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From Biologist to Mineral Collector

Last Updated: 27th Jul 2011

By Rolf Luetcke

From youth my interests were centered around animals. I had a room full of rattlesnakes in my teen years. Collecting was a part of my life, beetle, moth, butterfly and snakes were all collected and studied.
In 1970 I moved to Bisbee, Arizona, working for a small zoo which had several hundred animals, including monkeys, birds, bears, wolves, mountain lions and, of course, snakes. I was in charge of the reptile department.
When it was time to move on, I started a nature class for children, which took place in the field around Cochise County. Through a friend I met Richard Graeme, then Geologist for the mines in Bisbee. He thought it would be a great incentive to give mineral specimens to the children in the classes. I would make lists of things the kids had to collect on the field trips. The closed box of mineral specimens Richard had given me were the prize for the ones who did the best.
First time out, a couple of kids did the whole list and the rest showed a lack of interest. The minerals in the box were in order of quality. The one who did the best got first pick. When the box was opened the kids eyes went wide. From then on the kids all tried their best and the specimens had to be about the same quality and they just got to grab.
My knowledge of minerals was totally lacking and I had to learn along with the kids. It didn't take long to become hooked on minerals. A year later I started a manufacturing business making labeled sample mineral collections. The business thrived for over 10 years, when a nasty divorce took the steam out of my business. If anyone has a mineral collection that has Luetcke Minerals at the bottom, it is one of mine. I sold it and moved on.
Minerals have put all the other interests on the back burner. Not to say I don't still love all the Biological interests I once had.
Minerals are not only my love but my wife Mary shares my interest.
I have now spent over 40 years dealing in, loving and collecting minerals.
Just the last few years I discovered the micro photography and ran with it.
My collection is not limited by much. A reference collection of over 1625 species is the base of my collection.
The early days of mineral collecting took place in Bisbee and I roamed above and below ground. If I had to pick a place to fan the flames of mineral interest, Bisbee was certainly the place.
I still live less than 50 miles from Bisbee and visit often.
Rolf Luetcke

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