Rock Exchange

Collection of tumbled stones, Image Credit: Lora Hall

(See more about this image below)

Patricia Egolf Rock Pals 

Rock Exchange

The best way to collect rocks, minerals, and fossils without leaving home!

(Well… you do have to take a short trip to the post office.)

Everyone loves collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils from across the county, but not everyone can travel. The Rock Pals is like having a pen pal but instead of exchanging letters, you exchange rocks. It is a way for a kids club in New Mexico to exchange rocks with a club from Michigan, or any other state.

What is Rock Pals 

Before email and social media there were programs called Pen Pals. Kids would be partnered with kids from schools in towns and countries far-and-wide to become Pen Pals. Such letter-exchange programs enabled you to reach beyond your day-to-day experience to fly to distant and exotic lands to broaden your horizons. In 2011, Patricia Egolf of the Gem & Mineral Society of Syracuse, New York, suggested a new spin on this for junior rockhounds, namely, a “Rock Pals” program in conjunction with our AFMS Future Rockhounds of America program.


Kids love the different rocks and fossils to be found across our great nation, but they and their parents can’t necessarily afford to buy them nor to travel widely to collect them. How wonderful it would be, Patricia thought, for juniors in a club to band together to collect local samples to trade with juniors in other clubs across the country. With that goal in mind, Pat helped us establish Rock Pals.


Sadly, Pat passed away in 2012. To honor her memory and spirit, we named this effort the “Patricia Egolf Rock Pals Program.” 

How does the exchange program work?

A club gathers 20 local specimens that fit in a flat rate box available from the U.S. Post Office and, after making arrangements with another club, each mails a box to the other with specimens, information, and labels for what’s inside. It’s easy and tons of fun.

How do I start a Rock Pals trade?

1. Check the list of participating clubs.

2. Email the club contact person to make sure they are still active and to exchange mailing addresses.

3. Package your specimens in a flat-rate box.

4. Drop it in the mail. (It is a good idea to send your contact an email that their package is on its way. This will also remind them to return the favor and mail a box to you.)

5. Open your box of new specimens when they arrive!

What type of specimens can be exchanged?

You can exchange rocks, minerals, fossil, or even lapidary items like tumbled agates. Try to keep it unique to your area and items that a club from another state may not have easy access to. For example, petrified wood can be found in many locations across the states, but each location might be a different species, color, etc. So, two clubs exchanging petrified wood can still end up with cool new specimens.

Some clubs may have 7 kids and other clubs may have more, so to be fair, the suggested number of specimens is 20. If you have a large club, consider multiple trades. Not everyone may get the same type of specimen, but that only adds to the fun and encourages more trading!

Clubs not holding up their end of the trade will be put on the naughty list so before agreeing to a trade, make sure you intend to follow through.

How much does it cost?

The U.S. Post Office offers a number of Priority Mail small and medium size flat rate boxes starting at $10.20. The great thing about flat rate boxes is no matter how much it weighs, it ships for one price.  If you are shipping 20 pieces of hematite it will cost the same price as 20 pieces of pumice.   

Packed and ready to ship!

20 Gryphaea fossils from Utah, commonly called Devil's Toenails, packed in a USPS Priority Mail flat rate box and ready to ship. Gryphaea is a genus of extinct oyster that lived in shallow ancient seas. They consisted of two articulated valves; a larger top shell (the toenail) and a smaller flattened shell (the lid or trap door). 

Image Credit: Lora Hall

About the image on this page

Rock tumbling is a popular lapidary art that uses a rotating or vibrating tumbler, abrasive grit, and polishing compounds, to create beautiful polished stones and fossils. Common items pictured here include agate, jasper, petrified wood, and fossil coral.

Image Credit: Lora Hall