Space Invaders at Auction: Bonhams & Butterfields has one of the world’s largest meteorites ever at auction

On Sunday and Monday, Dec. 7-8 in Los Angeles, incredibly rare pieces of Mars and the "Campo" meteorite, the largest meteorite in the world ever to come to public auction, will be offered by Bonhams & Butterfields in its first-ever two-day sale devoted exclusively to Natural History. The highly sculptural 1,220-pound section of a "space invader" could sell for as much as $55,000 while a 90-gram specimen from Mars could bring as much as $80,000. 

Thousands of years ago a large mass exploded as it coursed through Earth’s atmosphere and scattered over hundreds of square miles.  The "Campo" specimen was recovered from Argentina and displays a subdued patina and desirable remaglypts (referred to as ‘thumb prints’) formed as the mass plummeted toward Earth.  This rare and highly sought after over-sized specimen would form the cornerstone of any serious meteorite collection, offered with its decorative stand. 

According to Thomas Lindgren, Co-Director of Natural History, "Meteorites are among the rarest materials in existence on our planet – of interest to both private collectors and institutions.  Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer the Campo meteorite this December."

Collector interest should be strong for visitors from the red planet.  A complete Martian meteorite discovered in the Saharan Desert as recently as 2007 weighs more than 2.7-grams.  The Martian shergotite retains 75% of its fusion crust, resulting from an explosion high in Earth’s atmosphere — it could sell for $5,000 to $7,000.  More rare than diamonds or gold, specimens from the planet Mars are among the most exotic on Earth.  A complete slice of an important specimen, one of only two identified as Martian and discovered in North America, could bring as much as $12,000.

The example has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum and at the Griffith Observatory and comes to auction from the Macovich Collection of Meteorites, one of the most extensive private collections of extra terrestrial material in the world.  Also from the Macovich Collection is a museum-quality Mars specimen described as among the very finest complete Martian specimens known to exist.  Weighing 90.5-grams, the lot is estimated at $60,000-$80,000.

A plentiful selection of distinctive meteorites are in the Bonhams sale, including an "Esquel" specimen containing magnificent gems from outer space – extraterrestrial olivine crystals in an iron matrix which glow with other-worldly beauty when light passes through them (estimate $21,000-$28,000).  Another gorgeous representative of these pallasite category specimens is a slice of the incomparable "Fukang" meteorite discovered in China, estimated at $6,000 to $8,000 and weighing 333-grams.  Pallasites are extremely rare among meteorites, reportedly only 1% of all studied examples are of this type. 

In addition to these lots, 35-40 additional collectible meteorite specimens, as well as jewelry formed of meteorites will be offered during the winter sale.  Examples include the Canyon Diablo specimen which originates from the famous impact which produced the gigantic 600-foot deep crater near Flagstaff, Ariz. (estimate $32,000-$38,000); a Gibeon partial slab with shock alteration discovered in Namibia, Africa (estimate $3,000-$4,000); a Sikhote-Alin meteorite (estimate $11,000-$14,000); a stunning meteorite necklace (estimate $500-$650) and a meteorite necklace with gold beads (estimate $600-$800). 

Since its inception in 1998, the Natural History department has conducted a series of exciting auctions, establishing Bonhams & Butterfields as the collecting field’s international forerunner.  A wide range of categories are offered within Natural History sales including: unmounted faceted and cabochon gemstones, cat’s eye and other rare phenomenal gemstones, mineral specimens, amber – including examples of prehistoric insects trapped in the tree sap that became amber, pearls, seashells, meteorites – described as "out of this world debris," archeological artifacts, petrified wood polished to form tabletops, ammonites, plant and animal fossils and the ever-popular dinosauria.

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This meteorite was recovered from the Kalahari Desert strewnfield in Namibia, Africa. Thousands of years ago a large mass exploded as it coursed through the atmosphere, and scattered over hundreds of square miles. The present specimen, a partial slab, displays an offset healed fracture across the exposed Widmanstatten pattern, most likely caused by violent collision forces resulting in extreme shock alteration. Radiometric dating estimates the age of crystallization of Gibeon's metal at approximately 4 billion years. This specimen provides material evidence of cosmic impact which stretches the imagination, yet fits in the palm of one's hand. Weighs 2.6 kilograms; measures 1 3/8 by 4 1/2 by 5 9/16 inches. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000. Courtesy Bonhams 1793.
Enormous Specimen of Libyan Desert Glass, Sahara Desert. This specimen of Libyan desert glass is one of the largest ever offered at auction. The fascinating piece was formed of molten sand exceeding 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit during the prehistoric landing of a very large meteorite. A distinguished addition for any meteorite-tektite collection. Weighs 1,451 grams; measures 5 1/2 by 5 1/4 by 3 inches. Estimate: $4,500-$6,500. Courtesy Bonhams 1793.
This splendid meteorite originates from a terrifying phenomenon: the largest meteorite shower in recorded human history--and it is nearly as pristine today as when it fell to Earth on February 12, 1947, when the Sikhote-Alin fireball streaked across the Sikhote-Alin Mountains and reportedly cast moving shadows in broad daylight, as it was brighter than the sun. Meteorites exhibiting this much character are extremely rare and much sought after. Measures 4.5 by 3 by 2 inches. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000. Courtesy Bonhams 1793.

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