It became a heated battle as a dozen children quickly started bidding on the fossilized fish. The bids started at a mere token and almost instantly climbed up to 20 tokens and went far beyond, but how was that possible? Each child only received 20 tokens – how could anyone bid more than 20?
This bidding frenzy was the Children’s Auction at the New York Paleontological Society’s (NYPS’s) Annual Holidays Party held at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU in Brooklyn, NY last December. As new members of the NYPS, this was the first time our family attended this free, annual gathering of enthusiast, amateur, and professional paleontologists and geologists.
We started off by signing in and receiving a free door prize – fossils for everyone! We each picked a wrapped gift containing a rock with a fossil imprint. Then as we settled in to eat from the buffet lunch put together through donations and member contributions, we won a raffle! Our older daughter got to pick out and keep a mineral from the fossil and mineral sale.
The prizes kept getting better as our daughters assembled with the other children for the free Children’s Auction around a table filled with dinosaur paraphenalia and a small assortment of fossils including Megaladon (a giant prehistoric shark) teeth, ammonites (a spiral-shaped shell), and fish where you could see the bones and the shape of the fish. The auctioneer, a member of the NYPS, gave each child 20 “tokens”. He started off by asking if anyone wanted the plastic dinosaur he held up in his hand. A few children rose their hands. As he increased the bids, hands went down and it was “sold” for a mere 3 tokens. He proceeded to do this with other plastic dinosaurs, dinosaur books, dinosaur activity kits, dinosaur stickers, and other items donated by NYPS members.
The auctioneer moved on to the fossils. You could see some of the older kids get excited. They and my daughters had been waiting to bid on the fossils. He began with the best Megaladon tooth which garnered 7 tokens. There were half a dozen ammonites so when he realized that there were 6 bidders left, including my daughters, he let them each take one for 4 tokens. Then he held up the nicest of the 4 fish fossils. The bids for it quickly went up to 20 and then 21! How did that happen? My daughters and another set of siblings had been crafty. They pooled their tokens together. The other family had 4 children so they won the fish fossil for 38 tokens. My daughters combined their remaining 32 tokens to win one of the other fish fossils. The Children’s Auction was definitely one of our favorite parts of the party. It was equitable to all of the children who were very happy with their prizes since there was definitely something for everyone from the toddlers to the teenagers.
We then caught the tail end of the scavenger hunt. There were 22 clues to different items in the general auction to be held later in the afternoon and at the fossil and mineral sale. We quickly went around trying to learn about the different artifacts in the room and answer the questions; however, we needed more time. We’re hoping for better luck next time, since the top responders received fossil and mineral prizes!
There were also a couple of stations where the children could make things to take home including a plaster cast just like paleontologists. My daughters first chose a plastic sting ray and turtle. Then they pushed them into clay to make a distinct impression of their creatures in the clay. Finally, they poured plaster on top and waited an hour for it to dry!
In the meantime, we participated in the general auction. There were a variety of fossils being auctioned off as a fundraiser for the NYPS – fossils of plants and animals in rocks, ammonites, prehistoric mammal skulls and other bones, amber, and even an Apatorsaurus vertabrae! My 7-year-old daughter told me she wanted to bid on the amber and the vertabrae. We actually had the winning bid on a marble-sized piece of amber with some small insects in it for $35! We weren’t so lucky with the Apatosaurus bone. The bids quickly skyrocketed and ended up at $300, which I guess is pretty reasonable, but I have no idea what the going price is for an Apatosaurus vertabrae! Maybe we’ll get one next time!
Skills: Visual acuity (discerning between all of the fossils), fine motor (molding the clay and making impressions in it)
Preparation: None – just show up prepared to eat and have fun!
Cost: Free as part of our $20 per year annual family membership! We did donate a few jumbo bags of chips to the lunch. We also paid parking in a nearby lot since we didn’t have any luck finding parking on the street.
Time & Energy: It was a 40-minute drive from our house to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. We stayed for 3 hours, but the event is about 5-6 hours long with the general auction at the end.
Contact Info: If you’re interested in joining the NYPS, check out their website (www.nyps.org). Donald Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president of the organization.