An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Jim Tobin

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

Well the reports have come in about the Tucson show and all the wonderful events and sights. I had an interesting trip also, but want to discuss just one thing that happened. I have over the last few years given away quite a number of meteorites. I have sent them to friends passed out some at work and provided some to professors as gifts at the university where my wife works in the astronomy and physics department. I enjoy spreading the specimens around. But, let me be clear about one thing I am not about to give away really expensive and rare material. So I was interested in getting at Tucson a lot of inexpensive stones that I could give away with no pain.

I was sure that it would be NWA 869 by one name or another that I would end up buying. And that is exactly what happened. I spent a couple days seeing typical NWA869 material in tubs and boxes and trays at a range of prices that went from $250 a kilo to a low of $80 a kilo.

I have made it one of my habits to enter every tent on the street to find the obligatory meteorite. Three years ago and even two years ago that was the situation. Every dealer in fossil and crystals had a couple meteorites. This year many did not. Even the dealers for the North West Africa area did not have a single meteorite for sell. But, I still looked. And my efforts were rewarded, for in one of the tents I found some box lids filled with nice NWA 869 type stones. And the price was $50 a kilo. I have a really problem passing up meteorites for 5 cents a gram. So in the poor light of the fading afternoon sun and tent shade I spend about half and hour picking out a kilogram of nice stones. I selected the most completely crusted and prettiest shaped ones he had.

A group of a few small individuals. Cube is 1 centimeter.

I went back to the hotel that evening a really happy collector. I deliberately got a few large pieces to cut and lap as well as the small complete individuals. In the good light of our room I was surprised by how nice some of the stones were. Some were just beautiful. Several were oriented and many had regmaglyphs all over them. I told my friend Alan how nice they were and showed him and he decided that he would like to return and get some for himself after all. So we would return the next day if any were still to be had.

They had no scale so it took a couple trips to the next tent over to use the scale there till I reached 1000 grams. In all I got about two hundred stones from pea size to cherry size. Also, got a few larger fragments.

I did not think I needed another whole kilo, and Alan did not think he needed a whole one either so we were going to split one. Well, you can probably guess where this is going. We began working on a tray each and soon had a big pile each and both said what the heck it is only 5 cents a gram and that's a lot of meteorites per kilo. We ended up with a kilo each that day and I ended up with a second kilo. I picked out mostly the small nearly perfect stones and thought after the first time that I had gleaned through it pretty well. But, I had no problem finding just as many or more beautiful fully complete specimens the second trip. Probably the tent owner dumped a few hundred more into the trays after we left, from his several hundred kilo supply. But, that did not matter to us we were happy both times we left the tent.

Had this been all there was to the purchase it would make an interesting enough story. But, over the last several years I have talked to Marvin Kilgore about the way meteorites are piled together for little apparent reason other than a general similarity of appearance. He made the same comment on each occasion, that you just can not tell what they are till they are cut. He told me that he had cut a batch and found three or four different meteorites in the group. They had all been sold as one type.

After I returned home from Tucson I sat at My desk with my magnifying lamp and began examining some of them. Within a minute or two in good light I began to see subtle differences in the large group and soon had three piles. One large pile that were what I would agree are NWA 869 or one of the other numbers for the same find. Yet there were two smaller piles of stones that do not look exactly like NWA 869. One has a blacker fusion crust and the matrix that shows in broken areas is a yellow or beige color. The last group has a finer texture on the surface and no cracks in the crust. There were only three of these and I have to examine them to see if they are even meteorites. They are only weakly affected by a magnet. They are heavy but could be magnetite.

This is sort of typical of my experiences with meteorites. I often have far more fun and learn more from the most common, low priced meteorites. I do not worry about the cost of the material I use making thin sections if the meteorites were 5 cents a gram. And I don't worry about how many windows I grind to look inside. There were several in my group that are oriented and some that are very unusual in shape.

There was a ponderous amount of this material at the show. But, there May be several different meteorites in the mix. Some treasures May be hidden in plain sight for those willing to hunt. Good luck.