"Conchologist" is a fancy word. You don't become a conchologist by earning a degree, however, but through a deep and abiding interest in sea shells. This week, the Oregon Society of Conchologists brings its most magnificent conchs to OMSI for its 47th annual shell show. What goes on at a shell show? Well, we asked club co-president John Johnson. Turns out his collection is worth a surprising amount of booty. No wonder Sally's pushing these things by the seashore—she's probably making bank.
WW: What makes a sea shell valuable?
John Johnson: First, size or length. The second most important factor would be rarity—it should be noted that a common shell can be considered rare if it is of unusually great size. Condition or quality of the shell also increases its value, as with any collectible. Lastly, I would say the popularity of the particular species with other collectors is important. There are hundreds of thousands of various species of seashells, and believe it or not, there is actually an active, updated world-record registry.
What is the Honus Wagner card of the shell world?
The greatest collector in the world, Pete Stimpson from Tennessee, has over 3,000 world-record shells. A few of these are worth more than $10,000 each.
What's the prize of your collection?
I own a Cypraea tigris schilderiana measuring 137 mm, and I've had offers in excess of $3,500 for it. It comes from Oahu, Hawaii, and was part of a blockbuster trade of seashells with another local collector.
My other favorite is a highly rare, giant Pecten magnificus taken decades ago from the Galápagos Islands.
Where do you keep all these dead mollusks?
For my giant shells, I prefer open displays on tropical shelving, as our entire home is a monument of nautical and tropical décor. We were once featured in Sunset magazine.
GO: The 47th annual shell show is at OMSI, 1945 SE Water Ave., 797-4626, through June 2. 9:30 am-5 pm daily. Included with regular museum admission.
FRIDAY JUNE 1
SATURDAY JUNE 2
SUNDAY JUNE 3
to Portland. Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. 8 pm. $26. 21+.
MONDAY JUNE 4