Jump to content

Expectations for "Imperfect" Fossils vs. Budget


Mochaccino

Recommended Posts

Hello,

 

As someone who has only started collecting fossils over the past several months and exclusively via purchasing, I wanted to ask people on this forum what their thoughts are on "imperfect" fossils; namely, their approaches and advice to tempering expectations for imperfections in a fossil given one's limited budget.

 

It's no surprise that better-preserved higher quality specimens fetch significantly higher prices, and in general I'd rather spend more for a good, representative specimen than get a cheap, "bad" one. But prices can increase exponentially with increasingly "perfect" specimens, and so with a limited budget sometimes the perfectionist in me gets caught in a repeated cycle of gauging and worrying about whether I'd regret not buying the even more expensive one. This is all despite understanding in theory that past a certain "good enough" quality, it is simply not realistic cost-wise to endlessly chase perfection. There's also the variable of certain fossils just generally being far rarer in good preservation. Where and how does one draw the line?

 

I think I might already somewhat know the answer to this; that it is partly a matter of adjusting my expectations, since fossils are fundamentally different from manufactured collectibles. Being the remains of deceased organisms, they are not mass-produced in a controlled environment, so perhaps imperfections within reason are to be happily accepted as an inevitable part of the fossilization and collection process, and even biology in general; a missing arm here, some nicking or crushing there, etc. Perhaps there is even a beauty to be had in some imperfections?

 

Fossil collecting is a passionate hobby for me due to my fascination by physical traces of exotic ancient life, but I have neither the intent nor resources to try and build the world's most perfect museum of a collection. At the same time I feel it's only natural to want one's treasures to be as nice as possible. What are your thoughts on this? How does everyone else deal with their expectations for imperfections in fossils; do you experience some struggle in this balancing act?

 

I apologize if this is too serious of a topic and belongs in another thread; please let me know if this is the case. Thanks for reading this lengthy post, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

Edited by Mochaccino
  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I mostly collect my samples myself in the field, so I just tend to hold onto the best preserved ones and am always very happy upon the extremely rare occasion when something close to perfection turns up. Since these occurrences are exceptional, it's no small wonder that they can be expensive when put up for sale, and the price is of course also proportional to the rarity of the fossil itself, so it can go up into the millions, as witnessed by auctions of complete and rare dinosaur remains. Of course I also hang onto samples of scientific interest which may or may not be well preserved, but that's a whole other story than what you're asking here.

On the odd occasion when I buy, I always make sure that the preservation is at least aesthetically pleasing, when not perfect, and that the price is within my current personal budget.

  • I found this Informative 1
  • I Agree 1

 

Greetings from the Lake of Constance. Roger

http://www.steinkern.de/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Best if possible is to collect your know fossils. To me it all depends on what you like. I personally if building a collection would  look and nicely preserved partial specimens instead of badly preserved complete specimens. Partial fossil are always cheaper than complete specimens. I also think good provenance is very important when purchasing any fossil  . It also worth thinking about the aesthetes of a piece how is it prepared for instance I much prefer the matrix to look natural and other like the matrix to be carved out and almost sculpted. In the end you got to get what you like. Remember if you’re unsure  of what you’re buying post on the TFF first to ask advice. All the best Bobby 

Edited by Bobby Rico
  • I found this Informative 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When self-collecting, you would probably not amass insane amounts of the same fossils, so you'll change worse ones for the better ones till you have satisfactory quality specimens. Hard to use the same strategy with buying fossils, unless you like to constantly buy and resell (which I believe most people don't). So I'd reserve money for the best quality specimens you want and buy them only

  • I found this Informative 1
  • I Agree 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with most of what I see written here.  However, I would also add that there are some ridiculous expectations, price wise, (on the seller's part) when it comes to fossils.

 

Not all partial fossils are cheaper. On the auction sites, I see poorly preserved partials of very common fish fossils (Knightia, Diplomystus, etc) going for ridiculous prices. I wouldn't pay more than a few dollars for them, if I were to buy them at all.  I have also seen (and purchased) rare, complete, well preserved fish, that are misidentified, that go for a song.  This is where accumulated knowledge of fossils can help.

 

It is a matter of shopping around, patience, and holding out for the best example you can reasonably afford. It helps to know what you are looking at, and to be able to know what your target budget should be able to get you. In my opinion, it is unreasonable to expect to always find excellent, rare, or well preserved fossils at bargain basement prices, but it does happen from time to time.

 

In my experience, timing, knowledge, and more than a little luck is involved, when buying fossils.

  • I found this Informative 1
  • Enjoyed 1
  • I Agree 6

    Tim    -  VETERAN SHALE SPLITTER

   MOTM.png.61350469b02f439fd4d5d77c2c69da85.png      PaleoPartner.png.30c01982e09b0cc0b7d9d6a7a21f56c6.png.a600039856933851eeea617ca3f2d15f.png     Postmaster1.jpg.900efa599049929531fa81981f028e24.jpg    VFOTM.png.f1b09c78bf88298b009b0da14ef44cf0.png  VFOTM  --- APRIL - 2015  

__________________________________________________
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

John Muir ~ ~ ~ ~   ><))))( *>  About Me      

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, Fossildude19 said:

Not all partial fossils are cheaper. On the auction sites, I see poorly preserved partials of very common fish fossils (Knightia, Diplomystus, etc) going for ridiculous prices. I wouldn't pay more than a few dollars for them, if I were to buy them at all.  I have also seen (and purchased) rare, complete, well preserved fish, that are misidentified, that go for a song.

This is completely true as Tim given me a couple of fantastic heads up to bargain fishes that have been wrongly ID.  A lot of times partials can be a good way to start a collection off at a budget price. Also if you pick up a bargain now in the future this can be sold and money added to a better specimen. 

  • I found this Informative 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think when buying fossils it’s a matter of preference on whether you save money for the more “perfect” specimen or buy one that is of lesser quality. 
 

When looking at a specific specimen. I always ask myself, “Can I live with the quality? Are the features I am wanting to see visible (serrations, spines, diagnostic details)? Am I ok with the price?” If the answer is “no” to any of these then I adjust accordingly. Wait for my budget to increase, look for a specimen showing a bit more of the features I want to see, look for a more reasonably priced specimen, etc. I may not be breaking rocks or digging in the dirt when buying fossils, but I’m still hunting fossils.

 

As @Fossildude19 mentioned; Knowledge is Power. None of my self asked questions will mean anything if I don’t know about what I am looking at. I need to know diagnostic details. I need to know what makes for a “perfect” specimen. I need to know the current fair market value to avoid specimens with inflated prices, and to find good deals. Hunting fossils in the earth or in the shops require study, research, and knowledge to be successful.

Edited by FossilNerd
  • I found this Informative 3
  • I Agree 1

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.  -Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. -Bill Nye (The Science Guy)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm going to give you my particular view of the matter. Although you must bear in mind that I am a quite peculiar specimen.
I had those same doubts many years ago and in the end I realized that my problem was that the purchased fossils always left me cold, regardless of their quality and price.
From that conclusion, I spend my money on good trips to collect my fossils myself. Since then, even the most common specimen satisfies me.
When I pick up something really spectacular, which happens on some occasions, the feeling is not equaled by the best specimen that can be bought.
Try it yourself and see if you have the same problem.

Edited by oyo
  • I Agree 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, oyo said:

When I pick up something really spectacular, which happens on some occasions, the feeling is not equaled by the best specimen that can be bought.
Try it yourself and see if you have the same problem.

Of course same here but you have to remember that some members are unable to go fossil hunting for many reasons. 

  • I found this Informative 1
  • I Agree 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, Bobby Rico said:

Of course same here but you have to remember that some members are unable to go fossil hunting for many reasons. 

Sure, we all have difficulties. I am not going to tell you about my difficulties but I assure you that they are important.
The simplest thing for me would be to buy the fossils and not risk it but that, as I said before, did not satisfy me. That's why I searched, I dealt with people, I made a lot of effort and I risk it every day that I go out for my stones.
There is a saying in my country, "who wants something, something costs him".

  • Enjoyed 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’m one of those that for various reasons can not go out and self collect. So i have to buy all my fossils. I buy what appeals to me. Do i like the specimans appearence? Can i afford the piece? Is the price worth it to me? If the answer is yes to these then i purchase it. If the answer is no to any of those questions then i move on and wait.  I do have pieces that i probably paid to much for but it was the only example of them i have ever seen offered so i am still satisfied with the pieces. I have also seen great examples that i’ve passed up becuase they didn’t apeal to me. In the end it comes down to what you like. In a lot of ways i actually prefer imperfect specimans over perfect ones becuase these are remains of living things. The puncture wound here, the broken bone there, they are all examples of how the speciman lived, died, and fossilized.

  • I found this Informative 1
  • I Agree 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, oyo said:

Sure, we all have difficulties. I am not going to tell you about my difficulties but I assure you that they are important.

I am glad you get over your difficulties. We do however need to answer the OP”s original question. I also encouraged fossil hunting as a first option but buying fossil still can make a collector very happy  .

Edited by Bobby Rico
  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, Randyw said:

i actually prefer imperfect specimans over perfect ones becuase these are remains of living things. The puncture wound here, the broken bone there, they are all examples of how the speciman lived, died, and fossilized.

I wish I had wrote that because that is exactly how I feel about a lot of favourites fossils. It incredible to have in your collection, to hold in your hand  ancient life.

  • I Agree 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Bobby Rico said:

I am glad you get over your difficulties. We do however need to answer the OP”s original question. I also encouraged fossil hunting as a first option but buying fossil still can make a collector very happy  .

There will be collectors who are satisfied buying their fossils, for one reason or another, and there will be others who are not, as is my case. Each one has his own preferences. I tell my preferences with the intention of helping the author of the post. I think that is an adequate answer.

  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not satisfied with buying anything either. I once considered buying fossils from sites I didn't plan to visit but then I thought "why not visit them after all?":D I also choose neither wide nor exclusive field of interest: there are many generalist fossil collectors and that's them who buy everything:) Also if you specialize in something rare and pricey like dino teeth or want to have the absolute best of an exposure, buying is understandable. 

  • I found this Informative 1
  • I Agree 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Mochaccino said:

Perhaps there is even a beauty to be had in some imperfections?

There is indeed a lot of beauty in this (unless caused by rude extraction and preparation). These imperfections tell a story, or two or three stories.

 

9 hours ago, Mochaccino said:

to want one's treasures to be as nice as possible.

Be careful! Too nice could be literally too nice. Sometimes, lot of paint is involved etc. There is a very wide grey zone between "natural" specimens and completely manufactured specimens.

 

For example, this is natural, as found, with only loos dirt removed with a soft brush. Even some moss is still there, I don´t remove it. Its a really ugly specimen, but I like it. Its from a small new site discovered a week ago. I wished to find this snails in this particular area, because it would have made sense geologically. And - here they are! No purchased fossil can beat that deep satisfaction. Note: I only took one of these.

HS_Trochactaeon_5117_klein_kompr.thumb.jpg.1f358ddc554c7fca3ae52725715deb4a.jpg

 

I am also exclusively self collecting (with the occasional gift I am getting from forum members). I am completely in the line with @oyo and @RuMert.

Franz Bernhard

Edited by FranzBernhard
  • I found this Informative 1
  • Enjoyed 1
  • I Agree 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread is about purchasing fossil. Not about the merits of self collecting against purchasing . There are plenty of members who are unable to collect in the field but are completely passionate about their collections. I would hate for them to feel like what they are doing is not as valid. 

Edited by Bobby Rico
  • I Agree 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Bobby Rico said:

I would hate them to feel like what they doing is not as valid. 

Ok, I can see that point, I was a little bit overenthusiastic (as usual). Should I remove that parts of my post?

Franz Bernhard

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, FranzBernhard said:

Ok, I can see that point, I was a little bit overenthusiastic (as usual). Should I remove that parts of my post?

Franz Bernhard

No not at all mate.  :D

Edited by Bobby Rico
  • Thank You 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My personal thoughts - buy quality overseas specimens within your budget. Don't buy ones that are just "available", wait for a good one to come along, and ask TFF nicely to confirm if the specimen is indeed not fake. On the quality issue - yes, ones with a story (missing bits) are interesting, but intact specimens (like trilobites with spines/free cheeks) are preferable to me.

 

Aside to buying overseas fossils, do your own trips in your own country or within driving distance. If you remove the fossils yourself, they can't be fake..

  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I look for what attracts me to the piece first and foremost and expect that to be representative of the fossil I am wanting to buy. I don't care if I have the best or the nicest fossil of something, I care if I like it and if it suits what I am wanting out of the piece. In general that means I usually look for something that is recognizable (as far as what it is) with minimal to no restoration (repairs such as being glued together never bothered me). But it certainly doesn't need to be complete (except in those rare instances where I am searching for something mostly complete, but that's pretty uncommon), in fact I prefer fossils with some lost detail or damage because each one tells a story. Nature is imperfect, so I don't expect my fossils to be perfect specimens. I can certainly appreciate a very complete and perfect/near perfect fossil, but I don't feel the need to spend the (often) significantly higher price for perfection. I am satisfied with having representations that can be recognized for what they are. That being said, I am also very much a generalist when it comes to fossils and I find enjoyment out of everything (except perhaps fossilized pollen, though arguably that's either because I can have mild allergies in the springtime OR more likely because I've never had the opportunity to explore that field yet). So if I wanted perfection in everything I would be spending significantly far more money for each specimen. Whereas if I specialized in one area of paleo (say Cretaceous dinosaur teeth or Permian brachiopods), I would limit myself and likely be able to spend a little more money per specimen. 

 

I guess the point is that everyone has very different directions they want to go with their collection. I am never dissatisfied with any fossil I hold, because I know that said fossil is unique and one of; there are no other identical fossils to it in the entire world which makes each fossil precious to me. 

  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't mind purchasing fossils that are incomplete . I'd rather buy a fossil that's partially restored though , about 80 to 90% complete , but sometimes I take what I can get .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another option is micro-matrix. You can buy a bag or two from many different sites (so far the only one I have looked through is from Aurora, North Carolina). You still get to have fun finding fossils, but you can be in a chair in the comfort of your home. Micro matrix isn’t for everybody though but it’s another option and I enjoy it. :)

  • I Agree 3

“If fossils are not "boggling" your mind then you are simply not doing it right” -Ken (digit)

"No fossil is garbage, it´s just not completely preserved” -Franz (FranzBernhard)

"With hammer in hand, the open horizon of time, and dear friends by my side, what can we not accomplish together?" -Kane (Kane)

"We are in a way conquering time, reuniting members of a long lost family" -Quincy (Opabinia Blues)

"I loved reading the trip reports, I loved the sharing, I loved the educational aspect, I loved the humor. It felt like home. It still does" -Mike (Pagurus)

“The best deal I ever got was getting accepted as a member on The Fossil Forum. Not only got an invaluable pool of knowledge, but gained a loving family as well.” -Doren (caldigger)

"it really is nice, to visit the oasis that is TFF" -Tim (fossildude19)

"Life's Good! -Adam (Tidgy's Dad)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you so much everyone for such thoughtful and detailed insights, this is very helpful. I really wish I could go out and collect myself, it does indeed sound satisfying to discover your very own. However this is unfortunately not a realistic possibility for me for a number of reasons, so buying is currently my only option. Perhaps in the future when I have more time and resources this will change.

 

In regards to purchasing I too will try to wait and go for a more quality specimen, but in the end it seems I can only decide for myself how much to wait and reach for a perfection without breaking the bank. Especially when unlike manufactured goods, each fossil is unique, quantity is limited, and availability is unpredictable. It's still good to hear many others either don't mind or consider it natural for fossils to have some imperfections; it can add a nice, rough naturalistic look, like @FranzBernhard's photo, which I can appreciate.

 

This is of course probably dependent on how serious one is about fossil collecting and the specimen in question. I think @Allosaurus 's stance should be most similar to mine: being a generalist collector and wanting a fossil that is representative and has minimal to no restoration, even though it may not be the best or nicest specimen. Realistically, chasing "perfection in everything" would indeed cause me to "[spend] significantly far more money for each specimen" that I can't necessarily afford. I just needed to discuss this with you all to gather my thoughts and convince myself of that. Thanks again to everyone who replied.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Mochaccino
  • Enjoyed 1
  • Thank You 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Mochaccino said:

I just needed to discuss this with you all to gather my thoughts and convince myself of that.

Just show it off here before you buy. Many specialists here, that are able to spot any fakery or enhancement etc. Concerning price, you can find the acceptable price range via comparison. As already said, there are bargains out there and heavily overpriced fossil bits.

Most important of all: Have fun and enjoy your growing collection :dinothumb:!

 

Slightly off topic:

10 hours ago, Allosaurus said:

Permian brachiopods

If you have a source of Richthofenia-type brachiopods, please pm me and @Tidgy's Dad ;). Thanks!
Franz Bernhard

  • Thank You 1
  • I Agree 1
Link to comment
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
×
×
  • Create New...