March 2012 home page

Gone Digging
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


Gladys Collins in front of the Dinosaur Gallery. Photo Art Olson


The sign on the door read, “Gone fossil digging. Back Feb. 3.” It was hard to imagine the lovely owner of The Dinosaur Gallery digging for fossils. Gladys Collins smiled. “Not digging ourselves. We were at the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Tradeshow. We brought back a carload.”

I had visited the Gallery with my young grandsons and was impressed by Collins’ appreciation of the boys’ curiosity and budding fossil talk. I was also intrigued by the mysterious fossil specimens, minerals and crystals and wanted to learn more.
Collins is a self-taught retailer drawn to the shop 14 years ago by a “museum art store for sale” advertisement. The “art” turned out to be fossil sculptures, dinosaur art, crystals and gems; the bust of a deinosuchus (carnivorous dinosaur) hung on the wall and orthoceras (extinct nautilus) embedded in marble were displayed on a shelf. She fell in love with the shop and learned the trade. Words like ammonites, trilobites and stromatolites are now part of her everyday conversations with customers.


Photo Art Olson


“Your megalodon tooth is beautiful,” ** a forty-something-year-old surfer comments. “I found one diving, but it was cracked so that doesn’t count.” He shows me how the beautiful 4 1/2-inch wide tooth had perfectly serrated teeth and a scalloped edge on both sides. “This is one of the best fossil shops in San Diego County. You don’t find many places like this,” he exclaims.

A second customer comes in “just looking.” He used to dig for fossils at highway construction sites in Kentucky. “I collected fossil shells. It was like finding the beginning of us.” The third visitor was a 19-year-old girl and her boyfriend. She came in frequently to buy crystals and rocks to make jewelry.

There are also books: a GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails, Geology Underground in Southern California, Fossil Clues to Ancient Life, plus literature on crystal energy and healing. And Collins has intentionally added inventory for young people: beginning fossil collections, baskets of mineral stones for $5 and $10 each, illustrated educational books, T-shirts and Carnegie Museum of Natural History prehistoric models. As they get older some will surely come back to the place that encouraged their love of dinosaur fossils.

** Megalodon is an extinct species of shark that lived from 28 to 1.5 million years ago during the Cenozoic Era. The Gallery is located at 1327 Camino del Mar.


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