From the June 2006 issue

Bidding for meteorites on eBay

A meteorite specialist finds eBay to be a useful space-rock resource.
By | Published: June 26, 2006 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Murray Meteorite
My quest for meteorites began when I started teaching a class on the subject at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

A week and a half before class began, I needed meteorites for student projects. Groups of students will study one particular meteorite, write a report on it, and give a presentation about their sample. I needed samples that covered a wide range of types. I needed them fast, and I needed them cheap. So, what should I do?

I decided to go to eBay and bid on meteorites.

I was warned that people were selling concrete on eBay and calling it a meteorite. In fact, all the meteorites I purchased were gorgeous samples, and they were exactly what I expected.

I bought ordinary chondrites, a CV chondrite, an R chondrite, a eucrite, and a diogenite. I received all of my meteorites within a few days of paying for them — usually at prices around $10 to $20 a piece. The meteorites were small — usually around a gram or two — but you could see numerous features such as chondrules and calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs) in them.

I was very pleased with my purchases. I was also surprised by how easy this was to do and by the quality of the samples I won.

Want to buy a meteorite on eBay? Here are some tips.

1. Does the price seem reasonable? It will depend on the sample’s rarity and mass.

2. Does the rock’s description and picture resemble a meteorite? While a little knowledge will take you a long way, ultimately, you must trust that the seller is showing an accurate description and picture. Click on the seller’s name to see feedback from other bidders. If you don’t see nearly all positive feedback, don’t trust the seller.

3. I recommend using PayPal, which is now owned by eBay, as often as possible. Anyone with an email address who registers on PayPal can securely send and receive online payments using either a credit card or bank account. PayPal also offers free protection of up to $1,000 U.S. on your purchases. To determine if your item is eligible, look for PayPal Buyer Protection in the Seller Information box on eBay’s View Item page.

4. If the meteorite you receive isn’t exactly what you thought you paid for, you should contact the seller immediately. The items I bid on were exactly what I expected, but this may not be the case for all purchases.

5. After receiving your item, leave feedback on the seller to tell other people about your experience. The seller will do likewise for you.

For a few dollars and some time placing bids on eBay, you can start your meteorite collection — or keep a class stocked with space rocks.

Thomas Burbine is the visiting assistant professor of astronomy at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.