HOW THE GROUNDBREAKING MINERAL COLLECTOR AMASSED AN ASSEMBLAGE AS LEGENDARY AS HIS LARGER-THAN-LIFE PERSONALITY
By Steve Lansdale
Once in a while – usually once in a very long while – we are fortunate enough to come across someone who has … it. That quality can be hard to define, and it varies from one person to the next, but those who have it possess a level of magnetism that draws people in and commands attention.
A strong argument can be made that nobody in the world of mineral collecting embodied that concept more clearly than Rock H. Currier, a legendary collector whose larger-than-life persona was matched only by his extraordinary assemblage of minerals from around the world. In 1972, when he was in his early 30s, Currier lost his job, but rather than lament his misfortune, he became a mineral dealer, launching Jewel Tunnel Imports – known throughout the mineral-collecting world simply as JTI.
“Rock Currier was not just a collector who showed up at mineral shows – his arrival was an event, in and of itself,” Heritage Auctions Nature & Science Director Craig Kissick says. “He had a sense of panache, a level of style that separated him from others. He drew people to him, at which point they realized how extraordinary his collection of minerals was.”
Currier traveled the world acquiring items for JTI and simultaneously built his extraordinary personal collection of minerals, 270 of which will come to auction for the first time in Heritage’s Nature & Science Signature® Auction on Feb. 7. This will be the second installment of minerals from Currier’s collection offered through Heritage. The first Rock H. Currier Collection of Fine Minerals Auction topped $3.4 million in sales in August 2019.
“He went anywhere and everywhere to find the finest and most unique mineral specimens,” Kissick says. “There was nowhere he wouldn’t go in pursuit of the finest minerals that could be had. He had a presence that could take over any room, but that was secondary to the work he put in building his incredible collection and his seemingly endless knowledge about the minerals in that collection.
“While building his own collection, he worked diligently to build the collecting hobby. He passionately chased materials for his collection but also wanted to open doors for other collectors to do the same; he was instrumental in developing the mineral trade in exotic locales such as Africa, India, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Russia and China.”
A preview of Currier’s collection will take place at La Fuente de Piedras during the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. The auction will be streamed from Dallas to Tucson at 12 p.m. MST on Feb. 7 to also accommodate live bidders via Internet at the Tucson preview.
The cache includes, of course, myriad spectacular minerals but also one-of-a-kind rarities like an “Inner City” pewter figurine collection, miner’s art in the form of a painted Tsumeb calcite and even a fur coat as outsized as the personality of the man who wore it. Proceeds from the sales of the coat and the pewter figurine collection will benefit mindat.org, an open database of minerals, rocks and meteorites operated by the not-for-profit Hudson Institute of Mineralogy.
Other auction highlights include a pink tourmaline, rutilated quartz and gold necklace, a result of one of Currier’s favorite pastimes: creating jewelry from miscellaneous mineral specimens; a gorgeous native gold nugget from Western Australia that tips the scales at 117 grams; a “gem” chrysocolla, quartz and malachite geode from the Miami-Inspiration Mining District in Arizona; and two extremely large, transparent green Russian fluorite cubes on a base of sparkling white quartz crystals.
“Rock was part celebrity and part showman, but more than anything, he was a high-level expert who understood what he was collecting and where to find the finest specimens,” Kissick says. “But this collection is more than the spectacular minerals in it. This collection is Rock Currier. Collectors know their minerals, and they knew him, so it’s only appropriate that this collection includes things like his fur coat and the miner’s art, eccentric lots that matched his persona. This auction represents a rare opportunity for the most serious collectors to acquire part of what he built over his lifetime, part of his legacy.”
Currier died in 2015, but his memory lives on in the minerals he spent much of his life collecting, the minerals that will soon bring joy to other avid collectors.
“Those who bid on items from Rock’s collection are going after elite minerals, but the fact that they came from his collection makes those minerals even more appealing to countless collectors who want a piece of his legacy,” Kissick says. “It’s only fitting that this spectacular collection of minerals comes from someone whose name is actually Rock. He was an unquestioned star in the mineral-collecting world, and he lived up to his name in every sense of the word.”
STEVE LANSDALE is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.