Jump to content
dinosaur12lee

Fossil Investments

Recommended Posts

dinosaur12lee

Hi, Everyone

Im just wondering if fossils are considered good investments because I have heard that many fossil deposits around the world are becoming depleted and the value of fossils are increasing each year. Are certain types of fossils better investments as others and is it true that the collector market continues to increase while the fossil supplies continue to decrease?

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Paleoworld-101

I'm sure you've heard this before but a fossil is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, so although there is no set-value the value of a fossil is indeed influenced by it's rarity, condition and demand from collectors. If there is more demand than specimens the value goes up and vice versa. Fossil deposits where the supply is running out and demand is increasing, yes, i would say these specimens represent promising investments. This also goes for locations which are no longer legal or accessible to collect at but people still want to buy the fossils found there. Rarity and uniqueness can make a specimen a good investment too or quality of preservation which sets it apart from most others e.g large museum grade dinosaur teeth from the Kem Kem of Morocco are going up in price as more and more collectors want to buy them, ignoring the smaller and more common broken/worn teeth.

But monetary value shouldn't be the primary reason to collect fossils in my opinion. The sentimental value and wow-factor that comes with owning a piece if prehistory is the best part for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wrangellian

The Wow Factor of owning a piece of prehistory is partly what drives the demand I think!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pumpkinhead

I think of fossils as a sentimental investment. Holding a fossil is like is holding a piece of Earth's natural history in your hand- history that has taken billions of years to lead up to you. Every single fossil I have ever found is a small part of that story. Fossils have no monetary value to me because when you think of them like that they are priceless, no matter what their rarity or condition is.

If it makes you feel any better, all of the places that fossils are being collected in are constantly being eroded, so new deposits are always being brought to the surface. Plus there are still large parts of he world that are relatively unexplored, and there are bound to be fossils of some kind there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Auspex

My fossil "investment" is in imagination and wonder. I can think of many better avenues for financial investment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JohnBrian

The Wow Factor of owning a piece of prehistory is partly what drives the demand I think!

Its what drives MY demand! But I don't really like buying them, I'd MUCH rather find them. Realistically though, some fossils (raptor tooth/claw, Tyrannosaurus tooth, cerotopsid skull--- sorry to be Jurrassic Park-ish!) I'd like to have, are way out of my price/ability range. The only thing I've bought is a bunch of ferns in mudstone & a piece of slate with a small unknown animal/plant on it and neither of those is likely to increase much in value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pumpkinhead

Another great thing about fossil collecting is looking for them. I've never really bought any fossils either, it's much more exiting to go out and find them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
siteseer

Some fossils have turned out to be good investments (certain taxa or certain taxa from certain localities) and some that would have been good investments twenty-five years ago might not be good ones now because they may be approaching their maximum value. The thing to keep in mind is that the people who say fossils are good investments tend to be people selling fossils. Like the guy promoting some cache of rare coins in a cable channel commercial, the fossil dealer with the "investments" is always selling retail and often the upper reaches of retail. That's fine if you are just looking to add something fantastic to your collection - something you've always wanted. But if you are thinking of "flipping" it in the near-future or the next decade, if you buy from that guy, you are buying high, or very high, and hoping to sell even higher. You are ignoring the old rule about "buying low and selling high." It might work out for some people here and there but how often does it happen in any market? Look at what happened to Beanie Babies.

I am mostly a fossil shark tooth collector, though I still dig, buy, and trade for a little of everything, and I have gotten lucky with a few specimens that I bought in the 90's that turned out to at least quadruple in value. However, I didn't buy them because I thought they were moneymakers. I saw opportunities to buy examples of a species that I recognized as very rare at what I figured as low price relative to that rarity. Each tooth cost less than half the roundtrip travel cost to the site but I couldn't hope to find one every trip or even every 100 trips so I bought them when they were available in that price range. Even in the price range they now occupy, they are "cheap" relative to their rarity but when the bargain becomes hundreds of dollars rather than tens of dollars, it seems less desirable as it rises out of financial reach. There is a point when even the high-end collector starts to wonder how many he wants in his collection.

Some fossils are almost commodities (certain common species selling by the boxfull at a wholesale price) and some have even gone down in value. One of my shark specimens was a nice purchase in its time (25 years ago) but when the Moroccans saw what Americans were buying, they brought more of it. Then, Americans started buying less once they realized that the teeth were not as rare as they thought and the price started to drop because of that resistance. Now, you can buy those by the flat but other teeth have been revealed as actually rare across that time though those prices seem to have settled and you can still make a deal for something you really want.

Another shark tooth I bought was a lucky find at a mineral show (a friend had advised what to keep my eyes open for just the day before), It was the second known specimen of its genus in the market and I got offered ten-times the purchase price or some really cool stuff for it, but I didn't know if I would ever see another one so I kept it. They came out by the flat the following year. If I had been an investor, I would have sold it because that would have been the smart move (the quick flip) but I'm a collector. I have kept a lot of good deals and a few specimens I paid through the nose for.

I would say to be wary of general statements about the commercial value of fossils (or the value of any collectible). Who is saying it's a great time to buy? Sometimes, even real estate goes down in value and like real estate, a buyer becomes hard-to-find when you need to sell and the buyer you do find is going to want a good deal.

Hi, Everyone

Im just wondering if fossils are considered good investments because I have heard that many fossil deposits around the world are becoming depleted and the value of fossils are increasing each year. Are certain types of fossils better investments as others and is it true that the collector market continues to increase while the fossil supplies continue to decrease?

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wrangellian

Its what drives MY demand! But I don't really like buying them, I'd MUCH rather find them. Realistically though, some fossils (raptor tooth/claw, Tyrannosaurus tooth, cerotopsid skull--- sorry to be Jurrassic Park-ish!) I'd like to have, are way out of my price/ability range. The only thing I've bought is a bunch of ferns in mudstone & a piece of slate with a small unknown animal/plant on it and neither of those is likely to increase much in value.

Mine too.. I agree it's more fun to find than buy, but for someone like myself who is into Paleozoic or Precambrian fossils but lives nowhere near places where they are found, it is cheaper to buy. I don't have a big budget either so am always looking for deals. Even then I may never be able to afford a Dickinsonia even if it is at a good price, so the big ticket buyers can have them. I'll wait until a new source of them opens up and the price goes down! (yeah, right..)

In any case Siteseer has some good advice above.

Edited by Wrangellian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pumpkinhead

Paleozoic and Precambrian fossils for the win ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
painshill

You might be interested in the article: “Profiting from the past: Are fossils a sound investment?” published in the journal of the Geological Society of America in August 2013:

http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/23/8/pdf/i1052-5173-23-8-27.pdf

It puts some numbers to the possible financial value of some typical “collectible” fossils over a 20 year period compared to more conventional investment opportunities. The general conclusion is that fossils are a poor investment in absolute terms, and an even worse investment on a comparative basis to other places that you could have put your money.

The other thing that the article doesn’t really draw attention to is that the value is theoretical and if you were attempting to realise that value by anything other than direct collector-to-collector sale, you would never get that full value. If selling at auction, you would have to deduct the auction house commission and if selling to a dealer you might not be offered much more than half the value, since the dealer also has to make a profit when re-selling.

Enjoy them for what they are rather than what they might be worth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dinosaur12lee

Thanks everyone for your opinions! I just brought this up because I read many articles online that said high quality fossils are running out and becoming harder to acquire each year due to the increasing amount of collectors.

Thanks!!!

Gabriel

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wrangellian

Without having read the above article ;) I would think that's true in a few cases, but you really need to know the stuff. I do a lot of browsing and while I have made a few blunders (buys that I regret) I make most of my purchases after careful consideration: I have noticed that the things I am looking for are apparently sought after by others too, so I'm confident I could sell them on any time - I have noticed what the prices usually are for a given thing at a given quality, and when these prices are low they tend to get snapped up and when high I just can't afford them so I don't buy - so I think I can assume that if I had to sell my collection I could get my money back, if not make a noticeable profit. But I don't collect as an investment, I buy like most others here for the enjoyment and fascination and maybe to have stuff to show off! I would never buy anything if I thought I was going to go in the hole in selling it later, but as I say, blunders do happen.

Edited by Wrangellian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dinosaur12lee

So true!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AJ Plai

As a collector of eclectic stuff from art and memorabilia to natural history collectibles, fossils included. I approach my fossils collecting very similar in fashion to my fascination with art and memorabilia. I appreciate fossils for their artistic qualities in their natural beauty as well as the craftsmanship of the preparation not unlike the way people appreciate antiques or sculptures for their workmanship, but my collecting passion is also partly driven by the scientific fascination and personal nostalgia from childhood as well.

While I would not recommend anyone getting into fossils collecting purely for the investment potential. I think there may be some merits to approaching our collecting hobbies in similar fashion to how an investor would approach in collectible investing (or as some investors would like to call "investment grade collectible assets"). So I am trying to bring my experience from other collecting fields (mainly art and memorabilia) that I find have been useful in aiding me in fossils collecting, just for the sake of productive discussion and ideas-sharing.

To be a good collectible investor, you need to develop connoisseurship and connection. When I speak of connoisseurship I mean with regards to knowledge such as how to detect good quality rare specimens, how to research provenance and specimens significance in the market - in my art collecting, this would mean knowing the artist profile, their significance in the art world, how their particular work stand in terms of artistic quality and artistic craftsmanship displayed in work, the rarity of the work ("unique original" vs "edition multiples" vs "mass reproduction"). In fossils collecting this would mean being able to identify a good rare specimen, their provenance, quality of prep job and the specimens aesthetic quality as well as potential nostalgic quality. The "aesthetic and nostalgic qualities" part can be very subjective since we are talking about a collector's emotional response to the specimen's physical attractiveness and personal preference or attachment to particular specimens based on their life experiences, but I would say these particular aspects can also be quite logical and somewhat scientific as well, especially if you are a collectible investor looking to capitalize on the specimens by selling them at later date. You need to know who are the buyers and why they buy and where or how you could potentially sell your items for profit and under what condition to get the best transaction possible.

Since different cultures may be attracted to different kinds of aesthetics sense or colors palette, for example red color or red iridescence ammolites and ammonites seem to sell better and sometimes more expensively than the rarer green-blue-purple ones in Oriental countries for the fact that red tend to be color associated with good fortune and positive energy in many of these cultures. Or how proboscidean specimens especially tusks or crocodile specimens may be especially coveted in Thailand for the fact that we revere these particular creatures in our culture and in our primary folklores. Chinese fossils collectors also similarly seem to have especially high attraction for turtle and winged reptiles since they resemble 2 of the 4 heavenly guardian beasts - the turtle and the dragon, in the Chinese mythological legend. In fengshui terms, these two particular creatures also signify health, longevity and power as well - making turtles and winged reptiles fossils even more desireble from a superstitious perspective. Some culture may value the ideal of symmetry more than others and thus fossil sculptures or fossil morphologies that display such qualities may appeal more (and also priced higher, accordingly) to those particular collectors from those cultures. I think its also no surprise that carnivores and apex predators seem to rank high in terms of collectors desire to posses these magnificent beasts, whether for vanity or to induce a sense of power, thus the skeletons of predators or specimens associated with these beasts "hunting aspects" like teeth and claws go for very high price in the natural history auctions.

As an investing collector, you also need to study "trends" similar to how a stock-trader must study industries in which they invest in, or how art collectors study the art market trend before they make purchase. In terms of fossils collecting that would be for collectors to know information related to the supply and demand of fossils (any new sites or dealers flooding the market with certain specimens or fakes? or closed sites or bans that would ensure particular specimens won't come into the market anymore - e.g. Lee Creek & South American Meg specimens) as well as new paleontological discoveries that may affect the desire of the specimens - imagine for example if new paleontological discoveries manage to show that Triceratops were vicious carnivore - the price and desirability of triceratops specimens could also increase as a result. One of the sources you could look for these potential desire trend and information are in natural history auction catalogues of major auction houses and also in pop culture media like films, tv & games. I think there is no better example than how the Jurassic Park film franchise and surge of dinosaur documentaries have resulted in the general value appreciation of dinosauria specimens - with Tyrannosaurs in particular. Knowing the trends aspect will help collecting investor identify what's going to be hot, when and where it's going to be hot and plan acquisition accordingly - they do this sort of forecast in the art and memorabilia market all the time and I see no reason why this can't be applied to natural history collectibles.

As an investor collector, its important to develop connections especially in the field of diggers and dealers since you will likely not make much profit from fossils unless you can "buy low and sell high" - that means if you are buying specimens at retail price then you aren't likely to make any profits re-selling those specimens in at least a few years. So unless you know the right connection who could get u quality rare specimens at much lower than retail prices, the chance of you quick-flipping to make money would be very slim - i.e. much better chance at making profits to be a well connected "dealer" who can "acquire" good supplies of inventory rather than being a "collector" who "collect/purchase" (at retail value) to invest.

Most investment collectibles market seem to suggest that u need to keep items for at least 5-10 years to see any significant appreciation and I think this logic can apply to natural history collectibles like fossils just as well. The most difficult part probably, is that you have to sell at the right time when the price is good and the demand is high, but what I usually see in most collectibles market is that collectors tend to try to sell when the economy is bad - which is probably one of the worst time to sell since people will likely not have as much disposable income to indulge in collectibles - meaning these collectors/investors are most likely going to make a loss. Pretty much the only group of people who may still be able to buy high-priced fossils at times of bad economy you are likely only ever going meet them on prominent auction floors, and these people don't buy cheap mundane stuff - they tend to go for big vanity and show pieces to decorate their homes, offices, private museums or galleries. You then need to ask yourself whether if you have those specimens in your collection that you can flip at these auctions to these buyers to make big bucks? Chances are you don't, but if you do you are probably either: a well-connected dealer (i.e. not really an investing collector) or a very wealthy collector who probably buys for passion and not to invest to get rich. If you have the budget to indulge in a mosasaur skeleton, a mammoth skull or a jaw piece of a tyrannosaur (or the many so called rare "investment grade" specimens that go for loads of $$ at auctions) to add into your private collection you most likely already are very rich and don't need to invest in collectibles to become so!!

Last but not least, to be an investor you can't really grow much emotional attachment to your collection which is kind of the anti-thesis of being a passionate collector!! Chances are if you develop such a good connoisseurship and connection to become very good at collecting fossils, your passion will be so high that you will find it very hard to part with your items. The only exceptions are perhaps if you are quitting the hobby, are under financial crisis or are looking to trade up and don't mind selling some old stuff to get something newer and better.

Having said all these, I think its a bad idea to get into the hobby purely from an investment perspective, but you can develop an investment-oriented mindset to help you be more knowledgeable in the market so you can detect good specimens at good deals. Buy smart, collect from the heart and if the collection turn out to appreciate in value after all the years then consider that a bonus! Most top passionate collectors in many collectibles fields (and I believe at least a number of top fossil collectors are among them) seem to end up with collections that are worth more than what they originally paid for not because they were intent to collect to invest, but they collect because of the passion with great connoisseurship accompanied by smart knowledge.

If anyone is looking to invest in fossils to get rich, I would suggest invest in fossil fuel instead, they will probably have a much better chance.

Just my 2 cents.

Edited by AJ Plai

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Auspex

Very well said, AJ; thank you for your considered insight!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wrangellian

Having read AJ's treatise I am a little leery of any promotion of fossil buying for investment purposes. If this form of collecting were to become more popular, it would be that much harder for the little guy like myself to collect, much as property investors just inflate property values making it harder for the little guy to get a nice home when all he wants to do is live in it. Furthermore, more sites would get closed off because of treasure seekers, etc. - This issue has come up here on TFF whenever there is talk of a Reality TV program in the works about fossil hunters.

But neither do I ever want to see a full ban on buying and selling fossils anywhere because then I think many but the most die-hard scientific collectors would quit collecting and scientists would otherwise have to get the grants and time to go collect them themselves, and consequently more fossils would be left out there to disintegrate (as most of the fossils that are unlucky enough to find themselves in parks do) and the only place the average person could see fossils is in a museum. So I am happy to discourage investment buying but also discourage bans on buying/selling/collecting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fossilized6s

Fossils as an investment, i will echo others and say "not a great idea". BUT.....if you find them and prep them yourself, it's pure profit if you want to sell them (that's after you've paid off your prep equipment). Again spending your time finding the fossils is a cost (to some), and everyone's value of time varies. I just like being outdoors, and if I'm finding cool fossils, that's a plus. Would i make a business out of it...."no". Making a few bucks on specimens that are just sitting in boxes and will probably never adorn my displays....."yes please".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
rylawz

the bottom line is buy bulk overseas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ukll

The only way you are going to make money is if you find something rare yourself, you won't get rich buying fossils and then selling them again. I tend to buy a lot of my fossils as I collect mammal fossils and there's limited material to be found round my way.

I do find a lot of other stuff, shark teeth, marine reptile material etc but nothing of value so far, even if i found something worth selling I couldn't see me selling it, I intend to leave my collection to the three children my girlfriend has told me we are having :wacko:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mammothhunter

Gosh. SO much reading on this topic... As primarily a dealer, I tend to try to find some middle-ground, on what I get a fossil for, what I see others that are similar to it, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Auspex

Gosh. SO much reading on this topic... As primarily a dealer, I tend to try to find some middle-ground, on what I get a fossil for, what I see others that are similar to it, etc.

Then, too, a dealer's goal is to turn the inventory, as opposed to sitting on it and waiting for it to appreciate. Short-term vs. long-term investment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×