AUTHOR, ADVENTURER AND TV HOST GEOFF NOTKIN OFFERS UP HIS OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD COLLECTION
By Steve Lansdale
Geoff Notkin has a soft spot for the wild places – “the astounding, challenging and magnificent places” – because in his world, the world of meteorite hunting, you don’t find the good stuff unless you’re willing to work hard for it. And if that means trekking across six continents and 60 countries, then so be it.
“Somehow, the best meteorites often seem to lie in the most difficult-to-get-to places – the Arctic Circle, Siberia, the Australian Outback, the Sahara or Chile’s Atacama Desert,” he says. “I went there, where the meteorites fell. The thrill of uncovering that most elusive of quarries – actual meteorites from outer space – has always been the great adventure of my life.”
Known best as one of the hosts of Meteorite Men, a documentary reality television series that ran on the Science Channel from 2009-2012, Notkin, along with co-host Steve Arnold, roamed the globe in search of meteorites – lost bits of the universe that, against all odds, landed on Earth. But his fascination with the celestial wanderers began when he was just a kid, long before the Science Channel came calling.
“It started when I was 6 years old,” he says. “In a museum exhibit I stared at meteorites that had somehow come to us from out there, from the far-off coldness of space, a place that only telescopes could see. They were the height of scientific and natural wonder. Meteorites are astronomy – or, more accurately, the geology of other worlds – made manifest on Earth.”
Over the years, Notkin amassed an impressive personal collection of meteorites – physical and often colossal representations of his lifelong passion. Now the private collection of one of the most celebrated meteorite collectors in the world will be made available to the public in Heritage Auctions’ June 22 Meteorites from the Geoff Notkin Collection Nature & Science Signature® Auction.
“This collection is an enormously important assemblage, one of the finest in the world and one that top collectors have been waiting years to see,” says Craig Kissick, Heritage Auctions’ Nature & Science Director. “Geoff Notkin is not just a TV personality who happened to talk about meteorites. He has spent his life studying meteorites, traveling all over the world to assemble a collection worthy of display in any museum.”
Though Notkin’s collection includes related items such as a rare hardbound first edition of Brian Mason’s Meteorites, an original Meteor Crater Exploration & Mining Company stock certificate and his signature Fisher F-75 metal detector, most of the 136 lots in the auction are meteorites, collected from locations around the globe. Among the most impressive: the massive Admire meteorite from arguably the most well-documented meteorite recovery of all time.
The behemoth measures nearly 21 inches in length and tips the scales at 231.5 pounds, so heavy that when Notkin and Arnold found the piece during the second season of Meteorite Men, they were able to pull it out of the ground only after strapping it to a motorcycle on which Notkin was riding. The magnificent specimen – which could be the largest pallasite for sale anywhere in the world – is the biggest surviving intact find from the award-winning TV series. A meteorite “celebrity,” it has been featured in several publications, exhibited at the renowned Tucson Gem & Mineral Show and highlighted in Notkin’s book How to Find Treasure from Space.
Another large specimen featured in the auction is the Canyon Diablo meteorite “The Alien Face,” which garners its memorable moniker from the two spherical “eye holes” where soft inclusions – likely graphite – were boiled out during flight or weathered away once it hit the ground, giving it the appearance of an alien face. The extraordinary specimen from the world’s most famous impact site in Arizona includes small, pointy “feet” that allow the piece to stand up easily without a base, creating a magnificent perspective from any angle. The majority of Canyon Diablo meteorites are shard-like fragments that were ripped apart by the explosive forces of the impact and crater formation, making this beauty – measuring nearly 9 inches in length and weighing about 51 pounds – all the more impressive.
One of Notkin’s favorite lots in the auction is the Sikhote-Alin meteorite “The Flying Wing” – a museum-quality specimen offering deep, well-formed overlapping regmaglypts and abundant flow lines. Another top-tier specimen from the Sikhote-Alin meteorite is a gorgeous example of a meteorite with a hole through it – a feature coveted by collectors. Meteorites with holes are exceptionally rare, with a frequency of somewhere around one in 1,000.
“Geoff’s passion and love for meteorites is clear when looking at the scope and breadth of this assortment,” says Heritage’s Kissick, “especially when realizing so many specimens in the collection are among the best known examples of the type for their size.”
Notkin says parting with some of his treasures has been difficult, but he is honored to open his vault to Heritage Auctions and give other collectors a chance to reap the benefits of his adventures.
“I have been collecting for 28 years, and it has brought me immense joy,” Notkin says. “I don’t feel like I would be doing any justice by keeping these magnificent specimens in a vault or a display cabinet.
“It’s almost like I’m not a collector, anyway. I feel like I have been a curator. We’re caretakers of these incredible pieces of history. They were here before us, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone. I don’t want this collection to go to the basement of a museum somewhere. I want to make sure these pieces end up with people who can study and appreciate and enjoy them as much as I have.”
STEVE LANSDALE is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.