Friday, May 20, 2011

Maryland's Geology: The Book

Martin F. Schmidt, Jr., the author of Maryland's Geology, (Shiffler Publishing, 2010) recently addressed our Baltimore Mineral Society with a particularly interesting program relating to his book. The clear and well illustrated presentation introduced his work to some of us and provided enlightenment to all of us regarding the geology of our state.

Eager to learn more, I ordered Maryland's Geology from the next day. At 164 pages, with numerous illustrations, including various maps, and 26 pages of appendix, it's a short read, but not necessarily a quick one until or unless the reader has become familiar with various geological words and terms, all of which Maryland's Geology clearly describes when they first appear. Ultimately, any serious reader will soon be comfortable with discussion of faults, folds, intrusions, dikes, orogeny, and a lot more. The appearance of such items in the index showing the page number where first defined eases the process of retention.

A table of contents specifically outlines the main points to be covered. Thereafter, 131 pages of text and drawings not only explain the unique and complex geology of Maryland, but serve as a basic primer on the subject of geology. Twenty two additional pages of appendix (not including the aforementioned index) add clarity and help to keep the reader focused.

Maryland's Geology defines Maryland in terms of five landform areas, referred to as provinces. Moving east to west across the state, the provinces are the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge, the Valley and Ridge, the Appalachian Plateaus. The boundaries of all the provinces generally run northeast to southwest across the state, following the trends of the Appalachians across the eastern U.S. The first chapter describes these landform areas. Subsequent chapters explain how the landforms of each province came to be, the processes that caused them, and historical perspective. A final chapter discusses Maryland's geological resources as well as hazards of which to be wary.

Maryland's Geology is a must read for anyone interested in Maryland's mineralogy. Readers with a bit of training, are certain to gain specific regional perspective. For those without it, the book should prove to be an awakening.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Big Mineral Auction in Pennsylvania

The mineral collection of the late Joe Varady of Phoenixville, PA, went to auction in Hatfield, PA, at the Adlerfer Auction Company on May 7, 2011. This was six years to the day since the legendary auction of the Jay Lininger Collection. To the best of my knowledge, it was the most important mineral auction to have happened in this part of the country since.

A native of Phoenixville, PA, Joe Varady died of cancer at age 67 last August after more than a half century of collecting minerals. His roots alone, not to mention that he was outgoing, well-known, and very much liked in the region, would be sufficient to drop a strong hint regarding the minerals in his collection.

Perhaps no other collection in existence was richer both in quality and quantity of specimens from the classic localities of Southeastern Pennsylvania, namely the Wheatley, Brookdale, and Chester Mines of Phoenixville. Though Phoenxiville pieces dominated, there were plenty of lots from other Pennsylvania localities, as well as worldwide minerals. Regardless of locality, if any one particular species dominated, it was not unexpectedly pyromorphite.

Joe Dague, a prominent Pennsylvania collector/ dealer/consultant, had appraised the the collection and divided it into lots. Based on the amounts being bid, one might conclude that his numbers seemed high on the inexpensive lots and low on the more pricey ones, some of which featured world class Phoenixville material. Joe Dague knows as well as any of us how subjective the pricing of minerals can be relative to other collectables.

Quite telling were the huge amounts for which some pieces sold. Once out of money and while packing up to leave, I heard bids going as high as $2,200 for the anglesite pictured at left. A lot of bidders specialized in collecting minerals from southeastern Pennsylvania. While they know better than other collectors where and how to obtain them at reasonable prices, they also appreciate and value them more than most other collectors.

All in all, 400 lots ranging in size from one mineral to as many as perhaps 40 were sold. Pictures of them all are currently on the Internet as well as descriptions.