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A Dying Hobby by: Virgil G Richards

Submitted 2/15/2010



Rocky Mountain Federation News




A Dying Hobby


A dying hobby or a burgeoning trend? It seems like more and more people in this hobby are reluctant to take responsibility for the health and well-being of the hobby itself. Every month another collecting site is lost to progress, legislation, or ignorance. More and more it seems that individual collectors are seeing dollar signs instead of the aesthetic beauty of a specimen. It bothers me when a newbie rock-hound asks; ďHow much is this worth?Ē when holding a new-found specimen.

Donít get me wrong folks; Iím not against selling specimens. For some collectors, it is the only way to sustain their hobby interest and to acquire new specimens for their collection. Iím not above selling a rock or two on occasion, depending on the rock of course. I have pieces that canít be bought, and then there are those that I might very reluctantly part with for a price. Not because I want to make money from it, but because IF Iím going to let it go, itís going to cost you. And then there are those that I freely share with others. Itís my last line of defense to not have to part with one of my cherished finds. This thinking doesnít necessarily apply to specimens that I may have acquired by other means, such as a purchased specimen; typically I may let it go for what I paid, as Iím not in this for profit.

That being said I suppose it could be due to the fact that I get a certain sense of self-worth by adhering to my principals. I donít want to turn my hobby into a job if I can help it. That would lower the level of enjoyment I get from my pastime. I look around the house and I see rocks that remind me of adventure, of camaraderie, of a particular event or even minor mishap that may have occurred on that collecting trip. They remind me that there is more to life than just work and obligations. It gives me something bigger to be a part of, and contribute to.

The number of clubs has diminished over the past thirty-odd years to a all-time low in Oklahoma . We currently have only nine clubs incorporated in the state that are affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Federation of Mineralogical Societies, clubs that dedicate their activities to the hobby of rock-hounding, the focus of this article. There are of course other societies devoted to Archeology, Anthropology, Paleontology, Mineralogy, and niche interests within them, not associated with the regional and national federations that we are. With that decline in the number of clubs, so has the membership of those clubs still operating. As the membership matures and moves on in these clubs, the pool of knowledge dwindles, and the willingness of members to volunteer their time and experience seems to dwindle as well.

In recent months it seems at least a few of the clubs have been experiencing a boost in membership, some have even doubled their roster. The key to doing this is activity. Classes, field trips, shows, programs, and demonstrations have helped to gain the interest of potential members and especially youth. These folks have a broad range of interests, and they are hungry for knowledge. Lapidary arts are becoming a point of interest for more individuals, and we all know the cost of good equipment is outrageously high these days. A casual interest in lapidary can quickly become a passion, and an expensive one. In todayís economy folks canít afford new equipment, and used equipment is getting harder to find at a reasonable price. A fully outfitted lapidary shop can cost anywhere between ten-thousand and thirty-thousand dollars or more to set up depending on an individuals interests. This can be a deterrent to a lot of potential members. One solution to this problem is a workshop where new members can try their hand at lapidary before selling their soul to the company store. Something every club should consider.

Point: It takes a concerted and concentrated effort on the part of a few to afford opportunity to the many. Most clubs have a core group of people who will repeatedly volunteer their time and expertise, while the majority whistles and stares into space when volunteers are asked for. Why most are reluctant to step up and contribute time and effort to keep their chosen hobby from slipping into oblivion is beyond me. Some have legitimate reasons, health, obligations, work, etc. while others are just along for the ride. The difference is reasons versus excuses. Anyone can have an excuse for not wanting to be involved at a higher level in an organization. I could find excuses, but I choose to volunteer my time and knowledge for the benefit of the hobby, my local society, as well as state, and regional organizations, and their individual members.

I hope that those reading this will take a moment and decide where they fit into this hobby. Everyone is good at something, and has something they can contribute. I encourage you all, in fact, I CHALLENGE you all to find an activity or position that you can volunteer some time for, and give the core group a break.




Virgil G Richards

Field Trip Coordinator/VP Ė Tulsa Rock & Mineral Society

Oklahoma State Director Ė Rocky Mountain Federation of Mineralogical Societies

Webmaster Ė Oklahoma State Council of Mineralogical Societies






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