Below are tips and hints if yoy are "new" to the rock, mineral, and fossil "Market". These bits of information should make it easier for you to decide how to proceed with your collection...
BUYING ROCKS AND MINERALS
Many folks just do not have the time or resources to go out in the field, do the research, and collect all their own specimens. So they buy specimens to augment their collections. They are often called "Green Collectors". Some folks only have limited access to collecting sites, and then can only find mediocre specimens. Some folks are avid collectors who spend endless hours in the field collecting, but have never found that one specimen they really desire. They are called "Rockhounds".
If you are in the market for mineral specimens to start, build, or augment your collection, there are several ways to go about obtaining them. It all depends on what you are looking for, how you want to "shop", and how much is in your mineral budget.
- Buying Online - This is probably the most difficult and unreliable way to do it. Yes, the photos look pretty, but to hold the specimen in your hand is totally different than seeing an E-bay picture. True, sometimes, buying online is the only way to get certain types of minerals, but I am always very skeptical of buying items I cannot see or hold.
- Mineral Shows - Now this is the way to do it. Rock & Mineral Clubs all over the country sponsor Gem & Mineral Shows at different times during the year. These shows offer numerous dealers with literally thousands of pieces to choose from. Dealers will often help you select a specimen, as well as describe the mineral properties, location, and quite often will negotiate the prices. Some mineral shows and events even feature "Clearance, or Garage Sale" sections where bargain hungry collectors can pick up specimens at greatly discounted prices. For a current listing of all Rock & Mineral Shows and Events, go to www.mineralevents.com
The North Jersey Mineral Swap
-Mineral Club Meetings - Club meetings often have a buy and swap period before the meeting where members and visitors sell and swap specimens at bargain basement prices. Also, clubs will often hold auctions during their meetings, where you may bid on mineral and fossil specimens.
- Direct contact with other collectors - I have learned that having contacts in the mineral and fossil community is also helpful. Several times, I have used my contacts to buy or trade specimens that I otherwise would not be able to collect.SELLING INDIVIDUAL MINERAL SPECIMENS
- This is no secret. The best way to sell your extra specimens is to set up at a rock show. Most shows charge a fee per table. Some charge more than others. As a rule, the fee to set up in an indoor show can cost up to 10 times more than outdoor shows. As an example, to set up in an average indoor show can cost $100 per table, while an outdoor show usually costs $10-20 per table. When you set up, have a general knowledge of what you are selling, and most importantly, HAVE EVERY SPECIMEN LABELED WITH MINERAL TYPE, LOCATION FOUND, AND PRICE!! Be prepared to negotiate prices, and have plenty of wrapping and bagging materials on hand. Customers do not want a damaged specimen when they get home!
- Club Meetings - Join your local mineral club and you will have an outlet to "unload" your extra specimens. Many clubs allow pre-meeting sales, some have monthly auctions, and all clubs accept donations to the club's collection.
- Selling online - This can be a profitable endeavor if done correctly, You will need good photography skills, and a good working knowledge of E-Bay or Craig's List to make it work. It is a lot of time consuming work, but can be successful if done right!
-"Donating" low-end specimens to kids! Kids love to get something for free, and to get a cool looking rock specimen will light up their eyes right away!SELLING OR DISPERSING WHOLE COLLECTIONS
There comes a time, every once in a while, where someone passes away, or needs quick money, or faces a family emergency, where someone's entire mineral collection must be sold off or disposed of. Families of a dearly departed collector, often do not share the love or enthusiasm of the hobby that the collector did. Now they are faced with a house full of rocks and minerals. Do you try to sell it? Do you want to donate the entire collection? Is there a stipulation in estate? Do you have time, or do you need it out NOW? How do you proceed? Do you want to sell it, or would it feel better to just find a GOOD HOME for the specimens? Let me say this..... The one thing NO ONE wants to see is someone's life-long mineral collection being dumped out in the back yard, or thrown into a dumpster. So, what do you do? There are several ways to properly disperse a mineral collection, no matter how large or small. How this decision is handled can tell how much time it will take.
There is also the point where a family member, or yourself, has lost interest in the hobby, and just want "The Rocks out of My House!!" The same options are acceptable to get rid of unwanted rocks, minerals and fossils.
1. Contact collectors to remove the collection- This is usually the best way to get rid of an unwanted collection. There are many collectors out here that are willing to remove the collection, free of charge. This is the best option if you just want the rocks to be gone, but at the same time, want them to have a good home. A mineral collector will do all the work happily! I have done several of these removals, and both parties have been very grateful.
2. Contact a collector who is also a buyer - Many mineral collectors will also buy collections from eager sellers, if they contain better quality specimens. (I have purchased a few collections myself over the past few years, and have made connections to other buyers on several other collections. I have a network of potential buyers in the North Jersey Area, so usually, I can match a particular set of minerals to a particular buyer, depending on the contents of the collection. Other collectors usually have similar contacts.) Making that first connection is the most important thing. Once you get the wheels rolling, and find the right person, quite often you can move that unwanted collection quickly, while sometimes putting a few bucks in your pocket. Use the internet to search out collectors in your area, and see if they can hook you up with a local buyer! Most collectors will offer you a fair price for your collection. One bit of advice: Do not ever expect to get full retail price when selling a collection. If you want to sell, Come up with a fair, round number that will insure a quick sale, and be prepared to negotiate a price that will make both parties happy. This can often be a fast and painless process, if you are comfortable negotiating price.
3. Set up at a Gem & Mineral Show - If you want to get close-to-retail prices for your specimens, this is the way to go. Put out a few tables, and set reasonable prices, and negotiate volume deals, and you may be able to move portions of a collection during the show. Note: You will usually only sell a small portion of the collection at each show. The more information you can provide on who the collector was and how he/she obtained the specimens, the easier it will be to sell the minerals. Try to label as many specimens as you can! There are no guarantees on how much product you will move. The economy has a great deal to do with that. But the way I look at it, if you get to the show with 10 boxes of rocks, and leave with 9, that's 1 less box of rocks, and that is always a plus!!! This process could very well take years to sell off an entire collection, and requires much patience and determination.
4. Donate the collection - Use the internet to contact a nearby mineral club who would be willing to accept a donation. Usually, these donations can be a tax write-off since most mineral clubs are non-profit. Most mineral clubs are eager to accept donations! Connect with the president or a board member to get the ball rolling. They will usually arrange free labor and a letter of recognition to the collector and their family acknowledging the donation. They can also provide a receipt of estimated value for tax purposes. Many times, when the collector has passed away, the will of the estate will dictate if the collection is to be donated or not. Donating is another Great way to move out an entire collection all at once.
5. Contact a dealer - Dealers usually give you a low-ball price on a collection. They must re-sell at a profit to further their business, so when they buy, it is usually at a very reduced price. From what I have heard, dealers will move quickly on buying a collection, because they will not want "the other guy" to get it. Just be prepared to get low-balled. You can contact multiple dealers by visiting a rock show.
6. Contact a museum - Must be the BEST of the BEST in order for a museum to even look. SOME museums actually pay for top-notch specimens. This only applies if the collection contains the highest quality museum-grade specimens. If you are not sure, have someone appraise the collection who can tell the difference BEFORE you try contacting a museum. Museums usually do not accept low quality specimens, because they require storage space, which most museums do not have. A museum rep may come to see the collection, and only select a few pieces, and then offer a low price if offering any money at all. This can be a frustrating process, and it could take a great deal of time to complete.
Please, if there is one closing note in all of this, PLEASE, Never just dump or throw away a rock collection, no matter how small. There is an educational value with ANY mineral collection. Always find a GOOD HOME for your loved one's rocks!