Edinburgh’s Best Shopping: Mr Wood’s Fossils
As part of our series on Edinburgh’s Best Shopping, Dickins spoke to Matt Dale, owner of Mr Wood’s Fossils. We spoke to him about the fascinating shop, how he came to own the shop and why fossils might just make someone’s Christmas.
When did you open?
The shop opened in 1987, after the famous fossil hunter Stan Wood had a stream of visitors to see his collection, then housed in his garage. Stan found a great many fossils of international importance over his career, many of which are in the museum on Chambers St. He died a little while ago, but his last few years were very productive and there should be a big exhibition on his last discoveries in February.
What was the inspiration for the shop?
I was Stan’s manager in the shop from 1998, after a short career with Glasgow Museums. I’d finished a degree in geology at Glasgow University, worked as a volunteer in three different museums then taken a post-grad course in Museums Studies at Leicester University before returning to Glasgow. I bought the business from him in 2006.
Could you tell us about 3 things in your shop that would make ideal presents?
The shop has a wide range of stock – there are not enough dedicated collectors to support the business, so we try to appeal to as broad a base as possible. I try to make sure there are plenty of things to transcend the geological subject matter and just be attractive or appealing objects in their own right. Dinosaur teeth are always popular and we always have a few at affordable prices. I sell a lot of Spinosaurus teeth at £5, for example.
Meteorites also tend to capture the imagination. A lump of metal that formed billions of years ago, and has travelled through space before slamming into Earth… a bit of story behind an object can make a big difference. From a purely aesthetic point of view, our sectioned ammonites are a favourite. From Majunga in Madagascar and 110 million years old, their familiar spiral makes them a beautiful, decorative object as well as an iconic fossil.
If you were to be given a gift from your own shop, what would you like and why?
I do tend to end up with a few things from the shop from time to time. At the moment we have an enormous shark tooth – Carcharocles megalodon – from South Carolina. It’s beautiful, and I think that might be what I’d pick, though possibly an elephant bird egg or a mammoth tusk.
What do you love most about Christmas in Edinburgh?
I like working in the shop in the run-up to Christmas in Edinburgh. I love it when people are happy they’ve found the perfect present for someone they were struggling with. Fossils tend to be well-received – something a little different and memorable.
Will you be visiting the Fossil Shop this Christmas?