Why Do I Collect Shells?

This was an email that I sent to a friend about shell collecting. It’s not all about the sales and profit for me. It’s a chance to immerse ones self in the fascinating world of mollusks with all their varied forms.

I hope you’ve enjoyed collecting the shells.
I probably will not sell my collection as it was passed down from my Father and he expects me to add to it and improve on it and hopefully pass it down to my sons. He started collecting as a child in New York. He would save his lunch money and goto Gimbles department store after school and go though the boxes of shells they had. When the family moved to Clearwater beach in the 1940′s he would go collecting every chance he got. Back then the waters were crystal clear and he could stand on the docks by the Mermorial Causeway bay and see sea urchins and sea fans all over the bottom. It was actually a sandy bottom too, not mud! He and friends would take a small boat and go across the channel to Sand Key — which was an uninhabited island back then and go shell collecting. They would camp on the beach and one night were driven off the island by giant fruit rats. In the 1950′s and 1960′s he would buy buckets of material from Jim Moore that was brought back from the deep Gulf of Mexico waters by the trawlers and shrimpers. There are boxes of exotic deep water shells and very small micro material in the collection from these dredgings. When I was a child we would goto to Florida Keys and dive on the Gulf of Mexico reefs in search of specimens. I still go searching for shells but do not have much time anymore due to work and running the business plus the shallow water shells around here are very different from those found years ago with all the pollution and condos built up. It’s not the collectors that are the reason for the shells disappearing. It’s all the pollution and construction caused by big business and corporate greed. Yuck — take me to a deserted tropical island for a bit of collecting.

I store the collection in plastic drawers in those cabinets that are used to store electrical parts. I must have 20 of these cases for the smaller shells. The other ones are stored in heavy cardboard shoe boxes. All the shells are in Plastic bags and every few years I put leather preservative or mineral oil solution on them to preserve the colors. Cowries get the leather preservative only as any mineral oil or distilled water does not mix too well if any animal matter remains. It actually makes an acid that will eat up the shells.

Robert Marchiselli.

Thank You!
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