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THE ART OF FOSSIL COLLECTING 
Is Fossil collecting for me ?
Are you interested in the way the world used to be ? Do the strange creatures and plants that used to inhabit earth fascinate and interest you ? If so, then fossil collecting is for you. Fossil collecting brings you closer to these life forms, and handling the real thing can teach you more than most books can.
How do I get started ?
The best way you can start off your fossil collection is to join a club, and get contact with other fossil collectors. They will help you with how and where to find fossils in your local area and may provide useful contacts for the future. Some kind people will even give you a few of their swaps, just to get your collection started.
Where will I keep all these fossils ?
There are a lot of ways you can keep your fossils. Depending on the size of them, you can store fossils in labeled boxes with cotton wool. Wooden slide out drawers with different size compartments are very handy, as are display cabinets. A good fossil collection should not be kept hidden but displayed for all to admire. Shelves displaying fossils should not be cluttered, but kept simple. Different material that can be used to good effect are glass, wood and shiny metals. Display stands can be expensive brand new, so have a look around local secondhand stores for a set of shelves that would be best to display your particular collection. Fossils should be dusted every month or so, and labels with their name, location and collector, should be kept with the specimen at all times. Unlabeled fossils are worthless to many collectors and scientists.
Where are fossils ?
This really depends on where you live. Fossils can be found in a lot of different places, such as on the sea floor, in creeks / rivers, on beaches, in cliff sides, in quarries, or even beside roads. Fossils are only found in sedimentary rocks formed over 10 000 years ago. Fossils from the sea are plentiful as shells are easily covered by sediments. To find fossils in your area, you should once again talk to experienced collectors, or consult a geological map. You will find out a lot about the ancient history of your area and all the old coastlines etc.
How do I get fossils from the site to my collection ?
You may be lucky enough to find fossils free of matrix (surrounding rock) but sooner or later you will have to remove a fossil from it. If it is a large boulder, a sledgehammer can be used, a smaller piece can be handled with hammer and chisel and small, delicate pieces with a fine scratching tool or acids. The specimen can then be washed, labeled and displayed. Protective coatings of plastics can be used to protect rare or good condition fossils.
 


The above is only a short guide but other, more comprehensive books should be consulted. One book I recommend for beginners is :
The Nature Company Guides : ROCKS AND FOSSILS
by Arthur B. Busbey III, Robert R. Coenraads, Paul Willis, David Roots.
RD Press , Australia, 1996
 
Fosswap
 
JAMIE WOOD - Invercargill, New Zealand : danja@es.co.nz