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Sat, Nov 03, 2018

Meteorite Scientists Assail Claims By Boston Auction House As 'Ludicrous'

Question $612,000 Sale Of 'Moon Puzzle' To Vietnamese Buyer

On Friday, October 19th, in a widely publicized sale, a Vietnamese buyer spent $612,500 on a meteorite described by the internet auctioneer RR Auction as "The Largest Known Complete Lunar Puzzle."  The problem is it wasn't complete...nor was it close to being the largest. Additional attributes cited were also incorrect, according to Darryl Pitt, Curator of the Macovich Collection.

A group of scientists and meteorite experts called the claims that RR Auction's "Moon Puzzle" was "One of the most important meteorites available for acquisition anywhere in the world today and, perhaps, the most significant example of the Moon ever offered for sale in the history meteorite science," utter lunar-cy.

Cosmo-chemist Dr. Alan Rubin at the University of California, Los Angeles said, "As lunar specimens go, NWA 11789 [its real name] is not among the most scientifically significant examples of the Moon. It is a common feldspathic breccia -- the most common type of lunar meteorite. More than 60% of lunar meteorites are classified as the same type of rock as NWA 11789."

RR Auction's offering is not the largest assemblage of broken lunar fragments, a notion also advanced by the consignor in RR's marketing materials, Arizona meteorite dealer Geoff Notkin. There are others that are larger, and the distinction of the largest goes to 21 interlocking lunar fragments weighing a total of 26.06 kg -- more than 500% larger than RR Auction's "Moon Puzzle."

Its owner, Dr. Lawrence Stifler, the world's foremost collector of lunar meteorites, was perturbed by the statements made by the auction house. "I respect clever marketing -- but these are egregious misrepresentations," said Dr. Stifler. "Truth is all-important -- and especially in matters of science."

In the realm of science, the world's foremost classifier of lunar meteorites, Dr. Anthony Irving at the University of Washington, agreed with Dr. Rubin's assessment of this meteorite's relative lack of significance.  He added, "Had anyone tried to reach me, I could have quickly disabused them of this being the largest lunar puzzle and this ludicrous situation could have been avoided."

It would have taken even less time to learn this offering was not one of only two lunar meteorites with fusion crust -- yet another false selling point touted. A quick visit to The Meteoritical Bulletin -- a free online database and primary source for such information -- reveals there are more than 50 such examples. The Bulletin also informs there are nine fragments of NWA 11789, but only six were brought to market.

Dr. Carl Agee, the Director of the Institute of Meteoritics, performed the original classification and analysis of NWA 11789. Unbeknownst to Dr. Agee, RR Auction cited him as a reference in what was apparently an effort to add validity to their offering.  Dr. Agee, who agrees with the assessments by Drs. Rubin and Irving, was asked if RR Auction reached out to him to confirm that its offering was "One of the most important meteorites available for acquisition anywhere in the world today."  He inquired with incredulity, "They actually said that?!"

Curator of the Macovich Collection, Darryl Pitt is a consultant to Dr. Stifler and the person responsible for the discovery of the mammoth 26 kg (57 lb.) 21-piece puzzle. Pitt found the array and magnitude of the misrepresentations to be troubling. "The buyer [identified as Vietnam's Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex] is not receiving what was advertised," said Pitt, "but at least it's the Moon, among the rarest commodities on Earth."

(Image from RR Auctions YouTube marketing video)

FMI: www.montanameteoritelab.com/professional-references/2015/11/1/the-macovich-collection-darryl-pitt

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