The Nininger Connection


Imagine, if you will, that you are a little boy, about 12 years old, and that this is the mid-1950s. Your father likes to take the whole family on long vacations driving through the American West every summer and this year he has decided to go to Arizona. Of course you all visited that big hole near Flagstaff they call “Meteor Crater”, and then your father stopped by a shop full of rocks right by the road. Your father got into a lengthy conversation with the owner of the store, and, being only 12 years, you did your best to understand and ask intelligent questions, and you were rewarded with a silver ring. After what seemed like for ever, you all finally left the shop, you with the ring, your mother complaining about unnecessary expenses, and your father with a box full of rocks and a book.   


This is the story a very nice gentleman from Colorado Springs told me a few weeks ago. He was that little boy then. He is obviously much older now; his father died several years ago, his mother is 93, but he still remembers those summer vacations very clearly, and he still has that box (rather, he has the contents of the box; the box itself fell apart years ago) and the ring. He told me he had already done some research by himself and had discovered that the rock shop by Meteor Crater was really full of meteorites, and that the owner was none other that Harvey H. Nininger. He had even emailed Steve Shoner who had been able to identify all the contents of the box. Thank you, Steve.


The gentleman is now getting ready to retire; he brought the whole box to me, and asked me to find a good home for all his precious “rocks”.



What is in the box?



Plainview, 1049.7 grams individual with polished window, and numbered 92.376. This Plainview is listed in Nininger’s “Catalog of Meteorites”. A beautiful piece.




Canyon Diablo; 1010.9 grams individual with polished and etched window, and numbered 34.3050. There is another small cloth label glued to it, it reads: “along CD w. of crater”. I suppose it means that he found this particular along the Canyon Diablo proper, west of the crater. Did he really find over 3000 Canyon Diablos?




Toluca: 1173.8 grams individual with a large polished and etched window, and numbered 128.307 (it could be 309, part of that last digit is missing).




Brenham: 154.6 grams part-slice polished on both sides, somewhat triangular. There is a number on the edge, but this one is really hard to read, part of it is missing. It looks like 10 (1 or 2 missing digits) 09.




Canyon Diablo: small individual, 53.11 grams, highly polished on one side and filed flat on the other, it could be a piece prepared to fit in a bolo-tie mounting, after all this is the West and bolo-tie are still common here


Ring: this is the ring he was given as a child. Large man’s ring in sterling silver, holding a small highly polished Canyon Diablo. I am sorry I don’t know the size but it is too large for any one of my fingers.

I believe this ring was made by Nininger himself. In "Find a Falling Star", page 170, he writes: "During 1946 we developed ways to mount some of the small meteorites in the form of costume jewelry, sectioning and etching suitable specimens and polishing others along contour lines."




Tektites:  there is a whole baggie of tektites of all sizes, 570 grams, most of them are chipped, they were probably kept together too long. 2 of them are particularly interesting.

One is a large oval “hamburger patty” about 9.3cm long, 186.74 grams, with just one small chip along the edge.

The other is thick and round, 5cm across, 85.8 grams, and one side is just one large impact crater with central uplift. 




Out of the Sky: by H. H. Nininger, copyright 1952. This book is yellowed and has been read, but it is in very good shape, only the dust-jacket is torn and rather tired looking. Very interesting book with a lot of pictures of meteorites, some very rare (Cullison, Ollague, Pantar).



I would like to emphasize that right now all those specimens are exactly the way they were the day Harvey Nininger sold them over 50 years ago. Yes, they were looked at and handled, but they were never re-cut or re-polished, and they are in great shape, a few scratches, but no rust.

It is just like getting a bunch of meteorites directly from Nininger, through something like a time-wrap.  



One last question, of course: the price.

I will ask seriously interested collectors to make an offer, and will discuss the offers with the owner. Please remember that this is not just a bunch of “rocks”, or even a bunch of meteorites, this is a slice of history.