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fossil sales



Regarding the discussion of fossil sales:

>  I'm about to change the welcome message for new subscribers.  The new
>  message will explicitly direct people not to ask about or advertise
>  fossils for sale.  Most of us on this list are here because we're
>  interested in sharing information about dinosaurs.  Making fossils a
>  commodity has a tendency to lead to practices which are destructive of
>  the fossils and the information obtainable from them.  Much of the
>  scientific value of a fossil is lost as soon as it's taken out of the
>  ground unless appropriate references are kept with it.  People hoping
>  only to turn a profit from fossils are less likely to care about such
>  things, and thus are a hindrance to the sharing of information we'd
>  all like to have.>>
>
>Surely these issues aren't a concern when it comes to common stuff like
>trilobites, or the fossil fish from the Green River formation in
>Wyoming?  There are millions, possibly billions, of some of these common
>fossils.

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.

George F. Engelmann
University of Nebraska at Omaha
engelman@cwis.unomaha.edu