“It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire." – Robert Louis Stevenson
written by Lisa Luciano
If you tiptoe over sabulous, littoral soils, gathering deserted exoskeletons of phylum Mollusca, you are not alone!
Simply put -- combing the beach for seashells is a fun and favored pastime!
A trip to the beach doesn’t seem complete without fondling a few shells, and perhaps pocketing a few to take home.
You may be a novice who is planning a vacation, or an expert that can name every shell on the beach, but everyone can enjoy the random and rewarding surprises of looking for seashells.
Some famous seashell lovers include:
- Emperor Hirohito of Japan (1901–1989), who was a passionate collector.
- Prince Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848 –1922), who founded the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. A portion of his amazing seashell collection is still displayed there.
- Fidel Castro (1926-2016), who loved to dive and find shells off the coast of Cuba.
Maybe it’s obvious, but shell collecting involves the practice of perusing the beach looking for the discarded outer shells of dead marine animals. If you gather them for serious scientific study, you can call yourself a conchologist. Most of us are casual collectors and just love the natural beauty of seashells. As with everything, there is a way to do things right. When collecting shells:
- Find them yourself – don’t buy them in a store. Many of these shells came from animals that were hunted on purpose for their shells. This practice speeds up their decline.
- Only gather shells from non-living animals.
- Don’t over-gather. Pocket some shells and photograph others. This allows everyone to enjoy their beauty.
Here’s more information on shell collecting that’s nature-friendly: https://www.travel4wildlife.com/ethical-shell-collecting-guide/
Suggestions for Seashelling
If you’ve ever been disappointed by a beach lacking in shells, here are some helpful tips:
- Go early to see the freshest crop of shells.
- Try visiting the beach after stormy weather. This can bring in fresh specimens.
- The best time for shell hunting is just before and after low tide. Check the local paper for the tide charts.
- Visit the beach at off-season times. Less crowds equals more shell variety and abundance.
Best Shelling Shores
With hundreds of beaches around the United States, it’s hard to narrow down the best spots for hunting seashells. The beaches below seem to be some of the preferred favorites.
Perhaps you have discovered a phenomenal shelling beach, not listed below. (If so, please keep and enjoy your secret!)
The following list is for everyone else:
- Sanibel Island, Florida
- Longboat Key Beach, Florida
- Point Reyes, California
- Shipwreck Beach, Hawaii
- Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
- Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland
- Galveston Island State Park, Texas
- Cumberland Island, Georgia
- Bullard’s Beach State Park, Oregon
- Stinson Beach, California
Bringing Home the Beach
What do people do with their seashells?
- Make jewelry
- Fill glass jars for display
- Decorate shelves
- Add broken shells to the garden – their minerals are effective soil conditioners.
- Use shells as embellishments on frames, boxes and gifts
For some beautiful display and crafting ideas, check these out:
Rare and Famous Shells
According to Ebay, the top ten rarest shells for sale are:
- The Glory of India
- The Fulton’s Cowrie
- The Precious Wentlewrap
- The Scaphella Junonia
- The Lion’s Paw
- The Scotch Bonnet
- The Sunburst Star Turban
- The Keiner’s Dolphinson
- The Bull Conch
- The Alabaster Murex
So, what’s the best thing about hunting, gathering and collecting seashells? Is it the hope of finding something amazing? Is it the early morning beach walk? Is it the beauty that you bring home to enjoy? Maybe it’s all of these and more.
Perhaps collecting shells just gives us a reason to dig our toes into the sand and keep walking along a beautiful beach.
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