Historic meteorites with hand-painted museum numbers and old collection labels carry a provenance that increases their monetary value and, more importantly, provide us with a tangible link to the past — to the collectors, researchers, and meteorite hunters who have come before us. Historic specimens put us in touch with the early days of meteorite collecting. They are friendly reminders that we are only temporary caretakers of our own collections and that we ourselves will, one day, become part of the chronicled history of these marvelous visitors from outer space.
H.H. NININGER, GLENN HUSS & THE AMERICAN METEORITE LAB
Seminal meteorite hunter Harvey H. Nininger’s extraordinary life was recounted in his thrilling autobiography, Find a Falling Star — a must-read for all meteorite enthusiasts. He authored numerous other books including Out of the Sky and Our Stone-Pelted Planet.
Dr. Nininger created the American Meteorite Laboratory (AML), the original Meteorite Museum on Route 66 near Meteor Crater, and was a founding member of the Meteoritical Society. He recovered thousands of meteorites and carried out extensive work at Brenham, Kansas; Canyon Diablo (Meteor Crater), Arizona; Toluca, Mexico; and many other locations across the United States and around the world. Harvey’s daring, pioneering work was continued by his son-in-law, Glenn Huss, and both men catalogued their meteorite specimens with meticulous hand-painted collection numbers. Specimens with Nininger or Huss numbers, or AML labels, are extremely collectible, come with a fascinating pedigree, and are among the most sought-after of meteorites.
Dr. Nininger developed an ingenious numbering and cataloging system for his meteorites — a system that influenced many subsequent collectors and collections. A small strip of white paint was added to one of the specimen’s faces, then a delicate number was added using black paint and a very fine brush. On the specimen pictured above, the number “34” is Nininger’s code for Canyon Diablo, while “3899” indicates that this was the 3,899th Canyon Diablo specimen cataloged. Given Dr. Nininger’s monumental role in meteorite history, specimens bearing his hand-painted numbers are highly desirable.
Harvey Harlow Nininger, the godfather of modern meteoritics, is a hero to both meteorite scientists and private collectors alike. He was a founder of the Meteoritical Society, started the world’s first full-time commercial meteorites business, opened the world’s first private meteorite museum, and carried out decades of groundbreaking, pioneering work in understanding craters and meteorite fall characteristics. He also developed meteorite recovery techniques that we still use today. Dr. Nininger’s long-out-of-print autobiography, Find A Falling Star is an important and adored memoir, and meteorite specimens carrying Nininger collection numbers are extremely valuable and sought-after.
Always the entrepreneur, Dr. Nininger also developed the world’s first celebrated meteorite collectible — the Nininger Star. He laboriously collected thousands of minute spheroids — tiny, drop-like globular pieces of iron meteorite from the famous Meteor Crater site in Arizona — and ingeniously adhered them to stars, which he cut from sheet metal aluminum. These stars are incredibly rare and highly collectible today, not just because Nininger fashioned and designed them, but also because collecting spheroids is no longer allowed at the impact site.
For decades, it was believed by historians and collectors that only two styles of Nininger Stars existed. We recently discovered that there are, in fact, five styles, including an extremely rare six-sided star, of which only a few are known to exist.
By very special arrangement with one of Dr. Nininger’s grandchildren, we were extremely honored to present the last known available Nininger Stars, embossed with a galaxy of iron meteorite spheroids and accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity.
These were an extraordinary offering from the dawn of modern meteorite history and something that is not likely to come around again. Though no specimens are available at present, we feel these pieces are important as informational resources.
In 1953, Dr. Nininger reported the following: “In September, 1952, Mr. Orf visited the American Meteorite Museum on U.S.66 west of Winslow, Arizona, on his return from a visit to Kansas. He brought with him several pieces of ‘iron ore’ which he wished to have tested for possible meteoritic characteristics. Casual inspection indicated that the specimens were from an oxidized metallic meteorite.”
After subsequent research, Harvey and Addie Nininger visited the find site and located a buried mass, using a mine detector. “We were,” he writes, “given permission to excavate and proceeded to uncover a broken mass of oxide which together with the scattered fragments weighed 230 lb.”
When he retired, Dr. Nininger sold part of his collection to the Center for Meteorite Studies at ASU, Tempe. We acquired numerous historic pieces from ASU in an institutional trade and those pieces are accompanied by an original CMS/ASU identification card.
(Pictured) This Pierceville iron meteorite specimen, recovered personally by H.H. Nininger and his wife, Addie, has been cut and polished to reveal its internal structure. Although quite weathered, it still shows typical features of iron meteorites, including a (faint) Widmanstätten Pattern.
Though no specimens are available at present, we feel these pieces are important as informational resources.
One of Dr. Nininger’s early expeditions was to the Brenham, Kansas strewnfield. In 1933 he conducted extensive excavations in a depression that was thought, at the time, to be a meteorite crater. Later work demonstrated that no craters were formed by Brenham pallasites, and that these meteorites happened to have landed in a natural depression or buffalo wallow. Harvey’s team uncovered numerous small, oval, metallic objects that were later proven to be weathered pallasite individuals. Dr. Nininger coined the term “meteorode” to describe these Brenham finds.
These actual specimens were found by Dr. Nininger and his team and were acquired directly from the Center for Meteorite Studies which owns much of the original Nininger Collection. Each historic piece is accompanied by a special handmade certificate of authenticity/specimen ID card personally signed by Geoff Notkin of Meteorite Men and Aerolite Meteorites Inc, verifying that these are authentic Nininger finds. An extraordinary opportunity to acquire an actual find by one of the most important figures in the history of meteoritics.
THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF OSCAR E. MONNIG
Oscar Monnig was one of the most resourceful and accomplished meteorite collectors in history. A resident of Texas, he was a successful businessman and owned six department stores in Fort Worth. Monnig’s early interest in astronomy grew into an unrivaled passion for meteorites and meteorite recovery. He was a friendly rival of H.H. Nininger’s and when they both showed up in the Leedey strewnfield (L6, fell November 25, 1943, Dewey Co., OK) it was agreed that they would divide the largest mass between them.
Oscar and his hunting team recovered Tishomingo, Pena Blanca Springs, Atoka, and scores of other important American meteorites.
Oscar lived to the age of 99 and bequeathed his magnificent and important personal collection to Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, where much of it is now on display in the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Gallery — one of America’s finest meteorite museums. Glenn and Margaret Huss of the American Meteorite Laboratory cataloged Oscar’s entire collection during the 1980s, and they hand painted the collection numbers (“M1.1”) which we today associate with the collection. Some of the historic specimens offered here carry an official Monnig Collection number (hand painted by Glenn Huss) and a second number painted by Oscar himself! A double provenance from a legendary personality in meteorite history and one of the greatest meteorite collectors of all time.
LABENNE SAHARA STONES
During the mid-to-late 1990s the French meteorite hunting family Labenne started finding stone meteorites in the arid deserts of Northwest Africa. These finds were made years before the NWA classification system was adopted, and were some of the very first Sahara finds. Each carries a unique hand painted field number. For example “99053” was the 53rd meteorite found during the 1999 expedition. Several have nice polished windows. Luc Labenne continues to be an active member of the meteorite community and Aerolite values its long friendship and professional association with this extraordinary and adventurous European family.
This beautiful Labenne Sahara meteorite is an unclassified ordinary chondrite. Its hand-painted field number, “Sahara 99955,” indicates that it was recovered during the Labenne family’s 1999 Sahara expedition. Precursors to the NWA (Northwest Africa) influx of meteorites, Labenne Saharas are desirable and attractive historic pieces.