Fossil collectors flock to Tucson for rare finds - Tucson News Now

Fossil collectors flock to Tucson for rare finds

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson is at the center of the fossil world for the next two weeks.

At least 4,000 dealers from all over the world are in town to show case their pre-historic finds, unearthed all over the globe.

Fossils make up about 10% of the gem, mineral and fossil showcase event, but it's big money.  Museums and private collectors from all over the world flock to Tucson to find that next big item to take back home.

Fossil dealers in town said their "finds" had been displayed at natural history museums and universities throughout the county, including the Smithsonian.

"If you're anybody in this business, you're here in Tucson this week," said Paul Ulrich, owner of Ulrich's Fossil Gallery in Wyoming.

Inside Fossil Hall at the Tucson City Center-Inn Suites we found dozens of fossil dealers from all across America, especially the Midwest and Northwestern part of the country.

"Our fossil resources are world class.  We've got fossils from the Jurassic era and the Eocene era, they span millions of years," said Ulrich.

Ulrich said their team worked year round in quarries and private land to unearth good finds.

"When we find something extremely rare, it's excitement across the board," said Ulrich.

Items for sale ranged from $5 to $500,000.

Ulrich's big find this year was  55 Million old fish fossil unearthed in Wyoming.   The remains were so distinct you could see the outline of another fish in it's belly.  Ulrich said that was extremely rare to find something so detailed.

Michael Snively, general manager of Ulrich's Fossil Gallery was hard at work chipping away at a slab of rock, unveiling another fish fossil during the event.  He called it pain-staking work that was very rewarding.

"We're unearthing history, one grain of sand at a time," said Snively.  "It's a better investment than the stock market.  The price of this stuff keeps going up," he added.

Other items we found, a 35 million year old turtle fossil, and a company that sold Trilobite fossils that were 400 million years old.

Timothy Larsen with the Black Hills Institute said his company had been a part of the Tucson showcase for 41 years.  They specialized in dinosaur fossils.

"A lot of our dinosaurs are from the U.S.  I can tell you the T-Rex capital of the world is Buffalo, South Dakota," said Larsen.

The company as show-casing the skull of what they called a "titanotheer".  Larsen described it as a cross between a giant rhinoceros and a horse.  It dated back to 45 million years ago and cost $40,000.

We asked fossil dealers how to make sure what you were buying was the real deal.

Larsen said most of the dealers in Tucson had been in the business for generations.  He advised buyers to ask lots of questions, research the items, and ask other dealers for recommendations.

"If it's something from China find out if they have paperwork.  No fossils that are Mongolian are allowed to leave the country of Mongolia."

Some fossil dealers said they provided certificates of authenticity for higher priced items.

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