Origins: One of the top "get rich quick" daydreams involves a lucky buyer who stumbles across something offered for a relatively low price by a seller who doesn't realize its true
This favorite form of financial fantasy seemingly played out for real in February 1986, when Texas gemstone broker Roy Whetstine came across a potato-sized rock in the bin of an exhibitor at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Sale. Bargaining the seller (who thought the stone was a lavender-colored agate) down from his $15 asking price, Whetstine hurriedly purchased the rock for a mere $10.
Nine months later, after he had the stone appraised, certified, and insured, Roy Whetstine announced to the world what he had bought: a whopping
Whetstine and his fabulous find became overnight celebrities, their story featured in such popular media outlets as network news segments, People magazine, the New York Times, and Joan Rivers' talk show. Whetstine announced plans to sell his bargain gem in uncut form for
But by a few months later, the wheels had fallen off his ride to the land of riches.
Follow-up news stories disclosed that
"We wouldn't buy it. We wouldn't want it, I don't think, even if it were offered to us. We certainly couldn't accept it as a gift, given the crazy values on it."
"Technically it's a sapphire" — it has a six-ray star, and its size is "very interesting" — but to qualify as a gem, its color should be attractive.
"The color," he says, "is awful — it's just kind of muddy gray."
Mr. White says his estimate of the stone's value "would be modest indeed — maybe as low as a few hundred dollars."
Whetstine suggested that The Times call appraiser Elly Rosen, an independent appraiser from Brooklyn who has been a gem consultant for the Internal Revenue Service. Rosen said: "It is not of gem
Asked about the value of the stone, Rosen said, "I don't think the word million can enter into conversation. I don't think six figures can enter into the conversation. I think the difficulty would be in the five figures. It is not what it has been made out to be. It is nice to see, it is an
Last updated: 17 October 2007
Frammolino, Ralph. "Controversy Centers on Texan's $10 Find — Sapphire May Not Be a Star After All." Los Angeles Times. 13 February 1987 (p. 1). Herold, Ann. "To a Texas Gemstone Broker, $5 + $5 = $2.28 Million." Los Angeles Times. 13 November 1986 (p. OC2). Associated Press. "Star Sapphire Called 'Insignificant Stone.'" The New York Times 14 February 1987 (p. 50). The New York Times. "$10 Purchase of Star Sapphire Produces a New Texas Hero." 17 November 1986 (p. 15). The New York Times. "Precious Mettle." 21 November 1986 (p. 34). The New York Times. "When a Sapphire Is Not a Gem." 23 August 1987 (p. 50).