Monday, October 15, 2012

John Ebner's Ultimate Vintage Micromount Collection

In the glass-topped cabinets behind John Ebner (above) is  a collection of mineral micromounts like no other. The title on wooden signs heralding the collection reads "MICROMOUNTS: PAST AND PRESENT:" Beneath this title, a list of explanatory basics  reads as follows:
  • Micromounts are mineral specimens that require magnification (generally 5x to 30x) and illumination for proper observation.
  • They may be of any size.
  • A variety of mountings have been used over the years since micromounting began.
  • Records indicate the earliest mounted micro specimens were on glass slides.
  • In 1870, the Rev. G.C. Rakestraw begam using paper ring boxes. He then went to making his own boxes covered inside and out with black paper. These boxes were called "Rakestraws" or "box mounts." 
  • Today you can find micromounts in many types of containers, but predominately in plastic boxes about 7/8" x 7/8" x 3/4" in size. 
  • A few of the many varieties are displayed here with the mounters name, if known, and the the mineral therein. 
The image at left captures about half the contents of just one of four glass-topped wooden cabinets that house John's collection. Included are early mountings on glass slides, a few of the Rev. Rakestraw's round paper ring boxes, and the square paper boxes that evolved from them. Such boxes were prevalent until the mid- 20th Century.

The image at right shows a section of contents from a  second cabinet. At the far end are mounts  in the kind of plastic boxes commonly used today. While historical in perspective,  this second cabinet focuses  exclusively on work relating to micromounters inducted into the Micromounters Hall of Fame. Along with pertinent memorabilia, it includes at least one mount of every member. The Baltimore Mineral Society established the Micromounters Hall of Fame in 1976 at its 21st Annual Desautels Micromount Symposium  to recognize micromounters, past and present,  pursuant to the following guidelines:
The purpose of the Micromounters’ Hall of Fame is to honor those who have served this hobby to the highest degree. They are the leaders, the movers and shakers of the past and present who have shown the way for the rest of us. They have not only built sizable collections, but they also have earned and deserved a worldwide reputation among mineral collectors in general and especially among micromounters.
Members of the Micromounters Hall of Fame range from the late Rev. Rakestraw, who died in 1904, to Rod Martin of New Zealand, who was inducted September, 29, 2012 at the 56th Annual Symposium. John Ebner was inducted in 1997.
A third cabinet bespeaks a unique niche of micromount collecting  about which John is particularly passionate.  All of the 373 specimens therein were mounted by the person after whom they were named.

John's penchant for acquiring these mounts began in 1982, with the acquisition of a whitmorite specimen mounted by Bob Whitmore, owner of the legendary Palermo Mine in North Groton, New Hampshire.  Soon John had filled a case with such mounts and  began schlepping them from home in New Jersey to numerous conferences, shows, and symposia. The collection has since grown to four cases bearing  mounts dated from the 1850's to the late 2012's.

Putting it together has led John to network with a myriad of  leading mineral people around the world who enthusiastically assist him with  acquisitions by sharing contacts and arranging for introductions as called for.  "The best by-product of all this," John says, " is all the new friends I've made."

Most of the mounted specimens are of very rare species, some for which the only known occurrences are microscopic. The collection also includes numerous specimens that enjoy a level of aesthetic perfection unknown to their species other than through the scope.

If there is a downside to owning such a collection, it has to do with the careful placement of all the mounts within within the heavy  and relatively flat cabinets that house them. "This makes it so that I hardly ever get to see them through the scope," John laments.