Gloria Bannister, a visitor to Belleair Beach from Minnesota, holds her prize seashell, a rare Juno Volute.
Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Gloria Bannister, a visitor to Belleair Beach from Minnesota, compares her rare Juno Volute against a photo chart of seashells.
BELLEAIR BERACH – Every collector knows of the rare gem that every collection must have. Baseball card collectors, for example, long for the 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but they also know, for the most part, they are never going to own the card because it is so expensive.
In the world of seashell collecting one of those rare gems is the Juno’s Volute shell.
On Sept. 3, long time collector Gloria Bannister had her dream come true when she found a Juno’s Volute, right at her feet on Belleair Beach as she began her morning walk.
“It was right in front of me,” she said. “I knew right away what it was. I’d been dreaming of getting one for years. I always thought I’d never find a Juno, but then I found it, I was so excited.”
Gloria has been coming to Belleair Beach for 10 years from her home in Rockford, Minn., just outside the Twin Cities. She and her late husband Paul began collecting seashells on one of their first walks on the beach. Paul died in May but Gloria continues with her hobby.
“It is a wonderful hobby,” she said. “I have placards with all the shells by name, I can’t tell you how many I have, I have collected so many over the years. Back home I have shells displayed in my garden and in the house they are on display everywhere.”
In fact, shells were on display all over her Belleair Beach motel room. Looking at those shells the casual observer might have a difficult time imagining they came from the beach just a few feet away. That is because of the treatment they get from Gloria.
“When I get shells I soak them in a mixture of bleach and water,” she said. “Then when they dry I rub some baby oil on them to help bring out their colors.”
The reason the Junos are such difficult shells to find is because of where they are located in the ocean.
“They are deep water shells,” said Gloria. “Only when there are storms or hurricanes do they get dislodged from the bottom and washed up on shore. I know a collector on Sanibel Island who has never seen one in 20 years of collecting.”
Bannister is 67 years old with three adult children and two grandchildren. She makes sure the grandkids get plenty of shells to play with and study and hopes that someday they might take up the hobby. Her daughter Christina, who lives in Clearwater, did not follow in her mother’s footsteps.
“She is always interested in what I have found,” said Bannister. “But she’s not interested in shelling herself.”
Bannister intends to continue with her hobby.
“As long as I can walk the beach I will continue it,” she said. “It might be expensive to get here to Florida but once I’m here the entertainment is free. I love the sea and the sand; it is a pleasurable experience for me.”
Already her prize Juno shell has had the cleaning treatment and is destined to be mounted and put on display in Bannister’s home. Gloria is going to make sure the Juno goes home first class, unlike the other shells she collected on this trip.