IMCA Insights – January 2006
Some Insights into the IMCA, Part 1
by Norbert Classen

Welcome to the first issue of IMCA Insights: the newsletter of the International Meteorite Collectors Association, Inc., published in cooperation with Meteorite-Times. IMCA Insights is designed to keep you up to date on what is going on inside of our association, and it will also inform you about our most recent projects, findings, and activities. In the first two issues of IMCA Insights we would like to introduce you to the IMCA, and to tell you a bit more about our history, our current status, our objectives, and our goals for the future. Let’s start with a brief history of the IMCA.

The Antecedents of an Association

While the planetary scientists and meteoriticists of all nations were all long settled under the shelter of the Meteoritical Society, united in the name of the science of meteoritics, meteorite dealers, and private collectors had no parent organization, and no common representation in the early days of the 21st century. The sense of competition had always been too strong in the small niche called “the meteorite market”, and – adding to that – many meteorite dealers and collectors are rare birds, and not the kind of persons that easily flock together to form a flight.

Don’t get me wrong – meteorite people can be pretty gregarious and sociable at rock and gem shows, and at associated party events. But each time when someone came up with the idea of forming a meteorite dealers or hunters association on the MeteoriteCentral mailing list, the idea was soon attacked by a few ill-famed list members, insulting and accusing everybody associated to the idea of price fixing, elitism, and more, resulting in the worst flame-wars in the list’s history. Steve Arnold, the now famous finder of the Brenham main mass, was one of the first to come up with such an idea, involving a “Real Seal” for genuine meteorites, but most supporters of Steve’s idea soon got discouraged by the inevitable barrage of insults and accusations, and dropped out, leaving no space for the idea to grow.

It actually took some time until the idea came up again on the MeteoriteCentral list, this time in connection to a controversy over a proposed bill banning fossil collecting on public land which also could be extended to meteorite collecting. On Monday, December 10, 2001, a new list member, Francis Graham, innocently suggested: “I understand that museums, etc. will be given ‘approval’ to collect. Then why not form museums, such as in conjunction with local historical societies (located in just about every county), and non-profit associations?”

Steve Schoner commented on this post, recapitulating the history of all the failed attempts to form such an association. He wrote: “Nearly everyone is divided over any proposed meteorite association – because few have the vision to see the benefits that an association can provide. But when it is too late, and restrictive laws are in place – then everyone will clamour for one – and it will be a true uphill battle then to change what has happened.”

Ron Hartman picked up the idea, and added: “An organization will necessarily need to be made up of ‘all interested persons’, i.e., a representation of collectors, (meteorite) museum curators, researchers and academicians from the scientific community as well as but not only dealers, if such an organization is to exist – and until such a cross-section of individuals come together and begin to cooperate with one another – there will not be a feeling that the necessary checks and balances are in place to prohibit any agendas that any specific segment or individual(s) may have.”

The Birth of the IMCA

Soon after this brief discussion, the idea came up again – this time in a somewhat modified form, and in connection to the many meteorwrongs advertised and sold on Ebay. On Monday, December 17, 2001, Steve Schoner wrote: “With regards to the Ebay meteorwrong issue we dealers were at one time on the right track. The kitschy ‘Real Seal’ was moving in the right direction. And, without bringing up the ‘association’ issue, why don’t we as meteorite dealers agree on a logo and a serial number that would be assigned to each of us? And the rolls could be maintained on a separate site publicly posted so that those that try to imitate, or de-fraud will be locked out. Not only will our logo speak for us, but our reputations will, and we will be shoulder to shoulder standing behind our offerings.”

Steve Schoner continued: “I think it’s time to stand up and group together and at least present a unified front as to what a meteorite is and is not. And when we do, perhaps it would be best to have that logo as a http-link to the site, with all the signatories listed with their member numbers, and then after that a posting as to what meteorites are and are not. … And for those that fear individual agendas – there will be no ‘leader’, just us, those that sell real meteorites – meteorites that can be backed up not only by us, but by the professionals that study them.”

Steve Schoner’s appeal moved a lot of people, meteorite collectors, and dealers alike, and a enthusiastic Rhett Bourland went ahead, and created the website that Steve Schoner had been suggesting. Of course, there were a lot of discussions, some setbacks and even more attacks from several sides, but Rhett remained firm, and a new association was born: the International Meteorite Collectors Association, or short IMCA. On Sunday, Jan. 13, 2002, Rhett Bourland sent the following announcement to the MeteoriteCentral list:

“Good evening everyone. I hope that this email finds you all well. As you may remember the discussion from a few weeks ago about forming an organization called the International Meteorite Collectors Association. It died due to petty bickering but has come back. Ron Hartman, Jim Hartman, Steve Schoner, Anne Black, Martin Horejsi, and I have been working since that time to get something together to fill the void that everyone has said that we have with the lack of a formal association for meteorite collectors and dealers and, personally speaking, I’ve think we’ve done a damn good job doing it! Please check out the website that we’ve put together at www.meteoritecollectors.org.”

Rhett continued with a passage that would become the foundation of the IMCA: “The single purpose of this association is authenticity. That is, to make certain that all our members adhere to the highest standards of meteorite identification, authenticity, and proper labelling practices. This is done via ‘self monitoring’. We, the membership, monitor each others activities for accuracy, and it is every IMCA member’s responsibility, and pleasure to offer help and assistance to other members to assure this accuracy occurs.”

In the following few months a lot of meteorite collectors, and dealers from all over the world joined the IMCA, a separate IMCA mailing list was established, and a first Board of Directors started taking care of the IMCA’s business. This original Board of Directors included Steve Schoner, Ron Hartman, Jim Hartman, Anne Black, Martin Horejsi, and it was chaired by Rhett Bourland as the first President of the IMCA.

From Formation to Incorporation

A lot of things happened during the following years: due to private reasons, Rhett Bourland left the original Board of Directors, as did Martin Horejsi, and Steve Schoner. Jim Hartman stepped in and took care of the IMCA website, and Ken Newton joined the Board in July 2003. Jeff Kuyken from Australia, and I, Norbert Classen from Germany, were invited to join the Board of Directors in July 2004, also to reflect the international nature of our association, and to represent our international membership. Jeff became the new Director for Australia and Asia, and I became the new Director for Europe, each of us handling complaints, and issues occurring in our respective domains. And in early November 2004, Jim Hartman decided to retire from the Board, and was replaced by Don Edwards who now signed responsible for the IMCA Logos, and the membership list.

The new Board of Directors proved to be pretty effective, and we all did our best to improve the International Meteorite Collectors Association in every possible way. The most important step was to transform the IMCA from an informal association into a legal corporation – a step that involved much paperwork, preparation, and money. In late 2004, the IMCA finally was incorporated, and registered under the laws of the State of Nevada, and Anne Black informed the membership on November 12, 2004:

“It is finally done and official; the IMCA is now I.M.C.A. Inc., a legal non-profit entity, registered under the laws of the state of Nevada. All our thanks must go to Ken Newton who managed to get it done in a timely manner and under budget despite being repeatedly interrupted by tempestuous visitors (Charlie, Ivan, Jane, …). Thank you very much Ken, it feels good to be official and legal! The first order of business was to name a first batch of Officers so we could start functioning. The Board picked and elected the following persons among the Directors:

Anne M. Black – President
Norbert Classen – Vice President
Ken Newton – Treasurer
Jeff Kuyken – Secretary”

The following year was more than busy for all of us. Since we were now official we also needed to follow the rules, and laws that govern non-profit corporations. The most important part was to establish a formal Code of Ethics, and to formulate, and to establish the Bylaws of our association. Jeff Kuyken did a great job in coordinating the formulation, and the establishment of our Code of Ethics while Ken Newton sacrificed much of his time in favour of the Bylaws that were finally adopted by the Board of Directors on August 26, 2005.

In October 2005 we finally had our first public elections, and three new Board Members were elected by our regular members from six candidates: Christian Anger, Adam Hupe, and Peter Marmet. At this moment, the Board of Directors consists of nine members, representing five nations: Anne Black (President, USA), Norbert Classen (Vice President, Germany), Ken Newton (Treasurer, USA), Adam Hupe (Secretary, USA), Don Edwards (USA), Ron Hartman (USA), Jeff Kuyken (Australia), Peter Marmet (Switzerland), and Christian Anger (Austria).

More information on our current projects, our objectives, and our goals for the future will be published in “Some Insights into the IMCA, Part 2”, the February issue of IMCA Insights. Thanks for your attention, and hope to see you again, next month.

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