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Annual ‘Bourse’ to showcase shells, more

Conchologists of America's Shell Market this weekend on Captiva

June 18, 2019
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Shells from all over the country and world will be on display - and available for sale - during the Conchologists of America's Shell Market set for this weekend, part of its 48th annual convention.

The "Bourse" will be held on June 22 from 1 to 8 p.m. and June 23 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the convention center, next to Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva. With free admission and parking, it will feature about 30 vendors selling marine-related items.

Anne Joffe, the convention coordinator and chair, explained that the word "bourse" dates back to the 1570s in France and means "an exchange." For the COA, it means "the largest shell market ever."

"We have dealers that come from all over the world," she said.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Italy, Australia, Mexico, Vietnam, Canada and more are represented, along with states like California, North Carolina, New Mexico, Washington and Massachusetts.

Joffe explained that the vendors will have for sale anything relating to the marine environment, including sea urchins, seaweeds, shark teeth, pearls, shell jewelry, and lots and lots of shells.

"They set up their tables with shells or things that they bring from their county, primarily related to their county," she said. "Everything is for sale - and each one has different things."

Joffe noted that many of the items are shells.

"That's the number one thing they have," she said, adding that the type of shells are what make the event worthwhile. "Things that collectors would desire. Pretty rare, unusual uncommon shells."

"These are not things you're going to see in a local shell shop or on eBay," Joffe added.

There are also wares made out of shells, like flowers and holiday ornaments.

"A couple of dealers have wonderful books on shells, both technical and for the collector," she said.

The last time the COA held its annual convention at South Seas was in 1993, and the last time it took place in the local area was in 2004 in Punta Rassa. Last year's convention was held in San Diego.

"It's been a long time," Joffe said of its return. "We try and do one coast to the other."

But, there is a special reason the 2019 event is being held on the islands.

"We are honoring and celebrating the 100th birthday of Dr. R. Tucker Abbott," she said, explaining that he founded the COA. "He is also responsible for founding the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum."

"We thought it would be a great tribute to his memory," Joffe said.

For those planning to attend the Shell Market, the COA has set up an easy and convenient way for shoppers to get their prized purchases home - or anywhere else - without having to worry.

"There is an on-site pack and ship in the lobby," she said. "So that's a nice feature."

The two-day Bourse will wrap up a week's worth of convention activities.

Joffe reported that there were meetings and programs scheduled, plus lectures and field trips. On June 20, there are still a few activities planned, along with several lectures and programs on June 21.

There is a daily admission of $40 to participate.

"If you just want to come and listen to the lectures or get involved in what's going on," she said.

On June 20, there will be a "snail parade" from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Later, the COA will hold its annual auction at 7 p.m., with a preview of the items starting at 6 p.m.; the auction is open to the public.

"There are one-of-a-kind, very nice, rare shells being auctioned," Joffe said.

She estimated that there are approximately 100 items up for bid.

"The money that we raise from our auction goes into our educational grant program," Joffe said. "We give scholarships - we give about $30,000 a year - to graduate students studying the field of oceanography of any type."

The public is invited to come out and see what the Bourse is all about.

"The type of market, it's not seen anywhere else. It's unique to our organization," she said.

"They are going to see things they've never seen before," Joffe added.

For the list of remaining activities, visit

For more information, contact

The South Seas Island Resort is 5400 Plantation Road.



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