By Angela Royston
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I showed the specimen to Warren and asked him, in his official capacity as an expert valuer, how much he thought the slab was worth as he had several similar specimens in his collection. I was delighted with his answer—we had got a bargain basement price on the slab. This was of considerable significance to the court case, as one of the defence’s arguments against me was that professional palaeontologists are not capable of accurately estimating the market value of fossil specimens (at this time there was a AU$1000 price cap on specimens requiring an export permit).
We walked down to the centre of Sydney’s business district. Eric now lives in an underground opal shop, Cody Opals at 176 Pitt Street, as the Australian Museum had made a deal to rent the specimen out for dollar returns, much needed by the museum’s administration. It seems that despite all the wrangles over the ownership and safe conservation of the specimen, the bottom line is that even the museum sees Eric as a dollar commodity. Of course, it also gives the Australian Museum a strong public presence in central Sydney, and all the visitors who marvel at the beauty of Eric and the other wonderful opalised fossils in the shop can be lured to visit the Australian Museum to see more fossils.
After reading about his credentials and experiences, and speaking to him on the phone, I was convinced that Steve Rogers was the one man who could really be useful to our cause, so I was greatly relieved when he called back to say that he would help us. We arranged for him to fly to Perth as soon as possible. 22 August 2001. I meet Steve Rogers at the Perth International airport, then drive him to his hotel in Fremantle, showing him some of the sights of Perth on the way. This is his first visit to Australia, and he seems happy to be here, away from his normal high-pressure routine.