Fossil Buyers Guide

Perhaps you've just recently become interested in collecting fossils or perhaps it's been a long-term interest. Maybe you've even found some fossils of your own and are now thinking of adding more to your collection? Whatever your reasons there can be no doubt that fossil collecting can be a very rewarding and enjoyable hobby and very educational to boot! Indeed fossils can be wonderful decorative items for your home also with a large collection looking particularly impressive.

There are not many guides available for the 'newbie' fossil collector and most that do exist are are far from comprehensive. In a article like this it is not possible to cover the enormous breadth of the field of fossil collecting - in fact it may be that there is no other field of collectables that requires the depth and breadth of knowledge that collecting fossils requires. A good place to start for the new collector is with one of the collector's guide books that can be found. Try your local library or indeed just web searches to get some pointers. However there is no general guide on the market equivalent to the antiques price guides that can be found if collecting antiques is your hobby. This leads to the new collector being at somewhat of a disadvantage when appraising fossils for sale, which given the wide availability of fossils these days (especially on eBay) is a potential issue.

EBay has revolutionised many collectable markets and the fossil market is no exception. There is now a very wide range of fossils for sale on eBay, ranging in price from pocket money fossils to those potentially costing many thousands of pounds. With this in mind it's worth spending some time covering the possible pitfalls awaiting the unwary eBay fossil buyer. Of course any buyer on eBay should take some basic precautions when buying - please have a look at our general eBay buyer's guide for things to look out for. I hope this doesn't put you off - there really are some wonderful fossils for sale on eBay with many many helpful and honest sellers. In all things eBay you should take the time to ensure that you are getting what you think you are getting. The wise eBay buyer is an informed eBay buyer! With that in mind read on for some hints and tips that should help you in buying fossils on eBay.

The first thing you should do when considering buying fossils on eBay is to spend some time watching the market and studying the types of fossils available and the sellers selling them. Spend a week or two browsing and window shopping for fossils to get a feel for what is available and for individual sellers. Study sellers feedbacks and any information they have in their shop (if they have one) to further this process. Does the seller seem knowledgeable and indeed an expert in their field? Bear in mind that given the enormous breadth of types of fossils out there that the seller may sometimes not actually really know what an individual fossil they are selling is. In other words, don't always take what the seller says a fossil is for granted. Ideally, you as the collector will want to be able to identify fossils for yourself. This is especially necessary in cases where the fossil is commanding a high price - high quality and rare fossils may appreciate in value over time and it is very easy to spend a lot of money on fossils that will never even be worth what was paid for them. This is another reason to study the market for a while before buying. This way you will have a better feel for the prices that are likely to be charged for a particular type of fossil. Hence you will be less likely to buy something that is priced significantly above the norm. When buying a fossil on eBay, set your price and stick to it - if bidding, don't get caught up in a bidding war.

The biggest issue with buying fossils on eBay is being caught by fake fossils. Sadly there are many traders that are only too happy to sell fake fossils either through greed or simply because they themselves don't know that the fossil is a fake. Be especially wary of fossils being sold from China or Morocco, dinosaur eggs being a classic example of the type of fossil that is readily and commonly faked. You should be especially wary when buying from China as the Chinese government has largely banned fossil exporting from China. Chinese fossils are treated as cultural artefacts by the Chinese government and as such require permission to be exported. This permission is not usually given. So when you see a fossil on sale on eBay from China you have to ask yourself is it real? As mentioned, particularly affected by the fakery are things like dinosaur eggs, birds, turtle shells, mammals or even dinosaurs skulls and skeletons . How are they faked? Frequently skulls can be made up of crushed bone powder fragments of real bone and glue or resin. Teeth from dinosaurs can be made up of several partial fossils glued together. Teeth can also be formed from ground up bone and resin as can dinosaur claws or horns. Another tell-tale sign is a complete skeleton arranged in an almost laughably perfect pose, as if the creature had died whilst having its photograph taken! Then it would seem to have been fossilised without the slightest bit of movement or crushing in the hundreds of millions of years that have elapsed. Sometimes entire fossils are made up in a plastic mould, glued to rock and then dusted with rock powder to make them look real. Others can be entirely carved into the matrix (this is the rock that surrounds our fossil and from which it emerges) with varying degrees of skill. Sometimes skulls from modern animals are used and aged to to look like fossils artificially. Dinosaur eggs can be carved from rock.

This all sounds rather depressing but in reality there are many genuine sellers and a genuine fossils to be found on eBay. Don't let the warnings above put you off, eBay can be a fantastic place to find a real bargain or the missing item for your collection. In many cases even fake items can look impressive if used for decoration only - provided you knew what you were buying was fake and it was priced accordingly. In this case it would probably be described as a replica or reproduction.

Good luck with the hunt for fossils for your collection!

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