Holzmaden in Baden-Württemberg, South-Western Germany, a small town which has a world-renowned reputation among palaeontologists having a wealth of prehistoric life entombed in fossil oil shale layers. These layers stretch under and around the local region and through the small hamlet established circa 1671 when records show the number of inhabitants was only forty-three souls.
The geological area around Holzmaden contains layers of well-preserved fossils (or Lagerstätten), from the Jurassic period, these 180 million year old Posidonia Shales, which include exceptionally well preserved and in some instances complete remains of fossil fish, marine reptiles, ammonites and the impressive crinoids, is well known. The museum Hauff dedicating exhibits of large plates full of Seironcrinus subangularis crinoid heads and stems can be found in the town.
The Posidonienschiefer formation (as it is known to German paleontologists), takes its name from the ubiquitous fossils of Posidonia bronni which characterize the fauna of this region of Jurassic time. The formation comprises of laminated layers of oil shales formed of fine-grained sediment intercalated with bituminous limestones which outcrop in several locations of the region, although most are found in the vicinity of the town.
These dark shales create highly decorative fossil plates, the mineral contents of the region also contain iron pyrites, these pyrites in the form of 'fools gold' deposits create wonderful iridescence which has been in some cases absorbed by the fossils, this differential between dark shales and golden flowery fossil heads on long stems swaying in forgotten ancient currents creates a romantic scene from antiquity. Highly sort after by collectors and the interior decorator trade, this enthusiasm coupled with the quarries sites being now protected has created a deficiant supply not meeting a new demand and so creating a desirable fossil for investors cashing in on the fossil windfall.
The Posidonia Shale quarry of Jurassic age lie near the town and are the most famous for having produced in the past the most wonderful crinoid plates. The Ancient world museum (Urweltmuseum) in Holzmaden has several exhibits of the fossil from a tropical past, including marine reptiles, ammonoids, and crinoids.
Nowadays heritage laws protect these fossils and there collecting, although a private quarry still operates near the museum and invites the visitor to hire equipment and to try your hand at fossicking for the ancient fossils of the Jurassic. Although each find will be examined by museum staff and retained for the museum if deemed of importance for the national collections.
In recent years these long-established German favorites have reached fossil shows and displays around the globe.The fossil store has included large plates into renowned auction houses in England, where the presence of the highly decorate fossils did not go unnoticed by investors and collectors. In the area of the auction rooms plates started to reach higher and higher prices, the demand outstripped the supply of fossil plates from old collections, which lay in Germany. Once these have been all extinguished prices will continue to rise as supply cannot continue.
So the basic rules of desirability and quality outstrip the issue of the price ticket. These enigmatic fossil flowers, as often they are described, will continue to intrigue and delight buyers and onlookers and should steadily increase in value. The fact that the fossils are rarer than gold will not go unnoticed by the savvy investor with an interest in natural history, paleontology, and ancient art, looking for diversity in a portfolio, or just to admire on the wall as natural art. For more information on our Holzmaden fossils, you can visit our Holzmaden fossil category here.