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Notkin Meteorite Auction Wrap Up

Last issue I presented an interview I had with Geoff Notkin regarding the auction of his meteorite collection. After doing the interview and speaking with Geoff several times as the article was put together I got pretty excited myself about the event. I decided it was not something I wanted to miss. So I booked a round-trip ticket to Dallas which turned out to be easier than expected. Usually, I have to get from one to three connecting flights to go where my wife and I want to fly. We leave out of Bakersfield and have never had a direct flight anywhere. It has always required at least a flight to San Francisco or LAX to build a plane load and then go on. But American Airlines had a direct flight to Dallas taking only two and one-half hours. That was fantastic for this trip. I would leave early and have most of a day in Dallas even with losing a couple of hours going east.

About three weeks before the auction I got a text message from Geoff Notkin at almost the same moment I got a call from Bob Holmes. I had not spoken to Bob in several years and had of course missed running into him in Tucson at the gem show because we had not gone in the last two years. I had no idea what the call might be about. I was charging my phone in the other room and had not made it in three rings so I called Bob back. As it turned out he was going to the auction and wanted to find out where I was staying if I had booked a hotel yet and if we could hang out together. This was great I was expecting to be alone on the trip unless I ran into people I knew at the preview reception and the actual auction. Bob also said he had talked to Geoff and learned I was interested in visiting the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Gallery and asked if he could go along. I was happy to have him come with me. After I chatted with Bob and gave him my hotel information I finally looked at the text message from Geoff and it was about having Bob share the visit time at the Monnig. I wrote back to Geoff that I was delighted to have the company and that Bob was going to try and book a room at the same hotel and that we would share a car for going about the Dallas, Fort Worth area. I had not been looking forward to eating in restaurants by myself either.

About two weeks before the auction I took another look at the Heritage Auctions website. I pulled up the Notkin Meteorite Signature Auction and saw that many items had a current online bid. Some of the items had significant bids. It took a few minutes to tally up the numbers. I was happy to see that Geoff was already showing great activity with 17 days to go. It was looking like the auction was going to be a great success and my level of excitement was rising every day.

I had signed up for a printed auction catalog. It arrived a couple of weeks before the auction and my response to seeing it was Wow! As a lifelong printer, printing, and publishing company owner I was very impressed with the quality and complexity of the design. Geoff wrote to ask if I had gotten a copy and I told him “Yes I got the masterpiece!” I added, “It was a print job that I would not have enjoyed doing until very late in my career.” At the end of my life as a printer, the shop had a 20×29 Shinohara four-color with all the bells and whistles that were available then. It could have done the auction catalog without much trouble. It is certainly a book that deserves a place alongside the many other major collector’s catalogs printed over the last 25 years.

9 days before leaving I was getting more excited about the trip. But added to that I had just received the stones that Jason Phillips and I had gotten in one of our shared, buy, classify, and enjoy projects. It was two stones found in a place lunars had not been found before. A desert place so bleak, flat, and hot that nothing but sand and the horizon can be seen. Fortunately, there is an occasional meteorite scattered across the featureless landscape. And though the final determination is solely in the hands of Tony Irving, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a genuine Lunar meteorite find. At that moment on the tenth of June, I had cut the large stone and polished the halves. I had sent off the type specimen two days earlier. The final clue cementing my certainty of its lunar nature were the tiny few metal sparkles I could see on the polished surfaces. I was having a really exciting two weeks before the auction trip.

I did have one dilemma though. After thirteen years of retirement, my wardrobe is reduced to blue jeans, plaid shirts, and hiking boots. The visit to the Monnig Gallery, the reception on the evening of the 20th, and the auction itself might require just a bit nicer. But all we have in our little town is a Walmart. I actually like Walmart. Now I never shopped there when we lived in the Los Angeles area there were malls everywhere stuffed with clothing stores. But things are much easier in town now that Walmart arrived. There is no other store that has clothing near us. Unfortunately, Walmart has what I described as being my current wardrobe. Looked like I might have to drive to the “big” city and find something nice to wear or hunt through the closet more carefully for some combinations in there. I did find three dress shirts in my closet and a nice pair of khaki slacks. So all I needed was another pair of slacks and I was all set wardrobe-wise for the trip.

I thought that this occasion required a special commemoration of some kind. Geoff selling his collection that he took decades to build needed something. So I went into the studio and took some clay added some meteorite cutting powder to it and created the ceramic tile which is pictured below. I could have just stamped in the words in English but decided to use cuneiform instead. I have used cuneiform in ceramic projects before so I had alphabet sheets and a reed tool already made. The tile reads “The Notkin Meteorite Collection Auction Dallas 6 22 22.” The glaze is made from lunar meteorite cutting powder and the edges are overglazed with 24 karat gold.

I had to get up at 2 am to get ready for the drive to the airport on Monday morning June 20. If I left the house at 3 am I would arrive at the Bakersfield airport at 4 am the two hours early that is recommended. As it turned out I was too excited to get much sleep and sort of cat napped only until 2 am. It was a smaller plane than I am used to but it was a very convenient direct flight.

We arrived in Dallas at about 11:00 am Texas time. I had made the pickup time for the rental car at 11:30 without realizing that it was a tremendously long drive to the rental car center far from the terminals. I hoped that I got there close enough timewise and they did not give my car to someone else. This turned out to be like most worrying no concern. As I entered the rental center I saw two-hour-long lines at some of the companies. But at Hertz, there was just one person already being served I was on my way with my car in just minutes.

The Heritage Auctions headquarters is right at the airport only minutes away so I decided I would go there and take a look around at the items in the Notkin auction. I had to kill almost four hours until I could check-in at the hotel and I still needed to eat something. My last meal had been dinner at the house on Sunday night. I signed in at the desk and was asked to just wait until someone came to take me back to the display area. Moments later Craig Kissick the man in charge of the Notkin auction came to get me. I introduced myself and there was immediate recognition since we had published the interview and he had personally sent me one of the auction catalogs. A large corner area of an immense room was devoted to Geoff’s auction. The following images show many of the meteorites that were up for sale.

This was one of my favorites in the auction a beautiful etched specimen of Agoudal. It shows nicely the recrystallization and has a large size nodule of troilite in the center.

The “Red Guitar” was also there in a display case. I was not intending to be a bidder at the auction but my wife had her eye on the Red 1970’s Ibanez Flying V Cherry Electric Bass Guitar. The short story of Sara and the Guitar is that we visited Geoff about ten years ago at his home in Tucson. I had delivered a truck load of old electronic lab equipment that I was never going to need again but that would be great for props in a movie Geoff was going to star in. During our stay, we were taken on a tour of his home and his guitars were on display in one of the rooms. Sara had seen and been taken by the bright red V-shaped bass. My wife’s favorite color is red. When she saw that it was in the auction she wanted to try and get it. I was going to be gone but one of our daughters was going to stay with her and at first, we thought they would do the live auction internet bidding method with the two of them working to watch the screen and place bids. But before I left for Dallas I had her place a secret bid for as much as she wanted to spend. That bid would be bidded automatically for her in increments until she might be outbid. So she placed a significant prior bid and waited to see what would happen. This proved to be a fantastic idea for there was a thunderstorm with lightning on the morning of the auction that knocked out the power and she would not have been able to bid. The guitar was item 77 in the auction and I was there live at Heritage with great hope she would win the guitar. There had been about four bids on the guitar before the auction and the current bid on auction day was $550. There was a raise to $575 and then another online bid to $600 and then an internet bid of $625 and it was over. “Final Warning. Looking for $650 no. . . . .sold $625. If the system was not broken Sara should have gotten the Red Guitar. This was rather quickly confirmed and I had a very happy wife at home. Sara had made a deal with Geoff that if she got the guitar he would autograph it for her. Which he had done before I returned home later that night. The guitar at the time of this writing is still on its way to Sara but I am sure it will arrive safely in the next two weeks or so.

Back to my visit after landing Craig Kissick let me know that Geoff was there in the building and would be free in a few minutes. This was happy news I had talked to him numerous times in the last couple of months by phone and email, and text messages, but had not seen him in person for several years. I was looking forward to that. I checked out the cases and photographed most of the specimens. Mr. Kissick had permitted me to do so. After a brief time, Geoff emerged from a back room and we had our greeting. After chatting for a while I told him I had a gift for him. I was glad I was getting to give it to him alone so it was not an interruption later when he would be working at the preview or the auction.

I finally said goodbye and headed toward my hotel. I was happy I had map navigation on my phone because I had not been to Dallas since the mid-1970 and I did not know at first where I was. By the end, I was starting to get an idea of where the three of four places I had to go were. There was Denny’s right next door to the hotel and I still had almost an hour before the 3 pm check-in time. So I went there for a meal. They serve breakfast all day so I had their FrenchToast Slam. I checked into my room and got some cat naps while I waited for Bob Holmes whose plane was to land at five. About 5:15 I headed to the lobby and in just a few minutes the hotel shuttle pulled up with several passengers one of whom was Bob. I had not seen Bob in several years either. We talked for a few moments then headed to our rooms to get get a bit of rest before doing something about dinner. The hotel had a patio restaurant and we chose to try it for dinner. The food was remarkably good and we sat there chatting until quite late long after the sun went down. The next morning was the day we were heading to the Monnig Museum and later the Auction Preview in the evening.

After arriving at the Heritage Auctions headquarters we were let into the display room and there was a good-sized crowd of perhaps a hundred or more attendees. I headed pretty quickly to the refreshments to get a soda as the 100+ Dallas temperature had dried me up a little. The cold Dr. Pepper was very refreshing. Dr. Rhiannon Mayne curator of the Oscar E. Monnig Museum was in attendance at the preview. As I mentioned a moment ago Bob and I had the opportunity to visit the meteorite gallery and museum earlier in the day. My other article in this issue is about that visit.

Geoff Notkin and Dr. Rhiannon Mayne at the auction preview.

Steve Arnold was in attendance and gave a brief talk about travels with Geoff before and during the filming of The Meteorite Men TV series. Geoff was introduced and talked about why he was having the auction of his meteorite collection. He introduced one of the leaders of the Beads of Courage charity that is receiving a portion of the proceeds of the auction. It is a wonderful international charity that works with seriously ill children. They receive a bead for every shot or procedure they have during their treatment. It has been a charity close to my heart as well and I have made beads for them over the years, but I was unaware until the speaker at the auction said that 500 beads are the average that the children receive to string during treatment. One of the founders of Texas Through Time a paleontology museum spoke too. They are the other nonprofit that is receiving a portion of the proceeds from the auction. He told us about their wonderful museum and its outreach programs.

Steve Arnold the other co-star of The Meteorite Men television show spoke at the auction preview before turning over the microphone to Geoff Notkin.

We wandered around the room as one does at these events and after a considerable enjoyable time, Bob and I were off to dinner with a few others at a restaurant nearby. I sat between Geoff and Dr. Rhiannon Mayne which made for an exceptionally nice time. The crew at the restaurant finally threw us out sometime after everyone else had left. I don’t know about anyone else but I had no idea we had gone so far past closing time. We were having way too much fun to notice. Bob and I got back to the hotel with the help of the navigation voice from my phone. I wanted to get a good night of sleep but it was not to be. I had a very restless night instead.

But regardless of how much sleep I had lost I was up and excited for auction day. I only felt like having a tiny breakfast at the hotel. I had to check out of my room because I was flying home straight from whatever we did for dinner after the auction and check-out time was 11 am and we would be gone from the hotel before that. The auction was to begin at noon and my last chore was to gas up the rental car. We headed out to the Heritage Auctions Headquarters again.

This was the first real live auction I ever attended. I don’t count the ones over the years at the Tucson gem show. This was a highly professional affair with two very capable, knowledgeable female auctioneers. Both were quite meteorite savvy. They switched places at the podium every fifty items. They handled the fast-moving activity of bids coming from live in the room, from the internet, over the phone, and prior secret bids with amazing perfection, while constantly encouraging higher bids from all those audiences. The auction lasted almost exactly three hours.

Geoff spoke briefly before the auction began and then the fun started.

It was interesting for me as a meteorite collector to see the bids that the specimens realized. Some were a bit lower than retail, others much higher. There were relatively few that moved to the after-auction sales site and most of those should have been bid on in my opinion.

This was one of the meteorites I was following to see if it would sell. It did indeed sell and at the asking price of $40,000. It is truly a unique-looking meteorite with its two round cavities that stare out hauntingly when you look at it.
Who would not want a meteorite that looks like a Brachiosaur skull? This zoomorphic Mundrabilla weighing 373.9 grams was another favorite of conversation as I eavesdropped on the room at the preview.

This is the largest piece of Wabar impactite material I have ever seen weighing in at 921.3 grams. It has a piece or two of the iron meteorite engulfed within its melted glass and insta-rock. It is truly a world-class specimen from the here today and gone tomorrow often sand-filled crater complex.

Over the last few years meteorite spheres have done very well. I am always interested in watching them for I have several. Mine are small than this 6 cm diameter 433.3-gram beauty that Geoff was offering. NWA 869 has everything that a chondrite can have and it all shows in this sphere.

I left home with the intent to not bid on anything. But I have to admit that there were items in the auction that I would not have minded adding to my collection. The first was the original Meteor Crater Exploration and Mining Company stock certificate. Most readers of this article know by now that my passion is Meteor Crater history. I have very fine copies of both the preferred stock and the common stock but nothing beats an original. The other item I thought about biding on was the Meteorite Men clapperboard. It would have looked great in one of my display cases but I kept my resolve and did not bid at the auction.

There were approximately twenty people present in the actual auction room. Which the first auctioneer indicated was a surprise. To me, that meant they rarely have attendees at auctions. There were some bids from the room and as the people bid on the items they wanted the number dwindled to just a handle full of friends like myself who had come to experience the event. The big television screen showed an image of the item and some details but never the weight of the meteorite. So I had my phone on the auction website watching it live online. There I could see all the details, especially the weight. In my mind, I calculated the per gram price as the bidding happened to see how the item was lining up with what I thought it should go for. That was great fun except that I used all my phone battery without realizing it. I was going to have only a few minutes to charge it while driving to the airport very nearby. My boarding pass was digital as I had no way of printing it out at 11 pm the night before. I usually carry a printed backup boarding pass. Now I had to save my phone’s power enough to get through the TSA first scan. I would have two hours to charge it after that. I had only 9% battery when I got to the airport. I had brought my Nikon P80 and used it for most of the photography on the trip. It’s much smaller than my Canons and I don’t have to bring lenses. It has an 18x zoom and macro ability plus vibration reduction. A really handy camera for travel and meteorite hunting. With no phone battery left it was all I could use after the auction. We took group pictures and said goodbye to those who had to leave. Steve Arnold left pretty soon after the auction as he had a drive ahead of him to get home.

The remaining few of us, all friends of Geoff chatted for about another hour and a half in the display room of Heritage Auctions and then again headed to the same restaurant. This was fine with me the food and atmosphere had been great the night before. I needed to have something for dinner since breakfast had been tiny and I was not going to get home until 1:30 in the morning. And I had an hour drive after reaching the airport. So I had a hearty meal and we chatted until 8 pm when I had to leave the restaurant and head for the rental car return. From there it was a fifteen-minute ride on a shuttle bus back to the terminals.

The flight home was fine though we could see near the end the snaking orange lines of fires burning on ridges far below. There was plenty of lightning to be seen out the plane window too. As we exited the plane we were choked by the acrid smokey air in Bakersfield. My car was covered with so much ash I had to use the washer fluid and wipers to make seeing the road possible. I was beat when I got home but very glad I had chosen to go. I saw friends I had missed for years and experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event. And I had visited a major meteorite museum and gotten a grand tour there.

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