Many of the trips I’ve been on while hunting rare and beautiful high-grade turquoise have been so adventure-filled that I thought it might be time to start a ‘Turquoise Blog’ to share with other collectors on how this wonderful and rare stone has been tracked down. Sometimes it is pure luck or good fortune and other times it’s just been detective work.
I returned home from my latest trip last night with some very rare Red Mountain high-grade turquoise that was originally mined in 1974 and that I was able to buy directly from the mine owner at that time, Don Potts. How I found Don and then getting to him turned out to be quite an adventure.
It all started a few days earlier when I received a phone call from the new owner of the Blue Diamond mine. At one time the Blue Diamond was a large producer of turquoise and the current owner of the mine had spent the summer working the old tailings piles and had some cabs for sale. When he called he was on his way from Fallon, Nevada to Nevada City, California so we decide to meet at the IN and OUT Burger along Hwy 80 in Auburn at noon. It was about a 45-minute drive for me, which made it pretty easy as lately I’ve been used to six hours drives looking for good material to resell. Jim, the new Blue Diamond owner, was there when I arrived and he had a friend with him named Tony.
Tony turned out to be the old owner of the Papoose mine in Nevada. We had lunch together, looked at stone and talked about turquoise and old mines. During one of the conversations about the Red Mountain mine Tony had mentioned that one of the early mine owners, Don Potts, was still alive and living in Nevada. After getting a little more information I had the name of the town where he lived and was starting to get excited. Although many times when I meet one of the older mine owners they no longer have any of their turquoise left, every so often they will still have a few special pieces.
I’m beginning to get a little ahead of myself so let me go back to my meeting at the IN and OUT Burger. After looking over all of the Blue Diamond cabs, I really didn’t see anything that I thought I could use, but then Tony brought out a small blue webbed Papoose nugget to show me. The Papoose mine was never known for any blue webbed material and Tony mentioned that he had only ever found just of couple of these webbed beauties. I didn’t want this nugget to get away and started negotiating to get it out of his pocket and into mine. After some back and forth dealing and then an exchange of money, I was driving home with the webbed nugget in hand.
Now with the Papoose webbed nugget in hand I was anxious to get home and begin to track down Don Potts. Once home I started calling Nevada information checking on listings for anyone named Potts in the area where I thought he should be located. It didn’t take long to have his listing and now to make the call. After the third ring a gentleman answered the phone and identified himself as Don Potts. I told him who I was and then asked if he was the Don Potts who owned the Red Mountain mine in the early 1970’s. He said yes! We started to talk and I had lots of questions about the mine. The early owners, who he had leased it to over the years, the amount of turquoise he took out, the largest nuggets found and questions about the high-grade material that came out of the mine. He answered all of my questions and then told me that he still had one pound left of the top grade found at the mine and that he’s had it since 1974! I wasn’t going to waste any time getting a look at this beautiful turquoise and so I set up a time to meet him at his house the following day. As usual now the problems began.
A large, cold storm was moving into the Sierra and no one knew if the summit road would be open very long. My wife said to stay home and meet later but I had lost out to other collectors and dealers too many times by waiting. It was going to take more than a snow storm to keep me from a chance at a pound of the finest Red Mountain turquoise still available.
I had a long drive ahead of me, possibly through bad weather so I was anxious to get on the road. I left Saturday at 8am, stopped to fill my 4 x 4 Toyota pick-up with gas and then to the donut shop. With a bag of donuts and a truck filled with gas I was on my way. I started up Highway 50 headed over the Sierra Nevada mountains. All was clear until I got close to the summit. At about seven thousand feet high the storm was going strong and I lock into four-wheel drive and slowed down.
Finally after getting over the summit and then around Lake Tahoe I headed into the Nevada high-desert hoping the worst was behind me. Driving for a few hours now I new I was getting close. Once I was through ‘Hole-In-The-Wall’ and then ‘The Canyon’ I’d be there. The trip through ‘The Canyon’ was just as beautiful as always.
Don lived just a few miles on the other side of the Hole-in-the-Wall canyon so I was
starting to get pretty excited. After checking my directions and making a few turns I was finally parked in front of his house. Don opened the door and we said our hellos. Once inside we sat down and began getting to know each other. Then we started to talk about turquoise and mining the Red Mountain claim. He told me that the Red Mountain mine was first claimed by the Edgar brothers who had the Carico Lake claim at the time. Red Mountain is just above Carico Lake and the Edgar brothers had discovered turquoise up on Red Mountain. They first operated the X-15 mine at Red Mountain and then moved the few hundred yards up to where the Red Mountain Claim is now.
There have been numerous owners and leasers of the Red Mountain claim since the Edger brothers. Don told me that after the Edgar brothers had the claim Menless Winfield owned the Red Mountain claim during the 1960’s. Winfield had also been the owner of the Lone Mountain claim in Nevada and the Villa Grove claim in Colorado.Warren A Turner had picked up the Red Mountain claim
from Winfield and Don was able to buy it from Turner around 1970. After working the claim for a couple of years he leased it to others for another few years then Don sold the claim to Warren A Turner. The Red Mountain had been leased to quite a few miners over the years. After Don and I talked about
the history of the mine he moved over to a table and began to show me the turquoise that he still had left from 1974. There was a one pound bag of high-grade rough, some beautiful gem cabs, nuggets and even some jewelry.We talked awhile about his high-grade turquoise and then about the
price he wanted for the pieces that he still had left after all of these years. After agreeing on the price I made payment, thanked Don and said good-bye. Once again I was back on the road and headed over a snowy summit hoping to get home before midnight. This time feeling pretty good with some of Nevada’s finest turquoise by my side wondering where my next trip might take me.