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?

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