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A Field Guide To Mineral Collectors

by John H. Betts, All Rights Reserved

Many of you reading this are new members and new to collecting on club field trips. As you go collecting how do you know who to ask for advice?

Here is a field guide to mineral collectors and how to spot the people that know what they are doing and those that do not. I apologize in advance that, for the purposes of this guide, all gender references will be male. Perhaps in the future we will have a female equivalent.

All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental.

Mr. "What did you get?"

This collector goes around all day asking "what did you get" in the hopes that you will ask him the same question. This gives him the opportunity to pull out either a piece that he discovered with beginners luck, or a piece you threw away two hours ago or a piece that he picked up at the mineral store down the road and now he claims to have found it. This collector is often new to field collecting and has not been humbled by collecting next to real collectors.

Indiana Jones

This is a real collector. Did you ever wonder how these locations we visit were discovered? It is this guy. He searches out old locations or breaks ground at a new location, a true prospector. They can be spotted because they have the right tools for the job and know what they are looking for in advance. We do not have many of this type in the mineral club anymore. You can spot them on a dig because they are not talking, and have their head in a hole. They have been in pockets that they could stand in and know what pocket mud is (and pocket mud can found under their finger nails). You never know until the end of the day what they have found because they don’t advertise their finds out of fear that a claim jumper (see Leech) will try to move in.

Sight Seer

This person is using the trip to get out of the city and doesn’t really care about collecting minerals. He thinks the mineral club is a travel agency to arrange his vacation. Often the loudest complainer, the first to suggest quitting for the day, and most likely to get lost because he was wandering away from the collecting location.

Paul Bunyan

This is the biggest and baddest (in the good sense) of all collectors. He swings the biggest hammer you ever saw. You are not worthy of carrying his tools. He cannot walk by a construction site without dreaming of pneumatic jack hammer, back-hoes and 100 ton hydraulic jacks. No rock is too large to tackle, even if it is barren. This collector plays the odds, knowing that one trip in ten he will break into a good pocket and the pocket will have twenty times the quantity and quality of the junk the rest of us are picking up off the ground. At night this collector can be found at the nearest pizza parlor with a large supreme pizza and a six-pack of beer planning out the next days work.


This collector thinks that the list of tools prepared for each trip is a multiple choice. He brings only half of them. Can usually be spotted adjacent the field trip director so that he can borrow his tools. Has a habit of quickly disappearing after breaking a sledge hammer handle or bending a crow bar. Chronic amnesia causes this collector to never offer to pay for damages, never remembers what tools he needs to get for the future, and always forgets to say thank you.

Pebble Pup

Always the youngest person on the trip and always the one to get the best specimen, usually lying on the surface where it was kicked by all or the other members on the trip.

What’s This?

Total lack of preparation and research causes this collector to have no idea what he is looking for or what he has found. Forgets to bring a field guide or the field trip announcement so he can figure it out for himself. Instead he can be seen lurking near the field trip director asking "what’s this?"

20/20 Hindsight

This collector has many years of collecting experience and they were all better than the trip he is on now. At least that what he thinks. He is fond of talking about collecting locations that are now built over by condominiums or super-highways. Does not recognize the passage of time. Never looks at his old specimens that he has boxed up in his garage to see if they really are as good as he remembers.

Golden Pick

He has a backpack filled with credit cards used to purchase minerals at the local rock shop. Breaks into a sweat easily at the thought of swinging a hammer. His criteria for a good field trip is a pool and remote control TV at the motel.


Again, this collector has not been humbled by collecting next to a real pro. He walks around and, without you asking, will pull out to show you hundreds of fragments of crystals that you threw away two hour ago. The braggart does not collect quality, he collects quantity. Can often be heard saying "well it’s not much, but it counts". The braggart thinks he is in a competition, but in a real competition, he would not last until lunch.

The Workhorse

Motto is run silent, run deep. Slow and steady. He starts in at one spot and sticks to it throughout the day. If there is a specimen to be found he will get it.

First Timer

Expects the location will be littered with 1" gemstones. After the inevitable beginners luck discovery of a 1" gemstone, he finds it is all downhill. Becomes a poker.


Plants himself on the ground and pokes around usually with a stick he found at the site. Always comes away empty handed and is usually the most vocal about the failure of the club to plan good trips.

Got it, Done it, Been there

This is truly the hardest type of collector to spot because he seldom actually goes collecting. He was there twenty years ago and collected 5 pounds of stuff then. It was crap then and he does not need more crap, even if there was a major recent discovery. When the Plumbago mine discovery was made at Newry, Maine you could hear a collective "Ha, there ain’t nothing up there!" from these guys all over New England. When confronted with specimens from new discoveries exclaims loudly that they were better in the old days.

Pseudo expert

No, this is not a collector of pseudomorphs. This is the guy that that looks over your shoulder (often while poking the ground with a stick - see poker) and tells you that you are using the wrong tool or working the wrong zone. Often has odd theories about pocket zones involving the Coriolis Effect, left hand quarks, or cold fusion. No amount of factual articles can sway this guy from his theories. And he never actually does any collecting, he prefers to direct others.


This is the rarest collector of all to be seen in the field. He is a nocturnal collector that only collects in active quarries at night. Can be spotted with essential camouflage outfit, flashlights, lawyers phone number and bail bond card. Never collects at any location open to the public. Only knows the back entrance into a quarry and has memorized the work hours of each quarry. This collector always has the best specimens.


This collector attaches himself to the side of any successful collector in the hopes of benefiting from their hard work. Can easily spotted saying "Let me squeeze in here". When dump digging is fond of rubbing shoulders with the collector he is attached to. This collector never actually finds anything except Leaverites (as in "leave it right there"). His bad habits comes from being used to parallel parking in the city.

Field Trip Director

This guy is the collector most likely to loose his patience and temper, especially after being asked the same question that he just answered ten times. Often mistaken for a travel agent by other members too lazy make their own arrangements. Can be identified by the bags under his eyes resulting from members calling his home late at night and early in the morning.

Perfect Club Member

This is the ideal collector ("low maintenance" in field trip director lingo). He understands that this is a group effort and does not think of himself first. He can be spotted giving away crystals to others, sharing food and water, lending a hand to others to move large rocks. He never complains to the field trip director when it is too late to change the situation. He brings everything on the tool list, nothing missing, nothing extra. He knows his physical limits and only participates at locations that are appropriate. He arrives early at the meeting location, collects steadily all day, he maintains his interest past 2:00 P.M. and is the last person to stop collecting. He has a car and always bring another member who doesn’t with him knowing it is an opportunity to make a new friend. Always thanks the van driver and field trip director at the end of the trip.




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