Rock Hunting: Flea Market Gem Collecting and Treasure Hunt

No exciting mineral collecting trip prospects? No mineral shows this week? The rockhound blues for sure, but what do you do? The answer may be easier than you think. Go to your local flea market, and the bigger the market the better. There’s almost always someone at a flea market with some rocks, minerals, or fossils for sale. Rocks and minerals at the market may not be obvious at first. You may also need to search for them and dig through some rubble. That means it’s much like a rock hounding trip, though possibly you should leave the hammer at home.

The sky’s the limit.

Rock Hunting: Flea Market Gem Collecting and Treasure Hunt

Tilted glass cases may hold both gems and minerals.

The number of finds will be highly variable. You may find some dedicated mineral dealers like you see at a gem show. You may find collectors simply reducing some of their rock collection. Or you may encounter vendors who have simply purchased mineral collections and want to get rid of them.

On my recent visit to a New Jersey flea market, I had more luck finding finished gems than specimens. Flea-market rock hounding always relies on targets of opportunity, so it’s best to simply run with what is offered on any given day. Tilted glass cases and tables piled with sparkling objects are always an irresistible lure anyway.

Don’t be afraid to dig in!

Rock Hunting: Flea Market Gem Collecting and Treasure Hunt

Agate delights are the flea market prizes of the day.

Digging through small piles of jewelry and boxes of who-knows-what can yield some surprisingly good finds. Today was especially profitable for an agate enthusiast because it was not long before I found a beautiful agate necklace with both banded and moss agate beads. Next came a large orange agate cabochon brooch. Both were had for an extremely reasonable price and will make perfect gifts for gem-loving friends.

I’m hoping my next trip will yield some interesting mineral specimens or rough material for cutting.

Scott Stepanski is a mineral collector and co-author of Gem Trails of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He also produces the world’s largest selection of mineral and fossil rubber stamps at

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