Local dealers make no bones about trade

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am

Looking for a dinosaur egg? Try the antique shops on Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. This and other fossils are readily and openly available, but at a price - and there is no guarantee the items are genuine.

A fossilised dinosaur egg can cost between HK$1,500 and HK$3,000, depending on size and condition.

At Hung Wan Hong, an antique shop at Hollywood Centre, a nest of eight eggs from Liaoning province was on sale for HK$12,000. The dealer, surnamed Wong, said the eggs were about 200 million years old. A skull of psittacosaurus, a parrot lizard from the Cretaceous period about 100 million years ago, was priced at HK$50,000.

The fossils were not on display - they were in a storeroom. Wong also showed photos of fossils which, he said, were in a warehouse on the mainland. He claimed the fossils were genuine and offered to send them for laboratory tests, but the buyer would have to bear the cost, which was about HK$4,000. 'The fee can be more expensive than the fossil, so nobody has ever asked me for a certificate before,' he said.

The owner of Man Wo Yau Antique Company, a man surnamed Kong, said it was difficult to get rare items such as keichousaurus and bird fossils after the mainland cracked down on the trade.

He offered to look for a bird fossil. 'I have a partner on the mainland. I can talk to him to see how we can do it,' Kong said, adding it would take about three weeks and cost more than HK$150,000.

Lawyer Wong Kwok-tung said trading in fossils was illegal because under mainland law, fossils were the property of the state. Traders could be charged with possession of stolen goods, he said.

But dealers believe the sale of fossils is legal in Hong Kong.'If it's illegal, we won't be able to sell them on the street,' said Lam Wai-hing of Tin Shing Company on Lok Ku Road.

A spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department said a licence was required to import or export fossils and that anyone smuggling fossils faced a HK$2 million fine and seven years' jail.