Meteorites are in High Demand

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MENLO PARK, Calif. (NBC) - What is it about billionaires and space?

Jurvetson's office is filled with treasures, including the second largest Mars rock in private hands. (Photo Courtesy: NBC)

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Paul Allen have all entered the race for civilian space travel.

But there's another space race playing out in Silicon Valley.

Steve Jurvetson knows he might never get to travel to Mars. But that doesn't mean the respected venture capitalist can't bring a piece of the Red Planet home.

He's converted his office in Menlo Park, California into a private space museum.

It's filled with treasures, including the second largest Mars rock in private hands.

Jurvetson won't say how much he paid for the rock, only that it cost more than his first home.

To find such space rocks, Jurvetson turns to professional meteorite hunters like Michael Farmer.

Since the late 1990's, he's traveled to some 80 countries searching for these rocks, which he then sells to private collectors including tech heavyweights like Jurvetson.

"The Silicon Valley guys have been pretty good the last couple years," Farmer said. "They buy a bit different than the Chinese. The Chinese want large things, to put in office lobbies and things like that - whereas the tech guys want rare things - very, very special things."

Farmer, along with his friend and business partner Greg Hupe, recently returned from Bolivia. They bought several meteorites from Quechua people, a local indigenous community.

The rocks were some four billion years old. Within 24 hours, they flipped them for $60,000. This work is not for the faint of heart.

In 2011, Farmer was kidnapped, beaten and nearly killed by Kenyan thieves. That same year, he was charged with illegal mining in Oman, and imprisoned for two months.

Hupe also counts tech entrepreneurs as his clients, seen here with Naveen Jain, who is the founder of Startup Moon Express - a commercial space company.

Hupe sold Jain two slices of lunar meteorite, each weighing roughly one pound and about the size of a large dinner plate. Each slice of this rock cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last April, Christie's held an auction for these rocks. And sales totaled some $700,000!

Collectors don't necessarily think of these space rocks as sound investments.

Instead, Jurvetson says he buys meteorites because of the unique, rare story each ancient rock reveals.



 
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