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Cilen, Joe (1916-1997 )

Joseph George Cilen (pronounced "sil-EEN") was born Joseph Cilencevicius on July 16, 1916, in an ambulance en route to the hospital in Paterson, New Jersey. When he was seven his family moved into a new house in Hawthorne (adjacent to Paterson), where Joe lived for the rest of his life, never marrying. He began collecting minerals in the mineral-rich Paterson area as a young boy, and it became the passion of his life. He served as a sergeant in the Army in 1941-1945, then worked as an inspector at Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Corporation for the next 40 years until his retirement.

Joe was a universal collector who eventually accumulated well over 23,000 specimens. His species collection included 3,000 species, a remarkable total. He had extensive suites of minerals from the Paterson trap rock quarries; the Franklin-Sterling Hill, New Jersey mines; Tsumeb, Namibia; Långban, Sweden; old localities in the Tri-State area; Maine, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York—and practically everywhere else as well. He also had several thousand micromounts. Despite the enormous size of his highly varied collection, it was all well-cataloged and cross-referenced; each specimen had his number attached, and the original labels were carefully filed. He also collected mineral books and raised prize-winning chrysanthemums.

Joe was universally well-liked for his commitment, his enthuisiasm, his knowledge and his sense of humor. Following his death on January 21, 1997, his collection was purchased from his estate for $100,000 by New Jersey collector Steve Phillips, who kept certain suites and resold the remaining 600 flats of specimens to various dealers including Sharon Cisneros (Mineralogical Research)and John Betts.
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Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. 2022
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at

Joe Cilen,
Tucson Show,

40 x 63 mm

39 x 60 mm

41 x 68 mm

51 x 87 mm