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May-June 2018

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A Collection of Collections: A Remarkable Exhibit at the 2017 Munich Mineral Show

At the annual Munich Show, in Germany, one will always find spectacular special exhibits in Hall A6, the principal hall for mineral lovers, both in terms of special exhibits and prominence of the mineral dealers. In 2017 the theme was From Mine to Mine, and the show producers made it very special indeed (figs. 1, 2). But the adjacent Hall A5 was full of wonderful special exhibits as well, in particular there was a glorious array of Alpine minerals and a very special little treat, A Collection of Collections. The title, A Collection of Collections, probably needs to be explained because it is fair to assume that the vast majority of Rocks & Minerals readers are unaware of the type of collections that comprise this collection. Throughout the long history of mineral appreciation some collectors, educators, and mineral dealers apparently decided to make small sets of mineral samples usually arranged within a box (figs. 3 and 4). Typically, these mineral samples were small and were related to each other in some way: gem minerals, Mohs hardness minerals, the minerals of a particular mine or source area, the minerals of one element of their chemical composition (i.e., tungsten), or varieties of the same mineral (i.e., quartz). Clearly, in most instances there was an educational purpose behind their creation and distribution. Some sets were simply a form of advertising or a commercial product. Whatever the intent, the number of these sets produced was likely relatively small, so not many have survived to this day; those that did have become collectibles, but they are not widely known and collected. Here at the 2017 Munich Show visitors had an opportunity to view Renato Pagano's great collection of these collections.


John S. White, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, operates Kustos, a museum/collector consulting business. Now retired, he is the former curator-in-charge of the National Mineral and Gem Collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

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