Sunday, February 24, 2008

We Find Bone China

Occasionally diggers discover dishware that isn't damaged.

It’s not a miracle. Veteran dumpdiggers don't break much.

We find all manner of kitchenware in old dumps, including earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. Among porcelain products, we rarely encounter soft paste, and more often find fine china and bone china. Many well appointed homes in the late 1800’s stocked at least one type of dishware, if not a combination of two or more of these categories. When pieces broke or went missing, wealthy families could afford to replace the entire collection, and discard the older material - even though it was perfectly functional. Some of the best pieces recovered in the Quest in Campbellford Ontario were the china plates from the Windsor Hotel on Bridge Street.

Confirming authentic Fine Bone China
All dumpdiggers hope to find intact dishes and recover genuine, well preserved fine bone china. Genuine china from a reputable pottery can be very easily traced today – most historic English pottery catalogs are online. As diggers we hope to encounter genuine Aynsley, Belleek, Coalport, Hutschenreuther, Johnson Brothers, Minton, Poole Pottery, Royal Albert, Royal Doulton, Royal Worcester and Wedgwood.

Most diggers carry lots of water, and upon finding intact dishware they will power wash the bottom of the piece searching for maker’s marks. I will drench a dish in water first, and scratch and nibble away at debris stuck on the piece only very selectively – DO NOT WIPE YOUR THUMB ACROSS THE BOTTOM OF THE PIECE right after the relic has come up out of the ground. It needs time to breathe and get used to the different pressure / temperature zone. Some glazes will come right off on your fingers if you handle them; the heat and pressure of the dump might have loosened the finish.

Cleaning Fine China
Antique bone china should be washed by hand; any ‘dump stains’ can probably be rubbed out with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda.

History of English Bone China
Fine Bone China was developed by Josiah Spode in Staffordshire England in the 1770s. There were two men by this name – father and son. While Josiah Spode senior was carrying out his pioneering pottery in Stoke, his son, Josiah II was in London marketing the company's products. They had a shop in Cripplegate in 1778, and a traveling salesman named William Copeland. The salesman had a great working knowledge of the market and he probably inspired old Mr. Spode to concentrate his experiments on making a new fine bone china.

After a century of importing Chinese porcelain at good profits, the East India Company reduced the trade in 1780s as demand was failing due to the rise of a Neo-Classical fashion movement with which Chinese decoration was decidedly not compatible.

Josiah Spodes experimented with ox bone ash – which is the calcified remains of ox skeletons and that’s very medieval and creepy... Bone ash is the white, powdery ash left from the burning (calcination) of animal bones. It is very fine and is primarily composed of calcium phosphate. It is commonly used in fertilizers, polishing compounds, and in making bone china.

The use of bone ash had been known from the middle ages, when it was first used in cupels for the assaying of metals. Interest in bone ash as an ingredient in tableware pottery emerged thirty years earlier - the Bow Factory in East London had some success in soft paste porcelains. Their recipe was a carefully guarded trade secret and there is a good story about a man named Robert Browne who accepted a position at the factory only so he could hide in a barrel at the end of his shift to learn the components of ‘the batch’.

Today, fine bone china is a true porcelain of china clay and Cornish stone with 45%-50% calcined bone. Cornish Stone is crushed kaolinized granite and is therefore a mixture of minerals rather than a feldspar, which is a single mineral. Four grades of English cornish stone are marketed. The highest grades contain about 77 percent feldspar, 16 percent quartz, 7 percent kaolin and 0.5 percent fluorspar is sometimes present.

What’s kaolin? I wondered this too. Kaolin is a clay mineral more correctly known as kaolinite. It is also called china clay. Kaolin is made up of individual crystals that form units termed "booklets" of stacked sheets. Kaolin is a soft mineral, white in colour when it is fairly pure.

Kaolin's whiteness, opaqueness, large internal surface area and non-abrasiveness properties make it an ideal filler material for paper production. As a coating agent in paper, kaolin provides a smooth, opaque surface with good printability and ink retention. Eighty percent 80 per cent of all kaolin production is used in paper, other uses include fillers for rubber, plastic, paint and adhesives, as well as in ceramics such as porcelain and refractory products.

By 1796, Spode wrote a customer named William Tatton and invoice which contains the first known reference to 'English China'. By 1799, two years after his father's death, Josiah Spode II was successfully selling bone china, which he initially branded as 'Stoke China' in London markets. Because it was such an obviously superior product, the rest of the industry was forced to follow – But yet Dumpdiggers cannot determine how everyone else came to know the recipe? Did Josiah Spode II willingly share his technological breakthrough?

Here is a vintage Copeland Spode China set in the Cowslip pattern for sale on eBay. This dish set was made in England in the 1930s, and each piece features a distinctive brown stamp on its bottom. They set is numbered S713 and everything is in pristine condition. How much? The winning bid is $950.00 US

Marshall Gummer, The Appraiser, has these lovely pieces to admire on his website.

First here's a Shelley hand painted Art Deco Flower Handle Cup and Saucer that Marshall valued at over $1,000, and next is a Royal Albert hand painted Butterfly Handle Cup and Saucer which is worth about $500.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Secrets to Collecting Antique Maps

Dumpdiggers collect old maps, rich in history. We believe that antique maps are a good investment as, generally speaking, they are still undiscovered among collectibles, which means they are also undervalued.

The wisdom in this post is distilled from an old book called Antique Maps - A Collector's Handbook by Carl Moreland and David Bannister, and from a a terrific new blog called Map The Universe.

What’s a Cartouche?
Dumpdiggers believes the market for antique maps will grow stronger in the next five years as more scholars, collectors and interior decorators realize that these prints have an important historical value, and they look great in the home. The maps were necessary for the discovery of the known world, and were made beautiful with cartouches, which are the decorations found in the corners of old maps. New literature will soon emerge exploring this unique art form. Click on the picture above to study the art in more detail.

Maps are primary sources of information and they preserve political anecdotes, cartographical misconceptions and stories of scientific progress. But the number one reason these items are going to spike in price is because… Old maps look great under glass on white walls in new condos. Yes and old maps look especially fine in a hallway where someone might stand and sip chardonnay while perusing their many details. Old maps on walls is a huge home decorating trend in urban condo living.

Buying Maps? Beware of Internet Auctions.

Antique maps on eBay tend to be cheap, but that’s because there’s more risk here and hundreds of fakes. Unless you are VERY knowledgeable, you may buy a reproduction which has been falsely advertised as an original work. The secret is to look for dealers who are also reputable members of associations like, Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America , and or the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers or the International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association .

Because the market is still so depressed, investors can actually obtain a decent ‘hallway sized’ antique map for around $200. However a better good investment might be something that’s bought today for around $1000 and graded ‘fine’ or ‘very fine’.

Maps of the United States of America are more expensive than other parts of the world thanks to a strong American market for their own history and maps of their own country. In general, American maps tend to be the most desirable and the most expensive. Early American maps of Chicago, and British maps of New England colonies, and Spanish maps of Florida and New Mexico are in particularly high demand.

Antique Maps are graded by condition. Much like old books, maps are graded from "Fine," the best grade, to "Very Good" and "Good," and anything below "Good" would have major problems described in blunt remarks like ‘Burnt’ or ‘Molded’. Such maps can still fetch thousands of dollars depending on the importance of the cartography.

Buy Maps Slowly
When buying an expensive antique map you might inquire about a one year guarantee of authenticity – this gives you twelve months to consult with experts. Respectable map dealers will let you return the map in that time period if you are not absolutely satisfied with your purchase.

Frame Maps Carefully
Only use frame shops with experience in archival framing. Materials touching your map should be acid-free and the glass should filter UV light, especially if you are going to hang your prize anywhere near a sunny window.

How to Take Care of Framed Maps
Whenever possible antiquarian maps and prints should be backed and mounted with acid-free card. It is advisable to avoid direct sunlight with all prints and maps but especially those with original colour. Damp conditions should be avoided at all costs and any signs of damp should be dealt with by a paper conservator immediately. It is recommended that unframed maps and prints should be stored in archival wallets.

The Best of the Best
A fine example of a top-of-the-line American collectible map, Johann Baptist HOMANN’s Virginia, Marylandia et Carolina in America Septentrionali. Britannorum Industria Excultae Amsterdam. 1729. Colored. 19 inches X 23 inches is rare and precious.

This map shows the east coast of America from New York to Cape Fear, North Carolina. It includes both Chesapeake & Delaware Bays & shows depth soundings along the entire coastal regions & into the Bays & New York Harbor. Locates all principal counties, harbors, capes, rivers, & lakes in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina & New Jersey. Shows small block plan of Philadelphia & locates Baltimore & Baltemore County. Many Indian Territories are depicted inland. As the map shows German settlements including Governor Alexander Spotswood's German Colony at Germana on the Rapidan River, it was thought that the map was intended to promote German immigration to America in the early 18th century. As the depth soundings indicate, the map may have been used aboard ships bringing the immigrants over to the New World. The map was first published by Johann Baptist Homann (1664-1724) in Nurnberg in 1714 & later in a number of different atlases with this example being published by R & J. Ottens in Amsterdam in 1729 in “Atlas Maior Cum Generales Omnium Totius Orbis Regnorum.” Title in lower right is surrounded by a large & highly decorative cartouche depicting a ship's captain bartering with Indians surrounded by native vegetation & exotic animals. An armorial motif on a stone plinth is drawn in the background.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beachcombing for Fun and Profit #5

Five (eight) things to collect for cash on eBay the next time you walk along the beach.

At the conclusion of this popular series I must remind readers that Dumpdiggers is the Home of the History Hunters, and the drive to find exotic treasures is only a small part of the passion needed to dig holes in dumps. Dumpdiggers has only strolled along these tropical beaches as a vacation of sorts, and today is the last day.

You know what’s like on the last day of your vacation; today is the day we pack our bags and accomplish all those small things we missed on our trip. As the sun sets on this virgin beach, let’s keep a weather eye open for last three types of treasures that could be found while beachcombing.

#5 Antique Fishing Tackle, Ambergris and Fulgarite

These final commodities are rare and valuable and so completely different from each other that it hardly benefits readers to find them lumped together like this at the end of the series. But it’s because they are so rare that Dumpdiggers cannot devote an entire post to each.

These are the items you won’t find while beachcombing, and yet it's ‘on the beach’ that these treasures are often discovered.

Antique fishing tackle must be mentioned here, but Dumpdiggers cannot do any more than that today - we could write an entire series on this genre and only skim the surface… How much money will ‘found’ antique fishing lures fetch on eBay these days? Let’s follow this Lot of five wooden antique fishing lures – these specimens look similar to the ones I found when I was a kid.

The first lure is a Lazy Ike by Kautzky, the second lure is torpedo shaped and has a spinner in the back and the front and reminds me of an old Rapala. Lure number three is by Shakespeare but we cannot read the lure name. This lure also appears to be missing the diving bill on the front. The fourth lure has glass or plastic eyes and is by C.C.B. Company of Barrett Indiana, and its marked with the date 9-27-20. The fifth and final lure is a Pikie-Minnow also by C.C.B Company of Barrett Indiana. This lure has 9-7-20 on the bill and has glass or plastic eyes. All of the lures are wooden. The bidding starts at $10 bucks and there are four days left in this auction.

Intrigued, Dumpdiggers promises to do an exhaustive study of antique fishing tackle a little closer to the start of fishing season in Canada.

Ambergris is a storied treasure of ancient pharmacopoeia. This brown /grey waxy substance is produced (rarely) in the digestive system of diseased sperm whales and has been used for centuries in the world’s finest perfumes. Ambergris has a peculiar sweet, earthy odor similar to isopropyl alcohol but without the alcohol tang. Indeed the smell is described as being quite profound – that’s the reason why it’s worth so much money.

Because ambergris occurs as a biliary secretion in the intestines of the sperm whale (only), and giant squids' beaks have been found embedded within the lumps, scientists have theorized that the whale's intestine produce the substance as a means of facilitating the passage of sharp objects. But why only the sperm whale you ask? Well that may be because they are avaricious hunters of squid and dive to great depths to feed on them.

Perfumers like to believe the stuff contains pheromones – Per Fumo Italy speaks with authority about the sexual power of the substance. There must be a reason why this stuff smells like it does? Beavers make castoreum for sex signals, musk ox make a scent for (I’m not sure why exactly) and skunks for protection? Anyway there are still myths surrounding ambergris.

Picture this – a diseased sperm whale dies and its body sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The ambergris in its intestines is released after months or years inside the whale’s decomposing body. The hard waxy balls finally escape and rise up to the surface of the ocean. The floating 'wax' balls bakes in the sun for ten years, and then washes up on the sunny shores of southern Florida... Guess what? that would be perfect nature-ripened ambergris and five pounds could fetch over $100K

Ambergris is the subject of many treasure stories - one New Zealand farmer found a huge piece on shore and used it as a centerpiece in his flower garden. When the true nature of the0 ounces at a remarkable five pounds ten shillings per ounce!

In 1930, Barbados - a native girl lowered a basket of live poultry from her head as she sat down to rest upon a rock on the beach. She was of course upset when she found that her cotton dress was stuck to the rock! An apothecary learned of the incident, retraced her steps and found the material - he sold the rock and bought a chicken farm.

Analyses of ambergris show that it contains a mixture of organic and inorganic substances. Inorganic - sodium chloride (ordinary salt), and phosphate of lime (perhaps derived from the hard parts of squids). The organic substances include alkaloids, acids, and ambrein. Most importantly, ambergris possesses ‘fixative qualities’ - it endows ‘blossom fragrances’ in tinctures with a greater degree of permanence. Ambergris prolongs floral notes on account of its agreeable and lasting bouquet. – after a delicate breath of roses has entirely evanesced, the exhalation of ambergris still remains.

Selling ambergris has always been difficult, and today it’s almost impossible; the United States passed the Washington Treaty in 1970 prohibiting the sale of animal products.

There are no sales on eBay – only a prepared tincture of ambergris can be purchased here from ominique Dubrana the Composer Perfumer of Perfumo Italy - 16 Ml. € 54,17
50 Ml. € 145,83
. And I did find a Malaysian website that was selling it - more info here.

Fulgarites are petrified lightning! They are hollow carrot shaped glass tubes that are formed in the sand when lightning strikes the beach.

The word Fulgurite comes from the Latin fulgur meaning thunderbolt - these strange items were known in ancient times and some folks today believe they preceded, and may even have inspired early glassmakers. Fulgarites are a very rare phenomenon and therefore highly collectible. The glass formed is called lechatelierite which may also be formed by meteorite impact and volcanoes. Amorphous, it’s classified as a mineraloid.

The tubes can be up to a couple of centimeters in diameter, and meters long. Their color varies depending on the composition of the sand – sometimes they are black or tan to green or a translucent white.

The inside of a fulgarite tube is normally very smooth and sometimes lined with fine bubbles while the exterior is rough and generally coated with sand particles. They are root like in appearance and often show branching or small holes.

Look here to examine fulgarite on eBay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Beachcombing for Fun and Profit #4

Five things to collect for cash on eBay the next time you walk along the beach.

Beachcombing is best when you can take off you shoes and immerse yourself in another temperature to become part of the waves washing the shore.

The beach has always been the best place to go and clear you mind; the coast is a wide open space where Dumpdiggers can look for patterns and pearls of wisdom in their own lives - occasionally one might bend a thought and pick up something valuable.

#4 Sea Glass

Sea glass is man made glass that has been tumbled for no less than twenty years in the rivers, lakes and oceans of the world.

These broken bits of colored glass are the frosted remains of bottles and jars that have been broken up by the waves, and then caressed by the water and sand over time to create smooth, opaque sea glass.

It takes ten years for a shard of glass to show any significant etching, and twenty to thirty years for all jagged edges to be completely polished and rounded by lapping waters.

Sea glass is the most beautiful consequence of civilization in nature - the classic shapes and colors attract artists, designers, photographers, and merchant specialists like West Coast Sea Glass. Some of the photos in this post are copyright, and used only with their permission. The colors of this glass are so fashionable they have inspired designer clothing lines, swim wear and a line of Benjamin Moore paints. Good authentic pieces sell fast on eBay. Exotic bits find ready buyers in jewelry makers and costume designers.

Some beach front homeowners will grout green and blue signature shades right into kitchen back splashes and shower tiles. Bright bits of sea glass are sometimes crafted into cottage window mosaics and art pieces - for years the best pieces were dangled from ceilings in ‘hanging mobiles’ in souvenir shops along the beaches of the world. Those sea glass mobiles you remember seeing in the Carolinas ten years ago would have been a good investment. Just one piece of red or orange sea glass, which sold for a whopping $5 in 1970, sold for $15 in 1980, could fetch between $75 to $100 today!

But like any collectibles market there are rules. The online market has evolved some criteria by which to measure each object and value is imposed accordingly. Dumpdiggers recognizes however that this market is driven primarily by aesthetic beauty. Next in importance is color, size and of course age which relates directly to authenticity. Once again the wise old man’s knowledge is the key to making money here… Richard Lamotte, author of Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems seems to be America’s foremost sea glass expert and perhaps the best person alive today to teach the Art of Sea Glass collecting.

Richard Lamotte lives in the Chesapeake Bay region, which by all accounts is rich in beach glass. Richard has a vast hoard of nuggets, and his book is a compendium of all his knowledge collecting and preserving this unique treasure.

In his text, Lamotte describes how after particularly fierce storms in the bay, he hauls out a lime green kayak and paddles the deserted shoreline to scan the water's edge for bits of icy amethyst, jade or citron among the rocks and driftwood. One day's haul, he writes, often includes glass fragments or bottle stoppers that have been churning underwater for more than 100 years.

Unlike other collectibles which are prized in mint condition, sea glass is best after its been worn by weather and waves - much like the message in a bottle, each piece has been on a long journey.

Green, clear, brown, and amber shades of sea glass is relatively common as common as wine, beer-bottles and drinking glasses are still relatively common on the beach today.

Light blues, yellow and pink varieties are rare. Look at this fascinating specimen that I found on Digger Odell’s bottle books website – this piece was collected by Florence Gray on the New Jersey shoreline - she wrote to the master in 2003 for help in trying to determine the 'bottle of origin' - what a fascinating quest; Dumpdiggers admires Digger Odell, but could find no evidence of his answer. If anyone knows what bottle this is from, and or whether or not Digger Odell solved the quest, I would love to see it in the comment box.

Grey, purple, bright red
and 'black' varieties of genuine sea glass are very rare.

Red beach glass is precious because red glassware is expensive and as such it’s used sparingly in signal lanterns, decorative vases and premium consumer glassware. Richard Lamotte, who has collected over 30,000 specimens in his Maryland home, writes that ‘red and orange sea glass is found only once in every 5,000 pieces’.

Genuine black sea glass, which in actuality is an uncommon dark olive green, is also very rare and that’s because it’s really old. Every piece is a two hundred year old shard from the early days of glass making. The ‘onion bottles’ and other ‘black glass bottles’ that were used before the 1850s precedes all the vitrified species we find in dumps today.

LaMotte’s book, pure sea glass categorizes twenty four different colors into four different groups of common (Kelly green, brown and white/clear) to rare, and extremely rare (orange, red, turquoise, yellow, black, teal gray).

Lastly, take note that sea glass snobs insist that genuine sea glass must be absolutely blasted and not at all transparent – if you can see your friend through the piece, toss it back into Nature’s tumbler.

Sea Glass like every other species of collectibles is subject to fraud. No family of collectibles would be complete without some controversy and contentious behaviour to spell caution among collectors. Fake sea glass has now appeared on eBay, and beyond serving industrial applications (as mosaic tiles, etc) bits and pieces are sometimes disguised and sold as the real thing. But of course expert collectors can spot the difference in a heartbeat, and armed with their knowledge and wisdom so can you... This is Fake Sea Glass. The picture has been borrowed from HL Sea Glass, which is a nice informative jewelry designer's website (that specializes in real sea glass) and warns consumers about buying the fake stuff. According to Holly, these bits have been artificially aged in a rock tumbler. Note how the edges are not completely worn down, and the is a general absence of frosting and random pockmarks.

Dumpdiggers believes that genuine sea glass is a great investment as it may be something of an 'endangered species'. In the 1960s plastic began to replace glass in many consumer products, and by 1970 recycling programs focused on beach clean-up and collection. Modern white sand beaches are rebuilt today with imported sand that has absolutely no old glass content, and thanks to global warming the ocean’s rising waters are burying older stocks... And finally, let's not forget, not too many people dump glass bottles in the water anymore.

This lot of pastel coloured sea glass sold for thirteen bucks on eBay last week. Take my word for it, the green blue New England glasshouse colors are really hot, and the amber shards become valuable after they have been water worn for a century or more - these shards all look to be very old.

This colorful mass of gems is an eBay offering by a Seller named English Sea Glass that ends on Feb 17th, 2008. Dumpdiggers follows this auction and wonders about the individual collector that amassed this hoard… Were all these beautiful shards secured in one good afternoon at the beach? Or, more likely it’s the product of an entire vacation, or perhaps an entire summer spent scouring the shoreline? Currently there are seven bids and the price is already above two hundred US dollars and climbing fast...

"There seems to be a nostalgic, emotional attachment to memories of collecting sea glass," writes Richard LaMotte. "It takes people back to a childhood activity at a very happy time."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Beachcombing for Fun and Profit #3

Five things to collect for cash on eBay the next time you walk along the beach.

Beachcombing is a state of mind, induced by fresh air and the gentle wind near an open coast. The call of the seabirds overhead, and the sound of a wide open body of water command the beach walker to scrutinize the shoreline, ankles deep in wave after wave of aquamarine opportunity...

3. Seashells

Dumpdiggers cannot deny that seashells are among the most heavily trafficked collectibles on planet Earth. As I write this post there are 2854 items tagged ‘seashell’ on eBay. Although business is booming, Dumpdiggers does not endorse Conchology, the collection and preservation of mollusk shells, as a wealth building exercise. Collecting seashells is rather silly actually as they are still being produced by living creatures everyday, and these rather un fragile items are seldom destroyed.

At some level, all humans are scavengers; most tourists seek souvenirs, and most beachgoers, swimmers and snorkels visiting pristine tropical places acquire these mementos in the sand. There are so many seashells for sale today because they have been collected as used as decorative objects by hundreds of civilizations for the last ten thousand years. Without question there are shells on eBay today that were traded by the Incans and the Egyptians – in some cases the owners of these shells may not even be aware of their history. No wonder the Belize based business Conchology Inc has over 77,594 photographed shells and its own auction site.

Collectible seashells are usually found on gravel beaches, mud flats and reef areas. Avoid sandy beaches with hard surf - these are poor habitats for shell dwellers. Prospectors should look for shells in the pockets of debris that are formed by wave motion between big rocks along a coastline.

Handle starfish and sand dollars (phylum Echinodermata) very carefully - they're very delicate and will break apart easily. The key to becoming an expert = knowledge.

Budd Titlow’s Seashells: Jewels from the Ocean sells in bookstores today for about $17 bucks and has mass details explaining univalves, bivalves, and cephalopod, and how they are formed, and what mollusks inhabit them, their morphology and life cycles, and much more. With its bewildering array of shell shapes, colors, sizes, and types, and descriptions of where the different shells can be found, the book will appeal to amateur and expert, collector and desultory beachcomber alike.

After visiting and reading one article by Katie Hill, I know to a little bit more about the ten most common collectable seashells. Without any details let me simply list them in the same order Katie presents:

1. Conch Shell – A species of mollusks that feed on the algae and sea grass.
2. Scallop Shell– are among the few bivalve shells that actually swim.
3. Ark Clams - Over 200 types in all shapes and sizes.
4. Whelk Shell - Over 800 species, some covered with rows
of fine beads.
5. Top Shell – Over 180 species - all have a pyramidal shape.
6. Cone Shell – Over 480 species – almost all are cone shaped
7. Clam Shell - Some are edible, some produce pearls.
8. True Oyster Shell - pearled, thorny oyster shells, and jingle shells.
9. Moon Shells - Exquisitely patterned,
10. Sundial Shells – oval design is most intricate in the shell world.

HOW TO CLEAN SEASHELLS: Soak the shells in a solution of bleach and water in equal parts. The bleach solution will not harm the shells. Its advisable to let them soak in the solution for a couple of days to remove all debris, stains and bacteria. Then rinse the shells with clean water.

Scrub the seashells with a stiff bristled brush and Lime-A-Way. Toothbrushes, scrapers and sometimes a wee bit of steel wool can also aid in getting any of the remaining debris and smoothing rough spots on the shells. Rinse with clean water and allow the shells to dry before proceeding.

Rub mineral oil on the shells to give them a lustrous shine. Just use a small amount of this oil on a clean cloth and rub it right into the seashells - be sure and get it right into all of the crevasses for a final spit and polish luster.

Here is a GEM on eBay, a Morum ponderosum as it was called when originally indexed by a British naturalist named Hanley in 1858 when he was living in either Japan or India , I can't seem to determine where he was when he found the 'first one'. But this is indeed a bonafide Morum ponderosum which is a Gastropoda of the Caenogastropoda order from the Tonnacea ‘superfamily’ of the Cassidae family, and that’s pretty cool. There have been five bids on this item and the price is already over $50 .00 US - how much will the winner pay?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Beachcombing for Fun and Profit #2

Five things to collect for cash on eBay the next time you walk along the beach.

Beachcombing is becoming popular again – a morning stroll along the beach with your lover is even more enjoyable after a storm when the sand is strewn with eBay items.

2. Fossils

Dinosaur fossils have been found on every continent of the globe, from Africa to the Arctic. When someone finds a fossil, they grow curious and tend to keep their eyes open for more specimens - before they know it, they have become fossil hunters! Fossil hunting is a very infectious obsession, and today more people than ever are collecting dinosaur bones, and eBay prices have risen accordingly.

Generally speaking, one of the best places on the planet to find dinosaur bones is on the beach. That’s because the waves from the lake or ocean have already done all the hard work and broken apart coastal rocks and washed away surface mud to leave well preserved fossils in the sand. All you have to do is pick them up.

Limestone beaches and cliffs are often especially rich in dinosaur fossils as they evidence a prehistoric environment that favored fossilization - one in which sediment buried the animal during, or shortly after their death.

You can expect to find some fossils loose in the limestone shingle (gravel), for example small ammonites, belemnite ‘guards’ (small bullet shaped objects), and even perhaps an ichthyosaur vertebra. If you persist, and as you gain experience, and with a bit of luck, you'll soon make more exciting finds, such as even a complete ichthyosaur.The business of selling fossils online is growing larger every year - last summer (July 2007) The BBC reported that Fossil Guards have been hired by local government to protect the Dorset and east Devon coast amid increasing concern about safety and damage to the limestone cliffs. The area is known as the Jurassic Coast as so many fossils have been discovered here (over hundreds of years), the coastline has earned its own World Heritage Site status.

Believe it or not there are only about a dozen full-time dinosaur paleontologists in Canada, and they mostly concern themselves with excavations in the badlands at Drumheller, Alberta - this section of Canada is rich in dinosaur bones that are a distinct orange color.

But fossils come in many different colours. The ground minerals that replaced the organic material in the prehistoric animal’s bones determine the color of the fossil. Perfectly preserved, the plant and animal remains of the Paleocene Epoch could be black, brown, pink, yellow or green depending on the mineral composition of the beach.

Fossils range in size from microscopic plant pollens to complete dinosaur skeletons. When poking around in the shoreline – be sure to remember where you find each fragment; bones visible in one stone can often lead to a larger fossil in another rock. The most well preserved discoveries are always those in which no part of the skeleton is initially exposed, but it takes skill to find these items.

A paleontologist’s trained eye can often spot the small exposed portion of a specimen and reason the direction and approx length of the body inside the rock. ‘Uncut fossils’ can be sold on eBay to other specialists who use advanced cutting equipment to remove the rock and showcase the fossil inside.

When combing beaches for the fossils, you should also be on the lookout for petrified wood, clams, snails and shells plus fossilized whale and dolphin bones. If however these are found embedded in the face of nearby cliffs, do not attempt to remove them, as your actions will have a deleterious effect on the surrounding landscape.

Dinosaur fossils are increasing in value on eBay as more and more collectors attend shows, download e-books and join online fossil photography groups. Poorly photographed pieces are sometimes bought, rephotographed properly, and then re-sold for more money.

Here’s a Norwoodia bellaspina on eBay. For six hundred US dollars you could own this Trilobita class fossil. Its 18,5 mm long x 11,5 mm across; although not rare, this specimen is complete and shows beautiful details.

Another popular item on eBay is extinct Sharks teeth – the teeth of the Carcharocles megalodon , which most experts believe to be the largest predator (land or sea) to have ever lived. The maximum length this shark is hotly debated today, ever since paleontologists learned that they could get more accomplished by disagreeing with one another. The most widely accepted maximum size for the megalodon is approximately 55-65 feet; at minimum, the megalodon was at least two or three times larger than the Great White.

The megalodon teeth found on the east coast of North America sell well on Fossil Beach. Those teeth are 75-85% complete and most have minor blemishes or cracks. This lot is being sold for $215.00 a pound and will probably end up in a children's day camp, or schoolroom science display.

Fossils are by far the oldest category of collectible antiquities - most animals lived between 235 million to 65 million years ago. Also please note that term 'dinosaur' refers only to the land based life forms, which are distinctly different from the flying creatures (pterosaurs), and the swimming reptiles (mosasaurs) of the same period.

Finally, Dumpdiggers has its eye on an excellent 'deposit' of Coprolite from Southern Utah. Coprolite is fossilized Dinosaur poop and this offering is around 148 million years old, from the Jurassic Era. This eBay item has an outstanding dung pattern and a very cool shape - the Seller has advertised this as 'an excellent one of a kind display specimen'.

Perhaps this should be a separate post - ‘Dinosaur Dung sold on eBay!’

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Beachcombing for Fun and Profit #1

Five things to collect for cash on eBay the next time you walk along the beach.

Open your eyes! Dumpdiggers understand that wealth abounds everywhere around us, and it only requires knowledge to harvest the bounty. The wise old man walks the beach and reads it like a book; the wash of pebbles and wood behind each rolling wave are like the words flowing together in the sentences of a good adventure story - he always comes home with something!

You too can comb the beach for fun and profit any time of year, but after a storm is always when I find the best eBay items. In different seasons you can find different things. Sometimes what you find is easy to identify and explain, but there are just as many mysteries.

When metal detector enthusiasts walk urban beaches they are called ‘coin shooters’, and they dream of finding jewel studded wristwatches, gold and silver jewelry, and old and new coin money. Ironically they probably pass pant loads of other valuable stuff as they concentrate on the squawks and beeps emanating from their machines.

On just about any beach anywhere in the world, there are lots of 'harvestable things' that can be found, cleaned and sold on eBay. What might seem common to your eyes is no doubt highly coveted somewhere, by someone, at some time for some strange application you cannot imagine...

1. Driftwood

Let's start at the start, driftwood is everywhere and has been around since time began...

According to Norse myths, the first humans, Ask and Embla were formed out of two pieces of driftwood, an ash and an elm, by the god Odin and his brothers, Ve and Vili.

The power of the internet (and eBay) has made today the Golden Age of Driftwood.

Believe it or not, broken bits of tree roots and water tossed wood are being sold online to pet owner, interior decorators, urban gardeners and artists at premium prices. People with aquariums, terrariums, and vivariums who keep fish, frogs and reptiles really like to shop online for driftwood.

To your eyes these dirty broken bits of wood are rubbish - at the very best this is simply fifty pieces of unusually smooth wood, but most pet owners have powerful imaginations and their desire to provide happiness transforms this smooth wood into designer pet furniture!

Dumpdiggers imagines that the folks who keep such exotic pets buy this natural driftwood by way of apology to their small friends for keeping them confined throughout the entire course of their natural lives; they construct a gilded cage... out of imported driftwood.

The above image is borrowed from a bloke selling 50 small pieces of driftwood from ‘the brackish water of the Delaware Bay’ , all of which has been properly 'commodified' according to what appears to be a driftwood collector's ritual - the pieces have been heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit after being pressure washed with boiling water. Also note, he charges $10 to ship anywhere in the United States, but $30 to Canada!

Here's another lady with 22 Awesome, Beautiful, Unique and Unusual Pieces Of Pacific Ocean Driftwood that she picked up off the beach in Southern Oregon after a storm.

This is very comfortable looking pet furniture driftwood... Dumpdiggers is watching this auction to see how much she gets for the lot.

Driftwood prospectors should be aware however, that these eBay items also provide valuable shelter and food for birds, fish and other aquatic species. Gribbles, shipworms and bacteria decompose the wood and gradually reintroduce its nutrients back into the food web. Driftwood can also become the foundation for sand dunes which support other varieties of shore life - so use some discretion when shopping on the beach.

Stay close in the month of February as Dumpdiggers documents four other collectible resources commonly found on beaches.