection. The 78-gram Gibeon was etched, and had a bit of crust, but it was no prize, just a good solid representative of a fine octahedrite.
Following the successful trade, one of the parties offered to replace my Gibeon since it was such a small expense given the nature of what was traded. But since a replacement Gibeon would be a while in coming, a piece of Udei Station would be sent to “hold me over” till a suitable Gibeon was found. The 200g Udei Station was interesting, but it was more what was left over after all the good pieces were cut from an odd shaped mass.
The blocky piece resembled a wedge of cheese with loads of interior, but little exterior, and just a sliver of weathered crust.
I knew the selling price of Udei Station the US, but was surprised when I noticed some for sale in Europe for a price 4-5 times as high! When opportunity knocks, open the door. So that is exactly what I did. I studied European meteorite dealers’ inventories on the Net in hopes of finding a suitable target for a trade. I also knew time was money, because a 10kg mass of Udei Station was in the process of being cut and distributed. To maximize the trade value of my piece, I had to act before the other Udei Station hit the open market.
At this same time, a European dealer was offering large slices of Johnstown at seemingly low price. The dealer listed only one large piece of about 75 grams, with all the other pieces much smaller and more expensive per gram. The 75-gram Johnstown did not have the greatest of surface-to-weight ratio and it had only a bit of crust, but it was still a rarity. I calculated the necessary value of my Udei Station compared to the Johnstown, composed an email outlining my proposal, crossed my fingers, and clicked the send button.
Several days after launching my trade proposal into the European ethernet, I received a favorable reply accepting my offer. I quickly shipped off the Udei Station still wondering if I missed anything. Maybe I overlooked a comma or period in the weight. Did I just trade my Udei Station for a 7.5 gram piece of Johnstown instead of a 75 gram one? Then came another email. The piece of Johnstown I had traded for was sold earlier at a mineral show, and there had been a mix-up in communication. Now the prospect of a 7.5 gram piece was looking better.
Another email appeared a few days later. My Udei Station arrived in Europe and, to my surprise was perceived as being even better than described. Therefore, an even better piece of Johnstown would be sent. About a week later, a small box arrived tied shut with string. As soon as I saw the box, I figured that I was now the proud owner of 75 grams of Johnstown dust and crumbs. Nothing could have survived a long journey intact in such a little box, let alone a specimen as fragile as a diogenite. And worse, the specimen I was hoping for would be about the same size as the box.
The box and I went out to lunch. After ordering some food, I sat at a table and carefully cut the strings. No tape secured the lid, just frail cotton threads. I lifted the lid and peered inside. Between two thin layers of cotton batting sat a perfectly shaped quarter slice of Johnstown, the curved edge of the triangle completely covered in crust. The tiny, understated specimen card read simply: Johnstown, diogenite, 81 grams. My food never tasted so good!