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Volume 23 Issue 8 (August 2013)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 27–29 | Full Text | PDF (245KB)

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Profiting from the past: Are fossils a sound investment?

Scott Hippensteel1*, Simon Condliffe2

1 Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001, USA;
2 Dept. of Economics and Finance, West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19383, USA

The role of the amateur collector in the field of paleontology has been controversial to say the least. Additionally, the value of rare, museum-quality vertebrate fossils and object d’art invertebrate fossils appears to be, at least from anecdotal evidence, quickly rising. Both factors continue to fuel the debate regarding the problematical relationship between amateur collectors, professional paleontologists, and commercial fossil dealers, especially as important fossils disappear from the research community into private collections. Complicating this issue is the poorly understood value of many of the fossil specimens that commercial dealers claim are ideal investments.

Commercial dealers have long claimed that fossils are an excellent investment opportunity, and other sources, including the New York Times, have remarked that fossils have outperformed other investment options (McClain, 1996). Additionally, anecdotal evidence of dramatic increases in fossil prices, especially for rare vertebrate fossils, is common in large-circulation financial magazines (Rohleder, 2001).

Manuscript received 5 April 2013; accepted 19 May 2013

doi: 10.1130/GSATG179GW.1

Editor’s Note

GSA’s Policy Regarding Sale of Fossils and Specimens at GSA Meetings

GSA requires that the sale by exhibitors of fossils and specimens extracted from cave formations be limited to those obtained ethically and legally. Exhibitors who sell such items must certify that they meet the standards of the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act and/or the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act, which state:

Fossils: The sale of any paleontological resource that has been excavated or removed from federal land in violation of any provisions, rule, regulation, law, ordinance, or permit in effect under federal law is prohibited.

Cave Formations: The sale of speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites taken from caves on any federal land is prohibited by federal law. Many states also prohibit the sale and/or removal of speleothems, stalactites, and stalagmites from caves.

GSA likewise requires certification that specimens from foreign countries offered for sale were likewise obtained in compliance with all relevant local laws and regulations, including those governing the export of specimens for sale abroad.