Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kicking Off the Mid-Atlantic Mineral Season

The weather is improving, the ground moist and easy to dig up. Tailings are fresh after the ravages of winter, and unwanted vegetation at a minimum. Otherwise, increasing numbers of shows beckon where the inventory is fresh from Tucson.

The sale on March 7, 2009, in West Chester, PA, of the late Bill Yokom's mineral collection was my first mineral event after a late February return from Tucson. Bill, who was once curator of the mineral museum at West Chester Universities, had also assembled a personal collection of worldwide minerals as well as fossils and lapidary slabs. As an afficianodo of Pennsylvania minerals, I'd been particularly intrigued over the likelihood of their presence for picking over. Though many of the best of them appeared to have been scooped up before my arrival, I did manage to score a Wheatley mine piece bearing an unusual abundance of red Wulfenite crystals amidst a crust of weathered pyromorphite and also a well-proportioned thumbnail sized specimen of zaratite and chrome antigorite from the State Line Pits.

However, my big deal of the day was the multicolored smithsonite from Sinaloa, Mexico, that's pictured beneath the title bar of this post . Only a few times a year does a mineral specimen come into my possession that excites me as much this one did. I was all but amazed that someone else hadn't already nabbed it.

Within 20 minutes, my flat was full and the amount of cash in my wallet insufficient to cover a celebratory lunch of alligator gumbo and an elkburger at the Half Moon Restaurant & Cafe in Kennett Square. Next stop was the Delaware Mineralogical Society's annual March Show at at Delaware Technical and Community College.
Business here appeared to be brisk, at least where the price was right. Things were going so well at Eric Maier's table that I hardly had a chance to catch up with him. Eric, pictured at right, trades as Broken Back Minerals and is a very active field collector of Phoenixville material from the dumps at the Brookdale, and Chester Mines. He gathers enough to offer some pretty nice pyromorphite, cerussite, galena, and anglesite (after galena) from these localities at very attractive prices.
Phoenixville specimens were well represented in one of numerous exhibits provided by the DMS for all to see. All of these were informative, and often regionally relevant as well. One exhibit featured mostly Phoenixville minerals, including the first cabinet sized vanadinite piece I'd ever observed from this classic locality.

One thing that really impressed me about the Delaware Mineralogical Society's show was its Junior Booth for kids. Put together to engage the interest of young people, it was the busiest part of the entire room. Its tables were loaded with minerals and fossils for sale, some donated by club members others collected on field trips. Among them were dozens of quite large rocks covered with beautiful light green nodular wavellite from the National Limestone Quarry in Mount Pleasant Mills, PA, that were selling 25 cents a piece. Nearly all of them were more attractive than the best I'd succeeded in digging up over the course of four hours on a Baltimore Mineral Society field trip to that locality in June, 2007.

It seems to me that we are living in an age where the allure to young people of natural history has become increasingly overshadowed by more temporal pursuits, and I find the situation to be regrettable. That was certainly not the case here today, and the Delaware Mineralogical Society's success at getting all these kids involved is just one more thing they're doing right.

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