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Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye
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BlueCapProductions




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PostPosted: Jul 15, 2011 14:01    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Jean - I couldn't have put it better than you did. Thank you.

John - Despite how you may, personally, view it, what you did was a theft as well. My father has owned the mineral rights to the Queen Mine, either directly or through his partnership at Pala Properties, since he first bought it back in the late 60s. He still owns them. As for Ed and Pete's trips to the Benitoite Mine, yes, the Dallas family owned the rights to the Benitoites. However, even WAYYYY back then when they visited the mine, they FIRST obtained permission from the Dallas family BEFORE they ever visited the site. This was documented in the film I did of them talking about their first trip there. That same film was promoted in the Mineralogical Record issue that you referenced (Jan/Feb 2008). Wendell Wilson and I worked out an arrangement so that a link to that movie was printed in the issue that allowed people to watch that film for free ( https://mymineralstories.com/ ). That film is no longer available online but I'd be happy to repost it on YouTube once I get back to Los Angeles.

I agree with Peter's caution of the use of the words "theft" and "stolen." I think they still stand as accurate descriptions of what happened.

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PostPosted: Jul 15, 2011 19:02    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Debbie Wolf wrote: "I have been a victim of theft by the most conspicuous dealer on mindat". It is because of her use of the word "theft" that i feel I have to set the record straight. The dealer in question did not steal any pictures from her. After Debbie made her post, I realized that this is still an issue for her, even though the pictures in question have been pulled down from mindat. Yesterday, after seeing Debbie's post, I wrote her the following apology (substituting "Dealer X" for the dealer's name). This should set the record straight:

I was the one who had given Dealer X the photos in question. I should not have used your photos for any purpose, especially commercial purposes, and i apologize.

I started collecting over the internet about 4 years ago. About 2 years ago, I started turning over my entire collection, selling all my older pieces. This includes the pieces I bought from you on EBay. Initially, Dealer X agreed to put my stuff up on his auction site with me supplying all the copy and photographs. (After some time, Dealer X took care of everything.) I spent a lot of time experimenting with mineral photography producing photos for these auctions, but in a few cases i got lazy and just gave Dealer X the photos used to sell the specimen to me. Please know that Dealer X had no idea that the photos came from anywhere but me.

At the time, I didn't think that this was any sort of an issue - i didn't even really think about it. However, I have learned much over the last few years about mineral photography copyright, and how people retain ownership over their photos even after they use them to sell something to me. I have now noticed that Dealer X has claimed copyright over all the pictures i took when he sold my stuff. For me, i don't care about it, but of course I have every responsibility to know that others might feel differently, and not use their images without permission for any purpose.

So that is where i am now. I should have sought you out and apologized for the use of your photos before. Your recent posting on FMF has let me know that this remains an issue for you. Please do not blame Dealer X for my actions.

Sorry

Debbie has kindly accepted my apology.
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lluis




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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2011 11:46    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Dear Mr. Swoboda

Not really realted with case you expose, but in my culture, when anyone accept the money, deal is closed.
More, when you say yes, even not having paid, deal is closed.
For good or bad, but closed.

I bought a Leifite by phone for a respectable amount of money (for me; not millions US Dollars).
After 5 minutes, I get a better offer (better specimen for less money). I have both at home.
I gave my word, and I always honor it.

So, I sympathyze with Gneissware.

Maybe just old fashioned

With best wishes

Lluís
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BlueCapProductions




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PostPosted: Jul 18, 2011 15:09    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Lluis,

Your point is well taken and not totally unrelated to this discussion.

My point to Gneissware wasn't to defend the Legend in his story but to question his assertion that the two situations are similar.

In his story, I feel that there was always an option to not accept the deal and to walk away from it once the specimen was removed. By him choosing to go through with the deal in spite of this, his application of the word "stolen" may, to some, be a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, when it comes to these high-graded specimens from the Tourmaline Queen Mine, the use of the term "stolen" is 100% accurate. As Jean Sendero, Debbie Woolf and Vic Rzonca have suggested in this forum, since my father owns the mineral rights to all the specimens in this mine and the tourmalines in question were taken without his permission, they were, in fact, "stolen" as we understand the term to be defined. Even John Veevaert's shocking confession and rationalization doesn't change this fact.

However, the real transgression that has sparked this posting is this dealer's wanton sale of these stolen specimens knowing their origins, knowing my father and even greeting my father as a friend outside the room where he was making these sales.

As I've said, I've tried approaching this dealer to discuss how to resolve this and have gotten no feedback from him. I'm confident that he is aware of these postings and my position of still being willing to work something out and still no contact.

I have the upmost respect for all cultures, being myself a mix of many cultures, and I believe that most cultures would agree that the actions of this dealer, thus far, have not been entirely honorable.

As a professional mineral dealer, I believe that it's his responsibility to act fairly and honorably - you'd expect that from any retail establishment that you would visit. He is a reflection of this hobby as a whole and his actions tarnish the reputation of the hobby. I've already received MANY private emails from collectors who have read this discussion and have asked me for his identity. They want to know so that they can avoid doing business with dealers like him.

So far I've not released this information asking these people to understand that what I'm still trying to do is to find a resolution to this issue and to, hopefully, influence the way "business as usual" is done in this hobby.

Thanks for your post!!!

-Bryan

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Gail




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PostPosted: Jul 18, 2011 18:00    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Bryan, I admire your writing this for others to see. I have followed along as you have written about this and am aware of all players in this misadventure.

The difference in this story is the fact that the person who stole the pieces was once an invited guest, a friend and a trusted person in your Father's life. That is what makes this terrible to begin with. The fact that he went back, on his own, and dug pieces out without your Father's permission leads me to believe he knew he was stealing. Therefore, I feel as though he was certainly aware that he might face problems in the future. I know he lived overseas, so perhaps he thought no one would ever catch on.
His brother saw fit to commission them to a trusted friend, who is the person selling the stolen tourmalines. I would have thought it might have been something the dealer was not aware of, but when you say you have tried to communicate with no response, well that saddens me as I had thought highly of the dealer before all this came to light.

Lack of communication indicates that he wants to turn a blind eye, yet I couldn't think of someone better to work it out with than you, Bryan. I have found you to be reasonable and even keeled. I am at a loss as to why this dealer will not at least acknowledge the need for discussion.

The certain lack of future business with many collectors is a reason for him to negotiate with you. I know I will not continue as long as this is unresolved, which is sad as he often had decent minerals. I just don't like the tactics being played here, and prefer to trust my mineral dealers.

There are far too many decent mineral dealers out there, I know my $$$ will go to those that continue to practice honest and good business transactions.

The mineral world is very odd indeed. I have heard the stories and met the people and see them continue to do business with the very people who tell me they know they are crooks. Perhaps if more collectors discontinued doing business with these shady characters, the better?

I know when I heard that a dealer friend had partners steal from him I turned my back on the offending mineral dealers. And when I purchase minerals from other people, I continue to ask if they are in any way associated with the offensive mineral dealers. Some say they are, I thank them for their honesty and decline the sale. I do, however, try to purchase some other minerals that are not associated as a way of saying thank you. And I don't hesitate to inform all collectors about who we do buy from, and those we don't.
Nuff said.
Bravo Bryan!

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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 02:56    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Whatever the merits of Bryan's complaint, and I don't want to comment on those, anyone owning specimens from mines that do not explicitly sell minerals are receivers of stolen goods, often wittingly. I don't see the moral or legal difference between stealing from an individual mine owner or from a corporation. The scale of the theft is irrelevant and mines not only lose the workers' time, but run the risk of expensive legal liability if workers enter unsafe areas to collected minerals and get injured. It is true that many mines conveniently turn a blind to this activity. Others do not, and staff lose their jobs if caught.

When I have raised this issue for discussion with local collectors, tentatively, because I also own specimens that presumably were stolen from their respective mine owners, it has been met with considerable hostility. This is not a topic that many mineral collectors wish to discuss. A recent one along similar lines on FMF terminated quickly. As the market value of choice mineral specimens continues to rise, the ethics and legality of mineral collecting may become more of an issue. Mining has always been a fairly dirty business, so perhaps in such a discussion we should all refrain from self-righteousness.

Duncan Miller
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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 03:36    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

A fairly large percentage of fine mineral specimens are "highgraded" from the property of large mining corporations, with or without the acquiescence of the mine management, but this is quite a different situation that what Bryan is talking about. In Bryan's case, the mine was worked exclusively for specimens, not ore, so the theft of a specimen is a serious hit on the mine owner's income, and I would certainly agree that that is theft, a crime, and immoral.

In the case of large mining corporations working ore, the specimens have aesthetic and scientific value that greatly outweighs their ore value, by many orders of magnitude. From an ethical point of view (although not a legal one), rescuing the specimen from the crusher has served a greater good than allowing the mining company to destroy it for its few cents worth of metal value. In my view, things can be ethical even if not legal (and the converse is of course also true - actions can be legal but not ethical).

An analogy from another field entirely: I once asked an art collector whether he thought, hypothetically, a wealthy collector had the right to destroy a fine classic painting, say a Rembrandt. His answer, as I expected, was that the owner has the legal right to destroy his property, but it would be immoral to do so because the collector in effect held the painting in trust for future generations and had no ethical right to deny them the pleasure of viewing it. I apply the same logic to fine minerals. I realize mining must go on, and that it must be profitable for the corporations carrying it out, but if someone has the chance to rescue a potential specimen from the crushers, I applaud them for their initiative and would never accuse them of "theft".
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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 06:05    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

I agree in full with Alfredos discussion.
I have some geologists friends who know nothing about mineral specimens. Due to various reasons, some are even hostile to mineral collecting.

Usually it is a lack of understanding and appreciation of specimens as such, unless it is a big rock well showing a "fold", slick and side or other geological feature.

I also know those who do have a few rock and mineral samples of their own, massive galena in quartz which they are very proud of but very jealous of, especially someone with no official geological education, who find much better soecimens than themselves in short time and even such which they could never even dream existed.

Most geologists have no clue of specimen quality and most of us mineral collectors lack the full appreciation of at least one segment of the wide field from geology, petrology, , igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks,sedimentary rocks, ore geology, mineralogy, geochemistr, microminerals, borates, Be minerals, phosphates, exceptionally rare minerals, to large gem crystals, facetted stones, rare facetted stones, carvings etc.

We are all so different in personality, and usually when you look closer, that is what it is all about.

Imagine the incredible specimens now lost forever which occured in the cavities in Bisbee, now beeing some scrap metal in a junk yard or part of a cable!

Realising and saving any great mineral specimen iroadcut, the crusher or from melting is nothing but heroic. In some cases the mining company has nothing against colelcting per se but are of course worried with all right about safety issues etc.

In the worst case scenario someone in a mining company have the intention to destroy any spectacular pocket or mineralisation due to ignorance and lack of apprication, possibly human jealousy etc.

When it comes to mineral specimen mines it is obvious that collecting inside an active specimen or gem mine is illegal without permission. Yes, legally it is of course in any mine, but saving a 8 cm fluorite octahedron in a metal mine from beeing crushed or crunshed under waste rock on the truck or mine dumps is a very rare and positive action in comparison to how much is beeing destroyed and lost forever in mankinds history, especially the last few centuries.
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Peter




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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 06:07    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

And of course it is not primarily the monetary value of a specimen, but the significance and scientific, esthetic, historical, value... many times so much greater than the metal; value or its future human use or abuse.
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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 06:25    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

As you can see, Bryan, the bottom line is always about the mineral. Doesn't seem to matter that someone stole it from your Father, thus denying your father not only monetary compensation but also bragging rights.
This is the frustration i feel so often, no matter what..at all costs...it's about the mineral.

This is why people turn their heads when they know something might not be quite right.

And it's about greed. It's about people stealing minerals and selling them for money. Let's be real here, no one gives any of that money to the owner of the mine.
Thus the fellow, who so graciously helped himself to your father's bounty, had no qualms about stealing as the very community he immersed himself into condones what he did to various degrees.

And what about the dealer who handles the stolen items knowing they are stolen? In this community, he really isn't doing anything wrong...after all, HE didn't steal them.

As a collector, we never really know how pieces came to the market. There are so many stories that aren't true, or facts not divulged. It's just common practice that has been going on for centuries.

Yet with the up market prices, the market is changing and the stakes are higher. I will be curious to see how this all pans out, so to speak.

I sense that, although everyone feels your father endured a "slight", it's over and not uncommon, so live with it.
And I, for one, can assure you that I do not feel that way. Again, my hope is that this dealer will see that it is wrong and will move into negotiations with you. I would be happy to offer my help in mediating.

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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 07:03    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

I think Alfedo makes the point of "site specific" quite well. When I collect in a commercial stone crushing quarry, on a sunday, I consider my actions as preservation of a few pounds of specimens that would otherwise never be available for our edification. Legally, I accept the consequences of my trespass. Morally righteous. Preservationist. Hero. If I go collecting at a friend's specimen quartz site in NY., and if, even having permission, I don't share with him the loot, giving him right to refusal, I feel I have outlaw collected at his site. Morally indefensible. Outlaw. Zero. On a larger scale , the question of who owns the earth and it's riches , is not just moral or legal, I think it's a philosophical one.
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PostPosted: Jul 19, 2011 12:04    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

I have been watching this for a while and wondering when to add my thoughts.

Many years ago I went collecting in a quarry with a group of friends. We had written permission to collect there, which we had gone to a lot of effort to gain and had been there a number of times with permission. On that particular day I managed to break into one of the best ever pockets found in the area and collected about 15 superb specimens that I left on the quarry floor while we stopped for lunch. At that point a dealer who also, I believe, had permission to collect there arrived and he made it clear to me and my friends that if I did not leave the specimens he would use physical force (essentially be would 'beat me up'). Now I am not a man of violence so I backed down and let him take what were some of the best specimens ever found in the area. So some FMF readers may well have some of 'my' specimens in their collections.

As a final act of indignity he 'allowed' me to buy back one of the specimens I had collected so that I could have it in my collection. So how do I feel? Well clearly I am still upset, 16 years later and will never buy anything from this dealer - which may mean that we have both lost out. I still have that specimen that I collected and also bought so it brings back both great and bad memories every time I see it and reminds me never to deal with him again.

But I also understand that these things happen in life. We both had permission to collect there and he was bigger and more willing to use force than me so yes he took my find. He will always be known as 'the thief' between me and a small circle of friends. But I guess it ends there and we have to move on - I know we cannot trust him when I read about his activities as a dealer but you do not! But that is true of many people in life, politics, etc.

James
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PostPosted: Jul 21, 2011 13:47    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

I'm happy to have my faith in this hobby reaffirmed by announcing that all involved parties in this situation have begun negotiations to settle this as peacefully and quickly as possible to the mutual advantage of EVERYONE.

I'm thankful for the fact that names were never mentioned in this post as I felt from the beginning that by doing so, any peaceful negotiations would be impossible.

I think there have been a lot of wonderful posts (James, I'm still shocked by your story) which only shows that this is indeed a very sensitive topic that deserves more open and general discussion.

While many of the details will remain private, I hope that our final resolution can begin the process of establishing new levels of expectations and actions when it comes to similar situations.

I especially want to thank Jordi Fabre, Peter Megaw and John White for keeping this discussion on track and for allowing us all to voice our thoughts.

I look forward to my next post where I will, hopefully, be able to announce that all has been settled and hands have been shaken.

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PostPosted: Aug 08, 2011 11:21    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Bryan, sounds like everything will work out and I'm glad for your Dad. My only comment to all these posts is that this reminds me of the stories told of the gold mining days of the past when men were murdewred to steal claims. It all comes down to greed. My personal opinion is that what goes around, comes around., or as the saying goes: no bad deed goes unpunished. We may never see the result, but the culprits will.
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PostPosted: Sep 03, 2011 11:08    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Bryan,

Thanks very much for this topic. I'm new to this forum and to mineral collecting in general. In fact, I became interested after buying vacation property on which the old Dodge Mine is located, in Edwards, NY.

However the problem of "highgrading" has soured me on the mineral world. We have people constantly on our property, overturning rocks and making a total mess of the woods that contain the mine. We've run into strangers in our woods who act as if it is their land and refuse to leave. We've had to call the local sheriff because of the destruction of the property and the disturbance of having strangers in the woods night and day. Since then, we've posted the property around the mine with many,many posted signs. There is no mistaking that this is posted land. Still, every time we return to our property it is more dug up, moss stripped off rocks, trees overturned and torn out, mud everywhere...Who knows where this will end? It's so sad because my Dad used to hunt rocks on this land and had fond memories of it. He never, never trashed the site for his hobby.

We gave permission to one mineral collector who seemed interested in the site for study purposes and was very careful in collecting to not destroy the property. Now, we are NOT giving permission to anyone anymore there is so much destruction and so many people who just walk over our fencing, pull off our signs and go ahead digging. The area has restrictive covenants as vacation property surrounding a lake with homeowners association and now we are getting grief about the ugly look of the mine area. It fronts on the main road. However, we can't seem to get collectors to stop digging.

I saw some pyramidal crystals being sold online through a popular mineral site. They were taken from our land in 2008 and 2009. No attempt was ever made by the seller to share any of the profits.

We've owned the property since 2003, and any crystals being sold from the Dodge Mine in Edwards, NY since that date are being sold illegally.

We started out wanting to learn more about mineral collecting in general, wanted to get to know collectors and were willing to allow collecting on our property, but not now! The utter lack of respect for the land, and our rights as landowners, is appalling and sad.

Anyway, thanks again for posting this topic. I can see there are ethical mineral collectors out there and that helps renew my interest.
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Peter




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PostPosted: Sep 03, 2011 16:03    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

So sorry to hear about your bad experience with collectors! To me the best approach is to haver one or more spots where collectors can collect and a small dump where people can come and study the material, not the least people who know nothing about minerals or geology! I hope you will decide to go to some local mineralshow or to Tucson in february (or Denver show now in September) to meet soem real colelctors who ask for permission, work with the landowners, are sharing their finds and knowledge with you, and only bring a piece or two for their own collection and hopefully also some research, and get back to you with results and explain why these are interesting etc!
Best of luck and I hope your interest develop to a deep appreciation and love!
Peter
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lluis




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PostPosted: Sep 04, 2011 16:06    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Dear all

What I read makes me sad.
This is one of the maybe reasons why Mount Saint Hilaire is closed now to collecting.

I am still bewondered by the work collectors/owners in Twin Creeks orpiment.
May that was accopmplished in many more places.

Collectors would be very pleased, and owners maybe would be happy to know that some specimens have been preserved, making all sides happy.

No respect of law just makes our hobby more closed (less places to collect)
And I am a two left handed individual that has only found a decent (well, not that ugly) quartz crystal in his garden.

And that enjoyed the cooperation of the former owners of Cantera Berta in Catalonia (but found nothing, as usually....)

Sad times we are living...

With best wishes

Lluís
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vic rzonca




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PostPosted: Sep 04, 2011 21:07    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

What is the nature of collecting minerals? I would say it comes from the need to enhance our chance of survival. "I have killed my brother with this rock, I win!". On a less ridiculous note, this gets to John White's founding thoughts, to paraphrase : " not enough mineralogy in collecting." What can we do, let the need for large scale plunder to supply our needs, rob us of self knowledge, I think not . Do I encourage stealing from my brother for my gain, of course not. But do we stand by and let the riches go past us without inspection, there must be a middle ground, I"d love to see it. Which brings me to a more salient point, how does one become certified to work underground and how does one convince the local crushed stone quarry that there may be something of mineralogical interest there.(Beyond my million dollar contractors bond.)
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PostPosted: Nov 30, 2011 17:27    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

After several months of peaceful negotiations and sit-down talks, all parties involved in this situation have come to a mutually agreeable resolution whereby, in exchange for one of the top specimens from this pocket, my father has relinquished all claims to the other specimens and has absolved all parties of any wrong doings. Ultimately, given a situation like this, I am very pleased that we were able to talk openly about the situation, as calm rational adults, and find a solution that could accomplish all of our goals of finally putting this situation behind us all.

This serves to reaffirm our faith in dealing with unfortunate circumstances in this hobby to the mutual satisfaction of all.

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PostPosted: Nov 30, 2011 17:31    Post subject: Re: Highgrading, the selling of stolen goods and turning a blind eye  

Oh, and I'm VERY pleased to say that everyone worked together to enable me to pick up the specimen today - November 30, 2011.

I make note of this because today is my father's 94th birthday and I am EXTREMELY grateful to be able to present him with this specimen as his birthday present.

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