Monday 28th February 2022 - Cara Bentham
We take a look at the last Christie's meteorite sale.
Amongst the items for sale at Christie’s auction of rare meteorites Wednesday last week was a peculiar doghouse with a hole in the roof. The strange item, which was expected to fetch a colossal $300,000, made headlines when it was struck by a meteorite fragment back in April 2019 in Costa Rica. The hole in its roof tells the tale of the German Shepherd, ironically named Roky, who was narrowly missed in the freak event.
Although the doghouse was expected to be the most valuable item going under the hammer in the annual sale, named ‘Deep Impact: Martian Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites’, it did not meet expectations on the day when it sold for $44,000.
The meteorite itself was not included in the lot but was sold separately in the same sale. Like the doghouse it struck, the space rock fell short of its high estimate when the hammer came down at $21,000, a third of what was expected.
Perhaps you’re wondering why a broken doghouse would be deemed more valuable than the meteorite itself? According to James Hyslop, head of the science and natural history department at Christie’s, ‘objects hit by meteorites are scarce’. This is because such events are astronomically unlikely, and there are only a few such objects known to exist in private hands.
Meteorites are also a rare find. It is estimated that around 500 meteorites land on Earth every year, yet according to the Planetary Science Institute, less than ten are recovered. This makes them extremely valuable.
Typically, meteorites land in remote areas or the ocean; they rarely strike anything man-made. This is why items hit by space rocks are so desirable and tend to fetch large sums when they are put up for sale. Back in 2007, a mailbox that had been struck by a meteorite in Georgia sold for a whopping $83,000. The highest price ever paid for an item of this kind was back in 2010 when a Chevy Malibu, which was struck by a meteorite in 2007, fetched an eye-watering $230,000.
The top lot of this week’s sale was the third largest piece of Mars on Earth, which is officially known as NWA 12690. When an asteroid hit Mars, the planetary chunk found its way to Earth as a meteorite, and the impact scattered debris that eventually reached our planet’s orbit. It was discovered back in 2018 in Mali, northwest Africa, by a nomad. Following extensive research, it was determined to have originated on Mars. However, although the auction house had high hopes of it fetching $800,000, they failed to find a buyer on the day.
Other items in the auction included a slice of the Fukang meteorite, which is a space rock found in 2000 in China that’s thought to be 4.5 billion years old, as well as the largest lunar meteorite ever seen. Advertised as a ‘complete slice of the moon’, it was discovered in the Sahara Desert back in 2007.
Christie’s have been running meteorite auctions annually since 2014. Last year, there were 75 lots on offer, and all of them sold, collectively fetching $4,351,750. This year, 60 items were reportedly sold and raised just a fraction of last year’s total at just over $1.2 million.