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Posted: Friday, May. 11, 2012

Bones, gems, even fossilized waste meet at Treasure Hunters Show

By Lisa Thornton
Published in: News of University City

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Normally you can’t give a bucket of excrement away, let alone sell it.

But earlier this month at the Gem, Mineral, Fossil and Treasure Hunters Show inside the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo, chunks of fossilized coprolite were going for $15 apiece.

A sign inside the bright red bucket offered all shapes, sizes and colors of the fossilized dinosaur dung, ranging from 65 million to 210 million years old.

“You can use it for a paperweight,” said Jodi Smalley, who runs Dinostar LLC, a fossil and museum consulting business she runs with her husband out of Monroe.

Smalley was one of 20 vendors who set up shop at the show, the first of its kind organized by Kay Jones of K&S Rockhounds in Gastonia.

Jones, a rock hunter for more than 10 years, has always wanted to bring together fossil, gem and rock hunters under one roof.

“It’s already been a success,” said Jones, smiling as she scanned across the concrete floor of Building B to watch customers and vendors share their love of the hobby.

The Carolinas have always been rich in gems and fossils, and even richer in those who like to find them.

Doug Dover of Belmont became interested in rocks years ago when he happened across a cardboard box filled with labeled stones on an abandoned porch near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Dover’s booth at the show was covered with the tools of the trade. Old, dusty, metal machines used to cut through thick rock took up space on one table. Delicate carat scales and calipers filled another.

All were finds he discovered at estate auctions and church yard sales in the area over the years, from those who took up the hobby long before he became interested.

Now retired, Dover doesn’t dig in mines as he used to, and he’s ready to sell some of his own tools, such as his old forged steel pick.

“That will last forever,” he said. “I figured I’d let somebody else have it for a while.”

Vendors and customers alike gathered at Richard Jacquot Jr.’s booth as he told stories of treasures found on the floor of South Carolina’s Cooper River.

Jacquot has spent the past several years diving the river, which millions of years ago was an ocean. His table is filled with whale earbones, hipbones, jawbones and vertebrae of ancient mammals. Copies of “Bone Hunter,” the book he co-wrote with Jerry Fortenberry about his diving experiences, were also available for sale.

“There’s a lot of neat stuff in the river bottom,” he told the crowd as he fished out a necklace with a black triangular pendent from under his shirt. “And that’s a little one,” he said of the 3-inch-long shark’s tooth he found in the river.

Before long, customers were pulling out their wallets to take home some of his treasures, too.

For Smalley, who started collecting fossils as art to decorate in her home, the hobby quickly turned into an opportunity to share with others as well.

From dinosaur teeth to wooly mammoth tusks, even fossilized feces, anything that survived millions of years is sure to become a conversation starter.

She picked up a dinosaur vertebra. “This would look great on a desk in an office.”

Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at lisathornton@carolina.rr.com.

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