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A general guide for using the Forum with some rules and tips
On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance
  
  Index -> Minerals and Mineralogy
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marvinlewinsky




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PostPosted: Feb 17, 2020 14:46    Post subject: On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance  

On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance

I am new to minerals, but to me my novice status as a collector is more of an asset than a hindrance. It enables me to view things with a fresh and unbiased approach – an approach that may be overlooked by a more experienced collector.

I see many minerals for sale that have exchanged hands a few times. The label will reflect the past owners, and in many cases the previous owners are very much alive. It begs the question if the mineral has exchanged hands so often is it worth buying? Surely, if the mineral is one of a high quality why would it pass so rapidly from one collector to another. I am assuming of course that the collectors were not financially challenged and were thus in desperate need of money.

The other point is one of historical provenance. What is more valuable, a specimen extracted 100 years ago from an ore-body that is a mere 70 million years old, or a specimen that was extracted last year from an ore-body that is 700 million years old. I have seen (at Tucson 2020) many expensive ‘old’ Germany Galena specimens that pale in comparison to some very recent Galena specimens from Bulgaria. In 100 years even these Bulgarian specimens will have historical provenance.

As a collector what other marketing ploys should I look out for?
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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Feb 17, 2020 15:08    Post subject: Re: On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance  

Mineral specimens change hands for a lot of reasons. The collector may be upgrading to a specimen he/she likes better and wants to sell duplicates. The collector may have changed the focus of the collection and has sold off pieces that no longer fit. The collector may need money to pay for an expensive specimen, for something other than minerals all together. The collector may be getting out of the hobby altogether. There are as many approaches to assembling a collection as there are collectors, so I think the number of times a specimen has changed hands bears no relationship to it's desirability for someone who thinks it fits into their collection.

As to the issue of historical provenance, it again depends on one's approach to collecting. Does the history of mining and collecting matter to the collector, or is he/she more focused on a collection of pretty rocks? Older specimens are, by default, rarer than specimens of contemporary origin. Rarity always sparks desirability amongst some collectors. There are many collectors I know who specialize in particular locations - take for example Arizona. Most of them would likely pay a premium for an old time classic such as a Bisbee azurite or a Tiger cerrusite, even though modern examples of these minerals may be more aesthetic and less expensive. Others, who's focus may be solely on aesthetics, would likely go for the opposite. It all depends on what type of collection you want.
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marvinlewinsky




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PostPosted: Feb 17, 2020 16:09    Post subject: Re: On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance  

Jesse Fisher wrote:
Mineral specimens change hands for a lot of reasons. The collector may be upgrading to a specimen he/she likes better and wants to sell duplicates. The collector may have changed the focus of the collection and has sold off pieces that no longer fit. The collector may need money to pay for an expensive specimen, for something other than minerals all together. The collector may be getting out of the hobby altogether. There are as many approaches to assembling a collection as there are collectors, so I think the number of times a specimen has changed hands bears no relationship to it's desirability for someone who thinks it fits into their collection.

As to the issue of historical provenance, it again depends on one's approach to collecting. Does the history of mining and collecting matter to the collector, or is he/she more focused on a collection of pretty rocks? Older specimens are, by default, rarer than specimens of contemporary origin. Rarity always sparks desirability amongst some collectors. There are many collectors I know who specialize in particular locations - take for example Arizona. Most of them would likely pay a premium for an old time classic such as a Bisbee azurite or a Tiger cerrusite, even though modern examples of these minerals may be more aesthetic and less expensive. Others, who's focus may be solely on aesthetics, would likely go for the opposite. It all depends on what type of collection you want.




Thank you for the input Jesse.

I do find statements like ‘pretty rocks’ amusing. The TGMS 2020 theme of World Class Minerals and World Class Mineral Collectors opened up a ‘pandora’s box when it comes to mineral collecting at the high-end of the mineral collecting spectrum.

I had the good fortune to browse through the corridors of the main show, and the one thing that was clear to me, was that aesthetics is an important criterion, if not the main one, when it comes to collecting minerals. I spoke to many people who were told me that they could not afford to buy the mineral specimens offered for sale, but they still enjoyed looking at the ‘pretty rocks’ all the same.

I had the fortune to view some fine specimens for sale from the Copper Queen mine at Bisbee – and they were not cheap. If you shopped around you could get some inferior specimens (mainly miniatures) from Bisbee for $300 or less, but once you saw the display quality pieces the inferior ones were just a second thought. I know, for I purchased a fine cabinet plate of Azurite from Bisbee and it was not cheap!

As a new collector I look at what the more seasoned collectors are buying, and my yard stick was the collections owned by those deemed to be World Class Collectors, and yes they have a range of mineral specimens in their collection, but when it comes to displaying minerals at a show, the aesthetic ones always dominate the display.

Why cannot an aesthetically pleasing specimen also be one of significant scientific interest? I think at times many people are just being nice. I know when my wife asks if a particular dress makes her look fat, I always answer no – this is the polite and caring thing to do to avoid hurting a person’s feelings. However, if I were helping a new collector build a collection I would say, no it is not a good specimen, just save your money until you have enough to buy a worthwhile piece.

I saw a wonderful Bournonite from Bolivia in the collection of Gail and Jim Spann – a superb piece. I had seen it previously on the Facebook page of the Collector’s Edge Minerals. It is 4 x 4 x 2 inches, and is just incredible. Not only is the piece very ‘pretty’ it is also of great mineralogical interest as a rare sulfosalt displaying the cog-wheel habit that only a good Bournonite can display.
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Kevin Schofield




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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 11:45    Post subject: Re: On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance  

marvinlewinsky wrote:
Jesse Fisher wrote:
Mineral specimens change hands for a lot of reasons. The collector may be upgrading to a specimen he/she likes better and wants to sell duplicates. The collector may have changed the focus of the collection and has sold off pieces that no longer fit. The collector may need money to pay for an expensive specimen, for something other than minerals all together. The collector may be getting out of the hobby altogether. There are as many approaches to assembling a collection as there are collectors, so I think the number of times a specimen has changed hands bears no relationship to it's desirability for someone who thinks it fits into their collection.

As to the issue of historical provenance, it again depends on one's approach to collecting. Does the history of mining and collecting matter to the collector, or is he/she more focused on a collection of pretty rocks? Older specimens are, by default, rarer than specimens of contemporary origin. Rarity always sparks desirability amongst some collectors. There are many collectors I know who specialize in particular locations - take for example Arizona. Most of them would likely pay a premium for an old time classic such as a Bisbee azurite or a Tiger cerussite, even though modern examples of these minerals may be more aesthetic and less expensive. Others, who's focus may be solely on aesthetics, would likely go for the opposite. It all depends on what type of collection you want.




Thank you for the input Jesse.

I do find statements like ‘pretty rocks’ amusing. The TGMS 2020 theme of World Class Minerals and World Class Mineral Collectors opened up a ‘pandora’s box when it comes to mineral collecting at the high-end of the mineral collecting spectrum.

I had the good fortune to browse through the corridors of the main show, and the one thing that was clear to me, was that aesthetics is an important criterion, if not the main one, when it comes to collecting minerals. I spoke to many people who were told me that they could not afford to buy the mineral specimens offered for sale, but they still enjoyed looking at the ‘pretty rocks’ all the same.

I had the fortune to view some fine specimens for sale from the Copper Queen mine at Bisbee – and they were not cheap. If you shopped around you could get some inferior specimens (mainly miniatures) from Bisbee for $300 or less, but once you saw the display quality pieces the inferior ones were just a second thought. I know, for I purchased a fine cabinet plate of Azurite from Bisbee and it was not cheap!

As a new collector I look at what the more seasoned collectors are buying, and my yard stick was the collections owned by those deemed to be World Class Collectors, and yes they have a range of mineral specimens in their collection, but when it comes to displaying minerals at a show, the aesthetic ones always dominate the display.

Why can't an aesthetically pleasing specimen also be one of significant scientific interest? I think at times many people are just being nice. I know when my wife asks if a particular dress makes her look fat, I always answer no – this is the polite and caring thing to do to avoid hurting a person’s feelings. However, if I were helping a new collector build a collection I would say, no it is not a good specimen, just save your money until you have enough to buy a worthwhile piece.

I saw a wonderful Bournonite from Bolivia in the collection of Gail and Jim Spann – a superb piece. I had seen it previously on the Facebook page of the Collector’s Edge Minerals. It is 4 x 4 x 2 inches, and is just incredible. Not only is the piece very ‘pretty’ it is also of great mineralogical interest as a rare sulfosalt displaying the cog-wheel habit that only a good Bournonite can display.


Hi Marvin,

It's always good to hear from a new collector on the Forum. It's particularly good to hear from one who has clearly committed to learning about how to go about being an informed collector.
I think that Jesse has very nicely covered your question about provenance and "marketing ploys" by pointing out that there are many ways to collect, and you are really the ultimate decision-maker on the direction you wish to go.
I'd like to take up up your point on "good advice to a new collector". When I was getting back into the pursuit twenty-odd years back, one of the best pieces of advice I got from a dealer was "it's always better to purchase one rock for $1000 than ten rocks for $100". It's good advice because whether you are collecting for investment or for pleasure, that one rock will generally bring a greater return than the alternative ten. The exception is maybe if you are a species/locality collector, you may get your jollies from variety rather than "quality".
On the matter of "how to judge a good specimen", or "how to be the best collector you can be", there are two dealer websites that have very good similar-but-different essays on building and appreciating a collection. As neither are strictly "sales-oriented" sites, I'm sure that Jordi and The Moderators will allow me to mention their names in recognition of this being a non-sales pitch. For full transparency, I should point out that I work on contract for one of them...

On the website of "Wilensky Minerals" under the tab "The Wilensky Approach", you will find a short introduction and a number of sub-tabs with examples on how to "grade" a collectible specimen.

On the website of "Green Mountain Minerals" you will find a reprint of an essay by Wendell Wilson (of The Mineralogical Record) under the sidebar tab of "Connoisseurship" that covers not only the aesthetic qualities that Stuart emphasizes, but also factors such as historic and scientific importance that will speak to your interest in provenance.

Again, welcome to the Forum, and Good Hunting!

Kevin

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cascaillou




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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 18:56    Post subject: Re: On Mineral collecting and Mineral Provenance  

In a mineralogical perspective, detailed locality of origin is essential data as it tells us about the geological context in which the mineral occurred.

But favoring a given locality over another only makes sense if you are a locality collector (i.e. focusing your collection on a given area in order to illustrate the diversity of the mineralogy in that area), or a specie collector (who might want every classic locality for a given specie to be represented in his collection in order to illustrate the variations in between different localities).

Concerning the previous owners of a specimen, this is completely meaningless, unless it intimately associates that specific specimen to a discovery in the field of mineralogy or other sciences (for instance, a pitchblende from the Pierre & Marie Curie collection is definitely more than a mineral specimen: it's an historical artifact, since they discovered radium from the study of their pitchblende specimens).
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