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Re: fossil sales

I can understand why scientists would want to "not make fossils a
commodity" however, as we all know, this is already the case. Fossils
have always been a commodity from day one of this science. We cannot point
fingers at those nasty collectors...who started the fossil commodity?
Scientists. Have we forgotten the days of Cope and Marsh? Money and
fossils, if we like it or not, go together in the science today. Big finds
mean big grants and increased museum visitors, and don't forget fame,
books, lecture tours, etc. Is this evil? No, I don't think
so, it keeps us in business. Maybe this is what the fossil collectors see
and complain about when we get on our soapboxes. How can we tell them
fossils are not a commodity when science uses them as such?

Fossil hunters still are useful to the science. They find fossils that
would be ruined by erosion otherwise. Amateurs point out more major finds
to professionals then they can find themselves. Interest in fossil hunting
brings museum memberships, memberships in the Dinosaur Society that fund
research. Collectors volunteer on digs and in museums and labs. Before we
condemn collectors and start an "us vs. them" attitude, maybe we can all
sit down and work things out. Dinosaur eggs and whole mounts, I don't like,
but I wouldn't deny scientific scraps, shark's teeth, trilobytes, and other
such material to the collectors. Maybe we can educate them to HELP us find
and keep the integrity of valuable material.  Fossils were always a commodity
and always will be. So before we alienate ourselves, push up black market
prices and theft, and reject the folks most likely to support our
endeavors, think twice.

My fossil collection fits in a shoebox, and my most valuable object is a
whole sand dollar I collected, and a croc/dino tooth. I use them all for
teaching. As far as I'm concerned, my collection is upstairs in the
museum. What could I ever personally collect and buy that would outshine
Hadrosaurus folkii?  :) 

Sherry Michael
Docent volunteer/Overnight Education teacher
The Academy of Natural Sciences, Phila.

>According to George Engelmann:
> The key phrase is "making fossils a commodity". Even though the sale of 
> abundant or poor quality fossils may not represent a significant loss to 
> scientific paleontology, even the sale of such items fosters the notion
> that fossils should be regarded as commodities with monetary rather than
> scientific value. Given that assumption, ultimately, rarity becomes the chief
> determinant in establishing value and scientifically important specimens must
> be affected. I hope I am not being tedious, but "professional" (i.e.
> academic and museum) paleontologists who oppose commercial collecting and sale
> of fossils are painted as wanting all of the fossils for themselves. On the 
> contrary, I believe the more people involved in collecting and studying 
> fossils
> the better if their interest is in the fossils and what can be learned from
> them. Commercial collectors and traders are not evil but the value systems
> they knowingly or unknowingly promote is antithetical to scientific 
> paleontology. I'll get off my soap box now.