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2009 May Signature Natural History Auction #6016

Sold for: Not Sold
Auction Ended On: May 17, 2009
Item Activity: 1 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Heritage Auctions - Design District Annex
1518 Slocum Street
Dallas, TX

L5 Chondrite
Park Forest, Illinois, USA

At approximately 11:30pm on March 26, 2003, it seemed as though the sky was falling on the quiet village of Park Forest in the southern suburbs of Chicago. The sky turned a deep blue then blinding white, brighter than ten lightening flashes, as an extraterrestrial bolide (meteoric fireball) tore through the atmosphere, observed across four states; the accompanying series of thunderous sonic booms were heard as far away as Western Canada. Exploding in a fireball approximately 20 miles up over the American mid-west, the meteor was estimated to be the size of a VW beetle and weighed up to eight tons. Despite this spectacular explosion the resulting fragments were mostly tiny and fell only on the small area of Park Forest and neighboring Olympia Fields, the only instance in modern times where a town was plummeted by a meteorite fall - most occur in rural or entirely deserted areas. The episode was made further unique by the fact that video footage of the actual fall was captured, allowing scientists the extremely rare opportunity to study the meteor's trajectory. Only nine meteorite falls have ever been recorded in the state of Illinois, and never before in the Chicago area. The majority of the damage was in the form of dings to cars and windows (a hole in the roof of the local fire department); to have a meteorite plough straight through your house is, in the words of one resident, "like winning the space lottery". Fortunately no-one was hurt, but one young man had a close call.

It is unusual for a meteorite to gain title to its own name but the now-famous "Garza Stone" earned its moniker after the havoc it caused when it crashed through the house of Noe Garza at 426 Indiana Street, Park Forest. Noe's 14 year old son Robert was abruptly awakened when the 2.7 kilogram mass crashed through his bedroom ceiling, missing his head by a mere few inches. It smashed through roof tiles, plywood and 2 x 4 joists, ricocheted from ceiling to window to mirror-fronted closet and finally came to rest in the middle of the bedroom. The damage was sudden, shocking and extensive, and Robert curled up in fear on the other side of his bed, the only undamaged part of his bedroom.

Noe himself had been standing exactly where the meteorite entered the room a few moments earlier when he had tucked his son in for the night. He did not know what else to do other than to comfort his son and call the police. The police showed up and immediately picked up the largest part of the meteorite (2,333 grams, the largest to impact a human-made object) and sealed it in an evidence bag, together with a smaller fragment that had broken off. They discussed what it might be and realized it must be a meteorite because no human would be strong enough to through a stone that hard. The meteorite was taken to the police station and assigned case number 03-04895; under offense they listed "N/A (Act of God)". The meteorite spent several weeks in the jailhouse until it was released back into the custody of the Garzas.

In the meantime, Garza patiently answered reporters' and onlookers' questions for months, resulting in much more press attention than for other stone from the shower. His insurance company denied his claim because meteorite strikes are not covered, but the problem of funding the repairs soon evaporated as offers from all over the world came in for the now famous "Garza Stone". He held out for months until the Hupé Brothers made an offer he could not refuse, enough for the repairs, home improvements, a vacation, a Beer Meister Refrigerated Cooler and to pay off all of his bills.

Meteorites that hit man-made objects are affectionately referred to as "Hammer Stones" by collectors. They carry a great deal of appeal because each has its own rich history, and because they are extraordinarily rare. Well-documented "Hammer Stones" become historically important without fail and often realize prices running to hundreds of dollars per gram, growing ever-more valuable with time. One need think only of the house-hitting "Barnes Stone" from this same fall, which weighed less than a quarter of this specimen and generated only a fraction of the amount of press, yet sold for a justifiable $50,000.00. Another example is an ordinary mailbox hit by a meteorite in Claxton, Georgia, a now somewhat mangled metal mess with its red flag still in the up position, recently sold for over $82,000.00 in a New York auction. The Garza stone along with the evidence bag, affidavits and impact debris is a far more famous and impressive offering.

In addition to the atmospherically created fusion crust, this piece displays the wood, sheetrock and paint markings caused by passing through a man-made structure. It weighs 2,333 grams (5.143 lbs.), which represents over 10% of the entire mass of the fall, and measures approximately 5½ x 4½ x 4¼ inches (142 x 112 x 109 mm), accompanied by the police evidence bag, affidavit and fragments of impact debris - glass, wood, plasterboard and a fragment of venetian blind.

Provenance: The Hupé Collection

Condition Report*:

Condition report available upon request.

*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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