Sunday 20 OCT 2002
Edition 7GV Page Culture 53
Jaws of prehistory; My best buy; Interview; Steve Britton; Doors
by JAMES KNIGHT
Steve Britton, 39, a fossil collector from Devon, explains to James Knight how the web feeds his passion for sharks’ teeth millions of years old
‘When visiting local fossil shops, I started to notice huge sharks’ teeth – then I spotted the huge price tag. They belonged to a creature called a Megalodon, a giant shark that lived about 30m years ago, grew to 65ft and weighed 11 tons. You could have fitted a man with a child on his shoulders between the fully open jaws.
The shops wanted about Pounds 160 a tooth: online, teeth were a third of the price. One store in the United States suggested that I look on eBay, and I was surprised by the number of people who were trading fossils.
I spend Pounds 20-Pounds 50 on a tooth, and have 20 of them. I use PayPal for international orders – a secure way of using a credit card online. It makes life so much easier, and the bank doesn’t seem to impose any conversion charges on payments.
The service from these guys in the States is second to none. On one occasion I bought two teeth from www.megateeth.com. They didn’t turn up, so my contact offered to wait a week and send two better replacements. If the originals turned up and I didn’t want them, he would pay for the carriage back to the States, or I could purchase them then. We could learn lessons about service from our cousins across the water.
Normally, I pay between Pounds 3 and Pounds 8 per tooth for shipping. A couple of times it was about Pounds 13, but in both cases, the sites acknowledged that they had overcharged. I also look for fossils on local beaches. Lyme Regis, one of the most famous places for fossils in this country, is only 15 miles from where I live. My biggest find is a section of an ichthyosaur – a water-dwelling dinosaur, 180 million years old – that I found at Charmouth last September. That was valued at about Pounds 1,000 – not bad for a morning’s work.’