Having been dealing in fossils for about 20 years I feel it my duty to help novice collectors and gift buyers avoid those sellers out there who want to scam you of your hard earned cash. It makes me cry when I see people bidding on a carved rock described as a dinosaur egg.!
Put simply, nothing is for nothing in this world and the same applies to fossils. You will NOT get "museum grade” fossil for a few bucks and you will NOT get a "rare one of a kind fossil" for a few bucks. So why does it appear you can get them on eBay and some other auction and web sites ?
Lets face it most fossils on eBay are of the low value kind that are very common. This is great as it allows the starter collector or gift buyer pick up a nice little fossil for just a few bucks. Most of these small low value items are genuine e.g small ammonites from Madagascar. The problem arises where sellers out of ignorance or out of financial gain label some fossils as rare or museum grade when they are not, and this dumbs down the whole fossil market both for collectors and dealers. Examples of this can be seen on eBay every day.
How do I avoid these fossils you may ask. Well the only way to do this is to gain a small amount of knowledge about the fossil you want to buy and about the fossil market in general.
Below is a list of things I would do/think about before buying a fossil on eBay or any other auction site.
1.) Does the seller have high feedback with over 99% positive responses and sells only fossils/minerals etc.
2.) The type of fossils they sell. Do they normally only sell small low value fossils but some times put in a high value ones. Question this high value one with them , ask about repair and restoration.. if they are vague they don't know. Many of the people selling fossils on eBay have very little palaeontological knowlage and are just traders.
3.)If a specimen is lableled as rare and musueum grade and is only on for a few bucks with no reserve then this should set the warning lights going. NO ONE is going to sell a rare trilobite or museum grade fossils for less than 100's of dollars.
4.) YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET A REAL DINOSAUR EGG FOR UNDER $100 (I HAVE SEEN MANY ROCK CONCRETIONS AND FAKES WITH STARTING PRICES OF $10. THEY ARE NOT WORTH $1) YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET A PREPPED REAL SPINY MOROCCAN TRILOBITE FOR UNDER $200 IF YOU SEE ONE LISTED IT IS FAKE !!! DON’T LET YOUR GREED GET THE BETTER OF YOU. IT IS BETTER TO SAVE UP AND GET THE REAL THING THAN WASTE $50 ON A LUMP OF RESIN AND ROCK. !!.
5.) Fossils sold direct from China DO NOT BUY most are composite specimens. I would recommend Chinese vertebrate fossils are only bought from a dealer with knowlage in fossil preparation.
6.) Talking of preparation... a real fossil can take many hours to prep - or remove the surrounding rock without damaging the fossil. This takes time and money. A spiny trilobite can take a couple of days to do.. based on the UK minimum wage at 16 hours that is 88 GBP ($150) that is if you could get a 16 year old with no prep experience to do it !!! So if you wanted to give a spiny fully prepped real trilobite away with NO profit you are looking at about 150 GBP ($300) so now you know why the real thing should start at around $600 UP!!! Non spiny types can be prepped in an hour and hence have lower prices. (MOST UNPREPPED MOROCCAN TRILOBITES ON EBAY ARE FAKE OR PART FAKE.) The general exception to repair and restoration is with very rare fossils such as large vertebrates were they are never found complete.
8.)LASTLY IF YOU ARE GOING TO SPEND MORE THAN $50 ON A FOSSIL ON EBAY - ASK QUESTIONS. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH THE ANSWER THEN DON'T BUY.
9.)There is no substitute for research and experience. Look at fossil websites before buying to give you a general guide to what prices SHOULD be and how "Really Rare" a fossil species are. TO SEE SOME GREAT REAL NON FAKE FOSSILS CHECKOUT OUT MY STORE BY FOLLOWING THE LINK HERE. FAMOUS FOSSILS
BARGAINS CAN BE HAD ON EBAY BUT AS THE OLD ADAGE GOES "BUYER BEWARE".