£1.67 per million years - Orthoceras plaque

Isn’t it curious the perceptions of worth and value?


My attention was re-drawn to this question most recently in relation to my Orthoceras plaque which I had taken, amongst other things, to show at the Cowdray Park polo event in May.


Visitors on the one hand were amazed by its age (circa 300 million years old) but then immediately asked “why, if it so old, is it so cheap? “  This prompted two thoughts.


Tintin by Herge - cover fetches 1.3M EuroFirstly, in asking that question could it be cognisance of other items (to take a recent example the 1932 Tintin book cover by Herge  fetching 1.3 million Euros at a Paris auction) or is it that, in general, man-made works of art, such as Picassos or Van Goghs,  attain enormous prices, with the accepted principle, for antiques and art anyway, being the older it is the greater its value. Giuseppe Maggiolini cassettone circa 1773 - image by Sailko

So was the thinking then “why not a massive price for these ancient naturally formed pieces?”

Secondly, and more negatively, that the apparently low price must reflect the fact that it was not real.


Contrast those  perceptions with one young visitor who was so taken with this particular piece that after being told by his parents that his pocket money would not stretch to its purchase, and Daddy couldn’t afford it, replied , much to his parents horror “Well, couldn’t we sell the house then?” !!

Orthoceras plaque ~300 million years old

There again, another child (because it is often children that are most smitten by the wonder of these objects) wanting to buy a smaller fossil, this time within his price range, was asked by his parents ”Well, yes, darling but what on earth would you DO with it? “  Surely owning such a thing is about the wonder of having something so beautiful and so old, which is also part of the natural history of our planet, not to mention what he could learn from it – not what one can “do” with it.


In terms of thinking it a fake, it seems to me a great sadness that the conceit inherent in some people means that if something is so unusual or beyond understanding that it cannot be “real” … not that I am naive enough to think that this does not sometimes occur with highly prized items.

Indeed, one of the most common remarks on seeing my natural iron pyrite cubes in matrix is that they cannot be natural and must have been “man-made” or “glued on”.  Well, they are real and just as Salvador Dali, one of the founders of Cubism, saw them on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees

Natural Iron Pyrite in Limestone Matrix


Natural forms are for me, personally, some of the most beautiful and magical wonders of nature and truly wonderful “works of art”.  Do have a look at some of them … you may well agree.


© Copyright Charlotte M Bailey 2012