How to Price a Fossil

By Contributor
A well-preserved fossil is priceless.

There are many variables that can determine the price of a fossil. However, it's also important to remember that no two fossils are exactly alike. This makes knowing how to price a fossil even more subjective, because there is simply no solid, objective frame of reference. Of course, a fossil's monetary worth is truly only equal to what a collector is willing to pay for it. Still, there are some key things to consider in order to know how to price a fossil, whether you are a collector or a dealer.

Learn How to Price A Fossil

Accept the fact that very common fossils will not fetch much of a price at all. Some examples of common fossils include mollusks, flints, ammonites and shark teeth. Every novice collector is bound to have a box full of these already.

Know that the exception to the above is a specimen that exhibits a characteristic not usually seen in other examples of the same kind of fossil. This small difference can add up to a significant increase in the price of the fossil.

Understand that most fossils, particularly larger specimens, require some amount of restoration. However, this can detract from the price value of the fossil if most of its composition is artificial.

Figure on an exception to the above, as well. If the fossil specimen is extremely rare, then restoration can actually improve its value.

Determine how much restoration if any has been made to a fossil by examining it under a black light. Natural bone or enamel will emit a fair amount of fluorescence.

Use a loupe which enlarges four times or more to inspect certain fossils, such as bone and teeth. Well preserved bone fossils should reveal a system of tiny cracks, while enamel from bone should look slightly glossy. Restored pieces of bone and teeth will look more grooved and dull, respectively.

Compare your fossil or one you're considering purchasing to museum casts to help determine identity and market value. The American Museum of Natural History maintains an online reference library where you can conduct your own research (see Resources below).


Be aware that many dealers receive specimens from remote places, such as Morocco or China, and their actual origin may not be authenticated. In fact, most faked fossils are derived from China.