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Tracy




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PostPosted: Oct 10, 2006 20:51    Post subject: Labels and history  

Can you offer any opinion on how specimen labels (for example, from previous collections) and the age of the specimen influence the value of the piece? How important is it to keep older labels that come with with a newly acquired specimen? Also, does the fact that it came from a famous or important collection matter, even if it might be one of the smaller items from that collection? Thanks.
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PostPosted: Oct 11, 2006 07:41    Post subject: Old specimen labels  

This is done in some haste so it may not be a completely thorough representation of my feelings about this subject. Old labels should be preserved, I don't think that anyone will disagree with that. If the specimen changes hands, all of the labels of the former owners of the specimen should go with it. I do not, on the other hand, believe that the history of the former ownership of the specimens should be publicly displayed, either on labels or in vanity books about one's personal collection. I don't even like to see this information on photo captions in journals.

One reason for this is that it reveals information that dealers who once owned the piece may not want made public. It could tell the entire mineralogical community who that dealer bought the piece from and who he or she sold it to. The dealer may very well not want the whole world to know who his or her sources are and who his or her customers are.

Beyond that, the practice tends to add an artifical appeal to the piece. I have no interest in acquiring a specimen just because some famous person once owned it. If I like the specimen on its merits, then that is enough. Of course there can be exceptions. If I had an opportunity to acquire a specimen that was once owned by James Smithson, then I likely would find that interesting regardless of its quality.

But then this practice also opens the door to chicanery. How can one know that the specimen with the fascinating label is actually the specimen that originally went with that label? One can't in most cases, so one can be easily victimized.

All in all I believe that label retention is a good thing. Selling labels which just also happen to have minerals with them is probably not something that I want to support.

Aren't you glad that I don't have time to write more?

John S. White

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Carles Curto
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PostPosted: Oct 13, 2006 07:22    Post subject: old labels  

People involved in Museum work (and it is also a concern for particular collectors and dealers), know what labels (old or actual) signify. First of all we must consider that mineral collections include, at the same time, scientific, historical and patrimonial aspects, and labels can provide much of the information we need about every specimen (then, about Mineralogy).
Of course specimens for collections must be considered as scientific units, but at the same time, they must be considered, I repeat, under historical, patrimonial and even esthetic purposes. About this I could explain a lot of histories about identifying of problematic localities on old labels and the problems to identify them. For example I looked, for years, the locality, elegantly wrote with evanescent black? ink on a label: Siebenbungen, Germany. Well, the real answer was finally hidden in a bad transliteration of Siebenbungen (more or less the pronunciation, in Spanish of Siebenbingen that signifies, literally, Transylvania, now in Romania) But Germany, for the writer at that time, was the same as Austro-Hungarian Empire. Well, just a little example of the real significance of the information on labels through the time.
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PostPosted: Oct 15, 2006 21:45    Post subject: Re: old labels  

To the point of understanding and appreciating history associated with labels, do mineral specimens become more valuable if they were collected long ago? How significant is the "age" of the piece in terms of when it was originally collected or acquired?

Thank you


Carles Curto wrote:
______________________________________________________________________

> People involved in Museum work (and it is also of concern for particular
> collectors and dealers), know what labels (old or actual) signify. First
> of all we must consider that mineral collections include, at the same
> time, scientific, historical and patrimonial aspects, and labels can
> provide much as the information we need about every specimen (then, about
> Mineralogy).
> Of course specimens for collections must be considered as scientific
> units, but at the same time, they must be considered, I repeat, under
> historical, patrimonial and even esthetic purposes. About this I could
> explain a lot of histories about identifying of problematic localities on
> old labels and the problems to identify them. For example I looked, for
> years, the locality, elegantly wrote with evanescent black? ink on a
> label: Siebenbungen, Germany. Well, the real answer was finally hidden in
> a bad transliteration of Siebenbungen (more or less the pronunciation, in
> Spanish of Siebenbingen that signifies, literally, Transylvania, now in
> Romania) But Germany, for the writer at that time, was the same as
> Austro-Hungarian Empire. Well, just a little example of the real
> significance of the information on labels through the time.
______________________________________________________________________
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PostPosted: Oct 16, 2006 02:04    Post subject: labels  

First of all I ask for comprehension for my bad English, but I’m following with interest this forum.
It is just one more aspect of mineralogy (and collecting, of course). Maybe it is not important for someone, but the label(s) forms part of the sample’s history. I really ignore to what degree it actually (and in future) affects the price of the specimen (the advanced dealers can answer that better), but I think there is an increasing interest in original documentation (collection labels, commercial labels, cards, catalogues, figured specimens, etc.) between the advanced collectors and, of course, between Museums where we work also for the future, not only for the present.
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PostPosted: Oct 16, 2006 20:17    Post subject: Re: labels  

Thank you Mr. Curto for participating in this discussion and for your insightful thoughts. I agree with your comment that whether or not old labels are important is a matter of personal preference for the collector, not really different from whether a person is especially interested in crystal habits, colors, esthetics, localities, etc. For me, one thing I like most about specimens is when they tell interesting stories such as how they were formed, how they were discovered, or how they were extracted from the site at which they were found. When a specimen has an old label, it pleases me to know that it has survived over many years (especially it if was treated well), and it is nice to know that previous collectors enjoyed the piece as much as I do now. I think that it is another type of interesting story. I had not considered things from the perspective of a museum curator, but it makes sense to me too that we should try to collect and preserve whatever information we can about a specimen, especially the more significant pieces, so that the history can be shared with future generations.

This is just my personal opinion. I would still be interested in hearing from dealers whether having older labels increases the value of a specimen, and similarly whether a specimen is more valuable because it was found years ago and not recently. I would also be interested in hearing whether a specimen is more valuable if it is obtained from an accredited collection.

Adding two additional questions, I curious to know what are the most important pieces of information that can be obtained from an old label - from the perspective of a dealer, curator, or individual collector - as well as advice on how the best way to protect both old and new labels. Thank you.
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PostPosted: Oct 18, 2006 11:43    Post subject: Re: labels  

As a collector, old labels do interest me and I try to keep them all. The problem can be, as Jordi said, that the label may not actually be the one for the specimen you own. So one always has to take them with a pinch of salt - for this reason do not allow them to change what you are willing to pay
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PostPosted: Oct 24, 2006 14:08    Post subject: Re: labels  

I suggest don't buy a specimen just for its label. We collect minerals, not labels.
If you like the specimen and it has a nice old label related, still better, although you may pay a little bit more, but I suggest don't buy an ugly specimen that you don't really like, just because is well-favored by an attractive label.

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PostPosted: Nov 03, 2006 08:46    Post subject: Labels provide sort of a pedigree.  

Receiving older labels with specimens I acquire always interests me. They give me a history of where a particular mineral specimen has been. And yes, they can add to a specimen's value... but only within reason. An "average" specimen of a "common" mineral will not command a high price soley because it once belonged to a famous collector or was in a noted museum. It does, however, add to the specimen's appeal.
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PostPosted: Nov 03, 2006 09:53    Post subject: On the subject of labels.  

Is there minimum information that needs to be displayed on a mineral label? In my opinion a label needs to provide: the more prominent species present, an accurate description of the locality (nation, state, county/province, nearest city/village, mine/mountain/etc.), and perhaps the year collected. Is there more information other collectors might like to have on their labels?
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PostPosted: Nov 06, 2006 03:11    Post subject: old labels  

I think the label is just one of the ways you can document the specimen. The label must be always with the specimen informing about the basic items you know about it.

Some questions are necessary before elect the contents of the label:
- Is the label the only information registered of the specimen?
- Do you use to number the specimens and writes this number on the label?
- Have you any other kind of register on your collection? (sample card, catallog, data
base...).

In any case, information on the label use to be simple and basic and it is not necessary to write all the information, except in the case the label is the only one record of the specimen.
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PostPosted: Nov 17, 2006 16:00    Post subject: Old specimens  

Well, that is a question of personal taste.
Personally, I have also found that, with few exceptions, old specimens (I mean old from 19th century) specimens are not exactly what we would call a winner in a beauty contest (politically, aesthetically challenged :-) ), but the fact that they come from an old collection, especially if the previous owner is well known at present (say, a piece from the Goethe collection....), then it adds more appeal to my desire for the specimen.
If it is a modern specimen, probably I would not take the time to look at it...But being old, with and old label.....

Short: I am willing to pay more for an historic sample (provided that I know that the history is true; minerals do not speak, labels also not; so be sure that you buy from reliable sellers)

As an example, the pieces from the Folch collection that Jordi is dispersing, for me they have an special appeal: I knew Mr. Folch, I thought that I would never assemble a collection like his (that is certain!)...but I own some pieces that belonged to him.
It is like holding a part of history.

Well, a chaqun sélon son goût, as the Fledermouse opereta says...

LLuís
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PostPosted: Nov 20, 2006 11:56    Post subject: "old" minerals  

To create a personal "taste" is essential to create a personal collection.
A lot of Folch’s duplicates, especially the small ones, have now a “modern” aspect. That is because, when he collected them, as duplicate, they were too small to include them in his collection. In another side, Folch, especially in his last ten or fifteen years developed an splendid “American” taste, that is to say: very representative and, at the same time, esthetic minerals. Folch was cleaver to consider that little specimens can be interesting for exchange.
The normal size of minerals to collect, at that time, was bigger in Europe than in United States. In Europe, small minerals were really considered (generally) “small” minerals. So, now when those specimens reach the collections well valued as really “good” or “interesting”.
Actual collectors and dealers are building the future history. Minerals very frequent just few years ago are very scarce, even rare, today.
Successfully the history of Mineralogy is made by a continuous line of people that collect most of in any moment is “new” or easily accessible and later become a rarity.
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PostPosted: Dec 02, 2006 11:56    Post subject: Keeping history alive  

As Lluis says, acquiring an old specimen is like holding a piece of history. As Carles says, by creating and maintaining our collections we add to what will become history someday. I think it is part of the fundamental character of any collector to examine, appreciate, preserve, and extend the history of things that interest him/her (famous collections, localities, mineral species, crystallography, collection styles etc.). These are the "stories" that make (made) a specimen attractive to us and these stories should be kept alive for future generations.

When I first started collecting minerals, I purchased specimens wherever I found pieces I thought were attractive. Setting aside the insignificant ones ( = very small, not much quality/value, and not worth caring about), there are a handful of specimens I stil keep in my collection which either 1) have labels with minimal information (e.g., little scraps of paper that say "pyrite, Mexico") or 2) have labels described as "certificates of authenticity" from large franchised retail science stores. As I have no confidence in their accuracy, are these labels worth preserving, and if so how? Or, if not, what information should I document in my personal catalog (assuming I remember enough about how the specimen came to me) to start a meaningful "history chain" that can be passed along? What about for specimens that I got from mineral dealers which have no labels at all, and the only information I can record is what was verbally passed to me? I am curious about when and how to start and/or maintain good history chains.
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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2006 07:52    Post subject: Re: Keeping history alive  

TAK,

The "history chain" that you mention is, in my opinion, very important, so I suggest to you don't acquire specimens without labels and details, putting aside the specimens without this kind of information.
What you should do with the specimens that you already have without any label? I don't really know, but if its value is very low and you are worried about it, it could be a good idea to donate them to a school or a similar place where someone could enjoy them or learn something with them.

About what details you need to keep on the documents in your personal catalogue I suggest to keep all details or information that you have or you remember. You have always the chance to delete later the non useful or wrong ones, checking it with some expert or becoming yourself an expert. If you don't keep them, then the details could vanish from your mind and maybe some day you will regret not having it.

Jordi
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PostPosted: Dec 09, 2006 11:08    Post subject: More questions about history chains  

Thanks Jordi for your thoughts and recommendations. Two follow-up questions:

1) Is it worthwhile to record the purchase price of a specimen? On one hand, it allows you to keep track of how minerals from various localities and findings rise and fall in value (and. it lets you track your spending!). On the other hand, I'm not sure that the amount paid to a seller contributes anything to the historical chain, especially if discounts or other special arrangements were applied to the purchase or when the piece was acquired at auction.

2) How can I find out the value of a specimen if I know little or nothing about its history - is there an easy (or relatively easy) way to have these pieces appraised? Most of my early "finds" will be donated some day soon, as you suggest, but there are a few that I think might have some value and don't wish to donate without knowing more about them.
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PostPosted: Dec 14, 2006 17:42    Post subject: mineral labels  

My feeling is that old labels accompanying old specimens ( they are all old) meaning "old timers" relating to pre 1900 or pre whatever usually before 1950, add to the journey of the specimen from when it was obtained from its source to the current owner. Provenance is what its called, but..............as has been seen over the last few years provenance is sometimes abused... buyer beware !!!!

Sometimes sellers keep old labels in case they find a more suitable specimen to accompany it, thus pushing the price up.

At the end of the day it is personal preference. I like old labels, they enhance the specimen

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