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Great Mexican Rock Shop

Last Updated: 18th Jul 2012

By Rolf Luetcke

In 1971, I was just beginning my interest in minerals when a friend invited me along to visit a neat little rock shop in Agua Prieta Mexico. I lived in Bisbee so it was only a 23 mile drive to Douglas and then a couple of blocks walk down the main tourist street to one of many stores that carried tourist items. The only telling point that there may be something better were the many polished pieces of Fire Agate in the front window.
Inside was the normal Agua Prieta store with leather, pottery, jewelry and other tourist trinkets. Not much of a hint of what lay hidden.
My friend knew the routine and asked for Senor Casteanos. I never did know his first name, we always called him by Senor.
A very well dressed gentleman came out from the little back room and greeted my friend warmly. Senor Casteanos always wore a fine suit and hat. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather over in Germany.
His daughter, who worked along with a son or two, opened the swinging counter to let us through to the back. Through a narrow, dark back room, used mostly to wrap items sold in the store, then out into a large patio area, lined with tables and boxes full of agates and geodes. There were agates and cutting rough from all over Mexico. Toward the back of the large yard was a little out building. We headed for it.
Once inside the little building I saw shelves lined with flats upon flats. In the center of the room was a table empty except for a scale. The flats had written on the front what was inside. We pulled down a number to look at great Mexican minerals.
I was still a Biologist and was only along for the ride. The friend asked for an empty flat and started filling it with beautiful specimens of Adamite, Hemimorphite, Tourmaline, Aurichalcite, Legrandite, Wulfenite and more. At the time I was not aware of what all was here.
I ended up picking up a flat or two of things I thought very pretty. When it was time to pay, Senor Casteanos put each flat on the scale and everything was the same price, $1.25 a pound. I have to remember, it was 1971 and the mineral world was not like today.
After our purchase we walked around the yard and looked at what was there. Behind the little building was a huge pile of rock, mixed with dirt, leaves and dog droppings. I was not very interested but my friend picked up a few things, mostly the native copper specimens that were in large numbers. "Great stuff" he said.
Since I had started thinking about starting a mineral business where I put collections together of labeled specimens, the friend said I should make Senor Casteanos an offer on the pile.
A week later I did just that. "$20, you can have the whole pile, just bring your own boxes and it will clean this area up for me." Senor Casteanos said.
After I got the pile home and started going through it, I found it contained about 40 minerals from all over Mexico and many from Bisbee I later found.
Over the next few months I ended up buying two other piles he had in other parts of the yard. Each pile turned out to be about a thousand pounds of minerals. The first one was the best and I still have a few pieces from then in my collection. Including the acicular Azurite that came from Bisbee, I have posted in my photos on Mindat. The second pile was double the price as the first. The third $50. So, the three thousand pounds of minerals came to just over a hundred dollars.
The Bisbee minerals came from Bisbee miners that knew Senor Casteanos bought minerals and there was over a hundred pounds of native Copper from Bisbee in the piles. One of my favorites and still in my collection was a fist sized piece of Acanthite with wire silver throughout. It was dirty and sat in a box on my porch for years before I realized it may be something special.
I have occasionally run into people who remember Senor Casteanos and they also remember the $1.25 a pound specimens from Mexico to be had at his little store.
After Senor Casteanos died, his sons took over the place and it was never the same. They were not mineral collectors, like their father. He was one of the wonderful people who had a big influence on my mineral collecting future.

This addendum to the story happened just this July of 2012. It concerned a number of Wulfenite specimens that were in the piles. They were odd because of their association and I had always wondered where they had come from. I had asked a number of people over the years and nobody had ever been able to tell me where they were from. They were nothing special to look at but they were Wulfenite on Malachite and Azurite. Richard Graeme had invited my wife and I to view his collection. One of the things I wanted to see were the Bisbee Wulfenites. Richards son Doug had told me a few years back that Bisbee Wulfenite was found in one shaft on Malachite. I was interested in seeing an actual specimen. My wife Mary had researched the internet to see Bisbee Wulfenite photos and in all her searching had only found two photos and with those it was very hard to compare.
At Richards I asked him to show me the Bisbee Wulfenite. The material from the Cole shaft was nothing like the material I had from Casteanos pile. It was like I see with Wulfenite, square blades, in this case, masses of the blades covering the matrix in nearly clear crystals. He looked in another drawer and handed me a large chunk of Malachite with the Campbell Wulfenite find. I took the hand lense and studied the piece and had an Ah-Ha moment. The Wulfenite looked exactly like the specimens I had at home. When I discussed it with Richard he said he knew Casteanos well and that many of the miners from Bisbee would sell him material for a bit of extra money. When I went home I studied the specimens again and was now certain that is exactly what had happened. The specimens I had were definitely Bisbee Wulfenites. It only took 40 years for me to finally put all the pieces together and get the final determination of where those odd Wulfenites had come from. I took photos of a number of the specimens and posted them on my mindat page. Sometimes the full story takes years to come together.

Article has been viewed at least 11660 times.


What a great story, Rolf!
Thank you, I really enjoyed it!


Jake Harper
28th Jul 2011 1:14am
Hi Rolf,

Great read....as are all your 'articles' and stories. I stopped by your store one time and we talked for quite a while and you handed me a few of your stories and I left with some good rocks. Are you still open and, if not, do you have a place where minerals can be seen and purchased? Thanks!

Dana Slaughter
28th Jul 2011 1:19am
Our store is closed now but it has been turned into a natural history museum. We still have lots of minerals and can probably be talked out of some. We have told all our friends that if they come to our place and we are here, they are welcome to stop if the gate is open.

Rolf Luetcke

Rolf Luetcke
28th Jul 2011 8:30pm
Hi Rolf,
Thank you for sharing your great experience. Your photos tell a wonderful story of your collecting trips also .Hope to see more photos of your great collection.
Brander Robinson

Brander Robinson
11th Aug 2011 4:04pm
To bad there aren't places like this around today. Great story you shared!

Bill Morgenstern
10th Sep 2011 5:19pm

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