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  • Writer's pictureDouglas Dreier

Out of this world! (Part 2)

I really wish I could convey all the necessary information about meteorites for collecting, but that would be impossible. So, I thought I’d focus on three more.

  1. Thumbprint

  2. Oriented

  3. Widmanstätten patterns


As a meteor flies through the earth’s atmosphere, heat and pressure cause the surface to melt and experience ablation (removal of material vaporization, chipping or some other erosive process). If the meteor is tumbling through the air, it can result in deep regmaglyps, otherwise known as thumbprints.

In some cases, the thumbprints can be so deep that they go through the meteorite. Here’s an example.

Meteorites with features like this are extremely popular in collecting. They can add some serious visual interest (and it’s always good to have a talking point or two on your items). In addition, they can add serious value.


Oriented meteorites are essentially the opposite of those with thumbprints. The meteor, as it’s flying through the atmosphere, settles into one position. It will then developed a nose-cone of sorts, oftentimes with characteristic flowlines and fusion crust (all highly collectable). This photo shows a small oriented meteorite . . . note the flow lines at the top.

Widmanstatten Patterns

Unique to each meteorite fall, Widmanstatten patterns are found in iron and pallasite meteorites. When a meteorite is sliced, polished and etched with acid, iron-nickle crystals appear.

This example, from the Muonionalusta fall is much different from the following Seymchan meteorite.

As I said before, there’s really so much more to learn about meteorites! One last thing, however, that can really add value to a meteorite is if it actually struck as it crashed.

In 1984, a meteorite fell and struck a mailbox in Claxton, Georgia.

In late 2007, this mailbox was auctioned by Bonhams for $83,000!

That photo at the mailbox is my favorite meteorite-related photograph of all time! It definitely needs a new caption!

In 1992, a meteorite crashed into the trunk of a 1980 Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, NY. Having just purchased the car for $300, the owner turned around and sold it $10,000! The car has been on display in museums around the world, including both the American Museum of Natural History and France’s National Museum of Natural History.

If you’re really interested in learning more about meteorites, or perhaps you’re interested in buying one or two, Heritage Auctions (out of Dallas, TX) has an all-meteorite auction this October. Once I receive the catalog, I’ll go through it and share my thoughts!

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