What are hard shell lobsters?

A hard shell lobster is a lobster that has not recently molted, or shed its shell.  Black mottled spots under the claws of a live lobster indicate that the lobster is a hard shelled lobster.

Hard shell lobsters usually have more meat than soft shell lobsters, and because they are stronger and less vulnerable, they are much easier to ship.  For those who do not live in Maine or other lobster fishing areas, it makes sense to order hard shell lobsters for delivery, since they are easier to keep alive during shipping.  Many lobster dealers will not ship live soft shell lobsters (although they may sell cooked lobster meat from soft shell lobsters), and so it makes sense to order hard shell lobsters of you are having lobsters delivered far from where they are caught.