I Held a $110K Piece of the Moon, and, Well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you’re in the market for a $110,000 piece of the Moon, it’s your lucky day.
The moon meteorite. All Images: Derek Mead
On a good day, the surface of the Moon is roughly 225,622 miles from Earth. But one day last week, it was in my hand, quite literally.
The impetus for our editor Derek Mead and me to head over to Christie's New York headquarters was admittedly selfish: It was a Friday afternoon, and we don't often get to touch a bunch of meteorites, Martian, lunar, or otherwise. And we unfortunately don't make the kind of scratch (and assume most of you don't either) to shell out a couple thousand bucks for a piece of space rock that has come hurtling directly toward the Earth because of some cosmic entropy and randomness.
In any case, if you do need an expensive paperweight, you've got a couple days left to bid on rocks that have come from, in some cases, millions of miles away. They've landed in places like Namibia, Siberia, and Lyon County, Kansas. Some are untouched, others have been molded by sculptors to look like spheres; one looks like a fish.
They're cool, and it was a great way to spend a Friday. But, like, they're rocks. And I couldn't get over that fact. Once you move past meteorites' inherent scientific value (and these particular ones have outlived their scientific usefulness), they're just big pieces of mineral. There are rocks everywhere, many of them just as pretty as the "large partial slice of meteorite from the lunar highlands" that I held in my hand. Many of them, save for your precious gems, clock in at prices just slightly below the $110,000 opening bid for said sliver of the Moon.
And yet this one. This one had not only been to space, it had managed to somehow travel from one celestial body to another one. To Morocco, in fact, where it was found by someone. And then it traveled from there to New York City, and we happened to be there at the same place at the same time. The Moon.
"The type of meteorite is hugely important: Specimens from the planet Mars or the Moon command a premium," James Hyslop, who heads up Christie's science and natural history division, told me. "Also the appearance and aesthetics of the meteorite will capture bidders imagination, collectors will pay more for a beautiful appearance."
This piece (and all the others) are certainly very beautiful, and now seems to be like a good time to auction off a bunch of different meteorites: Hyslop said art collectors are looking at space rock collections as the next big thing.
"Meteorites are increasingly appealing to collectors from other sectors of the art market," he said. "Antiquities, contemporary sculpture and scientific book collectors, to name just a few."
While holding the piece of the Moon, all I could think about was how thoroughly stupid it'd be if I accidentally dropped and broke a $110,000 (minimum) space rock. Does Earth not exist in space? Is not every piece of Earth, all of it teeming with life, as precious as some hunk of rock from our visibly dead subservient ball-and-chain?
It was a cool rock, sure. It was smooth, and it looked great, and it was a little lighter than I thought it would be. And it was from the freaking Moon. But it's still just a rock.