Meteorite Lands at Rummage Sale

March 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Posted in Finds, News | 1 Comment

meteor_crater_arizonaHaving bought what he thought was just a hunk of melted-looking metal at a Milwaukee rummage sale, a Wisconsin man has learned that it is not only an extremely valuable meteorite but an extremely valuable stolen meteorite. Tom Lynch paid $10 at the sale for the vaguely basket-shaped fifty-pound hunk, which he believed was copper or bronze. A 62-year-old car enthusiast with little interest in metallurgy, Lynch planned to sell it for salvage — until he happened to see a TV documentary about meteorites on the Travel Channel and realized that what he actually had was an approximately-4.6 million-year-old relic from outer space.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Lynch rushed his find to Chicago’s Field Museum, where scientists told him that the hunk was indeed a meteorite. Putting it up for sale, he had received an offer for $10,000 and was hoping that the price might rise by magnitudes of ten — until he was contacted by a minerals expert who recognized the relic as having been swiped in 1968 from the visitor center accompanying Meteor Crater, a tourist attraction (and big hole) near Flagstaff, Arizona. Now Lynch is preparing to drive the meteorite to Arizona and deliver it personally.

Originally, it was found by a rancher three miles from the Arizona crater and permanently lent to the visitor center, which opened in 1942. “On Aug. 12, 1968, someone walked away with the meteorite,” the Journal-Sentinel tells us. “At the time, the value was placed at $5,000, and the Coconino County sheriff issued a nationwide bulletin for its return.” About five years ago, the center’s director got a call from a man claiming to be a lawyer representing a family that was in possession of the meteorite. The family was requesting a reward in exchange for its return. The center’s director told the alleged lawyer that thieves don’t deserve rewards. The “lawyer” never called back.

Tom Lynch is being given a $1,000 reward, and a tribute to this good-hearted rummage saler will be posted alongside the meteorite when it goes back on display.

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