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Beacon Senior News

How to start a rock collection

Aug 30, 2022 11:40AM ● By Scott Warren

Collecting rocks and minerals is an exciting and rewarding hobby. It’s full of fun, adventure and hands-on opportunities to learn more about our world’s geology. 

For beginners who are interested in exploring the amazing world of rocks and minerals, here are some tips for starting and maintaining an excellent collection that’s sure to bring you joy for years to come!

1. Do the research. Start close to home by exploring the geology in your area. What minerals and rocks are present in your neighborhood? Are there any interesting geological features? By familiarizing yourself with the samples available near your home, you can get used to using the tools of the trade and practice your collecting skills without venturing out into unfamiliar territory.

2. Join a club. What better way to learn about collecting than to connect with others who share your interest? Your local mineral collector’s club is a great place to learn more about the area as well as the best approaches to collecting. There’s no need to recreate the wheel when you can benefit from the knowledge of those who are more experienced. Collectors clubs are also a great way to learn about other gatherings, events and expeditions. The American Mineral Federation lists contact info for many clubs across the country.

3. Gather the tools. A great beginner’s toolkit includes safety glasses, a short-handled shovel, a good rock hammer or geologist’s pick, a mallet, chisel, bucket, work gloves and a pair of sturdy boots—all of which can be found at most hardware stores. You can always add more sophisticated items to your toolkit as your collection grows.

4. Catalog your collection. Begin a catalog or database of your specimens. At the very least, maintain a record that identifies each specimen by a unique name or number, its mineral names, the year mined and locale details (including the mine name as well as specifics such as depth of find or level). Including the price paid for purchased specimens and any other details regarding their previous history or display can also be helpful in determining the value of your collection in the future.

5. Keep the labels. When acquiring specimens from others, make sure you save any identifying labels, records or information that accompanies them. The history of your specimens is what makes them unique and, in some cases, distinguishes them as rare. This information adds to the story or origin of your collection, and helps add additional interest and value.

6. Use reliable reference sources. Invest in a good reference book, or other resource materials and publications.

7. Learn how to properly trim and display your collection. By studying the display of pieces you admire and learning what helps a quality specimen stand out, you’ll begin developing an eye for display which will help you trim and balance your display pieces in an attractive way.

8. Limit the size of your mineral collection. It may sound counterintuitive, but invest in a nice display cabinet or case and limit your collection to what fits inside. This will help you select your specimens with discernment and avoid the all-too-common scenario of your collection becoming difficult to manage. There is no point in collecting pieces that remain unseen in storage. If you find yourself needing to downsize, consider trading some of your pieces with other enthusiasts. By bundling your less desirable pieces, you may be able to obtain one or two choice specimens.

9. Develop your relationships. Many dealers travel far and wide to attend the best shows and symposiums and to interact with other collectors. Once you’ve defined the focus of your collection—whatever that focus may be—develop relationships with a few respected dealers. Many merchants also maintain websites that can be a wonderful resource for photos, articles and news about recent finds.

10. Purchase quality. It may take you a while to develop an eye for fine quality stones and minerals, but as you learn more about the characteristics you are seeking, make sure you are buying the best you can afford. It’s far better to own a collection with just a few stunning, high-quality display specimens, than to hold onto a large collection of mediocre pieces.

Above all else, have fun! Rock and mineral collecting is an adventure. If you aren’t having a good time, you’re doing it wrong. 

Scott Warren is with the Grand Junction Gem & Mineral Club, which meets at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of the month at 2328 Monument Road, Grand Junction. For details, visit

If you like rocks then you'll dig the 76th Gem & Mineral Show on September 24 and 25 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

4 Seniors & Military • $5 Adults • Kids 12 & Under Free

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