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Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount
  
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Peter Megaw
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PostPosted: Aug 26, 2013 20:20    Post subject: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

I would guess that almost everyone has heard of "Perky" boxes ...the little plastic boxes with clear lids and black bases commonly used for thumbnails (and almost never for anything larger anymore). However, I suspect many have no concrete idea of where the name comes from...California dealer Willard Perkin, who was active from the 50s until he passed away in the 1980s. "Perk" paid a lot of attention to detail and managed to make tiny bits and pieces of things that might otherwise have been discarded look great.

This thread is sparked by my acquisition at Tucson (from Dave Bunk who was selling the Melanson's TN collection) of one of his distinctive mounts...which brought back conversations with Perk many years ago when he explained his technique to me in detail.

First, he'd sort through the small bits and pieces in the lots he bought for mounting. Many were full TN sized and could be mounted directly, but many were smaller and needed "help" to fill the box properly...and sell! This involved gluing the tiny specimen to an inconspicuous post to be glued into the Styrofoam base. Perk used the teeth of cheap plastic combs for this...they came in black, white and clear and the teeth could be snipped one by one from a comb, so they never got scattered around. Also, he could snip them at whatever angle he liked to get the best orientation for the piece. Sometimes he glued a tiny bit of Styrofoam to the post to give a broader base for the glue. He would then carefully glue the post to the specimen and set it in a box of rice to let it dry in the right position.

Meanwhile he would take a box, onto the bottom of which he had pasted his personal business label, and hand paint the Styrofoam insert black (or other contrasting color) and carefully paste on a handcut identification and locality label that he printed on glossy paper. (He did these in batches obviously, but this was still a LOT of work)

Once the specimen glue was dry he would glue the post into the Styrofoam...giving him a final opportunity to get the orientation...and location within the cube just right. He was careful to try to get them all to lie at about the same height so customers scanning his wares would not have to adjust focus between specimens!

The final act was to paste on a price tag...frequently only a few dollars despite the amount of work he put into each specimen.

A genuine Perkin's mounted Perky Box is a thing of beauty as well as a period piece. If you are lucky enough to find one, keeping it in its original mount is worth considering.



legrandite Perk (4).JPG
 Description:
Legrandite
Mina Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango Mexico
Legrandite wheel is 1 cm across
Front view of Perkin's mounted legrandite
 Viewed:  17538 Time(s)

legrandite Perk (4).JPG



legrandite Perk (5).JPG
 Description:
Bottom of Perky mount
Perkins full information label
 Viewed:  17558 Time(s)

legrandite Perk (5).JPG



legrandite Perk (1).JPG
 Description:
side view
Close up of comb tooth (note how the taper works for him) and mounting to specimen
 Viewed:  17546 Time(s)

legrandite Perk (1).JPG



legrandite Perk (3).JPG
 Description:
Legrandite
Mina Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango Mexico
1 cm across wheel
Close up of this sub-thumbnail sized specimen that would have been discarded or ignored had perk not taken the time and effort to mount the piece...which he sold for $15 to Beth Gordon who marked it up to $35!
 Viewed:  17528 Time(s)

legrandite Perk (3).JPG



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PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 03:00    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Thank you very much, Peter, for the explanation. In honor of the truth, I did not realize there must be a man, a mineralogist, behind the box name.

Regards

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vic rzonca




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PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 10:51    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

That was a great explanation of a common and important part of mineral collecting. Willard's ability to see, salvage and mount these bits went far in sharing the beauty. Truly classic technique.

Peter, a little off point, but do you know the roots of the term "Keystone Pricing"?



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IMG_1456.JPG


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PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 12:51    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Vic...have wondered about keystone myself for years, so I googled it. Lots of authoritative answers, most in conflict. It's an entertaining way to kill a few minutes.

Without any claim to its authenticity, here's the most concise answer I found....purportedly from a reference librarian

":The term keystone, meaning that 50% of the stated price should be considered to be the wholesale price, comes from the jewelry trade. It was originated in 1896 by Keystone magazine, a predecessor of Jewelers' Circular-Keystone, after subscribers had complained about the showing of dealer costs in a publication that customers might see on jewelers' counters.

The name of the magazine, Keystone, probably comes from the keystone cut, a fancy diamond cut whose outline is that of a keystone. (A keystone is the central, wedge-shaped stone at the top of an arch that locks the arch together.)


Take it or leave it

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PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 14:42    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Peter,

Occasionally I run across one of Mr. Perkins thumbnail mounts. More often than not I will purchase it, if not for the specimen, for the history associated with it. Here are 3 that we have in our collection.

One thing that I have always wondered about is how the labels were made. Looking at the font, I believe they were typed on a standard typewriter. From there, I suppose there were several methods that could have been employed to make them fit the boxes. The semi-glossy paper that they are printed on suggests they may have been reduced photographically and printed on photo paper. Any thoughts on this?

Michael



Perkins Pyrite.jpg
 Description:
Pyrite
N'Chwanning Mine, Kuruman, South Africa
Thumbnail
 Viewed:  17316 Time(s)

Perkins Pyrite.jpg



Perkins Rhodochrosite.jpg
 Description:
Rhodochrosite
Silverton, San Juan County, Colorado
Thumbnail
 Viewed:  17322 Time(s)

Perkins Rhodochrosite.jpg



Perkins Legrandite.jpg
 Description:
Legrandite
Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico
Thumbnail
 Viewed:  17336 Time(s)

Perkins Legrandite.jpg


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PostPosted: Aug 27, 2013 15:18    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Good to see others revere Perk too!

I also wondered about the labels....he was gone long before computer driven printers were invented, but the labels show no signs of impact from typewriter keys or ball. I suspect you're right that they were photographically reduced and printed on glossy paper. Be interesting to see if there are pieces out there that he only had a few of and didn't need to make multiple copies of...those might show type marks?

Your legrandite label is different from mine so he probably had several batches of those

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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 08:42    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

"The term keystone, meaning that 50% of the stated price should be considered to be the wholesale price, comes from the jewelry trade. It was originated in 1896 by Keystone magazine after subscribers had complained about the showing of dealer costs in a publication that customers might see on jewelers' counters."

some time ago, while visiting the Westward Look shows, I mentioned to some friends that the price of many of the minerals we saw would be more appropriate if the decimal place was moved one notch to the left (a factor of 10 cheaper). they all totally agreed and much to my chagrin, they started referring to this as "kerrstone" pricing.

we still use the term among ourselves, and have found that we even had to "extrapolated" more by using the term "key-kerrstone" which i think you can all imagine what this is.

bob
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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 09:47    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Willard's labels were photographed to allow for printing on the glossy paper but more importantly, to get all of the information in such a small area. With typewriters of the day, you had a choice of 10 or 12 point letter size. This is his way of providing all of the information in such a small area.

I was interested to see the label on the bottom of the legrandite box. Jim and Dawn Minette bought Willard's personal thumbnail collection and none of the pieces I purchased from them had any of these labels on them.
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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 10:04    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Thanks for that Les...incredible attention to detail

Marie Huizing has asked me to expand this to a short column for Rocks and Minerals

I need a few high resolution shots of other Perkin mounts...and would very much like to see a shot of one of the larger boxes that I think he only used for a short time.

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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 10:19    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Perkins also sold larger specimens (small cabinet). On these, the labels were glued onto a piece of wood with a triangular cross-section. I bought several from him back in the late 1970s to earliest 1980s
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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 11:27    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

I still have some of those blocks somewhere I think...not least because I still have every piece I ever got from Perk! I will add mention of those distinctive blocks to the column...and may need to ask for help getting a shot of one.

I seem to remember mounts as big as 2 x 2 inches in Perky boxes

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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 14:29    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

This thread has taken on a life of its own! I'm getting direct emails as well as queries through FMF.

Given the detail of the questions and trying to be as complete as I can for Marie...I have several requests/queries to pose to the FMF community. Some are serious, some tongue in cheek

All are with respect to Perkin mounts...not others using Perky boxes

1. I have seen unpainted stock Styrofoam inserts, painted white inserts and ainted black inserts. Can anyone document other colors? (yes, I know black is not a color)

2. I have seen clear, white and black comb teeth...any other colors?

3. Does anyone know if he had a favorite brand of comb?

4. What is the smallest crystal/specimen we can document

5. What is the largest TN we can document...with and/or without a post

6. I presume he did his own photography and printing...can anyone confirm or add color to that? Was he also a photography buff?

7. Les says he bought Perks personal collection and it did not have the Perky labels on the boxes. Anybody know if the boxes were switched?

8. Can anyone provide images of different examples of his Perky label?

9. Does anyone have his birth and death statistics...and/or details on when he got into the mineral business and/or when he began making Perky mounts?

All assistance is gratefully acknowledged



Aranzazu Mn calcite.jpg
 Description:
Calcite manganese-rich
Aranzazu Mine Concepcion del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico
8 x 3 cm
Sweet small cabinet of manganoan calcite from Mexico that I bought from Perk in 1981 for a then-princely $350. I saw it during set up for TGMS but he refused to sell anything before the doors opened the next day. Needless to say I pounced...the interaction was the foundation of our relationship.
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Aranzazu Mn calcite.jpg



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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 14:40    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Hopefully, this is OK with Wendell...from the Min Record Label Archive: http://www.minrec.org/labels.asp?colid=774

Willard Perkin
(1907-1991)

Willard Joseph "Perky" Perkin was born in Upland, San Bernardino County, California on April 3, 1907, the son of Alma and Charles J. Perkin, a Canadian-born rural mail carrier. He became interested in minerals during the mid-1930's. At the time he was operating a dry cleaning business, next door to a gift shop which sold items made with natural crystals. The proprietor of the gift shop took Perkin along on a field trip to collect specimens, and other field trips soon followed; before long he was hooked. He joined the Mineralogical Society of Southern California where he made many friends among the other collectors, including an early mineral dealer and desert rat known as "Chuckawalla Slim." He also began trading specimens with Anton Berger (q.v.), a well-known Austrian mineral dealer, eventually becoming Berger's West Coast representative, and turning into a part-time mineral dealer himself.

Perkin became a regular field collector at localities throughout southern California, including the Palos Verdes cliffs and the San Benito County benitoite locality. During the war years he worked as a welder in a defense plant, but much preferred being involved with minerals. In 1949 he took night-school courses in Spanish and then (taking time off from his regular job) he made his first trip into Mexico to collect minerals; his second trip took place two years later, and dozens more trips followed, to famous mining areas throughout Mexico. The specimens he brought back went into his personal collection and also into his selling stock.

Perkin was one of the first dealers to specialize in thumbnail-size specimens, and he had a talent for aesthetically trimming and mounting them. He built a fine personal mineral collection of high-quality cabinet-size and smaller specimens which he placed in drawers and on glass shelves in big glass-fronted display cases lining the walls of a small garage in his Burbank home. He also developed a strong interest in micromounting.

In the early 1956-1959 he worked for three years for mineral dealer George Burnham ("Burminco") (q.v.) in Monrovia, California. While working in Burnham's shop, Perkin was shown a small, cubical, black plastic box by a traveling salesman. It inspired the invention of what became known as the "perky" box, a 1.25-inch box for thumbnail specimens, which Perkin had manufactured and which he began selling to other collectors. When the number of orders coming in became overwhelming he sold the box business to someone else, but the name "perky box" stuck.

In 1971 tragedy struck in the form of the Sylmar earthquake, which shattered the glass cases and shelves in his garage; the beautiful specimens crashed to the bottom of the cases together and out onto the concrete floor amid piles of broken glass. Perkin appeared to take the loss with good grace, but much of his enthusiasm for collecting minerals had died. Soon he began selling off the surviving specimens from the drawers, retaining only his thumbnails and micromounts.

Perkin retired from his regular job in 1977 and devoted himself more fully to travel, mineral dealing and flower photography. He died in Los Angeles, California on November 9, 1991, at the age of 84. His thumbnail collection was sold by his heirs to mineral dealer Keith Williams in 1996.

References:
CURRIER, R.H. (1992) Died, Willard ["Perky"] Perkin, 84. Mineralogical Record, 23, 207-208.

Obviously, Rock would be a great source of info.
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PostPosted: Aug 29, 2013 14:54    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

Got that and am reaching out to RC
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PostPosted: Aug 30, 2013 06:13    Post subject: Re: Willard Perkins Classic "Perky" Mount  

For many years, I had two of Perkins' photos of flowers(each 8" x 10"); one was of chicory, and the other of a yellow desert flower. I bought them from him when he had a room in the Desert Inn at Tucson. i asked him how he made the backgrounds black in the photos, and he said "I photograph them at night". Sadly, I have lost track over the years of what happened to the pictures.
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