Salt water echinoderms or more popularly known as sand dollars can be found in most seawater beaches. The sand dollar, which is related to the starfish or sea urchin, is protected by a hard outer shell that displays various designs to intimidate and confuse predators. When these sea creatures die, the hard shell that remains is collected and sold as an intricate and beautiful memorabilia or souvenir. Here are some tips on how to find these beautiful creatures and how to preserve the beauty and resilience of the shell.
Check the rules on beachcombing in your area. Before going ahead with your search for the perfect sand dollar shell, you may want to check if your town, city, or state has regulations preventing beachcombing. Certain beaches are under preservation laws and beachcombing is strictly prohibited so make sure you only search beaches that are free from restrictions.
Prepare for the search. For the search, you will need a bucket with a rag padding the bottom and sides of the bucket. The skeleton of a sand dollar is very sensitive to scratches and cracks so you may want to keep each shell you collect well protected.
Search for sand dollars. The best time to search for sand dollar skeletons is usually after a storm or typhoon. The skeletons usually wash up on the beach during storms and heavy rains where waves are more active and aggressive. Aside from this tip, make sure to focus your search on moist beach areas. Do not search in the water since most of the sand dollars still in the water will probably still be alive. Concentrate on moist parts of the beachfront. Make sure that you only collect dead sand dollars. If you find a sand dollar a coating of hairs that look like molds, then these critters are still alive and you should leave them alone.
Clean and preserve each sand dollar. Once you complete your collection, go back to your house and rinse each specimen with tap water. After a thorough rinse, soak the sand dollars in a bucket composed of a mixture of water and bleach. Make sure to soak it for not more than 15 minutes. The solution will remove any residue and dirt still clinging to the specimen. If you leave the sand dollar soaking in the solution for more than 15 minutes, the skeleton will slowly disintegrate. Anyway, once you complete the cleaning and soaking, make sure to air dry each skeleton.
Remove the hairs in the mouth. If you will notice, the sand dollar will have a small hole at the bottom center of the skeleton. This is the mouth and it contains hair follicles. You will want to remove this immediately to preserve the skeleton. Use a toothpick to clean and remove these hairs.
Paint the sand dollar. To apply the finishing preservation touches, mix a solution of one part glue and one part water. Apply the mixture using a paint brush on the totality of the skeleton. Once dry, the solution will preserve the surface and maintain its unique beauty.
Follow these steps and you should be able to accumulate a wonderful and magnificent collection of sand dollars all with very unique designs and decorations. You can either sell it to tourists or display them inside a glass display.