A coffin maker says he feels 'cheated' after selling a meteorite that smashed through his roof for $14,000, but the price was probably fair
meteoritecrashed through the roof of an Indonesian coffin maker's home in August.
- Josua Hutagalung, 33, has said he was working on a coffin outside his house in Kolang, North Sumatra, when he heard a loud booming sound and decided to investigate and found the 2.1-kilogram rock. He eventually sold it.
- A Malaysian news outlet on Saturday reported that he had sold the ancient
spacerock for about $14,000 and felt "cheated" after being told it was worth far more. Scores of news outlets said it was worth $1.8 million.
- The BBC, however, poured water on that lofty valuation on Sunday, saying it relied in part on a false assumption about how buyers tend to judge meteorites' worth.
An Indonesian coffin maker appears to be regretting the price he charged for a meteorite that crashed through the roof of his home back in August — but at least one expert has suggested it was probably fair.
Josua Hutagalung, 33, has said he was working on a coffin outside his house in Kolang, North Sumatra, when he heard a loud booming sound. A 2.1-kilogram chunk of space rock had smashed through the veranda's tin roof outside his living room, the Daily Mail reported.He uploaded a video of the discovery on his Facebook page with the caption "A black rock fell from the sky."
That publication, and many others, reported that the meteorite had been valued at about $853 a gram, or $1.8 million.But Josua told the Malaysian News outlet The Star in an article published Saturday that he had sold it for 200 million rupiah, or about $14,000, and therefore felt "cheated." He disputed the characterization of foreign media reports that he had become a millionaire in US dollars.
"I have spent all the 200 million rupiah on helping my family and orphans, and building a church," he said.
How much was the black rock really worth?Jared Collins, an American meteorite expert living in Bali, traveled to buy the space rock from Josua. He shipped the space rock to the US, where it was sold to Jay Piatek, a doctor and meteorite collector from Indianapolis, who stored it in liquid nitrogen at the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University, the Daily Mail reported.
Insider approached Collins for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
Other parts of the rock, named Kolang after the city it hit, were discovered nearby, including in a paddy field, according to the New York Post. The Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas estimates the meteorite's total weight was 2.5 kilograms, Metro reported.At least two of those other pieces were apparently posted for sale on eBay, and news organizations appeared to derive the $1.8 million valuation for Josua's meteorite based on the asking price for the other two fragments.
The BBC published an article on Sunday by Andreas Illmer, however, that disputed the idea of using a price of one meteorite sale to calculate a per gram price for another.
Illmer wrote that meteorites — unlike, say, diamond rings — do not command a premium based on size. And the eBay listings themselves may have overvalued the fragments.The expert who conducted the official classification for the Kolang meteorite told the BBC he "had to laugh" at the valuation being circulated. While the BBC seemed unaware of the specific $14,000 price that Josua was quoted as giving The Star, Illmer wrote that he'd been told the sale price was "nowhere near the figure that began popping up in headlines across the world."
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