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Do most collectors not buy fossils?


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I watched a youtube video on a fossil collection someone had purchased, and someone in the comment section actually said something like "buying fossils is for (expletive). I go out in 110 degrees and work all day to find mine".

 

I thought "wow! do people really think like that?".

 

So is there some unsaid rule that people who dig their own fossils are somehow cooler or tougher than those who buy them? I don't have any accessible fossil sites near me. My collecting career was limited to a few months I spent in southwestern New Mexico. I was then in an accident from which I'm still recovering, which prohibits me from strenuous activity.

 

Just curious. I just bought some fossils online.

 

Scott 

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Must have been the same guy that said real men don't eat quiche. Don't let the comments of one person throw you for a loop.

Many people are not at the advantage of being in areas with excesable fossils.  Some just enjoy the hunt and finding their own is all they collect. You are not the minority in purchasing some of your collection. If buying fossils was so "wrong" then fossil shows wouldn't be so popular.

I do love getting out and finding treasures of my own, but I also purchase and trade as well. If that doesn't make me a purist that so be it!

caldigger

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40 minutes ago, caldigger said:

Must have been the same guy that said real men don't eat quiche. Don't let the comments of one person throw you for a loop.

Many people are not at the advantage of being in areas with excesable fossils.  Some just enjoy the hunt and finding their own is all they collect. You are not the minority in purchasing some of your collection. If buying fossils was so "wrong" then fossil shows wouldn't be so popular.

I do love getting out and finding treasures of my own, but I also purchase and trade as well. If that doesn't make me a purist that so be it!

caldigger

Now, I don't eat quiche.

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I love quiche. And i am better than you because i also face the 110 degree heat for fossils.  

Just kidding.  105 stops me dead.  And i am only better than you cuz i eat quiche.  : )

I am very proud to say that i am a self collector.  I enjoy seeing self collected stuff better than bought stuff, but that is just me.  Also i would never say what that guy said.  I know others are proud of their fossils they buy... I have een it a thousand times here, but to me more than half the fun is being out there.  And, yes, i live in a fossil rich area.  

Feelings on this run all over the map, i am sure.

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I think that guy should give quiche a chance. John Lennon did. I did too and I love it. I also love collecting in the field and shall continue doing that as long as my physique holds up. But I'm not averse to purchasing or trading for something if it interests me and is not readily available for me on my excursions. But if you study the theme closely, you'd probably notice that the best quality all-round collections are usually mostly purchased. People who amass their fossils that way are just as passionate about it as are the guys who like to dig and delve.

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Scott, the good news is that although people like the one on YouTube exist they are in the minority, just ignore them.  All you have to do is attend a Tucson or Denver fossil show and talk to masses of collectors to find out how passionate they are about their hobby.   Those that have access to fossil sites love the hunt but most supplement their collection with purchases.   I've been collecting fossils for 25 years and love to collect, in the field, every chance I get.  I'm one of the fortunate few that has access to land with dinosaur material but most collectors don't, so buying is their only option.   It's very rewarding and a rush to find a theropod bone or tooth in the harsh environment of badlands, definitely cool.  Having said that my Jurassic Park collection :ighappy: is where it's at not because of my field skills but because it's rounded out with my purchases.  

 

Scott enjoy your online purchases and be proud of what you've gotten.  

 

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LordTrilobite

I buy most of my fossils. I've done some searching for fossils as well. But there's some stuff you're very unlikely to get. Or some fossils are just not present in the locations you can search in your local area.

 

For me personally, it's all about learning about these amazing extinct creatures that once roamed the earth. For that purpose, buying fossils works fine. Of course finding your own fossils has it's own rewards. Not everyone collects for the same reasons.

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QUICHE LIFE 4EVER!

Ha ha, just kidding.

Anyways, a majority of the fossils, minerals, and artifacts I own I've purchased or traded with a number of friends with the same interests.

I think purchasing it is fine and if some think otherwise, so be it. I don't exactly have contact to a fossil formation either, I live in an urban community in San Antonio Texas. I had this same exact problem when I first joined this forum, but I learned it doesn't matter whether you bought it or not, just make sure its worth talking about! 

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I myself have bought and found fossils in the past, right now even and will do so in the future.   Like said above, don't let anyone make you think otherwise. 

 

RB

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In an ideal world, you'd do both. Nothing quite beats pulling a row of icthyosaur verts, or a huge nautilus out of the ground yourself. On the other hand, you can't be everywhere; I'm not going to Morocco or Madagascar for example, so buying them in is my only option. Plus, there is a certain skill to buying the 'right stuff'!

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As with many things 'it depends'.

 

The issue with 90% of specimens in collections is that they are non-scientific keepsakes.  That's fine as there is also nothing wrong with collecting thimbles or tea cups.

 

At the GSC and at our University, if a fossil has no proper provenance it becomes driveway gravel.  It is just an infiltrated virus in a collection that needs to be culled. Its like taking blood samples from 10 individuals...and the labels fall off.   Everything is tossed.

 

Perspective is needed.  Fossils are fun to possess. People can buy or trade them to their hearts content.  Its a great hobby.  It leads people to learn more about geology, Nature, etc.

 

Paleontology and science is not a matter of 'fairness'.  Because one doesn't live in a fossil rich locale, is no excuse for  confusing collectables with scientific specimens. In fact, one should be even more diligent in making sure a specimen has proper info if not self collected. 'Amateur' doesn't mean second best but doing some activity for the intrinsic value in it'. 

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Ptychodus04

I fully agree with the comments above. People with a chip on their shoulder and a disparaging comment about other styles of collecting are fools. It takes all kinds. Collecting styles change over time as well. I used to buy some fossils, have traded many times, moved away from that to focusing on collecting local exposures only, and have moved from that to a focus on preparation. I actually very rarely get into the field to collect these days but I see, study, and handle many more specimens (albeit belonging to others) through preparation.

 

Collections and collectors evolve. If it's not illegal or immoral, do what makes you happy.:D

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Well Scott, unlike many members here, I am what you call a 'pure collector' as in every single one of my specimens have been bought, traded, or gotten as gifts. Here in Singapore, there are no longer any viable fossil sites that I can access, so those are my only option.

 

The commenter you mentioned is probably in the minority. I like to think that I do my part for science by bringing my purchased specimens to schools and museums.

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Wendell Ricketts

FWIW: I've been collecting since 1973, and I've never once bought a fossil. I *very* occasionally trade, but rarely, and for the same reasons that I don't buy: I want my collection to have scientific value, and I've yet to meet a fossil seller who is willing to tell you (or who knows) precise location/horizon information. Many are not even remotely knowledgeable about what they have.

 

For me, fossil collecting is different from stamp collecting or something similar, where it's common to buy the items you collect.

 

That said, I realize that people collect fossils for all kinds of different reasons, and not everyone has (or has to have) the same motivations I have. As others have mentioned, not everyone has access to sites where they can collect. My hedge against the day when I'm too decrepit to go out and collect, or live somewhere where there's no collecting within a reasonable distance, has been to gather ton of bulk material over the years. In my dotage, I can sit quietly with my microscope and "collect" fossils that way.

 

In answer to your question, though, in my experience most collectors don't buy fossils, but I don't tend to run in crowds where there are a lot of commercial collectors.

 

W.

 

P.S. Commenting that "buying fossils is s***" is unnecessary and over the top, but I, too, am often really annoyed by what the commercial trade in fossils has wrought. That it has had an impact on the accessibility of sites and on the behavior of people who manage public or private sites is, to my mind, undeniable. There are moral/ethical issues involved, which a lot of buyers/sellers refuse to acknowledge (not the least of which is that fossils are not an infinitely renewable natural resource). I don't think that means we have to ban fossil sales, but it's frustrating that there's apparently so little willingness to confront and rationally consider the wider impact of fossil-selling.

 

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Harry Pristis

That's interesting, Wendell.  But, be cautious of taking on an elitist view of our pastime.  All fossil collecting -- including controlled professional collecting -- should be considered curio collecting.  That is, it is the accumulating of interesting objects with the intent of learning more about them . . . Satisfying our collective or individual curiosity.  That is the only practical justification for investing money and effort into a science that contributes little else to humanity.  Please spare us the "for science" platitudes. Accept that curiosity drives science, and fossils stimulate curiosity.  Ergo, fossils drive science, even the purchased curios.

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Wendell Ricketts
3 minutes ago, Harry Pristis said:

That's interesting, Wendell.  But, be cautious of taking on an elitist view of our pastime.  All fossil collecting -- including controlled professional collecting -- should be considered curio collecting.  That is, it is the accumulating of interesting objects with the intent of learning more about them . . . Satisfying our collective or individual curiosity.  That is the only practical justification for investing money and effort into a science that contributes little else to humanity.  Please spare us the "for science" platitudes. Accept that curiosity drives science, and fossils stimulate curiosity.  Ergo, fossils drive science, even the purchased curios.

 

Harry, I wasn't snotty to you, so I ask that you not be snotty to me.

Your opinions are your opinions, but none of them carries the weight of a fact -- especially that "all fossil collecting is curio collecting." Experitise is not elitism, and I'll just leave it there.

 

W

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Well said, Harry. Fossils can (1) provide data with respect to past biosystems, evolution, and stratigraphy, and (2) ignite curiosity.  Specimensneed detailed provenance data to support (1), but even without it they can support (2).  Obviously it would be best if every specimen could be used for either purpose, and it is up to purchasers to enforce that by demanding that dealers provide good locality data.

 

Don

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For example, a woman (teacher) from Hawaii contacted our local rock club president and asked for information on local fossils. She was visiting for the day and was not able to locate any or any information from the city Chamber of Commerce...I wouldn't expect they would know anything anyway.

The request was passed onto me as I was known in the club for fossil collecting. Through a few emails, there is a package on it's way to Hawaii of local fossils for the education of a class of middle school kids. Are they in a fossil rich area, NO!  Whould they likely be able to collect on their own, NO!  So I am passing on fossils to spur on education to a place that really isn't known for fossils. Do I feel bad about this? Of course not! Part of what this hobby/ obsession is all about is sharing knowledge and interest in this field. If everyone collected only what they could dig up, the collections everyone has whould be awfully limited.

How interesting would your collection be if there were only one type/species of fossil in your area...if any at all? Buying, selling and trading allows one to expand there collections to show what an immense variety of differences even one type of fossil genera can have.

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2 hours ago, -Andy- said:

Well Scott, unlike many members here, I am what you call a 'pure collector' as in every single one of my specimens have been bought, traded, or gotten as gifts. Here in Singapore, there are no longer any viable fossil sites that I can access, so those are my only option.

 

The commenter you mentioned is probably in the minority. I like to think that I do my part for science by bringing my purchased specimens to schools and museums.

That's very admirable. Thanks!

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Ptychodus04

@Wendell Ricketts Is your collection  housed in a recognized institution (i.e. a public museum or university)? If not, your collection is of as much use to science as the wholly purchased collection accompanied by little to no data.

 

Why do I say this?

 

Unless a specimen is part of the collection of an institution (part of the public trust) it is ineligible to be used in a published scientific study. This is to ensure future access to a specimen since there is no way to control what happens to a private collection. Museums and the like are required to abide by certain rules with regards to curation and disposition of specimens.

 

A private collection is effectively unknown to the academia and is completely useless to them. This, as @Harry Pristis put previously, renders all of our collections curios.

 

This is why the vast bulk of my collection has been donated to the Perot Museum. It is now "studyable" by science.

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13 hours ago, Wendell Ricketts said:

FWIW: I've been collecting since 1973, and I've never once bought a fossil. I *very* occasionally trade, but rarely, and for the same reasons that I don't buy: I want my collection to have scientific value, and I've yet to meet a fossil seller who is willing to tell you (or who knows) precise location/horizon information. Many are not even remotely knowledgeable about what they have.

 

For me, fossil collecting is different from stamp collecting or something similar, where it's common to buy the items you collect.

 

 

 Sure some dealer are unscrupulous and lack expertise but some that sell shark and dinosaur fossils are very knowledgeable about their offerings.  I know a few that have great relationships with museums so you cannot paint that broad general picture.

  To relate buying fossils to stamp collecting is an insult to all those that also try to understand the science behind what they collect.  Parts of my collection even though it's been housed in my house has been loaned to museums to be studied or shown to paleontologists to examine.  Sounds a bit like what Harry said about being that E word since I don't know how else to digest your comments.

Edited by Troodon
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Ptychodus04
1 hour ago, Troodon said:

 

 

  I'm not sure what fossil circle you're associated with but the collectors I associate with are very conscious of everything you claim they don't know.   To relate buying fossils to stamp collecting is an insult to all those that also try to understand the science behind what they collect.  Parts of my collection even though it's been housed in my house has been loaned to museums to be studied or shown to paleontologists to examine.  Sounds a bit like what Harry said about being that E word since I don't know how else to digest your comments.

 

Loaned specimens can be studied and examined but can not be used as research specimens in a published, peer reviewed, paper. 

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Wrangellian

I think Wendell was talking about dealers, not collectors generally. I don't think all dealers are clueless or cagey about locality info, though, but maybe some are. I try to avoid buying fossils that have vague or missing locality data, and will ask the dealer if they can give more info on it before I buy it.

I'll add my voice to those who say I'd prefer to collect it myself, but I don't live near any Paleozoic or Precambrian sites and don't have the money to travel to them and collect them personally, but I do have a bit of cash to spare for buying some (or trading) now and then. The bulk of my collection is locally collected material, but that's 99% Upper Cretaceous. If I want to have a more well-rounded collection, I have to buy or trade with others. There is something about having an item in hand that no amount of photos, videos, drawings, etc. can give you (although those things are useful supplements).

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2 minutes ago, Wrangellian said:

I think Wendell was talking about dealers, not collectors generally. I don't think all dealers are clueless or cagey about locality info, though, but maybe some are. I try to avoid buying fossils that have vague or missing locality data, and will ask the dealer if they can give more info on it before I buy it.

I'll add my voice to those who say I'd prefer to collect it myself, but I don't live near any Paleozoic or Precambrian sites and don't have the money to travel to them and collect them personally, but I do have a bit of cash to spare for buying some (or trading) now and then. The bulk of my collection is locally collected material, but that's 99% Upper Cretaceous.

 

Yes I stand corrected and modified the post but also I know many fossil dealers that are extremely knowledgeable about what they sell especially with shark and dinosaur material and to make a general statement is not accurate.

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