Let me just start by saying the topic of "Restorations" is a little bit of a taboo topic among fossil dealers/sellers. Why? Ahh...it's just one of those things where so many sellers do it...some more than others...and hence by discussing it and bringing the topic out in the open...your just simply going to step on a lot of toes.
Do I care? No, I do not...so let's get started.
The picture above is just one small example of what you could possibly be purchasing with a restored tooth. Yesterday morning I rolled out of bed and saw the above posting on my Facebook feed and hence I decided to write this blog. I don't honestly think there is anything I can say in this blog that is going to be more revealing than the before and after pictures ...but let's try to do our best anyway.
This blog post is going to be coming at you in a two part series.
Part 1: Should I buy a Restored Fossil?
Part 2: How to Spot Repairs and Restorations (coming soon!)
The answer to the first question and the topic of this blog is both "Yes & No."
Yes, if you can answer YES to the following questions.
1) Do I consider myself very knowledgable about fossils?
2) Do I know exactly what I am purchasing and if not...do I FULLY TRUST the seller?
IF the answer is "No" to either of these questions than I would not only walk away from a Restored fossil but I would run..and I don't mean a medium jog but a full out Olympic sprint...away from Restored fossils.
And let's just get this next fact out of the way. Restored fossils is where the overwhelming highest profit percentage is made. Why you ask? Just look at the original picture above. The seller has taken an almost worthless tooth...added man-made material and sold it for a whopping $610 (see pic below). This is no longer a Megalodon tooth. This is a sculpture of a Megalodon tooth. You are not paying for a fossil anymore. You are paying for this guys time for sculpting you a tooth. In my opinion this tooth could have been sculpted and painted in less than 2 hours, which equals roughly $300 an hour to add some bondo and then paint it. Not a bad gig. And the more fossils become popular and the more money is poured into fossils...the more and more you will see your 9-5 Subway sandwich maker and your soccer mom turning into a professional fossil restorer.
But let's move away from this example and talk more about fossils and restoration as a whole.
Does restoration have its place in the fossil world?
But these are in places and areas where restoration is needed. I would say just about all the big dinosaurs you see in a museum have extensive restoration done to them. The chances of finding a 100% fully intact huge dinosaur is pretty much non-existent. So they have to fabricate the missing pieces and restore the pieces that are damaged. This is common place and expected.
The same reasoning can be said for some rare locations of Megalodon teeth and other fossils. A six inch Peruvian Megalodon tooth with a missing tip is worth restoring in many cases. Six inch Peruvian Megalodon teeth are so rare that most serious collectors would still be willing to add it to their collection. Why? Because its better than nothing. The pickings are so slim for this size and from this location that restoration to some degree is acceptable.
But the opposite end of the spectrum exists as well. I would say the area right now that is producing the most teeth is off the coast of North Carolina, with South Carolina being a close second. Your run of the mill quality of average size tooth from either of these locations is so reasonably priced right now that why in the world would you buy a restored tooth from here? Teeth from either of these locations are not considered rare...they are not considered hard to obtain...there is no reason to buy a restored tooth from a location when a Natural specimen can be obtained for a reasonable price already. It's not like everyone is seeking out that elusive 4 & 1/2 inch Meg from South Carolina. You can find those for sale every single day of the week. The same can not be said for teeth from Peru or Chile.
It's like restoring the Mona Lisa versus a painting from Wal-Mart. One is so rare it would probably be worth restoring over time...one is so plentiful...it would make no sense.
Also, restoration is often used to "stretch" a tooth and by this I mean to make it bigger. The tip is busted off...instead of adding half an inch the restorer adds a full inch. Little root erosion...let's add another inch here. Pretty soon you have a tooth that was lucky to be 5 inches in its natural state being sold as a 6 & 1/2 incher. Why? Because this is where the money is. This is where the opportunity presents itself to take advantage. You mean to tell me the picture example above is not predatory? Of course it is. This seller is not trying to do honest restoration...he is here to PREY.
And we all know anytime money gets involved that ethics and morality often get put to the side.
So without making this blog a ten page rant....here is my advice.
Unless you have a great deal of knowledge about buying fossils or you trust the word of the fossil dealer absolutely 100%(including me) than stay away from restored teeth altogether. If you want to buy one anyway. Try and stay away from a tooth where either the tip or the root lobe(s) have been restored. This is where the greatest potential to stretch the tooth comes into play. If they don't mention where the restoration has taken place...stay away.
Lastly, look very closely at the pictures. If you think you can see the restoration in the pictures...stay away from it. I have been doing this fossil thing for a very long time and I only know of 3 individuals that I would consider to even be "acceptable" restorers. But I know another dozen or more that are terrible at it but that doesn't stop them from pumping out teeth left and right. The only thing worse than buying a restored tooth is buying a terribly done restored tooth.
And last but certainly not least....ask yourself, "Is this a restored tooth I am buying or a sculptor? If you don't know the answer to that question with 100% certainty ....lace up your track shoes.