Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rock Shop Rant

I have not done a commentary in some time and this issue has been nagging me for some time so I figured I would write this up while I had a few seconds.

So, one of my pet peeves in geology is the existence and persistence use of these things termed "rock shops". Rock shops are geologic rape shops. The people that run them, either themselves or through contract work obtain large amounts of rocks, minerals, fossils, and other natural items from nature and either hoard them or sell them at a preferred usually exorbitant price.

So what exactly is a "rock shop" per say? Well they are these places, often found in the western US (I'm not sure about the rest of the world) where pound upon pounds of rocks, minerals, and fossils come broken up to be sold to the general public.

The problem I have with them is that they are in essence stripping the natural beauty from nature and auctioning it up for sale. Who needs to go to a pristine outcrop of beautiful petrified wood and find it bulldozed over with all the geologically significant materials stripped out so someone could make a profit? Not I for one, and not most of the scientists I know.

Your probably thinking "What do I loose because of this? I'm not going to go out to this remote location and look at the petrified wood out there so what harm does it do."

A lot.

The problem is they are removing the scientific relevance of the specimens they sell. The rocks and fossils don't mean anything apart from their surroundings, so a rock in a rock shop is essentially useless except as a pretty accent piece. They also remove it from the public because, say one day these items, be them rocks, minerals, or fossils, should be found to be significant. Not only are they gone from study but you removed them from the public. Perhaps in the form of a museum piece or such. Now I know that many "collectors" of such items eventually donate them to museums or schools but my point is still valid since those materials have lost all context. They are useless in the eyes of a scientist.

Now your thinking (hopefully) "But what can I do?"

You can do what I do. Don't go. Don't give them money. And convince others to do the same. They are in it for the money more than likely and when the money factor is removed, they will have no choice but to move on. Let the natural land be natural.

I have no problems with people collecting stuff from the places they visit.I have samples of rocks, minerals, and fossils from many places I have visited. The difference is I don't take every last one. I take one small sample, often as a teaching tool, and leave the rest for the people that come in the future.

I would like to preserve and convince other to preserve our natural spots, wherever they may exist because you never know what will happen in the future.


  1. I agree with you, Rock Shops do indeed strip nature of her beauty. However, I'm also struck by your thoughts because I was, at least in part, pushed towards studying geology because of my experiences at a Rock Shop in Colorado when I was young.

    I'm sure Archaeologists feel the same way about shops that sell arrowheads and other historical paraphernalia. From a scientific point of view the object/rock/mineral has a huge importance. But is it not also important to expose people to what you do and the artifacts which you find?

    I think that Rock Shops serve a purpose to expose laypeople to the geological universe. I feel like most people enjoy mountains and deserts for the beautiful scenery but don't necessarily connect those panoramas with geology. That is where Rock Shops come in.

  2. I understand your point but I can't see that as a valid reason. There are better ways for the public to be introduced to geology and paleontology than through rock shops. Museums are the prime example where people can view science and where mostly all of the scientific knowledge is retained.

    I don't think that rock shops necessarily promote geology since you don't usually get any background with the samples. Usually (from what I've seen) there is just the name of the rock or mineral and not much else. So other than looking pretty they don't really convey all that much information.

    But there may be some that do. I know a few stores that are rather reputable and I do not include them in this rant. My rant is mainly toward those places that bulldoze out as many rocks as they can to earn a quick buck (like the image shown).

    Thanks for your comment. It's good to hear from the other side of the opinion.


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