Fossils are seemingly available everywhere these days, in fossil shops, online, even your local fossil enthusiast or geology club. You may see something you like and begin your online search to find the best one you can source. While you’re enjoying browsing discovering more narrowing down your choice. Prices may vary dramatically and perhaps you’re unsure about the variety or pricing which can become confusing.
Let’s try to break this possible confusion down into manageable stages, firstly Desirability, next Quality and finally Price.
1. Desirability; Reason for price differences in fossils of the same type from the same location and similar dimensions, why? The general rule of thumb as mentioned is desirability, quality and price. Note that price is last in the equation. The most important rule is desirability, is it desirable because it is a rare type? Or from a location that produces few of its type? Or it is reasonably unique in its condition or preservation? Or once extracted, cleaned or prepared the cost in time of the preparation has increased the value? These are some of the attributes which effect the first evaluation of desirability.
2. Quality; Although product photography is becoming better on some websites, sometimes images do not reflect a true representation of the product, some may not show or highlight excessive amounts of fillers or fixatives which are generally and widely used in fossil preparation in all facets of our industry, such as local collections and national museums, fixatives which can be camouflaged with modern techniques and colouration. Aesthetics and good symmetry should generally be appealing. Most fossils are not how we would wish to find them, due to enormous pressures underground over millions of years which has the greater part in the final outcome of the fossil. Note evenly placed fossils in any plate or bedrock display, this is an important factor as far as desirability and quality, the quality of preservation is an important factor. How the fossil mineralised, how the processes of per-mineralisation has effected the specimen or if a mould fossil, has it a good form, what we mean here is a fully inflated or a three dimensional body or shell, true to its once living shape or an all around 'as in life' form, whether a fossil ammonite or trilobite or other animal, this good form will command and merit a higher price.
3. Price; If desirability and quality are in place, the third requirement price comes into importance. If the specimen is the only one of its type, alternatively the first of a type to be found, or found in a new fossil location and the quality of preservation is good or excellent, the specimen will command a higher price tag. If none of these criteria apply the price will be pyramidically diminished down to the least attractive or most common types, even thought the fossil maybe millions of years old, the interest becomes esoteric and the value can be very little indeed. Common fossil types picked up off a beach or river bottom may only become of any value with work and preparation skill and then only a few pounds, commanding a high price the fossil specimen must have rarity or at least some of the attributes mentioned above coupled with the rare factor.
These are basic rules for assessing your fossil purchase, which also do apply to any other value driven market.
Authenticity; you’re looking for a well branded retailer, someone reputable who provides the correct information and isn’t shy to point out the imperfections, imperfections can sometimes be a beautiful thing in nature, each fossil is unique and no one will have one like yours, so also bare this in mind. Note good honest imagery, not enhanced or photo-shopped, glitter may catch out the unwary. You want to know if there has been any repairs or restoration, look for condition reports online, and if there isn’t one, ask for one if you are unsure, any fossil or mineral retailer should not begrudge this especially buying at long distance online, retailers particularly online should encourage this process as a code of practice to strengthen confidence throughout our industry.
Don’t be put off by some seemingly high prices. Some fossils merit higher price tags whether its rarity, aesthetic appeal, preparation processes or sizes. If it seems cheap, it’s cheap for a reason, you get what you pay for and like any other value driven market the fossil industry is a competitive one, it’s also a very niche market so bide your time. Spend as much as you can afford on each acquisition to build a comprehensive collection which shall increase in value over time as particular types of fossils become more rare. Fossils are a finite product, not an infinite resource.
So overall, you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing piece, it’s got to be the real deal as far as authenticity is concerned so do your research and buy from a trusted website. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to spend a little more, you’re making an investment and not just emotionally, esoterically or aesthetically, fossils do increase in value. Many fossils are becoming increasingly difficult to excavate. Take into account when you do find a good specimen fossil it may not be available for too long.
We hope this helps and if you wish to comment you can find this article on our social networks which can also be found on the footer of our website The Fossil Store.
Happy fossicking online!
The Fossil Store Team.