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David P. Wilber
(1937-    )

David Paul Wilber, prominent mineral collector and dealer, was born November 15, 1937 in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Dorothy and Joseph Wilber, a cost accountant. His first encounter with minerals took place in 1943 when, at the age of six, he moved with his family from Cleveland to southern California. While en route they stopped at Yellowstone National Park, and in the curio shop there he got his parents to buy him one of those little boxes with a selection of mineral specimens glued to the bottom. Three years later a friend gave him more mineral specimens, and he was off and running as a mineral collector. At the age of 14 he was specializing in secondary uranium minerals, but soon broadened to worldwide specimens of all kinds. He joined the North Hollywood Gem and Mineral Society, and began visiting local collections, public and private, getting to know the many California collectors and curators. Family circumatances compelled him to leave school at the age of 17 and begin working to support his mother; he took a position with te Prudential Insurance Company and did well, even having a little money left over for minerals. He got to know curators George Switzer and Paul Desautels at the Smithsonian Institution, and learned much from them about top-level mineral collecting.

As the years passed, Dave's connoisseurship, and his status as a world-class collector, continued to grow. In 1974 he won the coveted McDole Trophy at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the nation's highest award for mineral collecting. That same year he purchased the better part of the Peter Bancroft collection, 52 specimens for $400,000, the highest price ever paid for a modern-era American mineral collection. In 1978 he built a special collection of specimens from the Tourmaline Queen mine in California., then expanded it into a general San Diego County pegmatite collection of nearly 200 specimens (he sold it to Texas oilman Perkins Sams in 1981 for $600,000; it is today part of the Houston Museum of Natural Science collection). When asked what is his favorite specimen that he has ever owned, he replies without hestitation: the one known as "the Great Phosphophyllite" from Potosí, Bolivia, a huge doubly terminated twin on matrix. Dave sold off his mineral collection in 1981 and focused on other kinds of collectibles: glass paperweights, antiques, gems, barber shop bottles, etc. His skill as a collector applied equally well in any field. He also married and raised a family, two daughters and a son.

Dave worked for a time for mineral dealer Victor Yount, then joined Bryan Lees' staff at Collector's Edge Minerals in the early 1990's, and worked for Rex Harris (owner of the famous red beryl mines in Utah) in 1995. In 1997 Dave was accorded an unusual honor: a large commemmorative display case at the Tucson Show, exhibiting world-class specimens that Dave had at one time owned and later sold. It was a fitting tribute to see so many treasured ex-Wilbur pieces from major collections around the world brought together again. In 1998 Dave was hired by Joseph Freilich to help him build a world-class collection of minerals, a feat which Dave accomplished handily for Joe in a mere two years. Dave now lives in Tucson and, although his health is somewhat fragile, he is as enthusiastic and fascinating to talk to as he ever was.

WILSON, W.E. (2000) The Joseph A. Freilich collection, David P. Wilber curator. Mineralogical Record, 31 (1), 10-16.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - David P. Wilber Dave Wilber (right) discussing a specimen with Charles Key at the 1984 Tucson Show.
The Mineralogical Record - David P. Wilber 76 x 123 mm,
A showcase display label from the commemmorative Wilber showcase at the 1997 Tucson Show.
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