Thumbnails – June 17

Thumbnail specimens are small pieces best appreciated without magnification. Sometime in the twentieth century, a trend developed in the United States to preserve small mineral specimens, especially well-crystallized and damage-free examples, often in partitioned wooden boxes. When collectors began showcasing their specimens, such as entering competitions at mineral shows, a uniform set of competition rules became necessary. The American Federation of Mineral Societies (AFMS) developed this rule: A thumbnail mineral is defined as any mineral specimen displayed so that it will fit into a one inch cube.

Thumbnail collecting exploded after the advent of the AFMS rule. One mineral dealer in particular began specializing in thumbnail specimens: Willard Perkin (1907-1991). Perkin developed a colorless and black hinged box, encompassing a cube sized 1 1/4″ on each edge. He inserted styrofoam into the black base and mounted small specimens onto the form, often with the tine of a hair comb. Such boxes, later supplied by Althor Products, became a de facto standard across the United States and are affectionately called “perkies” after their inventor.

This gallery contains 20 specimens.