A Three For Me? Meteorite Hunting at the Tucson Show

Back a number of years, I spent more than a few hours at the Tucson Show with Jim Tobin digging through boxes of unidentified NWA stones. There were pallets of rocks with most of the potential meteorites rolling around cardboard board boxes. It was clear that they had already been high-graded by the dealer with the most promising specimens already gone from the selection. However, in one box i found a relatively nondescript chondrite that under 10x magnification showed some features that made it worth the few dollars it would cost.

The problem was that the dealer keyed in right away that Jim and I were not just some rock collectors who perhaps wanted a meteorite just to have one. In other words, there must be a very good reason why Jim or I would be interested in something and likely it meant that someone else has missed it during the high-grading.

Back when meteorites were being harvested from the hot deserts, using a magnet was the first step. But what that actually did was make achondrites fall through the cracks because in the gold rush of NWA and Sahara xxx before that, 95% of the meteorites were chondrites so why bother teaching a potential meteorite hunter the confusing intricacies of achondrites.

Later, it became clear to the local hunters that all those rocks that were not attracted to a magnet might actually be worth much more than the ones that were. Further, as the local hunters got more savvy about meteorite features and values, the rush was on to pull out the best pieces and save them for later (in essence “banking” them), or charge more money per gram.

The locals became quite astute at reading level of enthusiasm of the “western collector.” And that talent was alive and well in Tucson. Knowing this, I chose a couple other “dud” meteorites to dilute my interest and made some off hand but clearly audible comments of picking up some gifts for kids who might like to own a real meteorite.

Once home, I made a few cuts into my stone and polished up the window. It was exactly what I expected and more. But I never got around to sending the specimen off for professional analysis. So I throw out some pictures to you to see what you all think. Could it be an L, an LL, H, C, R, other? Please post your comments and thoughts about what classification this might be.

Until next time….

About the Author

Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association.Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls.Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi's collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.
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