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Shelling author spells out fun with Alphabet shells

By Staff | Nov 12, 2009

There are some people who live one ordinary life. Then there are some who live one extraordinary life. But then there’s Harlan Wittkopf.

Wittkopf is a retired bankruptcy lawyer with a loving wife and successful children. He is a top sheller even though he hails from the midwest – a place shells are no known to be found.

And his shelling success led him to become author of several of Sanibel’s best selling shell books including his first book, “The Sanibel Kaleidoscope”, published in 1997, and co-author with international shelling writer Peter Dance.

Last March his alphabet shell collection got international attention when Dance, a British author published a chapter about Wittkopf. The book received international attention.

To top off this list off, Wittkopf now has a brochure circulating far and wide, about his once-in-a-lifetime find a set of alphabet cone shells featuring all of the letters of the alphabet. He also has alphabet shells depicting numbers. His collection is believed to be the first in the world.

Apparently alphabet shells have patterns on their shells that produce letter-like images.

Wittkopf, an Iowa native, is eager to deliver the brochure to as many people as possible – especially children.

“It’s fun to see the kids get excited,” he said. “It’s meant to draw the young people.”

His wife Jeanne, a retired school teacher, said the alphabet cones is a great way to stimulate kids interest for learning the letters.

Meanwhile the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum – for which Wittkopf is charter life member – will carry the brochures.

Dr. Jose Leal, executive director and curator for the Shell Museum said he is delighted to have the brochures. The brochures have already generated interest in finding alphabet cones among children.

During a recent field trip to the museum, a child blurted out “there’s the alphabet guy” upon spotting Wittkopf.

Wittkopf has spent the last 35 collecting shells on Sanibel during vacations. But it wasn’t until five or six years ago that Wittkopf honed in on the alphabet shells. He and wife would stroll up and down the gulfside of the Lighthouse scanning for the shells. Now his work as a sheller is top seller in numerous books. He has been a best seller for 12 years and “The Sanibel Kaleidoscope” is now going into its fifth edition. He is the author of, “Favorite Collectible Sanibel Shells”, and co-author with Anne Joffe of “Seashells of Sanibel and Gulf Coast Beaches”.

Wittkopf can be contacted at hwshells@netamumail.com.