It’s a thrill for anyone when you’re walking along the beach and you see that little black glint in the sand. Finding a shark tooth is like happening upon a seaside treasure. And while some people have a knack for collecting them, there are also people like Justin Ashton who have taken shark tooth hunting to the next level. His collection of shark teeth is enormous and when we heard about it, we knew that there had to be a story there. So we sat down with him to find out how this massive collection got started.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your day job? I grew up in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. My family is 5th generation Floridian of Minorcan lineage and we take a lot of pride in that. I am an electrician by day and when I am not at work you can probably find me offshore fishing or out fossil hunting.
What got you started in shark tooth hunting? Growing up, we were constantly at the beach. My dad started me pretty young looking for sharks teeth while beach fishing. He has a pretty extensive collection of beach teeth and driftwood that he makes cool art out of. Once I started getting more interested in Florida history, geology and prehistoric fossils the obsession really started.
How often do you get to go out searching and how many teeth do you typically find? I usually make 3-4 trips per month. Some of them are day trips and other times I spend a few days camping and kayaking, finding spots to search. Sometimes as few as one and as many as 1,000.
What sort of shark teeth do you find? Are you able to identify them? I am able to identify all of the fossils I find. It’s so fascinating and I love doing research. The different color teeth are from different types/colors of clay that they were packed in while fossilizing, and you can guess the age of the tooth based on when that type of shark existed on earth. I have a large collection of megalodon teeth, extinct makos, great whites, bull and tiger sharks. I also have tons of equus teeth, giant ground sloth bones, and a mastodon tooth. My collection is pretty extensive as far as Florida prehistoric fossils go.
What do you do with the teeth once you’ve got them? I have a case for the perfect whole teeth and fossils. I make some of those into necklaces. Once I had too many imperfect teeth to keep I started making shark art with the broken ones. They are pretty time-consuming and one of a kind. I sell the originals and prints at dHd Home.
How many shark teeth do you currently have in your possession? To be totally honest I have too many teeth to count at this point. I probably have tens of thousands of small or broken teeth that I use for art pieces, and several hundred large perfect teeth. My largest tooth is 6.25 inches (the world record is 7.48″).
Photography by Dawn Wallace