A South Carolina businessman recently donated one of the most impressive private fossil collections in the world – totaling more than 1,500 specimens – to the College of Charleston.
Mace Brown of Mt. Pleasant, SC, began collecting fossils when he was in his early teens; today his collection, valued at more than $1.6 million, includes complete skeletons of such creatures as a giant armadillo, a cave bear and a saber-toothed cat, along with Tyrannosaurus rex teeth and Triceratops horns.
The collection focuses on North American land and sea creatures. More than 90 percent of the fossilized creatures in the collection inhabited South Carolina over a 400-million-year span, according to a College of Charleston press release.
“I wanted the collection to be in Charleston, in a location where fossils were the focus and a place where the public could see the specimens up close, not stored in cabinets out of the sight of the public,” said Brown, renown as an international fossil collector.
Brown’s passion for collecting and recording fossils was sparked by a rock collection when he was 13. By age 45, he had amassed more than 87 species of shark teeth.
Over the next decade and a half, Brown expanded his collection with fossils from around the world.
The collection, which will be housed in the Mace Brown Natural History Museum at the College of Charleston, also features saltwater mosasaurs with snakelike detaching jaws; skeletons of a warthog-looking, buffalo-sized pig; and a dog-sized horse and camel.
The collection also contains some of the best-preserved specimens of ancient whales and porpoises in the world, according to the school.
The Mace Brown collection was visited recently by two separate groups of scientists from the famed Smithsonian National Natural History Museum, where the collection is gaining notice.
“Scientists claim that parts of the collection rival the Chicago Field Museum and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum for the quality of specimens and the number of new species that have yet to be classified,” the College of Charleston said in its press release.
“In the last year, four different groups of researchers from around the world have used the collection as part of international research publications on Oligocene cetaceans and sirenians,” the school added.
(Top: South Carolina businessman and fossil collector Mace Brown with his collection at the College of Charleston. Photo credit: College of Charleston)