Nininger Moment #25 The Sale of the Nininger Collection Part 1

Since there is a current discussion on the meteorite list of where the Nininger Collection is currently at, I thought it would be appropriate to generate this Nininger Moment.

From the 1920’s to the late 1950’s Nininger had hunted meteorites and amassed a collection second to none. Hundreds of meteorites had been located, bought and traded to make up what was the Nininger Collection of meteorites. As any collector would do he certainly held on to a number of the most impressive collection pieces out there for himself. Trading other fine specimens for localities that were not yet in his collection and represented other fine falls or finds of that era.

In 1957 the years of effort put in by the Niningers began to weigh heavily as their financial survival came into question. The sale of part or all of the Nininger Collection came into play as the Nininger’s wanted some financial security and a way of retirement. In 1956 Max Hey, the curator of the British Museum of Meteorites had expressed an interest in Nininger’s collection if he should ever want to sell it. The following year the British Museum ask for a an extensive price list for the collection and a vertical split of the collection for the museum. Nininger came up with an initial offering of $258,000 for half of his collection. The British Museum asked for another split of the items offered and asked for no less than half of the value, and asked for cost on cutting and preparation of those specimens. Out of 680 unique falls and finds in the Nininger collection, Nininger offered a 1/4 to 1/2 split on 276 specimens for a price of $155,000 dollars. The British Museum asked for time to raise the money for the collection offered before committing to the purchase.

In the mean time and before final acceptance by the British Museum, there was suddenly more interest in Nininger’s collection by the Smithsonian and Arizona State University. These two institutions were also needing to find a way to come up with the necessary capital to buy a portion or all of the collection. The Smithsonian suggested a price of $200,000 for the whole collection which Nininger decided would be an appropriate discount rate for the entire collection. The Arizona State University had no internal means and had to look out side for funding in order to make a firm offer. All three parties were notified of interest in the collection by the other parties but no effort was made by Nininger to induce bidding by the parties.

After many correspondences and delays of getting any firm offers by the three parties, on June 13th, 1958 came a firm offer in the form of a letter from C.F. Claringbull, keeper of the British Museum. In this letter was an offer to buy the collection as Nininger had proposed (about 1/5 of the Nininger Collection) for a sum of $140,000. After the offer Harvey Nininger cabled confirmation of the request to the British Museum and promptly withdrew from all other offers.

Source: Find A Falling Star By H.H. Nininger

The Nininger Moments are articles or books written originally by Harvey Nininger and put into a consolidated form by Al Mitterling. Some of the items written in the moments might be old out dated material and the reader is advised to keep this in mind.

–AL Mitterling

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