---- January 2006 -- Mineral News ----


Collection Disposal Commentary


By K.L. Nestorak



After reading the recent Mineral News article about "How NOT to Disperse a Collection" (see November 200S issue-Editor), I have yet another point to add that was not seriously addressed in the aforementioned piece.

Simply stated: with few exceptions, most mineral collectors are deluding themselves by thinking that building a sizeable collection is a smart investment of their disposable time or income. On the contrary, we collect because we enjoy it, have fun doing it, take pride in our holdings, and just enjoy the organization and study of it all. To believe that we or our heirs will reap some substantial financial reward from a collection's ultimate sale is often not realistic.

To be cruel: most field collected stuff kept by the average collector should have stayed in the field. No one cares that you had to climb Holysmokes Peak in the freezing rain to get that little quartz crystal! Further, those $1.00 specimens you bought in 1975 are still low-end today, and they are best offered in dealer grab bags for kids. To think that a knowledgeable person, dealer or otherwise, is going to buy the stuff at some multiple of what you paid is a joke, and the joke is on you!

A well-known, high-end dealer who I greatly respect once told me, "I make my money when I buy a piece, not when I sell it." Here is someone who understands the fundamentals of investment: the informed buying at the best (lowest) possible price of a commodity that will likely sell for a substantially higher price at a later date. The key word in that definition is informed. Because there are risks associated with all prognostications of the future, this guy uses his experience, his eye, his knowledge, to buy minerals that he believes will bring a better price than what he is willing to pay at the moment. For this careful assessment and his expertise, he earns a profit. When you buy the piece, you get a really good mineral, NOT an investment. You paid far too much to call it investing!

Ruthless or not, this opinion has served me well in all my collecting endeavors. I buy what I like, high priced or low, without worry that "I am investing wisely" in a piece that, let's face it folks, is 'just a rock" to most of humanity. I love to catalog my collection, and that old and inexpensive Mexican aurichalcite provides as much time and pleasure as the killer Chinese bournonite that came after it. And further, I can study both in equally great detail, learning the nuances of their chemistry, associations and pedigree, all without worry that I am wasting my time on something that will not turn a profit on my labor in the years to come. I'm getting the enjoyment now, and THAT is my profit in pursuing a collection!

The same holds true for my self-collected material. The best of what one locality has to offer may simply stink when compared to another locality. So what? I'm standing HERE in the freezing rain, not THERE! A field trip that ends empty-handed is just a stroll in the woods. But to bring home a souvenir of the excursion, and to recollect the time, place and people with me, THAT is a profitable venture. I don't care that my heirs won't get a dime for the piece, I've had my fun!                                                                       

Now, this is not to say that a carefully built collection is without financial value, but that result should not be the objective of collecting minerals. I cringe at stories of the five figure price tags demanded for "just a rock", based solely on someone else's opinion of what should be in my collection. Have great gobs of cash to spend? Good for you! Does the high price tag determine what you buy and how you value a piece? If so, I'm sorry to learn you don't have the confidence to rely on something closer to your own judgment!

But, do you have the confidence (and the audacity!) to collect what you like, even if it is NOT a high-priced (dare I say over­priced?) rock? Have you ever purchased an UGLY mineral because of what it was, or where it was from, or who owned it before? Yes? Good for you, you must be a true collector, a connoisseur of something beyond looks and dollar signs!

Have fun with your hobby (yes, it is a hobby). The pleasure you derive from its pursuit is your payback for the time and money spent. When you are done with it, turn it over to someone else who' will do the same, and don't embarrass your heirs by convincing them you're doing it for any other reason than to enjoy it!