Nevertheless, the allure of moon rocks is strong enough to have created a black market where moon rock fragments and dust are sold for astronomical prices.
One way to obtain a moon rock is by purchasing a plaque that the US government sometimes gives to famous people and to politicians from other countries. They contain tiny slivers of moon rock. Some of these gifts have drifted into the collectors' market. A 1998 CNN article, "Customs agents seize 4-billion-year-old moon rock," reported that a Florida man was arrested for trying to sell a "fingernail-sized moon rock, weighing barely more than a gram" for $5 million. The rock was originally given to the Honduran government in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon:
Customs agents, postal inspectors and NASA launched "Operation Lunar Eclipse" in September with an advertisement in USA Today seeking moon rocks, officials said.Walter Cronkite got one of these plaques in 2004. Now that he is dead, I wonder where it will end up?
A Florida man identified as Alan Rosen called to offer a moon rock for sale. He told undercover agents he had bought the rock from the retired Honduran military officer, officials said. Agents viewed the rock at a suburban Miami bank and seized it on November 18, officials said.
Upon the Apollo astronauts' return from each mission, NASA shipped the spacesuits to their manufacturer for inspection. According to unpublished accounts, workers sometimes ran loops of scotch tape across them, picking up small amounts of moon dust.According to Antiques Roadshow, Christie's sold a moondust-on-tape sample for $300,000.
One of those moon-dust tapes, purportedly made off of an Apollo 14 lunar spacesuit, showed up in a for-sale newspaper ad early in 1992. A man named Steve Goodman had found the tape among the papers of his late father, whose company manufactured spacesuits. After consultation with Goodman and his lawyer, NASA decided it wasn't worth the effort--or the bad publicity--to confiscate the contraband moon-dust sample.
Also from Antiques Roadshow:
At a Superior Galleries sale in Beverly Hills in October 2000, one lucky collector named Florian Noller spotted a bag used to store artifacts collected on the moon that was taken from the Apollo 15 command module Endeavor. He bought the bag for $2,300. When Noller looked inside the bag, he found a previously unnoticed sprinkling of moon dust along its seams. He put scatterings of dust on little thumb-sized white cards and placed them on photos of astronaut James Irwin saluting the American flag, and then sold them in 2001 through Spaceflori, the German space memorabilia dealer he formed. Compared to the Irwin patch, this serendipitous moon dust was a bargain: the 12 larger cards sold for $2,495, the 50 smaller ones for $995.One perfectly legal way to own a moon rock is by finding or buying a lunar meteorite. Here's a New Scientist video (and article) on how to tell if a rock is from the moon:
eBay currently has five auctions offering moon rock meteoritese. The one shown here has a Buy It Now price of $34.90 and is guaranteed by the International Meteorite Collectors Association to be authentic.
My favorite is this "Rare Moon Rock 'Metal' Piece" selling for $2000:
MOON ROCK "METAL"
I'M NOT SURE HOW TO EVEN DESCRIBE THE ITEM.
A GENTLEMAN OWNED A METAL BUSINESS IN THE MIDWEST BACK IN THE 70's & 80'S, ONE OF HIS CUSTOMERS SENT HIM THESE PIECE WITH AN UNUSUAL REQUEST.
HE WANTED THIS PIECE OF MOON ROCK "METAL" MELTED DOWN & PUT INTO ONE OF HIS BATCH OF STEEL.
I'M NOT SURE OF THE REASON IT NEVER GOT DONE BUT HERE IT IS ON EBAY.
COMES WITH CERTIFIED LETTER WITH THE DATES OF THE REQUESTED WORK TO BE DONE. THE NAMES HAVE BEEN "DIGITALLY "WHITED OUT TO PROTECT THE NAMES..
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.