Rock Talk...

Beware! "Rock Pox" has been detected!
It's symptoms...You can't stop thinking about rocks and minerals, you start thinking about all the specimens you don't have yet and you just have to get more rocks!!!

Welcome to our "Rock Talk" Page

Here we attempt to provide some humor, some teaching, some learning and overall just sharing experience with other rock hounds. To have your input added to these pages please submit your story on the form at the bottom of this page

Rock Talk Question...SO...How does one become a "Rock Hound" you may ask....

When I was small I asked the same question of a very old rock hound. He gave me a small pouch containing 7 marbles. He told me to look for "special" rocks and whenever I found one, pick it up and leave one marble in it's place. Keep repeating this same procedure until all the marbles are gone. Then he told me how it works...

"When you have lost all your marbles, you are officially a true Rock Hound!"

  • August 2006

    We made a trip to Wonderstone mountain sites A and B this spring in hopes of finding some of that wonderful Rhyolite stone north of Fallon, Nevada. We found only a few loose pieces, not top quality, but definitely collectible quality. We asked our friend Wally at the Highway 50 Rock Shop what was going on out there. There are usually plenty of loose pieces to collect. Wally informed us that the BLM under order from Homeland Security (due to 9/11) has prohibited his blasting on government lands without special licensing and permits, which they are not offering at this time. We collected all we could find, bought a new Lortone Panther 14 inch slab saw from wally (to make us feel better of course) and headed home. For those of you thinking about heading that way, you might want to wait until restrictions are eased a bit or some blasting has been done by Wally and his partner. We will keep you posted on the status as we hear about it.

  • December 2006

    Closed our EBay store, too much junk, fraud and too many fakes from foreign sources on EBay to suite us. If you insist on shoppinthere, please check out their topic guides to alert you to the ongoing frauds in the Rock, Minerals and Fossils categories. They might just save you a substantial amount of embarrassment, frustration and money.

  • October 2007

    Chris and I are re-organizing our specimens, which is getting more difficult because Chris keeps insisting that we leave room for furniture...Women! We are getting ready to load many new items for sale on this site. I could mass load a lot if items, but we feel it's important to take the time to give you as much information about our rocks and minerals as we know, and that takes a little more time. We are adding basically 1 to 2 pages per weekend. In addition to that, we are getting ready to go to the Tucson Rock, Mineral and Gem Show in February 2008.We have our reservations and are looking forward to getting many new specimens for our site. Check out our changes regularly and Happy Rock Hunting!

    Check out this page You Might be a Rockhound If....

  • February 2008

    We are sorry to report that Wally Marks, owner of the Highway 50 & 95 Rock shop passed away this last May and his shop is being sold off. Wally was one of a kind...."Not Another One Like Him in the World". Wally you will be missed! At least where you are now there will be room for many more rocks for your collection! Farewell our good friend! Seems all the real rock shops are becoming a thing of the past...much like the "Mother Road" Route 66.


"Herman" and Wally Marks Highway 50 & 95 Rock shop Fallon, Nevada

In Loving Memory of Our Good Friend Wally Marks 1928-2007


Wally Marks proudly displays some of his own handmade spheres

Here are a few articles from the "Lahontan Valley News" (Fallon's local paper) describing Wally's love of rocks and his dream to mine the famous Nevada Wonderstone. He told us about his plans to mine the wonderstone on our visit in August 2006 which sadly was the last time we'll have ever seen him. We hope the gentleman who bought Wally's claim will still honor his promise to make this unique stone available for Rock hounds and collectors. Chris and I will be making a trip up that way later this year and will visit the remaining rock shop in Fallon to see what the reality of the Wonderstone availability is.

Welcome to Wally's world

August 9, 2004, 12:05 AM

Many pass by on the Reno Highway not noticing a massive boulder sitting atop a crushed automobile west of Fallon. A closer inspection of the site reveals a lot overflowing with tons of rock in varying shapes and dimensions nestled against a small white building housing the Highway 50-95 Rock Shop. Inside, wooden bins hold an assortment of unrefined stone waiting for the cutting wheel. Display cases filled with hand-crafted jewelry and crystals leads to a counter-top covered with stone orbs. Enter the world of rock-shop owner Wally Marks.

"Mother Nature tends to hide her beauty in rock. It may look like a piece of crud on the outside, just a common old rock, then you cut it open and it is absolutely beautiful inside. The only way you know is to cut it or smash it with a hammer. Of course if you smash it, you ain't got much left."

Marks, 76, is in his 28th year of operation and has no formal training in geology. After retiring from life insurance and real estate sales in Edmonton, Canada, he decided to head for warmer climates. "I had three buddies that died over a span of three months and it scared the dickens out of me, so I packed up, got a big trailer and station wagon and spent the next three years traveling all over North America," he said.

His travels would eventually take him to the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, Iowa - a church built out of crystals and mineral specimens. Marks' passion for rock really hit home after winding up in Hot Springs, Arkansas. "I started digging in Hot Springs, which is quartz crystal country America, and really got hooked. All of a sudden, my retirement traveling ended and I found myself down in a mine digging crystals," he said.

In 1977, Marks traveled to the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. By this time he was buying, selling, trading and swapping rocks and minerals at a number of shows. It was there he learned of the California Federation Rock and Mineral Show that was happening the following weekend in Reno. Marks saw his present location with a for sale sign in the window driving through Fallon on his way there.

A week later on his return trip he stopped in, got in touch with a realtor and the rest is history. "I had a buddy down in New Mexico with an old barn. I had pretty much filled it with boxes of rocks, crystals and specimens and was looking for a place to squat," he said. Many of the rock specimens in Marks' shop are from the vast surrounding area.

One of his favorites is the Nevada state stone - the wonderstone. Wonderstone is a reddish brown volcanic rock with folded bands that create designs in cream, yellow-brown, and multiple shades of maroon that was formed about 12 million years ago. "Some of the best Wonderstone in the country comes from around here. We are known for it," he said. Marks has a site claim for wonderstone about 15 miles east of town.

From the virgin rock, he crafts pendants, jewelry and a variety of spheres in different sizes. The sphere process involves core drilling the stone seven to nine times depending on the size of the sphere, to give it a somewhat rounded shape. All remaining sharp edges are ground off before the orb goes into the sphering machine. The machine uses three cups containing diamond dust that move at varying speeds. As the stone is ground, finer and finer grits of diamond dust are introduced to polish the sphere.

"I like making the spheres because they show the entire inside of the rock verses one plane visible with a single cut," he said. "If it doesn't come out right the first time then I just do it again, it will just be a little smaller." Marks said he can make 10 two-inch balls in a day. He would be lucky to get two eight-inchers done in a day. A 12-inch sphere takes two to four days. Marks also works with turquoise, which central Nevada is recognized for, petrified wood and geodes off the Black Rock Desert that fluoresce under black light.

"Mother Nature does some tremendous things with rocks. Of course, she mixes all different types of minerals and chemicals together and it produces some very unusual things sometimes," Marks said.

Businessman explores mining Wonderstone

November 21, 2007, 12:05 AM

A California businessman is exploring the marketability of wonderstone mined from a small mountain east of Grimes Point and Fallon, commonly known in the area as Wonderstone Mountain.

Randy Messer, who owns Western Blasting Technologies, Inc. out of Marysville, Calif., has owned the mining claim on the site for nearly 10 years. He purchased the claim from Wally Marks, the previous owner of the Hwy. 50-95 Rock Shop, who passed away in May. He said he partnered with Marks and knows the Fallon area well because he has family here. Messer said his expertise in drilling and blasting allows him to access good wonderstone 30 to 40 feet below the surface. He said he believes there is large vein of the colorful red and yellow stone and sees potential commercial use for it.

"One of the uses is going to be decorative tile," Messer said. "Once we get up and running, I will open a factory in the Fallon area and fabricate the tile." Before he can proceed with mining the entire site, Messer first has to perform a market test to see if the stone is what the Bureau of Land Management classifies as "uncommon variety" and has potential for resale in large quantities. Dan Erbes, a geologist with the BLM Carson City field office, said minerals - which include wonderstone - can be classified as "saleable" or "locatable," and that Messer chose to pursue the stone as a locatable mineral, which means mining the resource.

"The 1872 mining law is strong in favor of the claimant who states he has a discovery," Erbes said. "This operator is working under a 'notice,' not a federal action." Messer filed a "notice," which mean less than five acres will be disturbed and up to 1,000 tons of presumed ore can be taken for market testing to see if there's enough of a demand for the stone to warrant further mining.

After exploration, the site needs to be returned to a reasonable slope and reseeded for reclamation purposes. The BLM holds a $7,000 bond from Messer for the disturbance of the land. Messer owns 10 mining claims in the hills northeast of Grimes Point. Erbes said Messer filed the notice in 2003, BLM finished a mineral exam by 2006 and he posted a bond in June 2006. Messer "shot" the quarries on his claim earlier this year, meaning he used explosives to expose rock deposits, and has been hauling the wonderstone from the site this month

Erbes said if Messer didn't perform this market test, the BLM would be forced to conduct similar tests at taxpayers' expense. "He is within his rights," Erbes said. "If we were to say 'no' (to his notice) we would be forced into a position to guess what the market value is." He said more than likely, the claimant would appeal the BLM judgment to an administrative lay judge, who may not have the background on mining law. Erbes said looking at the big picture, "allowing him to disturb under five acres and taking up to 1,000 tons is not the whole mountain.

"I think it's a reasonable middle ground to allow him to take some," Erbes said. "He may determine there's no money in it." Messer said he's spent close to $100,000 so far exploring the viability of the wonderstone, adding the money is being spent locally on hotel rooms, temporary workers and large equipment rentals. He said if his plans pan out, the manufacturing facility will bring 15 to 30 good paying mining jobs to the area.

He plans to market the wonderstone across the country and has salesmen hired to do the legwork. Aside from boulders for yard decorations, he envisions custom tabletops and countertops.

While he understands those who are opposed to mining at Wonderstone Mountain, he said sharing the stone with more people is worth it. He's set up an agreement to sell it at the local rock shop and claims to have the support of local rock hounds, who will have access to an abundant pile of smaller stones.

"The beauty is showing it to people," Messer said. "Before it was just a red hill. The beauty is in the rock. For the town of Fallon, the only thing to come out of this is good. It'll bring work and quite a bit of revenue. I can't see any harm from this. Historically, Nevada is a mining community. It's the American way."