COLLECTING SPECIMEN SHELLS
& SEASHELL BOOKS
|One happy find on the beach is all it takes to get you hooked on seashells - they are irresistible, inspiring, deeply fascinating.. But there is more: The scientific side of shell collecting is where it gets really interesting! How do you figure out what species any particular shell is? Read on for more info...|
|TO SPECIMEN SHELLS / TO SEASHELL BOOKS|
Why Collect Seashells?
Seashells can be classified as natural history objects (same as i.e. fossils or minerals). They belong to mankind's very earliest treasures: If you look at finds from archaeological digs from around the world, seashells turn up everywhere! Apparently we humans have always loved and treasured shells - there's lots of evidence that we used and treasured seashells, collected, loved, wore and traded them basically from the moment we could. You could say collecting shells is one of the oldest traditions in human history.
Specimen Seashells and Collectors - what are they?
You can collect shells just for their amazing shapes and beauty (like most people do) - or you can be curious to find out more: Look at their names, where they come from, how common or rare they might be - in other words, their potential scientific interest and value: You may start collecting specimen seashells that are of interest for science! These specimens should have good data (a data label with accurate recorded origin information, see info below), which should always be carefully kept with each shell. The scientific (or monetary) value of each specimen then depends on what it is (ID), where it is from (locality), how complete it is (condition), its size and how rare it is (availability). You are becoming an amateur Conchologist (someone who collects and studies seashells). Conchology is a very interesting part of Malacology (the study of molluscs) and in turn part of the Invertebrates study in Marine Biology.
You can start immediately by looking at magazines and books that delve into the subject. While hunting for information about seashells or contact other collectors online, you'll also learn about the fabulous International Seashell Exhibitions and Trade Shows every year around the world, where collectors get to meet, discuss, show and trade their shells. Rarity / availability is a particularly interesting issue: New shell species are being discovered all the time - and hotly debated - and eventually named, described and illustrated in quarterly or annual scientific magazines. Obviously, newly discovered species are often rare and exciting! Knowledge is key: We have met several amateur collectors, who once picked up a shell on a beach, got curious and kept looking for more, until they knew more about their favourite shells than anyone else. Those same amateurs are now widely regarded as world experts, describing new species in their spare time..
Scientific Seashell Data / Labels:
Specimen seashells have data tags or information labels. The info should include:
NAME / ID: A scientific name - this typically includes: Genus and species name, the Author (the person who first named and described the species) and the publication year. Some specimens also have a local variant / form name or subspecies tag.
LOCALITY: Country or region of origin and any known details on habitat (i.e. depth, collecting method, local area info, i.e. "by diver, at 10m, on sand near coral", etc.). Locality info typically depends on the source: We often scuba-dive in remote areas, so this allows us to supply shells with very detailed data, incl. GPS info to 100m radius. We also may source shells from old collections (may have less info). Deep water trawled shells may carry even less data, depending on which boat they came from and how accurately fishing logs were kept.
SIZE: Specimen size in millimetres, which represents the largest measurable distance between the outermost points of a specimen (exception: Spiny Bivalves - shell body is measured without spines).
DESCRIPTION: Mentions typical features, condition, shape, colour, pattern, presentation and/or major differences to other forms of the same species.
OPERC / PERIO: Some species have an operculum (hard shell 'door" attached to the animal's foot, i.e. in Turbo Shells) or periostracum (soft outer shell surface coating, i.e. on Syrinx Shells), so we may comment on presence / absence of operc or perio when describing a specimen shell.
REFS / IMAGES: Data labels may include references to a particular publication (i.e. image in a shell book).
Seashell Books - what are they like?
Aside from coffee table books with amazing shell pictures, there are also fantastic reference books that illustrate seashells especially to help you with ID: They show seashell species side by side, with names and lots of helpful info, like average size, locality / distribution, etc. Holding a shell in your hand and finding a matching image in a book is a perfect way to start identifying your own shells. If you can't find a good match based on the images in your book (after all, there is a lot of variety in natural seashells), the book will certainly help you narrow it down (i.e. tell you which family or group your shell belongs to). So once you have that tentative ID, you'll know where to continue. Find the right book and you can likely verify the species very quickly.
Of course you can also find seashell images online. The internet is very helpful for:
- More Images: Armed with a tentative scientific name (ID), you can type that into a search engine to quickly look up additional images. If you have a close match or ID, comparing your shell against many images of the same species and its variations is the best possible way to establish a firm ID. Or if you only have a (usually Latin) scientific species name (i.e. on a price list) and are unsure what it actually looks like, just type its name into a search engine for images. Bear in mind that not all IDs posted on the internet are correct (not everyone's an expert), but you will likely find several images and some correct ones.
- More Detail: You are trying to find a name for the shell you are holding and the additional images you see online for it still look different? It is easy to use the internet to find out more on any subject or a missing detail: For example, try looking up other species in the same group (i.e. other species with the same Genus) at established scientific databases, such as www.marinespecies.org.
Conversely, the internet is very unhelpful for:
- Not knowing where to start: What shell is this? You're looking at a shell - it has no data, no name! Maybe you know where it came from, but nothing about the species, group or family of shells it belongs to. This is difficult to resolve without a book. Leafing through a good reference book (i.e. 'Shells of Australia' - if the shell came from a local beach) will get you started immediately. You can very quickly and efficiently compare your shell to images until you find a close match - it provides the starting point ( i.e. group or genus) and you can find out more on the internet very quickly. Just surfing the net for this means that you'll waste a lot of time looking at hundreds of images, clicking, typing and searching - often getting nowhere.
In short: You can save LOTS of time with a good reference book..
Which is the right seashell book?
We need to look up information on shells quickly or compare shells to images on a daily basis in our office. To work efficiently, we need to find specific info as quickly as possible. Having the right reference book available saves us lots of time, so we have compiled a list of really helpful books and sell these online on our BOOKS page. When looking for an ID, any of these books will allow comparing a shell against images of close matches, all side by side on the same page. You can see immediately where your species might fit in the range of colour forms or look up subspecies in a second, just by turning a page. You just need to have the right book!
Shell collectors may only use just a few well-chosen books - but those we will use all the time. Depending on what you collect, you would usually have at least one general shell reference book ('Encyclopedia Of Gastropods' is a good one!) to narrow down options or look up worldwide information. You'll also want a book or two just about your favourite seashell family.
It's great fun to be able to identify your own shells quickly and efficiently just by turning a page. You can look up which subspecies and varieties there are, what they look like, how rare they are, where they come from, etc.. Armed with the ID and basic info, browsing online is also way faster, way more fun!
Specimen Shell condition & grading
When ordering Specimen Seashells online, you'll want good quality, mature and beautiful shells. We conservatively grade all specimens we offer as follows:
GRADING: Notes the condition of a specimen shell by a commonly accepted International Standard of GRADING terms.
No grading system can possibly do justice to every specimen and most Specimen Shells will require further description. Since seashells are difficult to photograph well (image may not clearly show flaws or can be tampered with), the above Intl. grading terms are widely accepted for seashell descriptions.
Grading and photographing seashells well is not easy. As specimen seashells are by definition highly individual objects, there is still no better way to evaluate them than holding a shell in your hand and looking at it. So we are offering you a ‘Money Back Guarantee' for all our specimen seashell items, which means that you can return any of them for a refund (or online shop credit if you prefer this) to the full value of the item(s) returned, excluding shipping cost.
In short, if you do not like the shells we have selected for any reason, you can send them back for a full refund or exchange if you wish.
Not what you are looking for?
See also non-graded Seashells and Starfish for Decoration / DECOSHELLS.
BACK TO TOP - NEW UPDATES ADDED ON: 15-04-20