How To Get Started Rock Collecting
So you’re interested in collecting rocks? Maybe you’ve also thought about collecting minerals and fossils or even Indian arrowheads? Or has gold prospecting been on your to do list? If you’re just getting started in this hobby, you may be wondering just how to get started.
First of all, let me just say congratulations to showing interest in starting a great new hobby. I’m confident you’ll enjoy rock collecting for years to come.
In this post, I’ll share with you what it takes to start a rock collection. Sure, it can be as simple as stepping outside. But there are many layers to rock collecting that you can learn about.
We’ll go through some of the things you can do to start your rock collection, as well as learn about some of the tools you’ll need if you want to elevate your rock collecting hobby to the next level. Finally, we’ll get to talk about some of the things you can do with your rock collection…did you know you can make money from rock collecting?
Want to know how? Keep reading!
How To Get Started Rockhounding And Start a Collection
The good news is, it’s not difficult at all to start a rock collection at all. At the most basic level, all you really have to do to get started is walk outside your house and start looking. Take a walk around your neighborhood and see what you can find. See if you can find any rocks that are attractive to you. Try to find rocks that are different and unique in some way.
But if you’re looking forward to diving into rock collecting just a little more than poking around your backyard, there’s just a few things you’ll need to know:
- What to look for
- Where to look
- How to clean your rock and mineral specimens
Learning Where to Find Rocks and What to Look For
The types of rocks and minerals that you can find strictly depends on what part of the world you live in. There are so many diverse and unique geological areas that it’s hard to say what you might find in your specific area.
With that said, there are some excellent resources available, both online and in person, that can help you learn about your area and what rocks and minerals can be found there.
Local Rock and Mineral Club
The best option in my opinion is to join your local rock and mineral club. Here is a list of rock and mineral clubs by each state. A quick Google search should also help you find a local club.
The benefit of joining a club is that you will have access to an entire group of experienced people who are very familiar with your area. Not only will they know what types of rocks and minerals can be found there, but also areas that are good to look in.
Another resource you can use to help learn where to find rocks and minerals in your area are maps. Maps can be found online or even at your local club.
Mindat.org is an excellent resource for rockhounds.
Not only do these books teach you exactly what type of rocks and minerals you should be able to find, but also where to go and how to find them.
Many books provide GPS coordinates and step-by-step directions on how to get to specific locations. Keep in mind, however, that many of these locations have been thoroughly searched by other rock collectors. It’s still an excellent way to get started though.
Some Good Places To Start
Pay To Dig Sites
One of the easiest places for new rockhounds to get started is to go to a pay to dig site. These sites are located at private mines or claims and are open to the public to collect, however there is a fee associated with it. Sometimes the fee will be a set price just to enter the property, while other sites will charge on what you take from the property.
Rock quarries are a great place to rockhound. Not only do you have access to many different layers of material to dig through, you also have a ton of loose material available that machines or blasting has loosened.
I love quarries, and recommend that you try and find some near you. You should know though that these are always privately owned and you must ask for permission first before entering them.
Roadside cutouts offer a great place for new rockhounds to explore. And depending where you live, these can be abundant.
Take care though when collecting in these areas though, since you’ll have traffic to deal with. Most cars aren’t used to keeping an eye out for pedestrians in these areas.
Tip: Consider wearing a bright orange or yellow safety vest when visiting roadside cutouts. Not only does it help traffic see you better, it most likely will prevent people from stopping and asking what it is that you’re doing and they’ll just assume you’re supposed to be there since you have a vest on.
Permission To Access Private Property
Whether you are walking around your neighborhood, or hiking through the woods, always be on the look out for private property. Property lines are not always marked well so you really need to be on your toes with this one. Then be sure to ask for permission from the owner before entering their land.
How to Find The Owner of Private Property
Unfortunately, most property owners don’t list their name and telephone number on a gate or fence for all the world to see. But there are still some things you can do to find out who the owner is and get a hold of them.
OnX GPS Maps
OnX Maps app is a must have if you spend much time at all tromping around the desert, woods or back country rockhounding. There’s a feature on the map that will tell you exactly where you are and who is the owner of that property your standing on.
Local Tax Assessor’s Office
Another option is to simply track down the property owners info yourself by looking on the county tax assessors website. Some counties make this process easier than others, but the information’s there. You just have to go in and dig for it.
Rock Collecting Tools
There are many tools out there that are available to rock collectors. But don’t let all of that confuse you or deter you from getting out there. Like I said earlier, you don’t really need a lot. But if you want to make your time out in the field the most productive, then there’s a few tools you might want to consider picking up.
For more detailed information on rock collecting tools, read my post, The Ultimate Guide To Rockhounding Tools.
You won’t regret having these items!
The Geologist’s Hammer
A geologist’s Hammer or a geologist’s pick, is a great tool that has two sides, a blunt end and a sharper pick end. This tool is used mostly for prying off pieces of rock, but can also be used to break off pieces of rock. Keep in mind that the geologists hammer typically breaks rocks into smaller sized pieces.
If you want larger size rocks, you might want to consider investing in a crack hammer. Remember to always use safety goggles when hammering at rock. Small pieces of rock will fly all around you, including possibly hitting your face. Protect your eyes!
Rock Collecting Pouch/Bag
A rock collection bag will also be something you want to carry with you. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but you will need something to put your newly found rocks into while out and about.
A backpack is my favorite rock carrying device. Backpacks are great for rock collecting because they can double as a lunch box!
Some other things you might want to consider bringing with you while finding rocks are a pair of gloves. Some rocks tend to be very sharp. A good pair of gloves will protect your hands from cuts and scrapes.
A Field Guide To Rocks And Minerals
A field guide to rocks and minerals is always an excellent resource to have with you when hunting for rocks. Having the correct field guide on hand will allow you to quickly identify your rock specimens while out in the field. Remember to bring tape and a marker to write with so you can label your identified rocks on the go.
What To Do With All Your Rocks
Chances are once you start a rock collection, you will end up with too many rocks! Now that you’ve gathered all these rocks, what exactly are you supposed to do with them? If you’re like most rock seekers, you want to display them for all the world to see!
How To Clean Your Rock Collection
Start by cleaning your rocks. Wash your rocks in plain water with a bit of laundry detergent or dish soap. Then if you want, you can submerge them in water with just a little ordinary household bleach for two days. This will take off most of the heavier grit.
Then take a toothbrush and denture cleaner and gently brush away the remaining dirt and grime. Finally, wash your rocks with warm water to remove the remaining bleach solution and allow the rocks to air dry.
Here’s more in-depth information and guides on how to clean different types of rocks and minerals.
- How To Clean Rocks With Hydrogen Peroxide
- Can You Clean Agates With Bleach?
- How To Clean Rocks and Minerals
- How To Clean Shell Fossils
- How To Clean Geodes And Thundereggs
Organize Your Rock Collection
You can organize your rock collection any way that you decide. But organization is a very important part of learning how to start a rock collection. Many people will categorize their rocks by type or color. Some will group together their favorites while others might organize by size. Most likely, if you’re like me, you will find a combination of ways to organize your rock collection. I tend to organize by rock type and within that type I arrange by size. But I always put my favorite rocks, regardless the size, at front and center.
Once your rocks are organized, then you can label them. You can label each rock individually or you might just want to label the box or container they are in. I like to label my rocks by type, date found and location that I found it.
Display Your Rock Collection
Finally, take your most prized rocks of your collection and show them off! Place them on a shelf where everyone can see them. Or perhaps you have a display case you can put them in. Either way, position them so everyone else can enjoy them also.
I have favorite rocks displayed in many places. I have rocks displayed at home as well as on my shelf at work. You will be surprised by how many questions you get regarding your rocks, and you will never get tired of telling the stories behind them.
Now that you know the basics of how to start a rock collection, get out there and start looking! An entire new world of interest and beauty is waiting for you.
I am excited to hear about your rock collecting experiences, whether you are a seasoned rock collector or just getting into the game. Please share your stories with all of us by leaving a comment below!
Happy Rock Seeking!