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The 48th annual Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree, 2011

Last Updated: 17th Oct 2011

By Michael J. Bainbridge

Well okay, it's not exactly breaking news anymore, but with almost 10 months until the next one, I figure it's still worth talking about why you should plan to go to the Bancroft Gemboree. Enjoy!


I was around eight when my parents packed my two brothers and I into the old city bus they had converted into a family vacation on wheels for the three-hour tour to that Canadian mineral Mecca: Bancroft, Ontario. That was almost thirty years ago, and to be honest, I don't remember much of my first Gemboree experience, but I'm glad to see that families are still spilling out of modest campers, looking haggered and road-weary, much like I imagine we would have all those years ago.

Although much has changed in that time - new venue(s), different management, more dealers, etcetera - the charm and excitement of Canada's largest gem and mineral show remains firmly rooted somewhere between the Tucson Electric Park and a good old arena show.

It's been about seven years now that I've been attending the Gemboree faithfully, and I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone's done a Mindat show report on it. This was also the first time I hung out my shingle as a vendor (Bainbridge Photo), so with a bit more of an inside look, I thought it was a good time to share my experiences (and minerals) with you.

Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree - August Civic Holiday Long Weekend (Thursday~Sunday) - Aug 2~5, 2012


The Gemboree boasts over 100 dealers, in two venues (three, really - including the outdoor vendors). This makes it Canada's largest show, and being in Bancroft ("Canada's Mineral Capital"), the premier event on Canada's mineralogical calendar. Not nearly as big, but also worth attending is the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club show which is held at the Bancroft Legion the Sunday before the Gemboree. With only around 25 dealers, it might be easy to overlook, but you'll find a lot of local collectors and dealers who only do this show. There are also a number of familiar faces though, giving you a chance to high-grade what others will have to wait until Thursday to see.

What a lot of people will do (including many of the dealers you'll find at the main show) is come to Bancroft for the Club show to get in on some early deals, spend the week collecting in the field and enjoying the comradery, and then stay on through the following Sunday for the Gemboree - more like 'Bancroft Mineral Week'. Here's a big tremolite one of our friendly neighbours to the south dug up in the week between the Club show and the Gemboree:

Tremolite, near Salerno Lake in Haliburton County (note twonie for scale. If you have no idea what, or how big, a twonie is, you'll just have to come to Canada to find out.)


So what's so great about the Gemboree? Well, the minerals, of course! Now, I only collect Canadian minerals, and that's the best reason to go to the Gemboree, so that's what you're going to see in this report - Canadian minerals. Apologies to all dealers of Indian zeolites, Brazillian quartz, and fine worldwide miscellany (of which there are many excellent examples at the Gemboree - both specimens and dealers), but that's hardly what sets this show apart from others.

So, as I mentioned, there are two indoor venues for the Gemboree: the Arena, and the Curling Club. Both are just outside the town centre, and only a few hundred meters apart, but there is bus service between them. So starting with the Arena building - as most people do - here's what you'll see (TIP: if you're planning on going early in the show, or first thing in the morning, try starting at the Curling Club to avoid long line-ups at the "main" entrance):

Meet Kim Forge, General Manager at the Bancroft & District Chamber of Commerce (and enthusiastic collector!), helping out at the door.
Tony Steede, from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto doing mineral identification.
And, of course, showcases - this one also from the ROM


Minerals of Canada by Robert Beckett - click on photo for details
Specimens and photos from the Michael Bainbridge collection - why does that name sound familiar? This was my first showcase! Click on photos for details
Three recent acquisitions for the Bancroft Mineral Museum: andradite-grossular from the Marmoraton Mine; grossular from the York River Skarn, Illmenite from the Bently Lake Occurrence
Minerals of the Canadian Beekmantown formation by Jonathan Levinger
Minerals of Rapid Creek by George Thompson
Minerals of the Bancroft Area by Wendy Melanson (Bancroft Gem & Mineral Club members' specimens)



Once you make it past the lobby area you'll find the main attraction: Dealers! As I mentioned earlier, the Gemboree does a fine job of servicing local collectors for whom this might be their best chance to feed their need for worldwide specimens, but looking at it from an international perspective; if you're traveling to a "local" show, you should look for great deals on "local" minerals. Some have said that local collectors have a tendency to hugely over-value stuff that they collected themselves, and sure, you'll find some of that here, but in my humble opinion I think you'll find that Canadian minerals tend to be hugely under-valued at home. As is the standard, I've hidden the prices on labels to protect the innocent, but to give you an idea, you're going to see a lot of specimens later that I bought at the show - The most expensive was $150. Most, however, were $25 or less. Granted, they're not exactly world-class, and it's not like you could take them elsewhere and add a zero or anything, but having looked at a lot of comparable specimens online and in Tucson, most would be considered a steal at twice the price (or maybe I'm just deluding myself - whatever, you be the judge).



If you've been to Tucson, you'll probably recognize a few familiar faces...
like Wendy Melanson, of Hawthorneden...




...and Darryl McFarland, of Grenville Minerals, seen here cracking a geode for five-year-old Madeline (she picked a winner, by the way).




Tony Gordian is another Tucson familiar that you'll find in the Arena building who's got some extraordinary deals on some great Canadian classics like the Jeffrey mine and Mount Saint-Hilaire. This year, most of his table was covered by 1 & 5 dollar flats filled with specimens he was liquidating from an old Ontario/Quebec collection, including some really interesting locality pieces (see specimens I bought below).



For the most part you're going to see a lot of Canadian dealers who tend to stay a little closer to home though.
Like Kerry Day, of Kaygeedee minerals.

He had a bunch of really great Mount Brussilof specimens that he picked up from another prominent Canadian, Rod Tyson, who is apparently still clearing out the last of his dealer stock.
Here's a very nice little dolomite (which I bought). Hard to tell from the picture, but it has an unusual 'bubbly' habit that I'd not seen before (the triagonal twins are, of course, more popular). Gemmy, no dammage, and nicely dusted with magnesite - love it!
One of a few great svanbergites Kerry had from this lot.
Here's a very nice little dolomite (which I bought). Hard to tell from the picture, but it has an unusual 'bubbly' habit that I'd not seen before (the triagonal twins are, of course, more popular). Gemmy, no dammage, and nicely dusted with magnesite - love it!
One of a few great svanbergites Kerry had from this lot.
Here's a very nice little dolomite (which I bought). Hard to tell from the picture, but it has an unusual 'bubbly' habit that I'd not seen before (the triagonal twins are, of course, more popular). Gemmy, no dammage, and nicely dusted with magnesite - love it!
One of a few great svanbergites Kerry had from this lot.







The Bancroft Chamber of Commerce (who runs the Gemboree), also has a booth where you can get local field-collecting guides, or make a donation to the Train Station Restoration Fund.
Here, the ladies are showing off an artist's rendition of the fully restored Train Station.

If you were in Bancroft more than five or six years ago, you'd remember that the Chamber office used to be in the historic train station along with the Mineral Museum of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club. The building was condemned, the Chamber moved, and the Museum went into storage, but "we can rebuild him - better than he was!" The $1,000,000+ project will see the building fully restored and expanded, with a new 1,200 sq. foot home for the Museum, opening in 2012 - stay tuned! Donations can also be made directly to the Museum fund for display cases, specimens, dioramas, etc...



Once you've made your way through the arena building, you come to the exit to the outdoor vendor's area.
Tent city

This is what was once known as the "Swappers' Area". It used to be that you would only find local field-collectors here, and you would trade in specimens or swapper's dollars. This is still where you will find most of the local collectors, and many are still more than happy to consider trades, but real money is now used, and it's become a stepping-stone for those on a waiting list to get a spot inside, so you'll also see a few regular dealers here. If you've been to the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium, you'll recognize these folks:


Jonathan Levinger. If you're looking for Quebec specimens, you've come to the right place.

Like most of the Canadian dealers, Jonathan has a lot of material from classic Canadian locations like Rapid Creek, but he tends to have some more higher-end stuff. Here's one he brought by for me to photograph:
lazulite, siderite, and quartz from Rapid Creek, Yukon - 8.8cm high

Some more of his offerings:
click for details
large, twinned matrix cubanites like this are pretty hard to find!
Lots of Jeffrey mine stuff. Large suolunites above from Black Lake
Also of note is material from Jonathan's own collecting at lesser known locations like the Marcil quarry in St. Clotilde, Quebec (Beekmantown calcite, dolomite, quartz, etc. See showcase above).
click for details
large, twinned matrix cubanites like this are pretty hard to find!
Lots of Jeffrey mine stuff. Large suolunites above from Black Lake
Also of note is material from Jonathan's own collecting at lesser known locations like the Marcil quarry in St. Clotilde, Quebec (Beekmantown calcite, dolomite, quartz, etc. See showcase above).
click for details
large, twinned matrix cubanites like this are pretty hard to find!
Lots of Jeffrey mine stuff. Large suolunites above from Black Lake
Also of note is material from Jonathan's own collecting at lesser known locations like the Marcil quarry in St. Clotilde, Quebec (Beekmantown calcite, dolomite, quartz, etc. See showcase above).




George Thompson, the nicest guy in specimen mineralogy.

George isn't a dealer. He just buys and sells off extra stuff (lots of it) to feed his personal collecting habit. He and Dave (below) are two of those vendors you'll only see at the Gemboree, or the Bancroft Club show the week before (come early, stay late!). George also has a lot of eastern Canada specimens he's collected himself (Ontario through Nova Scotia), and networks with other dealers like Doug Wilson (Wilson Minerals - Nova Scotia), to bring you some of their offerings as well. Doug would also normally be found in the tent city, but he broke his foot while collecting this summer and couldn't make it this year.
A flat of Marmoraton mine axinites that George collected and showed off at the RMS last year.
The one that got away! Somebody got to this photogenic miniature before I saw it - curses! If you bought this piece, I want it - PM me!
George showing off one of his purchases at this year's Gemboree - a manganite from Atikokan, Ontario.
A good example of the type of deals on Canadian classics that you'll see a lot of at the Gemboree. Yes, it's only wee, but that's a very affordable, very nice little serandite!
A flat of Marmoraton mine axinites that George collected and showed off at the RMS last year.
The one that got away! Somebody got to this photogenic miniature before I saw it - curses! If you bought this piece, I want it - PM me!
George showing off one of his purchases at this year's Gemboree - a manganite from Atikokan, Ontario.
A good example of the type of deals on Canadian classics that you'll see a lot of at the Gemboree. Yes, it's only wee, but that's a very affordable, very nice little serandite!
A flat of Marmoraton mine axinites that George collected and showed off at the RMS last year.
The one that got away! Somebody got to this photogenic miniature before I saw it - curses! If you bought this piece, I want it - PM me!
George showing off one of his purchases at this year's Gemboree - a manganite from Atikokan, Ontario.
A good example of the type of deals on Canadian classics that you'll see a lot of at the Gemboree. Yes, it's only wee, but that's a very affordable, very nice little serandite!





Here are a few great specimens George brought to me at the show:
Click for details
Click for details
Click for details
Click for details
Click for details
Click for details




David K. Joyce, with ever present guitar.

You might not easily recognize this frequent Mindat contributor, as the northern grey-crested internet dealer can be rather shy, coming out of hibernation only once or twice a year to liquidate surplus stock, but when he does, there is always cause for much re-Joyce-ing (sorry), as he will often be heard regaling fortunate passers-by with his familiar song: "Oh, the Crystals that I've Known". Dave can, however, always be found in his natural nocturnal habitat, George and Jonathan's room in Rochester.
Dave is always the first person that the other collector/dealers descend upon to see what will emerge from his 'all half price, all the time' flats as he's unpacking at the Club show.



Also in the Outdoor area, you'll find activities like panning for gold, and metal detector trials at the "Prospector's tent".



There's also some cool mining artifacts...



And, of course, lots of Yates Mine (Otter Lake) apatite.



On now to the Curling Club...

If you're getting tired by now, you can take the shuttle bus between the Arena and the Curling Club, although it's really not that far.
Curling Club venue

In the background you can see the rock climbing wall (just in case you're not yet tired enough), and some of the food vendors - try the poutine!

Being stuck in, or near my dark room most of the time, I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked at the Curling Club, but there's every bit as much reason to go there as to the Arena building. Apparently a lot of people don't bother, but that's a mistake - more dealers, different dealers, other activities, etcetera - and going there first, is a good way to avoid lineups to buy your entrance ticket at the arena (of course, now that I've said that, everyone's going to start lining up at the Curling Club instead!).

Similar to what Tony Steede does in the arena with mineral identification, the Canadian Gemmological Association is set up in the Curling Club doing gem identification. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of them, so here's a gem identification quiz for you instead (a cut stone oddity from the Bob Beckett collection):
What's this? Click for the answer...

BTW, the CGA will be having their 22nd annual conference in Vancouver this year, November 18~20, 2011. http://www.gemconference2011.com/

My personal find of the show was made at the Curling Club. Rob Hudyma had a flat with about half a dozen killer pieces from the long-dead Polaris mine that he had recently culled from his collection. It was behind his table, but I heard about it from Bob Beckett (below), with whom I did some wheeling-and-dealing for pieces I'd collected to get the cash to buy this one for my 'Photogenic Miniature Collection' (don't judge, I've got lots of ugly rare specimens too):

Galena and sphalerite from the Polaris Mine, Nunavut - 4.7cm high



This is Rob Hudyma (one of those purveyors of fine worldwide specimens I said I wasn't going to talk about).



And these are the rest of his Polaris mine specimens.




This is Bob Beckett, posing with another cute little serandite from MSH. It's big brother is currently on loan to the ROM.

Bob volunteers as the coordinator for the Outdoor Vendor's area at the Gemboree, is the Past President of the Central Canadian Federation of Mineralogical Societies, heavily involved with the ROM, a passionate advocate for the hobby, and the busiest retired guy around. Like George, he's not a dealer, but has a lot of extra material he has to get rid of (or at least so his wife Brenda says). Bob bought a couple of old collections recently, but he's got really high standards for his own collection so there was still a lot of really great stuff left for the rest of us after he got his picks.
More great MSH pieces - mostly rhodochrosite and elpidite - see below for a closer look at the one I got.
a BIG Madoc fluorite. Sorry about the colour - that's my one complaint about the CC building: the lighting sucks for photography! You don't really notice it person though.
More great MSH pieces - mostly rhodochrosite and elpidite - see below for a closer look at the one I got.
a BIG Madoc fluorite. Sorry about the colour - that's my one complaint about the CC building: the lighting sucks for photography! You don't really notice it person though.
More great MSH pieces - mostly rhodochrosite and elpidite - see below for a closer look at the one I got.
a BIG Madoc fluorite. Sorry about the colour - that's my one complaint about the CC building: the lighting sucks for photography! You don't really notice it person though.
STOLEN MINERAL ALERT: the analcime in center the front row, from the George and Susan Robinson Collection, was taken from this flat later in the day (I know because I went back to buy it later). PM me if you know of its whereabouts. This is a very rare occurrence at the Gemboree, but hey, it happens everywhere.

Brenda Beckett has her own Gemboree offerings as well. She makes jewelry using rare Canadian gemstones:
blue oligoclase from the Faraday mine, Bancroft, ON
Canadian Jewelry
Hessonite from the York River Skarn, also Bancroft
blue oligoclase from the Faraday mine, Bancroft, ON
Canadian Jewelry
Hessonite from the York River Skarn, also Bancroft
blue oligoclase from the Faraday mine, Bancroft, ON
Canadian Jewelry
Hessonite from the York River Skarn, also Bancroft


Bob also showed me some of the new material that's been coming out of the Princess Sodalite Quarry recently (a few kilometers east of Bancroft).


And finally, here's a better look at that incredible copper from Bob's minerals of Canada case:
2" spinel-law twin!




Well, that's it for Bancroft Mineral Week 2011.



If you're interested, here are some more of the specimens that I got at the shows for my collection. I've indicated whether I picked them up at the Club show or the Gemboree, just for interest's sake. And it's worth saying again, the vast majority of these were $25 or less (mostly less). Consider this my version of Jolyon's $10 or less case at Tucson last year. If you want more info on a specimen, click on the pic to go to the photo page.

The first one is another for my Photogenic Miniatures Collection. I know it's not a significant specimen that really deserves a name or anything, but I was going to call it "the umbrella tree", for obvious reasons. There was someone standing to my left when I was taking the first picture though (looking at it from a different angle), and she said "Oh my God, it looks like Albert Einstien!"

The umbrella tree - Gemboree
Now I call him "Albert".
The umbrella tree - Gemboree
Now I call him "Albert".
The umbrella tree - Gemboree
Now I call him "Albert".







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Comments

Superb article and fun photos---I sure wish I could make it to the Gemboree again! Thanks for sharing!

Dana Slaughter
18th Oct 2011 4:18am
WOW! EXCELLENT report, Michael! Thanks very much!

Maggie Wilson
18th Oct 2011 11:12am
Michael,

Great article; I have to get back to Bancroft for the show. It has been many years.



Joseph Polityka
18th Oct 2011 3:29pm
Thanks, Michael. Looks very nice - I MUST go again. (Will repeat this mantra to myself for 10 months.)

Alfredo Petrov
19th Oct 2011 5:40am
I was there for the first time this year...wish I had seen an article like this beforehand...I would have been more aware!...next year I will. Thanks for sharing.

John Montgomery
19th Oct 2011 12:00pm
I missed only one since 1986, the year that was the beginning of the rebirth of the outside swap.
Thanks for one of the best show reports Michael, keep the good work, hope to see you in Montreal Nov 4th to Nov 6th.
Montreal show is another Canadian venue worth visiting and I hope you can write another excellent report this time about this one.

Jonathan Levinger
19th Oct 2011 6:21pm
This year was the best year in a while for picking through what the dealers offered. It looks like a number of recycled collections emerged. There were scarcities, rarities, classics and exceptionals to be had, especially Canadian locales. There were also a few world-wide specimens worth consideration, many of these coming from older collections.
Looking forward to the show next year.

Peter Szarka
21st Oct 2011 3:44am
Thanks all!

Sorry Jonathan, I had really hoped to make the Montreal show, but I'm afraid it's not going to happen this year, but not to worry, it's on the books for next year. I'd love to hear your version of events though!

Alfredo, I'm going to hold you to that...

P.S., 2013 is the Gemboree's 50th anniversary!

Michael J. Bainbridge
1st Nov 2011 3:41pm

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