Fossils have captivated the human imagination for centuries, offering us glimpses into the ancient past and providing valuable insights into the evolution of life on Earth. For avid fossil collectors, they are fascinating artifacts and precious treasures that allow you to connect with the creatures that lived millions of years ago.
According to the National Geographic Society, fossils are preserved remains or traces of ancient plants, animals, and other organisms. Fossils are formed through fossilization, which occurs when organic material is replaced by minerals over long periods.
Fossils can range from tiny microfossils to massive dinosaur bones, and they come in various forms, including shells, imprints, tracks, and even preserved soft tissues. Each fossil is a window into the past, offering clues about extinct species, environmental conditions, and geological history.
How to Become a Fossil Collector
Starting a fossil collection can be a gratifying and educational hobby. However, there are millions of different fossils to collect. If you're looking to become a fossil collector, the availability depends on your location and the geological formations in your area.
Here are some of the most common types of fossils that collectors often seek:
- Fossilized Plants
- Shark Teeth
- Fossilized Fish
- Coral Fossils, Gastropods and Bivalves
Ammonites are extinct marine mollusks that have spiral shells with intricate patterns. Ammonites are particularly popular among fossil collectors due to their diverse forms and beautiful preservation.
Trilobite fossils are ancient marine arthropods that lived over 500 million years ago. Trilobites are complex fossils that have a distinctive segmented exoskeleton and are found in various sizes and shapes.
Brachiopods are Great Fossils to Collect
Brachiopods are marine invertebrates that resemble clams. They have bivalve shells and were abundant during the Paleozoic era. Brachiopod fossils can be found worldwide.
Fossilized Plants and Shark Teeth Finds
Fossilized plants, such as leaves, stems, and seeds, provide insight into ancient ecosystems. Common examples include ferns, cycads, and petrified wood.
If you love the ocean, shark teeth are among the most common and easily accessible fossils. Depending on the species, they can be found in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Teeth from extinct sharks like the Megalodon are highly sought after and are some of our favorites. Still need convincing? Check out our top five reasons to buy shark teeth!
Fossilized Shells and Fish for Ocean Lovers
Another great option for ocean lovers is fossilized shells. Shells of marine mollusks, including clams, snails, and scallops, are widespread and can be collected from various geological formations around the world. You can also find fossilized fish. Common examples include fossilized fish from the Green River Formation in the United States.
Fossilized Coral, Gastropods, and Bivalves for Fossil Collectors
Fossilized coral colonies and individual coral specimens are other popular options in collector circles. You can also find fossilized snails and clams, among other mollusks, which are common and easily identifiable fossils. They can be found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments.
Here are some of our personal fossil favorites from the Whaler's Locker collection:
When you want to become a fossil collector, here are a few steps to take to ensure you have the best experience:
Research and Learn What Fossils Are Nearby
Familiarize yourself with different types of fossils, geological formations, and the paleontological history of where you live. This knowledge will enhance your appreciation and understanding of the specimens you collect.
See About Local Fossil Museums and Shows
Museums and fossil shows are excellent places to see various fossils, learn from experts, and connect with fellow collectors. In addition, they can inspire you and help you identify the types of fossils that interest you the most.
Collect Basic Fossils First
Become a fossil collector with easily accessible and affordable types. Common marine fossils like ammonites, trilobites, and fossilized shells are great options for beginners. This will help you learn about the variation in fossils as well as appreciate exotic species as you become a more experienced fossil collector.
Collecting Fossils at Every Price Point
Many fossil collectors think that they can't afford to collect good pieces because of the expense. However, there are ways to collect fossils for any budget. At Whaler's Locker, we offer fossils for everyone. So, whether you're just starting out and you have a small budget, you have a big budget and have been a collector for years, or you want to help someone else start their collection with a small gift, we have something for you.
Fossils Under $50
Believe it or not, you can collect fossils without spending a ton of money. Some of the best-bang-for-your-buck fossils are polished coral fossils, sand dollar fossils, small trilobite fossils, ammonite fossils, and fossilized shark teeth. Size plays a big role in the affordability of fossils, but these examples are great for those who want to keep their budget in check.
Fossils Under $100
If you have a bit more to spend and want to take it up a notch, you can find a few more species by looking for fossils under $100. Small Megalodon and mosasaur fossil teeth and larger phylloceras ammonite fossils fall into this more expensive category but are still budget-friendly options.
Also in this category are some great cut ammonite fossils. By splitting the ammonite in half, you can see the inside spiral and the different crystals that have formed within it, giving it even more sparkle and intrigue.
Fossils Under $500
If you have it in your budget to look for fossils under $500, you are sure to find some extraordinary and exciting pieces. Phacops and chyphaspis trilobite fossils, larger megalodon teeth, and larger ammonite fossils are also popular if you have a bit more money to spend.
Tools to Become a Fossil Collector
If you want to search for your own fossils or examine rocks that could have fossils inside of them in your local area, there are a few things you need to do:
- Ensure you're collecting fossils ethically
- Always ask for permission
- Leave no trace
- Have the right fossil collector tools
- Preserve the details surrounding the fossils
- Educate others
Ethical Fossil Collection
The first step in becoming a fossil collector is to ensure that you're going about the process ethically. Fossils take millions of years to form, meaning that they will quickly be depleted if they aren't protected. Therefore, responsible fossil collecting is essential to preserve scientific information and ensure the sustainable enjoyment of these natural treasures.
Permission for Collecting Fossils
As a fossil collector, always seek permission before collecting fossils on private property or protected areas. Respect regulations and restrictions imposed by local authorities. In addition to local laws, there are several cultural aspects to keep in mind when searching for fossils as well. Be sure not to disturb cultural areas or places of significance when looking for your fossils.
Leave No Trace
The concept of "leave no trace" is essential because it reminds people that we should always leave areas we visit the same or better than we found them. Minimize your environmental impact and ensure you do not damage any surrounding fossils or geological features while collecting. Be sure to pick up any trash, don't leave tools behind, and be aware of animal habitats while you're searching.
Fossil Collection Tools
Using the right fossil collector tools is critical to preserving your fossils. Field guides and tools such as a rock hammer, chisel, and magnifying glass will help you identify fossils and extract them from the surrounding rock.
Another must-have is a notebook, a camera, and a pen. Take detailed notes and photographs of the fossil's location and surrounding geological information. This data is crucial for scientific study and maintaining the specimen's value. It's also nice to be able to catalog your discoveries for your personal use.
If you want to be a fossil collector, we also recommend sharing your passion and knowledge with those around you. When you share your love of fossils, encourage responsible collecting practices and the importance of conservation, and advocate for being an ethical and sustainable fossil collector, you ensure that we will be able to enjoy these treasures now and in the future.
How to Take Care of Your Fossil Collection
Once you've started amassing a collection, it's essential to properly care for and display your fossils to ensure their longevity and enjoyment. Fossils are delicate and can be susceptible to damage if not handled and stored correctly. Here are some essential tips for fossil collectors on how to care for fossils:
As a fossil collector, it's important to remember that fossils are fragile and can easily break or chip. Follow these guidelines to minimize the risk of damage:
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling fossils to remove any oils or dirt that could transfer onto the specimens.
Use gloves or handle fossils with clean, dry hands to avoid direct contact.
Support fossils with both hands or use soft paddings, such as foam or cushioning material, to provide extra stability.
Avoid applying excessive pressure or force while handling fossils, especially delicate ones or those with fragile structures.
For fossil collectors, cleaning your specimens can help enhance their appearance and reveal details that may be obscured by dirt or debris. However, it's crucial to clean fossils carefully to avoid causing any damage. Here are some tips on cleaning your fossils:
Start by removing loose dirt and debris using a soft brush, toothbrush, or a gentle stream of water. Avoid using excessive force or high-pressure water, as it can damage delicate fossils.
For stubborn dirt or encrustations, use a mild detergent formulated explicitly for fossil cleaning. Dilute the detergent in water and gently scrub the fossil's surface with a soft brush or toothbrush. Rinse the fossil thoroughly with clean water afterward.
Do not use harsh chemicals, bleach, or solvents to clean fossils, as they can damage the specimens.
How to Store Collection Fossils
As a fossil collector, it’s crucial to protect your collection from things that can lead to deterioration. Choose a cool, dry location with stable temperature and humidity levels to store your fossils. Extreme temperature fluctuations and high humidity can cause damage, such as cracking, mold growth, or mineral decay.
UV radiation can fade and damage the specimens, so avoid storing fossils in direct sunlight or under bright artificial lights. Avoid storing different types of fossils together to prevent potential chemical reactions or damage caused by contact. Instead, consider using specialized display cases or cabinets with adjustable shelves to protect and organize your fossils.
These cases can help regulate humidity levels and provide additional physical protection. Individual fossils should be stored in acid-free tissue paper or soft foam to protect them from scratches and abrasions.
Preventative Measures for Fossil Care
Taking preventative measures can help minimize the risk of damage to your fossil collection. First, regularly inspect your fossils for any signs of deterioration, such as crumbling, cracking, or discoloration. If you notice any issues, consult with a professional or a local museum for guidance on preservation techniques.
Avoid exposing fossils to sudden temperature or humidity changes, as they can cause thermal stress or moisture-related damage. Also, keep your collection away from areas prone to vibrations, such as near heavy machinery or high-traffic areas, to prevent accidental falls or damage.
Label your fossils with essential information, such as the species, location of discovery, and geological age. This documentation adds scientific value and helps prevent confusion or loss of information over time.
Collect Fossils for Gifts
If you enjoy being a fossil collector and want to share your passion with friends and family members, there are tons of great gifts you can give that are affordable, visually intriguing, and educational. From fossil keychains to pendants and necklaces, you can give these fossil gifts for any occasion – or keep them for yourself!
- Fossil Shark Tooth Keychains
- Moving Jaw Shark Tooth Necklace
- Ammonite Fossil Pendant
- Goniatite Fossil Pendant
Where to Buy the Best Fossils
Whaler's Locker is a beautiful small business located in picturesque Lahaina, Hawaii. We offer an impressive collection of fossils, healing crystals, scrimshaw, jewelry from fossils and other minerals and gemstones, and more.
With shipping to all 50 states and some international locations, you can shop the variety of our collections from the comfort of your own home. Whether you're a new fossil collector or you've been searching the beach for shark teeth your whole life, Whaler's Locker has something for you!