The competition was held at the October 2002, Capital Mineral Club’s Gem & Mineral Show at Sunapee State Park, Sunapee, NH.

There were 5 contestants in all: Ernie Schlichter of Sudbury, Ma, -- Pat Barker of Campton, NH, -- Chris Wong of Worcester, Ma. – Bill Clark of Coventry, Ct. – Lee Champigny of Feeding Hills, Ma.

A panel of judges chose the winner. The panel consisted of: Vince Valade, Peter Cram, Sue Haden, Peter Nielsen, John Herndon, Stu Fenton and Tom Minnich.

Each contestant presented the best mineral specimen they had collected along with its story, or their best collecting story along with a mineral specimen or both.

This year Ernie Schlichter of Sudbury, Ma won the shovel and $200.00 cash prize with his terrific serandite specimen and terrific story.

Ernie Schlichter, this year’s winner, gave us a run down on his now famous exploit, his serandite collecting trips to Mt St' Hilaire in Quebec, Canada. He started off his story with a short history of the mine and his association with some of the people involved with the operation there. He also shared some of his management techniques for dealing with the guards at the mine such as bringing them coffee, pastries, beer…. With these techniques he managed to keep the mine-door wide open. Well in 1981 he punched into a dream pocket that produced world-class serandite crystals to a quality that the Canada government bought the three best. My favorite part of the story was Ernie’s way of dealing with the problem all us collector’s would like to have - his find was so huge he ended up trading crystals for badly needed newspaper to wrap all the specimens in. After 13 months of negotiations with the Canadian government they bought 3 of the specimens as mentioned above. Two of these are now in separate Canadian museums. As Ernie summed it up, “he may never fine anything this good again.

Bill Clark shared his story about his big find of amethystine quartz scepter crystals from Moosup, Ct. As he so nonchalantly put it, “I needed something to do during the winter”, he decided to give the moosup site a try. When he arrived at the area he noticed a snow covered mound of rock debris with steam coming up from it. There was also a large hole on the backside of the mound. So Bill knew there had to be something going on because “who in their right mind would be out here in the dead of winter besides me looking for quartz crystals”. After many days hand digging, a long tunnel he found some of the best material ever recovered from that area. Bill best conveyed to us all his passion for collecting and his Moosup collecting experience. Digging away day after day, deep in the cold and muddy tunnel, not sure what he was going to find if anything at all, he had some of the most enjoyable moments of his life.

Lee Champigny (little Lee) told us the story about his father’s, Lee Champigny (big Lee), series of collecting trips to the William Wise Mine during the 1983 time frame. “Little Lee” emphasized the slight grudge he still holds against his Dad for telling him that he was to young (11 years old) at the time to go along on the Wise Mine collecting trips. His father & his collecting pals hit a big, classic, Wise Mine pocket after about 3 weekends of digging about a 15-foot deep hole. The pocket yielded some great specimens (I saw some of this material, it doesn’t get any better). After collecting the load of crystal the 3 collectors had a party to split up their goods. “Big Lee” showing his brilliance, allowed his son along. “Little Lee” being the family mineral collector had the thrill of picking out and convincing his Dad which one to take. After hearing Little Lee’s story and his persistence I have invited him to come work like a dog at the Wise Mine anytime.

Pat Barker pulled out a showstopper. In a dramatic twist to her presentation it was hidden out of view of the judges and audience. Like a magician, Pat brought out a huge specimen of mountain leather that was collected during her 1967 stay as a news reporter in Korea. Pat then explained the origin of the Mountain leather specimen while leading up to her 2nd surprise. Again she pulled out of hiding a gorgeous calcite specimen. This specimen was also collected during her time in Korea. Pat told us about her collecting trips to some of the operating mines in Korea where these specimens came from. She ran into some familiar pit-falls though, like you could only keep what you could carry out. Pat summed it up best by telling us she has never been able to duplicate this collecting experience again.

Chris Wong started off his presentation by teasing us all. The mineral collector’s dream: having unlimited specimen collecting access to an active mine which is known for its incredible fluorite, calcite and sphalerite crystals. Well he lived the dream!! at the zinc mines known as the Cumberland, Elmwood and Stonewall mines. Chris gave us an excellent description of the operational logistics of these mines and his once in a lifetime specimen-mining experience. Unfortunately the miners went on strike just 10 days after Chris was on the job, cutting his dream short. But there was a silver lining, on his last day he located and worked a 14’ pocket. He described it as a “waterfall like area of orange calcites”. And as Chris so passionately put it, “you could have buried me there and I would have been in heaven”.


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