Paleo-prospecting

Singapore is a geological infant and has very limited in situ fossils to dig around for. On the other hand, embarking on overseas fossil hunting expeditions may be logistically challenging for some of us. You would strain to even find a pure-play fossil store still surviving in our tiny local market, save for a couple of mineral or religious shops. Many collectors here turn to eBay to shop for fossils, where it’s not easy to discern the quality (or authenticity) of a specimen from a photograph alone. Apart from trading amongst ourselves, my take is that the next easiest way to acquire good fossils at decent prices is from fossil and mineral shops directly in other countries.
 
My favourite countries to shop for abundant fossils so far are
– Australia: Especially opalised shells, Yabbies, Belemites, Crinoids, etc.
– China: All species but be very careful about fakes and note that exporting vetebrates from China is illegal
– Hong Kong: Especially Hadrosaur eggs from Henan
– Morocco: Especially trilobites, but note that entire industries exist here to manufacture fakes
– Nepal: Ammonites are sold by the basket-loads in Kathmandu
– Spain: A lot of the better stuff from neighbouring Africa are exported here, including abundant trilobites, amber, Spinosaurus & Mosasaur teeth, etc.
– Taiwan: Many great specimens are imported from all over the world, including China & Mongolia
– Thailand: There’s a shop at Chatuchak with many mammal fossils. Surprisingly i also picked up tortoise and dino egg fossils here.
– The UK: Especially Ammonite, dinosaur bones, etc.
– The USA: Especially fish, dinosaur bones & claws, Megalodon teeth, etc. Check before you go where/when the many gem, mineral, and fossil conventions are organised because many of the best specimens will be on sale there.

Note that there are also laws prohibiting the exportation of fossils in countries such as Argentina, Canada, Magadascar, Mongolia, and Morocco.
 
When in the shops, what I find useful is to spend time really engaging with the owners about their collections. The truly passionate and experienced ones give you additional valuable information about each specimen, refer you to other shops nearby, and sometimes bring out their personal collections that may be kept hidden ‘at the back’. They are the ones who care more about nurturing the industry than about making a fast buck, and tend to start at reasonable prices. When they sense your enthusiasm and knowledge, inadvertedly they tend to reciprocate and give you an additional discount or throw in an item for free.
 
I usually keep in mind the ‘anchor prices’ of a few typical items (which could of course vary by size, condition, etc.), such as $20 for a Knightia fish slab, $200 for a perfectly-defined, palm-sized Megalodon tooth, $500 for a dinosaur egg, etc. This way i benchmark the prices against comparable items to gauge if the store generally offers decent prices or not, for the items whose market prices i may not be familiar with.
 
Happy negotiating!

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About chuyeeming

Just another passionate collector of fossils
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