Geoff Notkin Wields Star Power for the Greater Good
Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Notkin
Note from Beads of Courage: We are honored that Geoff Notkin has personally selected Beads of Courage as one of two charity beneficiaries of a portion of the auction proceeds. Read more to learn about Geoff and why he is a generous longtime supporter of BOC and our mission of hope and healing for kids coping with serious illness. And, if you’re a meteorite collector or fan of the Meteorite Men TV series, or know someone who is, please visit www.ha.com/notkin to view the auction lots and place your bids! Online auction is happening now and the live auction will take place on Wednesday, June 22.
By Loni Nannini, Beads of Courage Storyteller
Geoff Notkin is a rock star with a superpower: He can hook you up with a falling star.
He’s using that power to raise funds to support children battling chronic and life-threatening illnesses and their families through Beads of Courage with an auction by Heritage Auctions in Dallas. “Meteorites from the Geoff Notkin Collection” is available for online bidding now at www.ha.com/notkin and will culminate in a live and virtual auction at noon Central Time on Wednesday, June 22.
“I think a big part of the fascination with meteorites is that they are alien. They come from the night sky and represent the only way we non-astronauts will be able to touch another world or a bit of another planet in our lifetimes. Also, the journey they have been on is incredible: They have traveled immense distances. The average distance from here to the asteroid belt is 250 million miles,” said Notkin, who comprises half of the iconic team of “Meteorite Men,” the critically acclaimed science/adventure series that became an international phenomenon in 2009.
Commissioned by the Science Channel and produced by LMNO Productions between 2009 and 2012, “Meteorite Men” aired on Discovery and other major networks. Notkin, a science writer, together with treasure-hunter Steve Arnold, revolutionized meteorite hunting during three globe-trotting seasons of the show, which enjoyed a resurgence in 2021 as it began airing on multiple streaming networks including Curiosity and Sling.
The success of the series is a marvel to the man who loves history and has leveraged a passion for legends, research, minerals and life into a journey nearly as inspiring as that of the space rocks he pursues.
The Thrill of the Meteorite Chase: Science Meets Adventure
Notkin, whose eclectic background also includes author, former professional punk rocker, and TV series host/producer, is fascinated by meteorites with a connection to ancient human history and is dedicated to authenticity in his work and life.
“I never imagined there would be so many people in the world interested in watching two guys go out into the world to look for space rocks. I think ‘Meteorite Men’ appealed to people for a few reasons: It was an adventure show that was unscripted and we always wanted to keep it real. It is all about authenticity,” said Notkin, who first felt the pull of fireballs from outer space as a six-year-old at a museum exhibit.
That calling has taken him to six continents and 60 countries and enabled him to build Aerolite Meteorites, an internationally renowned company that offers everything from common stones to museum-quality pieces. He has visited sites as remote as the Arctic Circle, Siberia, the Australian Outback, the Sahara, and Chile’s Atacama Desert, amassing one of the best private collections of meteorites in the world. The space rocks are elusive, very valuable—rare small specimens can cost $100,000-plus—and difficult to authenticate.
“Only a handful of people in this work can identify and authenticate lab specimens, so trust and reputation are very important. Steve and I stand behind our finds and are known as people who go into the field with many years of research and experience. We were fortunate to work with a production company and network that felt the same way and thought the show should be authentic, educational and fun,” said Notkin.
The comedic chemistry between the “Meteorite Men” is complemented by a tag-team approach that combines Notkin’s love of ancient history with Arnold’s expertise in meteorites that have fallen more recently.
“I think viewers enjoy seeing Steve onscreen because he is witty, enthusiastic and one of the best meteorite hunters in the history of the world. He is a go-getter who will drive anywhere to any fall site and stay until he finds something,” said Notkin.
The partnership has resulted in the discovery of countless new space rocks and contributed significant data to the science of meteoritics.
This is a point of pride for the team, which has drawn accolades from academia as well as entertainment. Notkin emphasized that collection of specimens and scientific data at various restricted sites, including areas such as Whitecourt crater for the University of Alberta, has been an honor and a privilege.
“I am a private collector, commercial dealer, enthusiast and meteorite hunter, but I am not academically credentialed. We were asked to hunt in restricted areas in Canada to stop meteorites from being removed illegally and to help protect the integrity of the crater. Assisting with preservation of scientific data and the science of the site was a highlight of my career,” he said.
On a personal level, Notkin enjoys both the intense competitiveness of the hunt and the semi-meditative experience of using a metal detector in search of ancient meteorites.
“I love the wilderness and can be a solitary person. If you search a site where meteorites were found in the 1800s, you might be on your own for days or weeks or longer. When meteorite hunting, I am completely focused on the task and will sometimes wear headphones, listening for fluctuations to the faint signal going into the ground. It is a contemplative experience,” Notkin said.
Wielding Star Power for the Greater Good
When Meteorite Men skyrocketed in popularity, Notkin contemplated a new reality. While doing so, he recognized that he had the opportunity to transform star power into something more.
“I started to realize the potential for good that people in the media eye have. If you become a TV star or a movie star or a pop star, you have a degree of power that you can use for good or evil,” said Notkin.
Then 12 years ago, an opportunity to participate in a Beads of Courage event at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a chance meeting with a seven-year-old Meteorite Men fan who was battling leukemia resulted in an epiphany.
Notkin described the meeting as a profound moment that changed his perspective about day-to-day problems and small annoyances.
“She was a sunny and sprightly little girl who walked into the room full of smiles in her hospital gown, trailing her IV stand. She was so happy at the opportunity to meet someone she had seen on TV and to hold a meteorite that it seemed to make her forget about the very serious illness she was combatting. I was so moved by how upbeat she was despite this terrible illness that it made me reevaluate my place in life,” said Notkin.
Once he realized that his work could help him bring smiles to the faces of children who were battling illnesses and their families, Notkin was all in with Beads of Courage. He began volunteering at Beads of Courage activities and donating meteorites, photos and other Meteorite Men memorabilia at Beads of Courage events. He also began participating in the Carry-A-Bead program, carrying beads on meteorite hunts around the world and writing notes about the adventures to the children who received them. Additionally, Notkin has donated “meteorite dust” to artists to incorporate in the creation of one-of-a-kind “Act of Courage” beads that are given to children to commemorate significant moments in their treatment journeys.
“It all started because I gave that young girl a very small meteorite, but she did a very big thing for me. She helped me to realize that my strange work searching for rocks out in the desert can actually have an influence on the world. We are all so involved in our own lives—trying to pay the rent, be good at our jobs, take care of our families and pets, and fulfill other responsibilities—and it is not often that we get to see the difference we make in someone’s life. Beads of Courage allows me to do that,” said Notkin.
Meteorites with Meaning: An Auction that Gives Back
In his latest chapter of Beads of Courage support, Notkin has named the nonprofit a beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds of the “Meteorites from the Geoff Notkin Collection” auction. The auction features one-of-a-kind samples of iron, pallasite, mesosiderite, and stone meteorites as well as specimens of lunar and martian meteorites, along with extraordinary impactites.
“The collection is very meaningful to me. I haven’t lost interest; I just want to see them go carefully to new homes while I am around to help with that,” he said.
Additionally, Notkin wants to share the joy that the space rocks have brought into his life.
“I have had my time with them. It almost sounds silly to say that I am the owner of these pieces. They are billions of years old, they crossed half the solar system to get here and they will be here millions of years after I am gone. Really, I am just looking after them. I want others to share in that wonder,” he said.
Notkin said that he is excited to work with Heritage Auctions, which is renowned for its work in history and science, and is honored to be a “small cog in the beautiful machine that is Beads of Courage.”
Like the meteorites that fall from space, he understands that the nonprofit has an impact that reverberates through time.
“I was visiting a wildlife rescue center and was given a tour of the facility by a charming young woman. At the end of the tour, she asked if I was Geoff, the meteorite guy. She said she was one of the Beads of Courage children I had visited years ago and she is now a healthy musician living an exciting life. It was so very gratifying to see a grown woman who clearly remembered the part that Beads of Courage played in her life and recovery and I was a tiny part of that. If that is not worth supporting, I don’t know what is,” he said.
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