The casual seashell collector gathers whatever looks good as they stroll along the shore, but some people are die hard searchers for that elusive rare shell. It should be in close to perfect condition too! Those could actually be worth some money – to a collector. I don’t know much about buying and selling seashells.
The three top rare shells to keep in mind while beach-combing in Florida are the ones listed below, and this is only my advice from my research.
- The Junonia – a spotted shell found in the Gulf area beaches
- The Lion’s Paw scallop, which is much larger than an ordinary scallop shell
- The Scotch Bonnet shell
Rare shells can also include a shell that is built differently than the norm. A Lightning Whelk twists to the left and has a left side opening, but finding one that opens on the right would be a rare find.
A shell or creature found outside of it’s natural territory can also be considered a rare find. The Lined Sea Star photo at the beginning of this page is one such creature. I’d never seen one on the beaches of east, central Florida so when I discovered it (dead I believe) it was a wonder.
Go Where the Shells Are to Begin Your Search
I’ll admit that I’ve never personally seen any of the shell listed here. I live on the central, east coast of Florida. There are a couple of pages on this blog showing the more common shells I find and none of the rare ones are on it!
Sanibel Island is the place to find the best seashells. It ranks among the top shelling spots IN THE WORLD. Because of the abundance of shells, finding rare shells is more likely, such as the pretty, spotted Junonia shell.
I could search for a Junonia all my life over here on the east coast and never find one. But if I lived near Sanibel, or vacationed there often, my chances of finding a junonia would increase greatly.
The Junonia shell is unmistakable. With it’s ivory colored background that is covered with blocks of brown spots. According to my reference book, roughly one Junonia is found each day on Sanibel Island, Florida. And considering all the people on those beaches, this truly is a rare seashell find. (Junonia coloring page – print it out for free!)
The Lion’s Paw Scallop Shell
The Lion’s Paw shell (Nodipecten nodosus) is coveted by collectors. It can be as large as 6 inches across. Large shells are often what people want to find while roaming a beach. I have never found one of these amazing seashells. In fact, where I live on the East coast of Florida, I rarely find any type of scallop shell, but when I do, they usually look like the one below. The Calico scallop can be found on all beaches in Florida, and is not considered rare. I added the image here to show the similarities with the Lion’s Paw.
An outstanding feature of the Lion’s Paw scallop shell – below – is that the ridges are wider and more widely spaced. Also, the shell can be brightly colored, like the orange seen here, or even red.
The image below, from Wikimedia, with creative commons license to share, is an orange scallop shell called a “Lion’s Paw”.
The Scotch Bonnet Shell
The pretty little Scotch Bonnet (Phalium granulatum) seashell has a short, pointed spire and horizontal grooves all around it’s thick shell. Maximim length is 4 inches and coloring can be white to yellow or butterscotch. It has a curled lip along the opening and can have a check pattern, like in the shell image below.
Other Rare Seashell Suggestions
I will admit that I knew about the scarcity of the Junonia shell for years. And many people have heard of the rarely collected Lion’s Paw. I didn’t know that it could be found on Florida beaches until I did some digging.
I do not have any of the top rare seashells in my collection. I’m grateful to the people who share their photos on photo sharing sites, like Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay, which I used on this page.
For the third shell listed here, the Scotch Bonnet, I visited the “I Love Shelling” blog which is written by a woman who lives on Sanibel Island. I figured she would know which shells the locals consider to be “rare” and the Scotch Bonnet was mentioned. The Sanibel blogger has a page entitled, The Elite Three Shells.
Florida Beaches and What You’ll Find
An east coast beach will contain different shells than a Gulf Coast beach. I suspect the Keys and the Panhandle beaches will also give up an even different selection of shells. My beach-combing usually takes place in the backwater areas of the Indian River where shells differ from what I’ll see along the Atlantic ocean beaches. Anyone boating and walking the muddy sandbars in the lagoons will probably find some shells that are completely different.
Most shells I come across are caked with mud and / or green with algae. Often they are broken, and nearly always they are occupied either by their mollusk creator, or hermit crabs. I don’t collect many shells, but do get some interesting photographs for my blog.
Whenever I find something to bring home (namely an empty seashell), then it is cleaned off and either added to the dish on the coffee table, or put into the flower garden.