Thanks in large part to crypto-rich collectors, an online-only auction of meteorites at Christie’s is set to break through the stratosphere. 

Running Feb. 9–23, the sale, Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar, and Other Rare Meteorites, follows a string of record-making meteorite auctions in 2021.

The sale’s precursor, held at this time last year, was a so-called “white glove” sale, meaning that every single lot sold, “and 72 out of 75 lots sold above their high estimate,” adds James Hyslop, head of Science and Natural History at Christie’s. “It really was a record sale.”

That was followed by the July sale at Christie’s London of a slice of the Fukang meteorite, which sold for £525,000 ($722,925), setting a public auction record for a single lot. 

Driving this growth, Hyslop says, are newly wealthy crypto investors.

“Anecdotally, it’s becoming the case, more and more, that the age of the average buyer was much lower than our last [meteorite] sale, and one of the reasons for that is that there are a lot more people who’ve made their money in crypto and they tend to be younger,” says Hyslop. “They self-identify as crypto-wealthy; some who were bidding in the last sale realized for the first time that they could actually buy meteorites, and they were extremely enthusiastic.”

One bidder who got outbid, he continues, “was extremely frustrated, and said: ‘I have to cash out some Bitcoin before the next one.’”

Understanding Value
This year’s 66 lots range from an exquisite cross section of a meteorite, which appears to have a latticework design and carries an estimate of $400 to $800, to what Christie’s says is the third-largest piece of Mars on Earth, estimated from $500,000 to $800,000, and said to have been dislodged from Mars’s surface by another meteorite.

Price can be understood via what Hyslop calls “the four Ses”: size, shape, science, and story.

“First, all things being equal, a meteorite that’s double the size will be worth double,” he explains, but notes that at a certain point “anything really big becomes a logistical nightmare,” meaning that the size rule eventually peters out. (The Hoba meteorite in Namibia weighs about 60 tons, while the Willamette meteorite in New York’s American Museum of Natural History weighs a mere 15.5 tons.)

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