Lancaster, PA for pseudomorphs

On arrival the location does not look like a typical mineral collecting site.  There are not any rocks to be seen.  The GPS coordinates provided by Beard (2013) are smack in the middle of a cultivated field filled with small evergreen trees just off Fruitville Pike in Lancaster, PA.  The field is flanked on two sides by subdivision housing and on a third side by a pair of little league baseball fields.   Your first thought is that you botched the directions. Continue reading

Rock Painting

The new theme for June seemed to be painted rocks.  First, Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club member Donna Smith brought her artistic talents to GemFest and we added a new craft to the event.  Using rocks we had collected from various sites throughout the previous year, Donna set up between Linda Schmidtgall’s highly popular soapstone carving booth and Dave Millis’s gem tree/wire wrapping booth, creating a virtual trifecta of craft activities for youths and adults right in front of the club exhibits. Continue reading

Boy Scouts at GemFest

On the first weekend of June,. the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club holds a two day mineral show in Canandaigua, New York. This year we welcomed a new partner to its annual gem, mineral, and fossil show.  The Seneca Trailways Council of the Boy Scouts of America added GEMFEST to their calendar of events on both their Facebook page and their weekly e-mail which is sent to Scouts and their leaders across the council.   WCGMC believes this is a perfect match.  The involvement of Scouts aligns with both of WCGMC’s primary objectives, providing family fun and working to spread knowledge while stimulating interest in the earth sciences. Continue reading

GEMFEST 2018

For the fourth year is a row, the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club held its annual show at the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center on the first full weekend of June.  Attendance was up over 15%, as over 1400 folks crossed into the arena to visit the venue over the course of two days.  We exceeded our expectations with our club activities, nearly running out of soapstone as 180 1.5” squares were carved, filed and polished by visitors.  The sluice was busy as usual.  Over 300 bags of sand with minerals, gems, shark teeth and more were run across the sluice table. Continue reading

A Weekend in May: Penfield and Central PA

The first weekend of May split the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club into two parties.  Many stayed in western New York and visited Penfield Quarry on the annual Dolomite Products open house.  If you check out our club Facebook page you will find several had a successful day among nearly 200 collectors from across the northeast who visited that day.  But others of us had planned our annual pilgrimage to central Pennsylvania for that weekend, travelling south with visions of wavellite and large lepidodendron tree stumps dancing in our heads.

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The Hypathia Stone

We all dream of finding that special rock, one that is totally unique, one that can hold that center position on the top shelf of our mineral cabinet.   Yes, that perfect piece we can be proud to display while telling the story of how we found it.  In 1996, a geologist working for the Egyptian Geological Survey had his dream fulfilled.  Aly Barakat was studying Libyan desert glass formed 26 million years ago, presumably by a meteorite impact, when he made his incredible find.  As a geologist he knew that the colorful broken pebbles he found deep in the Saharan desert were unique, but it took more than two decades to learn how special they truly are. Continue reading

A Gastropod and Macrostrat

On occasion, cleaning out that old box of leftover and generally forgotten minerals from a past trip can provide an unexpected reward.  Last month I uncovered a box of rather ordinary wavellite specimens from the club visit to Mount Pleasant Mills, PA in April of 2016.  Among the cruddy and generally less than desirable wavellite discards I found a fossil gastropod that I had remembered collecting, but had pretty much forgotten.  It was time to clean it up and do a little research.  After all, that is what the winter months are for in western New York.

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Micro-micro minerals

Some rockhounds like to collect rocks and minerals the size of small cars, or at least motorcycles.  You know who you are (and so do the rest of us!).  Others settle for samples that can be carried, a size that seems to decrease with each collecting season.  But we also know of those who collect thumbnail specimens (less than 1”) and stick them into tiny boxes.  There are even folks who like to collect specimens that require microscopes to be seen; these collectors are called micromounters.  But I am going to tell you a bit about some “mineral specimens” that are even smaller.  And I am even going to make up a new name for them.  I am calling them micro-micro minerals.

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Orient Express on Postage Stamps

Topical or thematic stamp collecting is a tremendous way to diversify and expand one’s special interest.  For me of course, this takes me to minerals, fossils, geology. etc. and the thousands of worldwide stamps carrying such images.  But  another collector in the Rochester Philatelic Association (RPA) with an interest in trains and the use of the railroad in postal history took his topical collecting in a different direction.   The following is a review of his presentation to the Rochester Club in January.

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Nowherelands: A Book Review

In winter I spend a little time with my second hobby: philately.  In addition to topical stamps bearing minerals and fossils, I also like to learn about forgotten and defunct places.  Often stamps help tell that story.  I am not alone with this interest among members of the Rochester Philatelic Association.  In October of 2015, Steve Eisinger entertained us with his presentation entitled “Confusing, Obscure, Bizarre and Defunct Countries – Their Coins and Stamps”:  fascinating stories about forgotten places.

And now, for all of us who enjoyed Steve’s presentation, there is a new philatelic book with the same theme. “Nowherelands- An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975”  reviews the history and geography of some 50 vanquished countries through the eyes of the country/kingdom’s stamp issues.  The author, Bjorn Berge, is a Norwegian philatelist with a keen interest in history, a tireless commitment to research, and a ability to craft a relevant and enjoyable story.

The book was first published in Norwegain in 2016 with  the title Landene som Forsvant.  In late 2017, an English translation became available online.

Bjorn Berge notes in his introduction, “The stamps serve as the core evidence, providing concrete proof that the countries did in fact exist.”   Countries such as Karelia (now part of Russia) that existed only for 17 days in 1922.  Not much time to form much of a government, but apparently enough time to issue a postage stamp (heck 15 of them!), thereby insuring its immortality, at least to philatelists.  Or the Kingdom of Two Sicilies which united the Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples from 1815-1860 and issued a set of stamps depicting the kingdom’s coat of arms stamps in 1858.  And then there is Inini, Biafra, Nandgaon, Obock, Upper Yafa, and this list goes on.   Each entry includes a map, a bit of history, and the story behind the designs of the stamps.

On the left: Scott #4 from Karelia (one of 15 stamps issued in early 1922). The raging bear breaking free of its chains depicts a republic willing to defy the Russians in establishing an autonomous country. Starvation and a frostbite cut the rebellion short. Those scribbles above the bear’s head: those are the northern lights!
On the right: Scott #3 issued in 1858 by the independent kingdom of Two Sicilies.

The book received a positive review by Phillip Coop in the January 2018 issue of The New CartoPhilatelist, the journal of the ATA Study Unit of Maps on Stamps, and by Angela Riechers in the online October issue of Print Magazine.  The 200 page book can be obtained from Amazon online for less than $20.

 Full reference:

Berge, Bjorn, 2017, Nowherelands – An Atlas of Vanished Countries, 1840-1975, Thames and Hudson, 200 p. (originally published in Norwegian in 2016)