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  One happy find on the beach is all it takes to get you hooked on seashells - they are irresistible, inspiring, fascinating..  So - what to do with the shell you've found?  

What's a Specimen Seashell?

In short: They are collectible natural history objects (same as i.e. fossils or minerals) with scientific value. Every shell you find has that potential!


I just found a shell on the beach - what is it? Am I allowed to keep it? ..What is it worth?

If you're in Australia and just found a shell on the beach, yes - you can generally keep it without permit, unless you are using it commercially. Australia's Fisheries Departments individually regulate this by state.


Specimen Seashells and Collectors

Most people start to collect shells just for their amazing shapes and beauty. If you're curious, you can find out more: What is my shell called, how common or rare is it? What might it be worth? Every shell has a potential scientific value, but for that you have to look at it scientifically: If you record date and location on a label and keep it with the shell you just found, you have already created a potential 'specimen seashell' with locality data (a data label with accurate recorded origin information, see info below!). Both scientific and monetary value of each specimen seashell depends on what it is (ID), where it is from (locality), how complete it is (condition), the size and how rare it is (availability). If you treat every shell carefully like this and continue to collect shells, it will make you an amateur Conchologist (someone who collects and studies seashells). Conchology is a very interesting part of Malacology - the study of molluscs, which are part of Invertebrates (all animals without spine) in Marine Biology.


Seashell Books

The quickest way to find out what your shell is called is by using a scientific reference book, because flipping through images in a book is a lot faster than typing. Reference books illustrate seashells especially to help you with identification. They show all the related seashell species side by side, with names and lots of helpful info, like origin, average size, etc. So holding a shell in your hand and flipping through the book is the fastest way to start the ID process: Find out what your shell is called. If you still can't find a perfect match in your book (after all, there is a lot of variety in natural seashells), the book will give you a starting point ID (i.e. the name of the closest matching seashell family or group). Search the group ID from the book online to narrow down the options - you will find the correct species or subspecies much faster!


Clubs and Shows

Most collectors will look online, in journals, magazines and books - to learn about seashells. The problem is, there are LOTS of different shells (more than different bugs, actually!). If you're new to this, see if you can find a shell club in your city (always great if you can ask questions!). If not, there are several good shell collector chatgroups online and generally they will also post info on the amazing International Seashell Exhibitions and Trade Shows - maybe there's one near you? Shows are perfect experiences - it's where young and old beginner and experienced collectors meet, discuss, show and trade their shells. Rarity / availability is a big issue, as new seashell species are being discovered all the time, being named, described and illustrated in scientific seashell magazines. Newly discovered species are always very exciting. There are famous amateur collectors, who started as kids picking up a shell on a beach. They got curious, looking for more information - until years later they realise that they now know more about their favourite shells than anyone else on the planet. Some of those amateur collectors never went to uni but have worldwide recognition as world experts in their chosen field, describing new species in their spare time!


Seashells online

You can also find lots information on seashells online, which is especially useful for additional images, once you know which species you are looking for. In short: Internet search engines are really helpful for:

- More Images: Armed with a tentative scientific name (ID) or name of a family, you can type that into a search engine to quickly look up additional images for comparison. Or if you only have a (usually Latin) scientific species name (i.e. on a price list) and are unsure what it actually looks like, just type its name into your browser to look for images. Bear in mind that not all IDs posted on the internet are correct (not everyone's an expert), but among several images there are usually some correct ones.

- More Detail: You are trying to find a name for the shell you are holding and the image you have found looks close but is still a little different? Use the internet to find related info, i.e. try looking up other species in the same group (i.e. other species with the same Genus) at established scientific databases, such as www.marinespecies.org. Often the correct species name you seek is one within the same group or family.


Which is the right seashell book?

We're dealers and need to look up information on shells or compare shells against images on a daily basis in our office - as quickly as possible! With the right reference book, we can save lots of time, so we have compiled a list of really helpful books (see our BOOKS page). As far as we are concerned: When looking for any ID you have to have the right book!

Shell collectors like us may only use just a few books every day - but those we will use all the time. Depending on what you collect, you would usually have at least one general shell reference book ('Compendium Of Gastropods' is a good one!) to narrow down options or look up worldwide information. You'll also want a book or two just about your favourite seashell family - or shells from your local area.

It's great fun to be able to identify your own shells quickly and efficiently just by turning a page. You can look up which subspecies and varieties there are, what they look like, how rare they are, where they come from, etc.. Armed with the ID and basic info, browsing online is also a lot faster and way more fun!


So what's a Scientific Specimen Seashell? What's Data? Why do they have Labels? 

Specimen seashells all should have data tags or info labels with them. The label info should include:

NAME / ID: A scientific name - there are always at least 4 parts to this: Genus and species name, the Author (the person who first named and described the species) and the publication year. Some specimens also have a local variant / form name or subspecies tag.

LOCALITY: Country or region of origin and any known details on habitat (i.e. depth, collecting method, local area info, i.e. "by diver, at 10m, on sand near coral", etc.). Locality info typically depends on the source: We often scuba-dive in remote areas, so this allows us to supply shells with very detailed data, such as GPS info to 100m radius. Or we may source shells from old collections (may have less info). Deep water trawled shells may carry even less data, depending on which boat they came from and how accurately fishing logs were kept.

SIZE: Specimen size in millimetres, which represents the largest measurable distance between the outermost points of a specimen (exception: Spiny Bivalves, where the shell body is measured without spines).

DESCRIPTION: Mentions typical features, condition, shape, colour, pattern, presentation and/or major differences to other forms of the same species.

OPERC / PERIO: Some species have an operculum (hard shell 'door' attached to the animal's foot, i.e. in Turbo Shells) or periostracum (soft outer shell surface coating, i.e. on Syrinx Shells), so for example our pricelists may comment on presence / absence of operc or perio when describing a specimen shell.

REFS / IMAGES: Data labels may include references to a particular book / publication (i.e. page or image).


Specimen Shell condition & grading

When ordering Specimen Seashells online for your own collection, you'll want good quality, mature and beautiful shells. We conservatively grade all specimens we offer as follows:

GRADING: Notes the condition of a specimen shell by a commonly accepted International Standard of GRADING terms.

SPECIMEN SEASHELL GRADING (Shells are viewed under good lighting with the naked eye)


Shells are without any discernible blemish or flaw. The specimen will be fully adult and of typical size for the species.


Shells that have a very minor flaw or blemish which is hard to perceive, shows up only under close scrutiny and in no way detracts from the look of the shell.


Shells have a noticeable flaw or blemish which does not detract from the look of the shell.


Shells have more than one noticeable flaw, growth line or blemish consistent with the species, but the overall presentation is very good. These shells are generally excellent value and suitable for aesthetically pleasing collections, being considerably less expensive than GEM specimens.


Shells with small chips, noticeable growth lines, nacre lifts, blemishes or other obvious flaws, where the overall appearance and presentation of the shell is obviously not perfect. NOTE: Several large sized or rare species are only available in F+ condition or less.


Shells with major chips, growth lines, nacre lifts, blemishes or other obvious flaws. Very fresh dead collected but otherwise good specimens are also often classed as F/F+. NOTE: Some shell species are only available in F/F+ condition or less.


Shells that are either badly damaged, obviously juvenile or dead, but suitable as a representative of the species or for study purposes. 
NOTE: Some shell species are only available in F or dead condition.

No grading system can possibly do justice to every specimen and most Specimen Shells will require further description. Since seashells are difficult to photograph well (image may not clearly show flaws or can be tampered with), the above Intl. grading terms are widely accepted for seashell descriptions.



Our Money-Back-Guarantee:

Grading and photographing seashells well is not easy. As specimen seashells are by definition highly individual objects, there is still no better way to evaluate them than holding a shell in your hand and looking at it. So we are offering you a ‘Money Back Guarantee' for all our specimen seashell items, which means that you can return any of them for a refund (or online shop credit if you prefer this) to the full value of the item(s) returned, excluding shipping cost.

In short, if you do not like the shells we have selected for any reason, you can send them back for a full refund or exchange if you wish.



Not what you are looking for?

See also non-graded Seashells and Starfish for Decoration / DECOSHELLS.