You can turn rocks into gold … with fossil finance!
The global market for fossil investments has been growing rapidly in recent years. The Wall Street Journal reports that the price of some fossils have increased tenfold in the past decade. The black market for fossils alone is estimated to be worth GBP 50,000,000 annually.
There is an absolute natural limit to the world supply of fossils, especially good quality, rare specimens. This cap is gradually reducing as more potential dig sites are used for development, and tighter regulatory control is exercised over the export of fossils in some source countries.
Every fossil in the world is completely unique, a characteristic that collectors love. Rising demand is driven by a growing interest in alternative investments (e.g. wine, art, antique books) among high networth individuals, more widerspread travel among collectors, increasing popularisation of dinosaur pop culture, new wealth especially among Chinese collectors, and a timeless fascination with dragon imagery. Celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Leonardo di Caprio, Nicholas Cage, and Ron Howard are active collectors. Businessmen especially convey a sense of power and prestige for having ‘tamed’ such ancient beasts that dwarf any visitor.
The international market for high-end fossils at the major auction houses has also seen increased activity in recent years. Some examples:
– Bonhams & Butterfields. Mosasaur US$350,000 (Dec 2007, Los Angeles)
– Christie’s. Dino egg US$97,500 (Apr 2007, Paris); Siberian Mammoth skeleton US$421,200 (Apr 2007, Paris); Triceratops fossil GBP 400,000 (April 2008, Paris)
– Chait. Mammoth GBP 200,000 (March 2008, New York)
– Heritage Auction Galleries. Mastodon skull US$191,000 & Lizard in amber US$ 97,000 (Jan 2008, Dallas)
– Sotheby’s. Allosaurus GBP1,300,000; Pterosaur GBP 160,000 – 250,000; Plesiosaurus GBP 457,000; fossilised palm leaf GBP80,000 – 100,000; Wooly Rhinosaurus GBP 97,000; mother-of-pearl ammonite GBP 20,000 – 25,000; European cave bear GBP 20,000 – 25,000; prehistoric crabs GBP14,000 – 16,000 (2010, Paris).
Sotheby’s New York also sold the most expensive fossil in history, the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex in history (christened “Sue” after its discoverer, paleontologist Susan Hendrickson), for US$8mn in 1997.
As with other alternative investments, investment risk is minimal if the specimens are carefully examined for authenticity and buyers enjoy them intrinsically even if their market prices remain stagnant (as opposed to investors of financial instruments who would be less tolerant of that happening). The greatly limited supply of fossils means that their prices will hardly ever decline significantly, so there is little need to hedge investment risks.
Imagine the economic potential if we could foster Singapore as a hub for the fossil investment industry. Now might just be the time for some modern alchemy by picking up that one-of-a-kind fossil showpiece that you’ve been eyeing for the living room!