- Associated Press - Saturday, July 4, 2015

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - A driveway with a trailer full of agates. Recycling bins full of agates. A license plate that reads “MRAGATE.” Agates when you walk through the front door.

And an agate that just came in the mail.

For Gary Egge, the Winona man also known appropriately as Mr. Agate, the collecting began in 1958 when his brother, Ernie, introduced him to the hobby of collecting agates at age 8.

He was hooked immediately, the Winona Daily News (https://bit.ly/1HuDuYy ) reported. The unique colors and bold patterns caught his eye. Walking home after spending hours at the gravel pit down the street from his house, with $20 in his pocket from selling his findings, kept him going back. He said he sometimes spent more than 70 hours a week at the gravel pit as a kid.

More than 50 years and seven tons of agates later, Egge has now retired - kind of - from agate collecting. He still buys, sells, trades and polishes the rocks he has left. He’s also trying to pass his hobby on to his grandchildren.

“It’s an activity I can spend time doing with my grandkids,” Egge said. “I can’t push them to like or enjoy it, but they sometimes help me go through the process of cutting and polishing them.”

Sometimes he will take a bucket of his rocks and spread them out along the railroad tracks, and then take his grandchildren to look for them.

Egge’s basement is an agate shrine. His wife, Kathleen, calls it “The Bermuda Triangle,” because once you go down there, you tend to lose your way. Egge would often turn on the TV on in his workshop and spend hours cutting, grinding, and polishing his agates_taking what many would see as just an ordinary rock and turning them into beautiful pieces of stone.

Egge and his wife would go to rock shows all over the country, set up their stands, and exchange words and agates with rock aficionados from all over the world. On the best days at a show, he would make up to $5,000.

“We would go to three to five shows a year to buy and sell agates,” Egge recalled, then added an anecdote proving he’s not quite yet fully retired from the hobby:

“We just recently got back from a show in Tucson and it was incredible.”

Agates can be turned into a plethora of items_jewelry, furniture, decorations, marbles. Egge even has a birdhouse in his basement made of agates, which complements his display cases filled with rocks he’s worked on.

Egge believes the hobby of collecting agates is disappearing; it’s become more of a commodity these days. Many people just find, buy and sell agates, and don’t take the time to cut and polish the rocks themselves.

It’s only the hobby, he said, that can give a collector a true appreciation of agates. Agates are like snowflakes, in that no two are the same.

“That’s what’s made me love it for so long,” he said. “It just doesn’t get old.”


Information from: Winona Daily News, https://www.winonadailynews.com

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