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The overall health of this hobby
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Jordi Fabre
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 10:43    Post subject: The overall health of this hobby  

In 2018 Tucson HTCC status Peter Megaw wrote:
The overall health of the hobby is a separate topic, but I think it's pretty good...

Your wishes are orders for me Peter! 🤣
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 11:38    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

I can't see this 'hobby' [or is it an obsession?] ever really going away. It does go up and down with the economy and the strange political events of our day. Of course, those of us who are primarily collectors see the change in prices and attendance at shows in a slightly different vantage point than those of you who are primarily sellers/dealers. [I've been both - but primarily a collector]. I personally have seen a slight decrease in attendance at shows, but those who come are as mineral-mad as ever and seem to ever be looking for the great mineral missing from their collection and/or the great deal. Prices have certainly gone up a lot [and more than inflation] since I started collecting. I hope prices stabilize and not start going into the stratosphere, even if it makes my collection more valuable. All this said, I can't see minerals ever losing their fans and addicts [like myself].
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 12:41    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

No one thinks the mineral collecting hobby will vanish, but like many other collectibles including stamps and coins, mineral collecting is evolving.......changing.
As PETER MEGAW noted, attendance at many shows is down. Not only is show attendance declining, circulation of mineral collector periodicals has decreased in recent years. All that while online readership of articles and specimen purchases is increasing. So there are both concerning trends and pleasing trends to be noted in the hobby's evolving changes.

My greatest concern with all this is loss of young collectors. Of course there are some younger collectors, but many youngsters start out with simple field collecting and there is a major loss of collecting sites. Virtually all quarries are closed. Road cuts are either posted or unsafe for youngsters. Private property is either posted or under claim with consequences for trespassers. This loss of many collecting sites coupled with changing interests has severely cut down the numbers of younger collectors; these folks might start the mineral collecting hobby at a much later age, but, I fear, it may adversely affect the numbers of adults some years down the road. My opinion, BOB
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 13:41    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Is the hobby "healthy" today? I guess that really depends on who you talk to and how you define "health." When I seriously started collecting back around 1985, it looked a good bit different than it does today. No internet, most mineral dealerships were small, family-run operations, local club shows were still thriving, and there were abundant sources of new material fresh out of the ground. While a good rock was as desirable as ever, there wasn't the over-riding paradigm of "perfection" and the most treatment a specimen would likely receive was a judicious trim or a little acid bath to remove a bit of calcite overgrowth. Repairs were considered undesirable and only accepted for major and important specimens.

A lot has changed in the subsequent 30+ years. Because of aging membership, many clubs have folded and local shows are gone. Those that survive have largely shifted focus to more publicly accessible things such as jewelry, metaphysics, and decorator items. Mineral dealing has become concentrated at major shows, often in remote places for the average collector. The rise of the internet has filled a void left by the decline of local shows in that collectors who's budget does not allow for travel to potentially far away places on top of the cost of the specimens themselves now have access to specimens at home. Albeit without the option to personally inspect the item before purchase, and without the social interaction that happens at shows.

Also largely gone are many of the high-volume sources of new material. Many mines have closed, and most that do operate do so in a fashion that is not conducive to specimen recovery. This has resulted in a number of commercial operations aimed at the recovery of specimens rather than ore. The drawback here is that, when mining for ore, specimens are essentially a free byproduct, paid for by the extraction and sale of the ore. When operating a mine solely for specimens, the sale of the specimens must support the costs of mining. While freshly dug specimens from a few places such as India, China, and Pakistan still appear on the market, the volume is a good deal less than 10-20 years ago. This has led to a shift in focus for many dealers from buying in remote locations to purchasing and recycling old collections. With competition increasing for recycled collections, up goes the price of specimens, particularly the best pieces as they must cover the cost of the lesser material that is harder to move on.

This, in tern has led to the rise of large dealerships, sometimes employing dozens of people. Aside from the egos involved, these large dealerships are likely necessary in order to compete in the current market. Large cash flow and/or lines of credit are necessary to attract and purchase major collections or secure access to major new finds. Hands are required to clean, process, and sell the material. Many dealers operate multiple locations at major shows such as Tucson, as well as operating high-volume internet businesses to move the lower priced material.

Most dealers now have fully equipped preparation labs in order to enhance specimens and extract the highest value possible from them. This has led to a growing acceptance among many collectors of a level of specimen manipulation that was largely unheard of 30 years ago.

Is all this good? Is it bad? Is the hobby healthy? Judging by the size of the booths and the size of the parties thrown at Tucson each year, I would guess that the money is changing hands and there is a certain financial health to the overall business. The overall volume of money involved in specimens at a show like Tucson now likely dwarfs what happened even a few years ago. For the average collector, the perspective may be a bit different, as the constant rise in price for the best has priced many out of the market. So I guess the outlook on the overall health of the hobby/business would depend on who one asks. Even if I personally can not afford that wonderful looking and wonderfully expensive tourmaline, rhodochrosite, or azurite, I do know that the skyrocketing value of these things helps assure that they are collected and preserved with much greater care and attention than was likely 30 years ago.The one thing I can say for certain is that things change whether we like it or not. Always have, always will. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre!
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 13:44    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Some interesting points. I'm a US Citizen, but have lived a large part of my life in various parts of Europe. The USA has become overly litigious and 'unfriendly' to strangers on 'their land' - especially in the more populous states. I still have many great collecting locations I go to whenever I can [problem free] in CA, CO, UT, AZ, NM and some others I know. True, even in these places it is not like it was when I was young. I have collected in Europe in Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic and a few other locations. In those places, generally, as long as one stayed away from quarries near big cities, active mining areas, or got permission to collect on Sunday [when they weren't working and sometimes signed that you'd assume responsibility for whatever injuries you might incur], there were few to no problems. The major problem in the Czech Republic is that the better locations have been picked over, not that access is denied - although it is in a very few locations. I have found good specimens even so with some digging and clever looking where others did not. Norway is a collectors dream by and large, as are remote parts of Sweden. In those countries, if the mine or dump is on private property, one usually only has to ask permission from the owner and you'll usually get a friendly yes. Occasionally, popular sites are fee-based - but not many. As far as getting started young, I know I did and would be most of the older-timers here did, as well. Is it lack of access or the allure of smart phones and all the social media that has turned many young [though far from all] away from not just mineral collecting but a lot of things we did when we didn't have electronic distractions. In all locations, mineral clubs/groups have easier access to places sometimes closed to individuals. Another technique is to team up with a geology class from a university. Canada has many good locations still accessible. Every country is a bit different, but I think any country that has good minerals one can find a way.
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 17:12    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

I'm a US collector who started out as a kid over 60 years ago. I now live in Colorado, where shows, auctions, and other mineral-sales venues seem to be going on almost continuously. Although I have relatively modest means, I always find interesting and tempting things at these shows and enjoy the hunt for what I see as bargains. I'm almost never disappointed. However, I can't afford to spend $1500 or more to spend a week in Tucson--I wouldn't be able to buy anything, and I get my fill closer to home at the Denver show and at the great museums in Denver.

The proliferation of high-end dealers and collectors doesn't discourage me at all--I'm priced out of that market, but I see all of that as a sign of health, albeit a fragile one, considering how unstable the economy looks to a person my age. The amount of disposable wealth in the US isn't likely to decline soon.

Our own club has a very active kids' group ("Pebble Pups"), and it amazes me to see the great things those kids are doing, with excellent leadership and mentoring from a few dedicated club members..

Our club currently has over 400 members--partly fall-out from the "Prospectors" TV show. One thing I notice is that, of those 400 members, only a handful are what I'd call "serious" collectors. Most just enjoy getting out and treasure-hunting, and many have very limited abilities to ID what they find (other than amazonite and smoky quartz). But I see education as a major part of every club's mission, and we provide classes for those who want them. As a result, I've seen amazing growth in the knowledge base of some of our members. We all need to encourage those collectors and not talk down to them.

I see a couple of things happening in the US that might damage the future of our hobby, and they generally fall under the category of "education". One is the loss of basic Earth-science requirements in the public schools (and increasing reliance on home-schooling and fundamentalist schools) and the loss of lab-science requirements in many non-elite colleges and universities. I commonly encounter collectors who say they really loved their college Earth-science course, and that's how they got interested in attending a local or regional show. Once you get them through the door, many people can't resist, whether it's jewelry, fossils, minerals, or whatever.

Another problem is the decrease in mineralogy requirements in shrinking geology departments. Several of my most serious collecting friends have undergraduate geology degrees. Before retiring from college teaching, I saw a progressive relaxation of "basic" requirements in favor of specialization at the undergrad level. This usually meant decreasing emphasis on the "hard" courses (e.g. mineralogy, petrology) and correlative science courses (chemistry, physics) in favor of introductory courses in "forensic geology", "engineering geology", internships, and other things that often seem to attract today's students. One doesn't have to have been exposed to a formal mineralogy courses in college to be a serious collector, but it doesn't hurt.

I think we can counter some of these effects through active education programs in our clubs. Dealers can help, especially by giving talks to clubs and at shows and by making lower priced material available for kids and new collectors. I personally enjoy visiting the booths of dealers who don't focus on what's new and fashionable but who have a history of offering material from old collections and oddities that are less familiar to me (the same is true of the excellent articles in the Mineralogical Record and Rocks and Minerals).

Whether or not all of these things lead to growth, they may help make it less likely that we'll see declining interest.
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 17:32    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

I am glad this issue has been raised and, after reading the responses so far, wanted to add my thoughts. I, too, have noticed the increasing "graying" or in my case "balding" of many of the attendees at mineral shows.
I started collecting when I was 14 and went my first regional mineral show in Seattle a year later. At that show and ones which followed, I was able to buy several nice quality specimens each year at what were then affordable prices for "a kid". Fortunately, there were also at that time several local neighborhood stores around Seattle which sold reasonably priced mineral specimens. And I, and everyone else interested in mineral collecting at the time, had access to mail order dealers such as Harry Serling and Minerals Unlimited who offered a variety of nice specimens which were within my limited means.
It is my belief that a key to the continued growth of this hobby (and to a greater extent, encouraging careers in the mining industry) lies in promoting the interest of younger folks in minerals. With that in mind, what do I believe has changed since I started collecting in the mid-1960s for young folks who may have a potential interest in this hobby? Among things I have noticed are, as has already been mentioned, the disappearance of local mineral stores and readily accessible mineral collecting sites. And without parents or mentors who know something about minerals, visits to sites which still remain open may be of little value -- much less outright dangerous. Of the local/regional shows I have recently attended, most seem to have more dealers selling beads and jewelry than mineral specimens. And, where specimens are available, many, even "entry-level specimens" of reasonable quality, are often priced well above what most 10 year olds can afford.
Because I have a grandson (now 9 years old) who has shown a real interest in mineral collecting, I have begun to think more about how to promote his interest. Yes, we are very fortunate to have the Rice Museum near to where we live (which does a great job of educating and reaching out to children to promote their interest in minerals), but unfortunately most collecting sites in this, and other areas throughout the US have been closed due to liability or safety issues. I think a key to keeping this hobby thriving will be for dealers, as a part of their marketing effort, to place some of their emphasis on selling affordable specimens to younger folks -- which many already do. Additionally, organizations such as ours and local mineral collecting clubs should continue outreach programs for this group of younger collectors -- to encourage and foster their interest in this hobby. To the extent possible, whenever any of us are given an opportunity to give a presentation at an elementary or middle school on minerals, we should grab at the chance. I can truly say that it was because a number of local neighborhood mineral dealers showed an interest in my curiosity about minerals that I not only developed a life-long interest in mineral collecting, but a 40 year career in the mineral/mining industry.
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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 19:16    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Unfortunately, I agree that there is a rapidly changing demographic of people in this hobby. With the declining emphasis on science in education, young people are not being exposed to things like this the way they once may have been. I strongly suspect that the majority interest in mineral collecting is now with older folks who's careers have left them with a measure of disposable income. Much of the interest I see these days is for "natural art" rather than "natural science." What will happen as these people grow older and/or loose interest in the hobby?

Another aspect of the hobby has always been field collecting, and this faces a similar problem as far as attracting new participants. Add to this the fact that liability concerns are drastically limiting the ability of any but the most highly motivated collectors to find something worthwhile for a weekend's work. I personally think that field collecting is one of the more seriously endangered aspects of the hobby.
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Peter Lemkin




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PostPosted: Jan 04, 2018 23:13    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

I agree that the change in the education system [sic] has changed exposure to basic sciences - and thus interest in Nature and minerals. However, it always struck me that nearly every child is a 'rock collector'...its just that some of us never stop and learn about minerals and mineralogy and take it several steps beyond an interesting looking rock/pebble that just happens to by lying about where we play. Specialization at the university level was just coming in when I was at university and has now taken over. I've met geologists who have never taken a course in mineralogy - or who only had that as a segment of another course on their way to, say, a petroleum geologist degree. The proliferation of lawyers and people apt to sue for the slightest thing has filled [the USA especially] with angry signs warning to 'keep out'.
To me, the real pressure behind the last decades of price increases has been the entry of person who while appreciating the beauty of minerals, appreciate them as much for their potential investment value as for their intrinsic natural beauty - this was rare to absent in the past. No high-end dealer need be offended. Some good friends of mine are dealers who supply minerals to those types as well as to well-heeled lovers of minerals. Unlike many who grow better off with age in the 'West', I lost most of my money in my 40's and have been struggling since. Lucky for me I purchased much of my collection before I lost my money, but more than half of my collection is self-collected and while most of those are not as fantastic as the ones I purchased [although a few are!], they mean more to me than those that money could buy. There is nothing like finding a beautiful mineral or crystal underground and learning the hard work, learning what is necessary to know where and how to look, skills learned to excavate them without damaging them our yourself, etc. For a while I lived in San Diego, CA and while Pala and the mines around there were off limits unless you knew the owners, I collected similar, if less spectacular, xx further away, but along the same line of mountains - battling rattle snakes and thorns - but usually happy at the end of a day or few days stay. Now, I live in Europe mostly and even here the average age of those who attend shows seems to rise, but there are always some young people who are coming for their first shows too. The Harding Mine in NM is an interesting example of how a wonderful collecting site can be preserved for all interested. It was purchased and is run by a university. One has to sign a liability waiver at a local house in a small town, but then one is free to collect at a famous pegmatite. Other universities or larger clubs could do similar things. While higher end dealers will concentrate on the high end specimens and those who want and can afford them, I prefer shows where there are also dealers with medium priced specimens and always appreciate those who sell what they actually dug themselves [especially when they are not large commercial operations]. Colorado and some other Western states still have lots of good collecting sites one can access without having to sign waivers or break the law - it just takes some research or someone who knows showing you how and where. Though I lost most of my considerable money mid-life, could never bring myself to sell my valuable collection [minus a few pieces] and I hope I never have to. I still self-collect and I still go to shows and almost never come home without a few to several new minerals. I admit I look for bargains, but bargains within the upper-medium level specimens. I see many I could never afford to get anymore - and just have to appreciate them for their beauty and sigh. I also visit lots of mineral museums and have lots of mineral books and magazines to see the top minerals. A few of my friends also have top notch mineral collections I've been privileged to be able to see and touch. I think it would be in everyone's interest who love fine minerals to see that young people are introduced to this great field too; that they have places shown to them where they can learn and collect for themselves; and that shows evolve to include not only the high-end dealers. They are great and have their place; but not everyone has a high-end budget for minerals.
I tend to go to both the top shows and smaller shows [where the prices are less daunting]. Life has changed since the 1960s when I went on my first mineral hunt to Franklin, N.J., but I think the end of collecting or even self-collecting is not dead yet. I think it is in all of our interests to help see that this hobby and passion and for some this business continues.
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PostPosted: Jan 05, 2018 12:35    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Looks like we touched a nerve...

A few thoughts stimulated by commentary so far

1. I did not mean for my comment that attendance at shows was down to indicate a loss of interest in the hobby...just that attendance fluctuates in response to macroeconomic factors. As far as the TGMS Show is concerned, our attendance is largely locals and with the institution of the 3 day President's Day weekend (which coincides regularly with our show) we find that many of the people who get out and "do" things and might come to our show for a day are heading out for 3 days of skiing or whatever.

2. As an (over) educated geoscientist I have been struck since being bitten by the mineral bug 40 years ago how few geologists are mineral collectors and vice versa. I'd peg it at about 10% both ways (remembering that 99% of statistics are made up on the fly out of whole cloth). I am baffled by why so few geologists are even marginally competent mineralogists (nice easy niche to fill for me)...most geology students are exposed to enough mineralogy that if they were susceptible to the bug they'd be bitten....it's more contagious than this year's flu!

3. I do think that those of us who are geoscientists who collect tend to look for faults in the educational system to blame lack of mineralogical training/interest on, but am not sure there isn't another answer. Don't know what though. My response to this is to work at educating people about minerals and earth science myself through the TGMS Show, we run about 6000 kids a year through our Show through their schools or our hands-on Junior Education program...we have at least 3 Junior competitors who are products of those programs...and probably a couple of dealers.

4. Certainly agree that lack of field collecting opportunities isn't helping, but again note I know a lot of collectors who got bitten at shows first and then turned to field collecting, so it's not as simple as field collecting being a "gateway drug"

5. I think any kind of serious collecting of anything is not a young person's game. Until one has some kind of life stability...at least having a decent salary and not moving every year... it is hard to build and protect a collection. The risks of loss, theft or damage are just too great. Basic point is that to some degree the hobby is balding or graying because gray hair accompanies the social/financial maturity that allows one to become a collector.

6. Just to be inflammatory, I do have to wonder how much of our perceptions that the hobby is graying stems from looking in the mirror rather than looking around?

7, Based on conversations with young collectors...and the dealers who cater to them via the internet...I think there is a much larger pool of collectors out there than are reflected by show attendance. I know a number of up and coming collectors who were collecting for several years before even thinking of attending a show. And I know some of the more internet-savvy dealers watch for and groom frequent buyers and coax them into getting involved in the broader mineral community. Nils desperandum!

8. I also think the proliferation of mineral images on the internet increases the chances of someone getting bitten by the bug. It's one thing to decide to go to a show (and realistically most club shows now and 20+ years ago are/were not the sorts of things that tended to get folks hooked on minerals) it's another to run across an image of a beautiful mineral on the net, go to eBay and buy your first rock. If that's the way you come into the hobby it may take a while before you even realize there ARE shows to go to...perhaps a dealer announcing new Tucson, Denver or Munich finds will pique curiosity about what they mean...and a quick Google search will open their eyes!

9. As Jesse noted, the Times are Changing...collecting opportunities are more limited, there are fewer local shows and prices are up (dramatically). However, the quality and quantity of really good specimens is dramatically increased...things are available that were unheard of 30 years ago. And even if we can't necessarily afford the masterpiece level pieces, the economics that drive that end of the market do trickle down, dramatically increasing the supply overall, to the point where specimen mining has become routine. Anyone involved in specimen mining can tell you that 98% (seat of the pants statistics again) of what is produced is commercial quality and the volumes of that material that the market seems to absorb instantly is incredible. The economics also drive the endlessly debated "improvement and restoration" movement, which like art and fossil restoration is here to stay.

10. I think we need to be fair to the high end collectors who start out with a "minerals as art/investment" focus. I have seen many of them become fascinated by the mineralogical and geological contexts behind their purchases and gradually educate themselves to the science. As long as they get there...

'Nuf Said for Now

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PostPosted: Jan 05, 2018 13:23    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Peter - I too have often wondered about the gross disparity between those who collect minerals and those with an education in the geosciences. Perhaps the urge to collect and one's particular educational background are two entirely separate functions?

And yes, coming from a military family where moving occurred every two years like clockwork, and incipient collections of anything were mostly lost along the way for the first 18 years of my life, And then there was university years, which were even worse!

And further, from my experience I would say that your estimate of 98% commercial quality output from a specimen-mining operation is rather conservative. I'd put it at somewhere around 99.9%, volume-based. But your mileage may vary, should you want to give it a try!
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PostPosted: Jan 05, 2018 14:45    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Being in the geological sciences and not collecting minerals seems akin to being a US postal employee and not collecting stamps. Or, perhaps, being a professor of art history and not collecting paintings or sculptures. When you come right down to "it", being in any sort of profession vs a hobbiest in the related field is 2 very different things. Collectors have the "collector genes" whatever that is. Others do not.

Looking at all collector type hobbies, one has to look at the whole gamut of each hobby to see it's health. For example, take stamps and coins and minerals. The US postal service essentially largely killed the hobby for youngsters by coming out with gimmicky stamps and plate markings to take $$$ advantage of the interest in the 1970s and 1980s. Only interest in expensive classic stamps remains. In 1964, silver spiked in $$$ so the US mint removed it from coins; result was that coin collecting interest was lost in looking for old copper, nickel, and silver coins. Coin collecting interest died in the late 1960s; only classic rare coin interest remains. Easy access to many mineral collecting sites disappeared in the late 1970s thru the present so parents found it difficult to take their kids rock collecting. Many youngsters never had the chance to do anything except pick up pebbles at beaches and lake shores, loosing interest as they became teenagers and into sports and social media. Today many mineral specimen collectors start later in life with more interest just in buying higher quality/higher priced specimens. There is less interest in self education, just in buying/displaying the mineral specimen, but not really knowing much about it. Frankly, in many US areas, field collecting youngsters are mostly a phenomenon of the past.

There are still good indications for the future. Mineral collecting as a hobby/investment will NOT vanish. But what I still find disheartening are the perpetual optimists that deny any real or significant problems with today's state of mineral collecting. Despite declines in show attendance and decline in circulation and readership of mineral periodicals, despite the aging collector base with fewer youngsters actively collecting, and despite loss of collecting sites and declining club numbers and attendance, ALL TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT TOGETHER, there are still those among us who think all this is a minor situation. IT IS NOT!
ALL COLLECTIBLES, including minerals, have seen significant declines in their collector numbers, especially the younger among us.

Those among us who minimize the situation and problems are like climate change deniers in Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" or act like Neros, "fiddling while Rome burns". Wait a mere 10 - 15 years then take another look. Mineral collecting, as all other collecting, will not vanish, but it certainly may be very different even from today. BOB
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PostPosted: Jan 05, 2018 16:28    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Great discussion! I am 30 and very much into collecting. I was bitten by the collecting bug when I was a kid. Cost probably keeps many people out, but there is a whole range of material out there, so people can enter at any level. As for getting younger people's attention, I think platforms need to change from printed periodicals and online journals to blogs, groups, and podcasts. I'd love to see more articles and reports written in places like this and Mindat.

Another thing relates to the attendance of shows... I've noticed some shows have apps that you can use to get directions, find rooms/tables, bathrooms, and even nearby restaurants. This is a great idea, and something I'd like to see for the HTCC and the main show (if it doesn't exist already).

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PostPosted: Jan 05, 2018 16:38    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Bob, your passion for the subject comes through loud and clear... As you can tell I'm one of the optimists but reject characterization as being of the ostrich in the sand stripe.

I take exception to your comparison to Rome-burning fiddlers or climate change deniers! Neither large...or enormous numbers of humans are going to die or suffer massive upheaval if mineral collecting continues to change. Something other than changes to mineral collecting will be the proximate cause of our demise, perhaps within your 10-15 year timeframe...in which case, who cares? (Obviously those of us who recognize we are only temporary custodians of our specimens do...and what to do about that is the subject of many pages of FMF posts)

Your comments about coin and stamp collecting and declines in other collectibles are well taken but perhaps miss a broader macroeconomic point. Part of this "decline" is from a relative high-water mark from the 70s and 80s when we had 10-15%+ inflation, gold had been liberated from controls and folks were looking for things that maintained value. Savings accounts paid 4.5-5% interest (we'd kill for that today) but that meant you only lost 5-10% of your value annually. Collectibles soared...Baby Boomers recaputuring the things they had/or desired when young and relatively poor ...and right on the heels of this came manufactured collectibles created just to satisfy the ignorant end of that demand curve. As you point out the government took advantage of that and killed stamp and coin collecting.

(For some reason this coincides with the beginning of the boom in mineral specimens, so something is either different and/or counter-cyclical here...maybe that's the real subject for discussion?)

Fast forward to today, Inflation is officially under 5% (except for real estate and minerals), Baby Boomers are retiring and downsizing, their children and grandchildren never wanted for anything so they are not acquisitive in the same ways. They are also much more plugged into the internet than into people...membership in clubs of all kinds except Costco, marijuana-buying coops and Starbuck's frequent caffeinators is off across the board. Fraternal organizations, business associations and churches are in a lot worse shape than we are from what I can tell...and print publications are all suffering (The local Tucson fish-wrap now costs over $500/yr...advertisers have taken their money on-line). Further, folks have recognized that Franklin Mint crap and Beanie Babies did not appreciate and many got burned so badly they have bailed on "collectibles" as a whole. Besides, you can invest in Bitcoin or Cannabis and make a fortune by afternoon, so who needs long-term thinking?

Minerals and fine art seem to be doing well though...judging by recent auction prices at least. These are collectibles that require knowledge, an aesthetic sense/training...and a healthy pocketbook (ie value to protect). By definition this may imply a more select group than collected stamps, coins or Beanie Babies? Some are clearly storing nuts for the financial winter that they believe will set in when the chickens come home to roost on the governments free-printing of money (actually the Mint makes the Post Office look like pikers when it comes to devaluating a collectible...dollars... through over-production), others look at the track record these show and want a piece of that action.

Then you get to what I think are the majority of us on FMF...we're here because we love the minerals for themselves, not for what they are "worth". I welcome the financial appreciation my collection has suffered (suffered because I have to suffer more and more each year to add things to it) but I welcome more the pleasure I get from it...I can't buy that, even at the nearest dispensary. I also love the comraderie of the mineral community, and sharing your concern about the fact that fewer people are enjoying it, do what I can to bring people in...as I think most FMF members do. The immediate challenge I see is to get folks who collect minerals for any reason to support the literature, websites and venues where they can get the information to become knowledgeable collectors...for the community's sake and their own benefit and protection (we don't need a catastrophic collapse in our market provoked by people blindly investing and realizing they got taken)

As I noted in the post that led to Jordi opening this string, TGMS attendance may be down from its heights but it has remained pretty stable over time for nearly 2 decades. In times when everything else (clubs, shows, collectibles) are off, staying even or declining just a bit is the new up!

Anytime you pick a high water mark as your datum, pretty much everything will look like it is in decline. I'm not arguing that you are wrong about attendance, subscriptions and club memberships, I just think where the river has jumped its banks to a new streambed and we need a new yardstick.

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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2018 03:55    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

I agree with all that Peter wrote, except I think his estimate of 10% of geologists being interested in minerals is way too optimistic! A lot less than that, in my experience. But on the other hand, why *should* they be interested in collecting minerals? What percentage of automobile mechanics are car collectors? (I do know one.) I personally love the overlap between job and hobby, but a lot of people would rather relax doing something completely unrelated to their day job.

As for the declining number of localities open to collecting, that's never a problem I've encountered. To me, life seems to be far too short to visit all the localities that are still open to collecting. And long-distance travel is now far more affordable than it has ever been in human history! So, if your local quarries are off-limits, there is still lots of territory to hunt in in other states or countries. And joining a club helps too - Clubs can often arrange entry to places that are off-limits to individuals.
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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2018 11:35    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Peter, I like your analysis, except I am just a bit concerned about fixation with cannabis!

Prices have certainly increased over the years, but the quality has also, in many cases, followed along. Extracting specimens correctly costs money, as does prep work, which is now done at a level never before seen. Much of this is driven by the sophisticated collector who is willing to pay for such quality. And, as has been said, the increase in prices does create a entry barrier for new collectors who want the absolute best but can't afford it. For those who are OK with just below the best, there are lots of deals! And that is a niche that is a lot of fun to collect within-finding a great rock at a great price!

Geology departments have never been the fount of new mineral collectors. When I was at university, there were 2 students in a department of about 100 students who had any interest in mineralogy or mineral collecting. None of the profs were interested either. Collectors tend to come from the general public, and often are people who were exposed to and fascinated by minerals at a young age. That was my path, and it was the love of minerals that drove me into a geology education.

Shows are declining. The internet is maturing, allowing us to buy rocks from places collectors only dreamed of obtaining at shows. Its actually a pretty good time to be collecting! But, to keep the hobby going means engaging elementary school kids now.
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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2018 14:45    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

GneissWare wrote:
Shows are declining. The internet is maturing, allowing us to buy rocks from places collectors only dreamed of obtaining at shows. Its actually a pretty good time to be collecting! But, to keep the hobby going means engaging elementary school kids now.

Whenever I get a chance to share my excitement about minerals and the natural world, with kids, be they 7 to 70, I take that chance. Talks I've given in elementary and middle schools are always welcomed by the staff and kids, even though they are basic and heavy on bling. My favorite place to man at the East Coast show is the giveaway table for kids. Laura Delano supply's small, identified freebees for the kids and I can see in their eyes the amazement and wonder, all we need to do fire that interest up. On a larger scale, lack of focus on science and nature in schools is an easy target for derision. They say you can't solve the problems in schools by throwing money at it, but I'd like to see them give it a try.



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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2018 18:31    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

Let me add a variation in this interesting topic. Among the changes that the Internet has introduced in our hobby, there is one non minor that perhaps is not enough taken into account.

Years ago, the only reputable and respected dealers were elder dealers and that happened because the "mental database" necessary to appreciate the enormous complexity of the so different quality & localities of the minerals was so large that it requested decades to built a good knowledge of a so large diversity with so many slight variations. Only the people with many years of experience could had that level of knowledge.
Currently all the information existing in countless virtual databases, whose greatest exponent is Mindat, allows to someone with good knowledge of the network and many time available to become a good "comparator" in a much shorter time than what was needed before. That's why today we see good dealers with a good level of knowledge who are not elder and can even become young people. This is a very important change that the Internet has generated and, attention, if there are currently good dealers who are no longer elder. consequently there are also good young collectors and this can produce very important changes in our hobby in the near future, if these changes there are not happening already.

An important nuance of all this is that it is not the same a good "comparator" that a good "expert" or in the ancient words a good "mineralogist" but that is another subject, and a very dense and difficult subject ;-)
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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2018 23:23    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

The above by Jordi is certainly true. One can get a better idea of what mid to best pieces of any particular specimen might look like [even from a specific place or area]. However, Mindat [and I'm not criticizing them for this] and many other sites don't help one to get a 'feel' for an appropriate price for a particular species at a particular quality and size. When I look at minerals for 'sale' on ebay, I generally find many [not all] asking prices I consider 2-10 times what they are worth based on the shows I physically go to. OK, the variety is great, but the prices are not. One might be able to bargain a little, but everyone is trying to sell good pieces for premium [and then some] dollar/euro/whatever. Being an old hand and knowing a lot about minerals, locations, rare variants, etc. I still can find 'bargains' at a show [a lovely piece to me for some reason at 'normal' or discounted price]. Many new or less-experienced collectors will always be drawn to the showy stuff that is now priced sky-high. Oh, I appreciate it and look, but increasingly those really fantastic museum-quality [or investor-quality] pieces are out of my reach. That was not always the case. In fact, I think a few pieces in my collection are the best [or very nearly the best] of their species/variety - and I certainly didn't spend a fortune on them - I only got lucky or knew what I was doing in the past. I remember one collector's case on display at a Denver Mineral Show. Lovely pieces all!...I happened to talk to the owner and asked how long he had been collecting. This fifty-something man said with a straight face 'six months'. I was in shock. I'd been collecting all my life from age eight. I didn't have ask about his disposable income - the case must have been worth at least half a million US $ at current prices. That kind of collector didn't exist [minus a handful who none knew about] decades ago. They may be great at driving some businesses, and to some extent paying for new and interesting mining-for-specimens in exotic places, but they have also driven the prices of many nice pieces out of my [and I have to assume] many other's ballpark and dreams. I'm not bitter about it, but a bit sad. I still have a great collection that I started when prices were a LOT lower and much of my favorite pieces [if not always the best - but sometimes they are] were self-collected. It is incredible to see just what beauty Nature can provide - even if one [I] can't have some of them for myself. Some collections have become somewhat less of mineral collections and more of 'uncut gem art' collections for the well-heeled or the mineral speculator. It is just a different time. I hope there will always be space for the beginner and those who have a full appreciation of quality minerals, but perhaps not deep pockets - of the pants variety. As I said, I often go to slightly smaller and more local shows [as well as the BIG ones] to find more reasonable prices - and often local minerals that are of interest. I also still self-collect and will until my dying day. I agree that with a little work one can still find more good self-collecting places than one has time to visit. I've got a long list and there are some old-favorites that never disappoint me whenever I return. To me, a person who really understands and appreciates minerals and mineralogy will also be interested in some specimens that are not just aesthetically fantastic [although we all appreciate those], but are also interesting for other reasons [rare, unusual habit, pseudomorph, or associations, etc.]. I love some of my 'less-than-beautiful' minerals too...and all of my self-collected materials ;-)

One other factor, only mentioned once briefly in this thread, is the proliferation of 'New-Age' interest in Crystals/Minerals for healing/karma/el al. If this existed during my first decades of collecting and going to mineral shows, I'm unaware of it - and doubt it. While I do not believe in this, or that mineral/xx is 'good' for anything other than its aesthetics and what it can inform me about the mysteries of atomic structure and the mysteries of elements in the Universe and their combinations, it has brought new people to shows [in positive and perhaps, to some, negative ways]. I'm often asked by persons of this type when looking at my collection what this or that crystal 'is good for'...I try not to offend them, and simply tell them I think this or that mineral is 'good for collecting' [and then state my reasons for believing so]. However, we often live in parallel 'universes' with little overlap.
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PostPosted: Jan 07, 2018 05:48    Post subject: Re: The overall health of this hobby  

One additional way in which the Internet has changed our hobby/profession is the growth of virtual mineral collecting clubs on social media, particularly Facebook. Most established clubs have set up Facebook groups; perhaps more significantly, entirely new groups have been formed to connect collectors with other collectors and with dealers. I belong to several of these groups in and around my home state of Colorado, and they are quite active sites for exchanging information on mineral collecting sites, recent finds, tips and techniques, etc. Not surprisingly, many of the most active users are younger. (I count anyone under 40 as “younger.” Ten years from now it’ll be 50.) As others have noted, I believe social media and other online activity have largely replaced clubs and mineral shows as venues for younger collectors. They’re out there and they’re engaged. Show attendance and the average age of club members are no longer good barometers for measuring the health of the hobby.
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