We humans are a species of collectors. Ancients things, new things, art, and oddities are all collected. Included in that list are meteorites. But, why do we collect them? One reason is that meteorites are the rarest of objects on our planet. Far rarer than diamonds or other jewels. Some meteorites have a dollar value far higher by many times that of gold. There are a few collectors that are very concerned with just the financial value of meteorites. But, most collectors of meteorites at some point in their lives became fascinated by the idea of owning something that is from outer space and arrived here to be found on the ground. Meteorite collectors have chosen the oldest and the rarest and sometimes the oddest of all the things that humans collect. Meteorites are a record of the way the solar system was originally. They are often older that any of the rocks on our changing planet Earth. We have yet to leave our world and travel beyond it to any other body except the Moon. So meteorites are the only samples we have of what the other planets and asteroids are made of. These things are part of the list of reasons that meteorites are collected.
Once the meteorite collecting bug has stung a person they need to decide how they will build their collection. There are many different ways to collect anything. There is the “one of everykind of a thing” collection. Another type of collection is the “all there are from a country” collection. Other possible collections are the “artistic” or “old” collections. For meteorites these would be collection of specimens that have a beautiful mineral makeup or artistic external shape, or are meteorites that were seen to fall in time long past and have a rich history. There are other collecting schemes including the “I just collect the ones I see that I like” method. I suppose there are as many reasons and types of collections as there are collectors.
One thing to be considered with meteorites is whether they will be displayed or stored. If you are going to display them then their shape or size may be more important than if you are collecting for type and need to fill a blank in a category. In the later case size and form may not be as important. A slice or a small fragment may be enough for a type collection. If the meteorite is to be displayed than some consideration for protecting it from the moist environment of our atmosphere is necessary. On irons a coating of oil may be enough to protect it, with stone meteorites nothing if it is stable or a plastic case may be all that is needed to prevent problems. But, displayed meteorites are often touched and handled so some thought maybe needed in that regard.
What size specimens should one collect? Well this is entirely a matter of personal choice and budget flexibility. If you intend to collect hundreds of specimens from everywhere to fill a type collection then many will be small because little of the individual meteorites exist currently for sell. If on the other hand you are collecting for form and beauty than they may be larger and you’ll choose complete stones or cut stones or large slices. There are many options in each type of collection. For some of the old historic falls there are just no large pieces available, so a small representative specimen is all that one can obtain. For more recent falls larger slices or complete stones are easily available.
There are so many different classifications of meteorites that a collector can enjoy this as a project for years. Trading and upgrading sizes and quality of specimens can extend the pleasure of the collecting experience even further. There has never been a better time to be involved in meteorite collecting. The internet, online auctions, news groups and chat rooms can offer the collector greater access to specimens and information. The major gem and mineral shows all have many meteorite dealers in attendance with fine stocks of specimens. And there has never been a more active time of new material being found and offered to the collector as now. Thousands of meteorites have been found in the last decade. New regions are being searched and meteorites are being recovered everyday. Some meteorite collectors in fact only collect the meteorites they have found themselves.
There are only a limited number of ways to collect coins or stamps. You must always buy the entire item. It must have a certain level of quality to be of much value in a collection. This is very different from meteorite collecting. A small fragment or slice is just as nice in a collection if that is what the person wants as a large piece might be to someone else. Quality is also a widely variable concern in meteorite collecting. Some collectors may be only interested in perfectly fusion crusted stones, another may be interested in seeing the inside and the structure of the stone which requires it be a cut slice or fragment. Both of these are fine ways to collect. In fact many collectors will seek to have a complete or nearly complete meteorite and a slice as well. This to them is the best of all worlds. There is great freedom in meteorite collecting that is not possible in collecting some other things.
Regardless of how one structures or does not structure their collection it will be a collection of the rarest material on Earth. And to most collectors the most fascinating material they could ever conceive of acquiring. A bonus in collecting meteorites is that they seem to never lose their value if protected and stored well. As time goes by individual pieces continue to grow in value.
Another benefit of our recent technological advancement is the recording of specimens in databases and spreadsheets. This makes acquiring new specimens without being redundant much easier. It allows for easy upgrading of specimens. It also facilitates recording the provenance of specimens. This is important especially for historic meteorite falls. Collectors today will often have a printout of their collection with them at gem shows and auctions to aid in remembering what they need or want.
Several times a year a stone will fall from the sky. In a blazing display of light and smoke it may reach the ground as a single individual or perhaps a great number of meteorites. Almost as soon as the event is over, collectors around the world will begin trying to acquire a piece, or a slice, or a whole stone. Soon the supply will we absorbed into their collections and little will be left. After this only occasionally may a piece of this fall appear on the market. This is the way that it has always been, but with a little work and some time most collectors can manage to reach the goals they set. And the journey to the collecting goals is an exciting and wonderful road.