Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the original Jurassic Park!

The Singapore Fossil Collectors Group organised our first ever movie screening last Saturday of the latest installment of the franchise – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and were delighted to see sixteen fossil fanatics show up, including even some who were coming to see the movie for the second time!

Couldn’t think of anything befitting than our first-ever movie review. Here are the highlights of the movie for me:

The movie returns to Isla Nublar, three years after Jurassic World’s ill-fated second resort left off. You would have seen in the trailer that the premise involves saving the dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption. Although Costa Rica does lie along the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is quite unfathomable that a billion-dollar corporation such as Masrani Global would have neglected to factor this risk into their site selection study!

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), now a dinosaur rights activist at the Dinosaur Protection Group, is reunited with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) on a rescue mission to re-site some 11 species of dinosaurs to a new deserted island home. Dinosaur lovers are in for a treat, as this time several new species join our favourite raptors, T-Rex, and Mosasaur: the Ankylosaurus, Allosaurus, Carnotaurus, Compsognathus, Gallimimus, Stegosaurus, and even a Baryonyx!

The main characters don’t quite manage to make a clean getaway before the eruption, but somehow most of the dinosaurs still end up captured and stowed onto a ship. As it turns out, the aide running expedition sponsor Benjamin Lockwood’s foundation has gone rogue, and is instead shipping the animals back to the Lockwood Manor to auction them to black market arms dealers! This would explain why they only needed one of each of the animals rather than a mating pair, although this little detail may have escaped our intrepid adventurers or paleoveterinarian Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) who thought they were re-locating the animals. One of my favourite scenes on the ship is where Clare and Owen find themselves trying inside a claustrophobic container with a drowsy T-Rex, trying to draw its blood!

The plot goes on to spend an extended part of the movie in the manor, which, apart from featuring an amazing museum, also has an underground lab, zoo, auction house, and logistics depot! In the hands of Spanish horror director JA Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls), this mansion also becomes a sort of ‘haunted’ house for the ensemble –  including Lockwood’s young granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon)- to play cat and mouse.

Yes, the plot may have as many holes as a Sinoceratops’ frill (just a couple, really!) and yes, it would have been nice if the story had more breakthroughs like the first Jurassic World did (e.g. an actual working theme park, hybrid dinos, raptor training, giant Mosasaur, as well as the idea of weaponising dinos – why not re-introduce Mammoths, sabretooth cats, Megalodon, or even Meganeura this time?). The acting and chemistry among the cast was good, the suspense and action was fun, the storyline had some moral takeaways for the kids, and of course the dinosaurs were spectacular as always.

Longtime Jurassic Park fans will enjoy seeing Dr Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) cameo, but the dinosaurs were the real stars, especially clips of velociraptor Blue and his siblings when they were babies. There’s also a particularly adorable but grumpy Stygimoloch, who brings new meaning to the phrase ‘bull in a china shop’.

What are you waiting for? Go catch the movie already, or watch it for a second time!

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The Fossil Collector on Hello Singapore

Thank you 狮城有约 for the feature!

 

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Dinosaurs at SJCK

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Last week, we were invited to St. James’ Church Kindergarten to deliver a learning journey on prehistoric life.

The cohort of 200 kindergarten two students discussed different types of rocks, deep time, the fossilization process, ancient climate systems, and even continental drift. They went through a multi-sensorial experience of different dinosaur genera: Listening to the crack of a sauropod’s tail, feeling the tooth marks of a mosasaur on an iridescent ammonite specimen, smelling the scent of amber pieces, and comparing the sharp claws of modern and ancient theropods.

Our travelling museum displayed over 50 specimens, and as always the highlight of the day was when they took turns to handle actual fossils! The students were thrilled to grasp earth’s first lifeforms in a 3.4 billion-year old sample of stromatolite, run their fingers over the serrations of an ancient T-Rex tooth, feel the thin morphology of a Pterosaur limb, and marvel at the thickness of a Pachycephalosaurus skull bone. They gushed with excitement when they received specimens of real Spinosaurus teeth to bring home and proudly teach their parents about the largest land predator that ever lived!

Preschool educator Mrs Chua remarked about the event, “Children’s interest in the topic is evident.  Calvin has skillfully delivered the session, children were engaged and enthusiastic.  Along with a wide range of fossil specimens, children were treated to a feast of hands-on experiences!”

Thank you St. James’ for giving us the privilege to share our passion with our next generation!

 

 

 

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Full Plesiosaur for sale

 

The plesiosaur (Greekˌ πλησίος/plesios; “near to; Sauria”) is a genus of sea reptile from the Late Cretaceous, 90 million years ago.  The first skeleton was named by Edward Cope, who erroneously connected the skull to the tail. This was corrected by Othniel Charles Marsh, and became part of the “Bone Wars” rivalry. Plesiosaurs had the most neck vertebrae among all vertebrate animals, but was not very flexible and could not be held high above the water surface unlike cryptozoological depictions of the Loch Ness Monster. Every collector’s dream is to have a full 3D-mounted actual plesiosaur in their collection. This amazing specimen measures over 3 metres. It originates comes from Mibladen in Morocco and has just come onto the market. This is available for sale at SGD 38,000.00 including shipping to anywhere in the world.

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10 awesome exhibits from Treasures of the Natural World

Singapore Fossil Collectors with a giant ground sloth (left) and a saber-toothed cat (right)

 

The Natural History Museum in London is the custodian of one of the most scientifically-significant natural history collections in the world. Within its treasured building, the Museum looks after 80 million specimens among a wealth of objects that help scientists understand our planet.

In this unique exhibition, Singapore’s own ArtScience Museum and the Natural History Museum carefully handpicked over 200 star items for their historical and scientific importance. Each original object fired the imaginations of remarkable people and helped shape scientific theory, telling a story of curiosity and discovery. Here’s a small selection of the many amazing specimens on display in Southeast Asia for the first time!

1. Barbary lion skull from the Tower of London. Over 600 years ago, this majestic lion – formerly found in northern Africa and now extinct in the wild – lived at the Tower of London, the royal palace by the River Thames. It must have made an awe-inspiring spectacle as part of a group of exotic animals kept there. Workers dug up the skull in the Tower moat in 1937, and DNA analysis identified its species. It’s quite interesting to think that its keepers simply threw him into the castle moat (presumably) after he died!

2. Mortality plate of giant trilobites. Trilobites thrived in the shallow oceans in the Cambrian period, around 487 million years ago. Scientists believe that this group of giants suffocated during a mass mating event, which offers a fascinating insight into how they behaved. It may sound unusual to pile up together to spawn, but this is exactly the same behavior exhibited today by their living relative, the horseshoe crab, found locally at places like Changi Beach, Chek Jawa, Kranji, Mandai, and Sentosa.

3. Glass octopus. Exceptionally intricate, this detailed glass model is part of a set made for the NHM in the second half of the 19th century by father and son model makers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. Though beautiful these models were also of enormous scientific value. Real specimens lose their colour when preserved in alcohol, but by accurately documenting the appearance of a live octopus in their model, the Blaschkas enabled scientists to study the species’ colouration.

4. Baroyonyx claw. Amateur fossil hunter William Walker found this enormous dinosaur claw in a quarry in southern England in 1983. Further excavation by NHM experts unearthed more bones, and eventually a new species. This dinosaur used its claws to spear fish and rip open carcasses. Scientists named it Baryonyx walkeri in honour of Walker and it remains one of Britain’s most complete examples of a carnivorous dinosaur that walked on two legs.

5. Portrait of Gustavus Brander (1720-1787) by artists Nathaniel Dance (1735-1811) and actual Eocene fossil shell seen in painting. Gustavus Brander was a curator at the British Museum who was passionate about natural history, and collected fossils in the cliffs near his country house in Christchurch along England’s south coast. He is seen in this 1770 portrait holding a large fossil shell, which he realised was not a native European species, but might have come from southern latitudes or the deep sea. He had presented this shell from his personal collection to the British Museum in 1765, whose holdings were later transferred to the NHM. Next to the painting is the very same Hippochrenes amplus shell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Hand axe. In 1859, archaeologist John Evans and geologist Joseph Prestwich found this hand axe deep in a gravel pit alongside bones of a mammoth and a rhinoceros species known to have become extinct thousands of years earlier. This axe dating to 400,000 years ago was evidence that humans have been around for much longer than previously believed.

 

 

 

7. Ichthyosaur collected by Mary Anning.  This fossil of a young ichthyosaurus communis from 200 million years ago was collected by the famous Mary Anning herself, some years after she discovered this species. The ichthyosaur was a marine reptile that had a streamlined body like that of a modern dolphin.

 

8. Letter from Alfred Russel Wallace. This letter that Wallace wrote to naturalist Henry Walter Bates, dated 28 December 1845, stated, “Many eminent writers give great support to the theory of the progressive development of species in animals and plants.” It reveals that Wallace was exploring evolutionary theory some 14 years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species. In 1854, Wallace first arrived in Singapore and spent a total of 228 days over several visits, collecting specimens, listening to wild tigers at Bukit Timah, making detailed observations that may today still be found at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and even trying durian like any self-respecting ethnographer should!

9. James and the Giant Theory. Charles Darwin found this young giant tortoise walking around his cabin and kept it as a pet, naming it James. Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle had reached the Galápagos Islands, and he noted that these Chelonoidis nigra tortoises were related to those on the Ecuador mainland despite being 1,000 kilometers away. He also noticed that different islands on the archipelago had tortoises with differently-shaped shells. Pictured next to it from around 1858 – 1859 is a handwritten draft manuscript of Darwin’s book On the Origin of the Species, one of the most influential books ever written describing his Theory of Evolution which he refined for 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Shark teeth collected by Sir Richard Owen. By comparing fossils to living creatures with clear similarities in their anatomy, Owen realized that fossils and living animals were related. Unfortunately our curators made a little boo boo: In this exhibit, the Otodus tooth from Arabia is in fact on the right, and the megalodon tooth from the USA is on the left!

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this list of our favorite items. Do visit this amazing exhibition!

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African T-Rex jaw for sale

Carcharodontosaurus (Greekˌkɑːrkəroʊˌdɒntoʊˈsɔːrəs/karcharo (“jagged”) existed between 100 and 94 million years ago, during the Cenomanian stages of the mid-Cretaceous Period 110 to 93 million years ago. Originally called Megalosaurus saharicus, Ernst Stromer von Reichenbach renamed it after the shark genus Carcharodon. This more primitive “African T. Rex” was in fact a carnosaur closely related to Giganotosaurus, rather than to T. rex. It may have been slightly bigger than Tyrannosaurus, but not quite as large as the largest carnivorous dinosaur of all time – Spinosaurus, with whom it likely came into conflict with in a battle of epic proportions.

 

“Carch” teeth are abundant, but it is exceedingly rare to come across a full Carch jaw. This right mandible of Carcharodontosaurus saharicus was first discovered in the Kem Kem Beds of Morocco, and acquired several years ago from the famed French paleontology retailer Geofossiles. This one-of-a-kind specimen is available for resale for SGD 5,000.00 Please message me to arrange a private viewing.

 

 

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Introducing… Dilbert the Dimetrodon

Few animals are as iconic and mysterious as the Dimetrodon. Often mistaken for a dinosaur, Dimetrodon was actually a primitive synapsid – also known as pelycosaur – that pre-dated the earliest dinosaurs by 50 million years. This prehistoric “mammal-like reptile” is more closely related to our mammalian ancestors than to the archosaurs that spawned the dinosaurs.

It featured a hard palate, and like humans, single openings in the skull behind each eye known as temporal fenestrae. The ridges on the inside of its nasal cavity eventually transitioned to supporting mucous membranes that warmed and moistened incoming air, a sign of warm-bloodedness. A ridge at the back of the lower jaw, called the reflected lamina, which would later develop into part of a ring called the tympanic annulus that supports the ear drum in all living mammals.

Dimetrodon had a very successful predator design, evidenced by its 40 million year expanse in the fossil record and wide geographical distribution including Canada, Germany, and across North America. The most prominent feature of the Dimetrodon is its massive sail, consisting of elongated vertebral spines. It is theorized that in life this would have been covered by skin, and functioned as a thermoregulatory device or mating display. Aside from the potential advantage of controlled thermoregulation, Dimetrodon had differentiated teeth, hence the reason for its name (“two measures of teeth“). These consisted of teeth designed for grabbing its prey, and serrated teeth designed for shearing flesh. Dimetrodon was likely to be one of the apex predators of the Cisuralian ecosystems, feeding on fish and tetrapods, including amphibians and small reptiles such as Captorhinus.

Its reign ended with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the most extensive extinction event ever recorded, that saw 90% to 95% of marine species and 70% of all land organisms become extinct. It is also the only known mass extinction of insects.

This ultra-rare original Dimetrodon specimen, believed to be the first of its kind in SE Asia, was discovered in the Wellington (Ryan) Formation of Jefferson Country in Oklahoma, USA. It finally arrived in Singapore in three shipments after over a two-year wait required for the prospector to prep the specimen. We christened him Dilbert, after the white collar comic strip that also on occasion featured dinosaurs.

Welcome to Singapore Dilbert! Here he is reunited in a face-off with a Captorhinus, a small reptile that Dimetrodon is believed to have fed on from the same wetland ecosystem.

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Paleontology talk at MMI Bukit Batok Civil Service Club

img_6275Singapore Fossil Collectors was recently invited to Modern Montessori International (MMI) Pre-school and Childcare Centre at the Bukit Batok Civil Service Club to conduct an educational talk about paleontology for their ‘Funtastic Friday’.

The children were extremely well-behaved and listened attentively to topics such as rock types, fun facts about dinosaurs, the fossilisation process, and the science behind the study of prehistoric life. Even students as young as three years old were putting up their hands to ask and answer questions, and could hardly contain their excitement at the touch & feel session where they got to handle authentic fossils for the first time in their lives.

MMI Bukit Batok had this to say about the event,”We wanted the children to explore something different, out of their ordinary classroom routines, and invited the Singapore Fossil Collectors to conduct a session for us.”

“The children were in awe! We were most amazed by the PGs & N1s as we didn’t expect them to be able to sit through the entire session with their mouths open wide with anticipation! All of us enjoyed a great, informative session! Great thanks to Mr Chu & Mr Tan for their patience with the children and injecting so much fun & laughter!”

Thank you MMI Bukit Batok Civil Service Club and the students who have so kindly put together the dinosaur art frame for us! We will always cherish it and look forward to seeing you all again next time.

Please visit out their Facebook page for more pictures.

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School’s out!

 

img_6220Singapore Fossil Collectors was invited to collaborate with Mr Bottle once again, to exhibit and speak at Great World City’s Dinosaur Escapade from 17 – 26 June 2016. Over the fortnight, we displayed a wide range of authentic fossils, including real dinosaur eggs, teeth, claws, footprints, horns, bones, and even some dino poo! We enjoyed ourselves sharing our research on
paleontology, and the lively audience was thrilled with the opportunity to handle a wide range of actual fossils. Here are some of the specimens on display. We look forward to seeing everyone soon!

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Exclusive interview: Fossil preparation

Every serious collector of fossils will at some point have found herself either trying to remove a fossil from its matrix, repair a broken fossil, stabilize, restore, or polish a specimen to improve its appearance.

What did it take to prepare this beauty?

What did it take to prepare this beauty?

When getting help from one of the very most expert fossil preparator labs on the planet – White River Preparium – to prepare a gorgeous 3.5 inch Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth, The Fossil Collector was extremely lucky to also have gleaned a rare glimpse into the workings of the fossil preparator trade. Thank you so very much Sandy and Ed for your generosity in granting us this exclusive interview!

Softening the matrix

1. Softening the matrix

Sandy, how did your passion for fossils start?

It all started in Scenic, South Dakota at age 10, on a picnic with my parents. My mother and I were cooling our feet in the creek, I looked down and saw my first Oreodont molar.

 

 

 

 

 

Scraping off the matrix and glue

2. Scraping off the matrix and glue

Can you describing how fossil preparing trade came to be?

I’m not sure about when the trade started or why? Guessing, they needed to hold fossils together. Collecting them, they had no choice but to figure out what worked in preserving them. The techniques for preservation have evolved through the years, for the better. As the industry also evolved, many techniques were tried. Some worked while others failed. Now there are glues made specially for the trade, that seem to be able to hold up through time.

3. Air braiding with bicrab and final cleaning

What’s the fossil preparator ‘industry’ landscape like?

There are many well-qualified and professional preparators out there. Most prepare for themselves, some will do outside preparation work for others. They may work on one type of species or like myself, work on many different species. It depends on the individual.

 

How did you come into this profession?

I owe a lot to my husband, Ed. I had filled out an application for a job at the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, South Dakota, (where there) never seemed to be an opening. It wasn’t until my husband started working on the roof at BHI, I would stop by after work and wait for Ed to finish his work day. One day, I asked if there was something they would allow me to work on? They handed me an ice cream bucket three-quarter full of Oreodont single teeth, they taught me how to use an air scribe to clean the harder matrix from the teeth, air braiding to clean the rest of the residue. After cleaning, I was asked to separate them by species.

Crack-filling

4. Crack-filling

As days, weeks, months went by waiting for Ed, I started to learn the differences of the Oligocene mammals. I also found I so enjoyed working with Oligocene material. A job opening came 1986, starting from the bottom. Not long after, they offered me (an opportunity) to work on lower-end items, such as partial Oligocene mammal skulls, single side lowers, items worth between US$1.00 up to US$30.00. I figured I must have done well enough, since they soon started me on nicer skulls and turtles. I worked at BHI for four and half years, until I had an opportunity to work with someone else in the business. I owe everything to Pete Larson, Bob Farrar, Neal Larson, and several other employs at The Black Hills Institute. I wouldn’t have had a fossil preparation business if not for them.

Also I owe a lot to Leon Thesien, owner of Custom Paleo. I worked with him and his wife at the time, Diana. Leon taught me just as much as the Larsons had, so much so, it gave me the confidence to strike out on my own after two years. However, to do that, I needed to know I’d have enough work to get started. Enter Allen Graffham, owner of Geological Enterprises, known as the Grandfather of Commercial Fossils, though he wasn’t the first in that business. He had boxes and plaster jackets that needed to be prepped. Now I had the work, but needed tools and a place. My parents offered to loan us US$10,000.00 to build a 400 square foot addition on to the back of our house and enough left over to purchase the tools needed.

Sanding restoration

5. Sanding restoration

Thus, I started my business, White River Preparium in 1993. The only material I had was Oligocene to work on. Allen Graffham and Leon Thesien kept me busy for a few years, after the Oligocene (jobs) started to dwindle down, the years were tough here and there. When people would call with other items to have prepared, such as dinosaur teeth, bones, trilobites, ammonites, scaphites, if I hadn’t worked on them before, I’d tell them such, but would love to try? Besides I wanted to branch out and I’m glad I did.

My husband, Ed was still working at BHI for another seven years after my starting the business, as their carpenter, photographer, and all-around handyman. After 12 years at BHI, Ed decided to work from home in 2000. Business was moving along, our name was getting known. It took several years to build the business, it didn’t happen overnight. In this business, there aren’t too many female-owned fossil preparator businesses. That I know of! I know many talented men and women in the industry, not too many females that own their business. As the years came and went, we have been getting busier then ever. I have been working on fossils for 30 years and in business for 23 years….still going strong.

Restored and ready for painting

6. Restored and ready for painting

Would you encourage others to enter this profession?

If you have the patience and talent, just about anyone can learn to prepare fossils. It is however better to learn the right way to prepare, than the wrong. Some learn the wrong way, it can be very hard to un-teach them. If you can, find the best teacher out there!

 

What’s the fossil preparation process like?

First stage is to glue any cracks, specially enamel on teeth. Most soft matrix can be scraped off by knifing. Next is to air-brade, with the chosen abrasive used, helps to get in the smallest of areas and gives a clean surface. Once clean, epoxying the cracks and using epoxy for the smaller restoration, which is what was used on the Rex tooth tip I restored for you. Making of the shape and serrations is done while the epoxy is still curing and soft. After epoxy is hard, some sanding may be required to smooth the edges where the enamel and epoxy meet. It helps to smooth all the restoration. At this point it’s ready for painting, I use acrylic latex craft paint. And many different colors! When the painting is complete, I apply a thin layer of wax over the enamel part of the rex tooth.

Close up before painting

7. Close up before painting

Are there any handling instructions for prepped fossils?

Although it is fragile, it can be handled…but carefully. Paint and wax will be seen if scratched.

 

 

Can you recommend any resources that are useful to help achieve morphological accuracy?

I do use copies of hand-drawn illustrations of all the Oligocene fossils found in South Dakota. They were a gift from Leon Thesien and BHI when I started the business. However, after doing as many Oreodonts, turtles, and other more common skulls as we have, you just know what they look like after preparing hundreds of them. I do refer to the drawings for the less commonly-found specimens. Most dinosaur teeth and other fossils, you can look at the piece, it will show you what is needed, how to shape it, bevel the edges. It does help to have an eye for what it should or will look like when finished. We also seek help from BHI when we’re stumped on something. Or I might Google a picture if we have a question on where a bone should be positioned. Other than that, it does help to know ahead of time where the cheeks, teeth, and other fragile bones on the skull are, before beginning the cleaning of it. Of course, not all fossils are articulated, things can be shifted or not where they should be. It can be a lot of work to assemble a disarticulated skull. Like a puzzle at times, but I am one who has loved puzzles since a child. I’m in heaven placing pieces together, creating a finished specimen the client would be proud to show. Or, having an Oligocene block here with a skull and skeleton. Air-brading to expose the bones is still a thrill. You never know what might be discovered, such as rodent bite marks or injuries. I have seen many of both through the years, and find it fascinating every single time.

Painting the restoration

8. Painting the restoration

What should clients look for when deciding to work with a fossil preparator?

Best to ask other fossil friends that may have had work done before. The fossil world is small, most everyone knows one another or has heard about them. If working with someone new you haven’t yet heard of, ask for pictures of their work? If they’re proud of their work, they will be more than happy to show it! All preparator’s have different techniques and styles. Some good, some not so good. See if their work is what you find pleasing to the eye. I’ve had quite a few pieces in the lab, work done by someone else, here to be redone. At times it’s harder to undo others work, than starting from scratch. I’ve never advertised, it’s all been by word-of-mouth.

In your experience how does the value of different fossils change after preparation, and in what situations?

There are many that sell unprepared fossils, giving someone else a chance to try their hand at it or perhaps make a little money. Not all fossils are worth a great deal of time, if any. However, you might get one of those special fossils worth spending the time to have prepared. Like a nice sabertooth cat! They are highly sought after, depending on how easy it is to clean. What we call a free-mount (free of all matrix) is worth spending time. It depends on so many factors; are the teeth in good condition, how much is missing? The amount missing will mean more restoration and more cost to restore. You might purchase a cat for hundreds, that once prepared and prepared well, may bring thousands. However, you might have to invest a US$1,000.00 to US$1,500.00 in prep. Including the purchase of the unprepared skull, one can easily sell it for double, if not triple the costs you have in it. Some are worth the cost to have prepped and others just aren’t. If collectors or buyers are having their pieces prepared, the preparator should suggest options, how much work should be done. It’s best to work with someone in the business, with a few years under their belt who can better advise you.

Finished tooth!

9. Finished tooth!

Do you collect fossils yourselves and what is your collecting philosophy? What are some of your most prized specimens?

Ed and I did have a place to collect Oligocene material. We collected for four years, but after the business bloomed, we found we hadn’t the time. Ed once found a really nice complete Dinictis sabertooth cat skull, although the majority of our finds ended up being low-end pieces. I believe if no one is there to collect the fossils, they will fly away with the wind and the rains, never to be seen again. If it’s found and someone can make a little pocket change… I see nothing wrong in that at all. As long as it’s collected legally.

What advice do you have for anyone keen to learn how to restore fossils, either for their own collection or as a trade?

A tough question to answer, it depends whether they have had any experience in preparing? If you can find someone to teach you the trade, make sure it’s a preparator that knows what they’re doing and knows the correct way. It does help to have artistic skills, I have found artistic people learn quicker. If you feel confident, give it try! If not, please leave it to the professionals.

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