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Tucson 1992 to 2013

Posted by Rock Currier  
Rock Currier March 26, 2013 03:17AM
Each year at Tucson the dealers and those attending the show ask each other questions like “How is the show for you this year?” or “What new and impressive thing have you seen?” or “Has the show gotten larger this year? So here are some statistics gleaned from the last 20 or so years of the big Tucson Show guides that we have all at one time or another lugged around the show to try and find the answers to those questions. It would appear that the show has been shrinking slowly each year since 2007.

The Tucson Gem and mineral show from 1992 to 2013.
Year Exhibitors Venues Pages Weight
1992....1704........18......314...1.56 lbs
1993....1751........20......394...1.96 lbs
1994....1979........23......442...2.02 lbs
1995....2314........21......490...2.21 lbs
1996....2420........23......578...2.64 lbs
1997....2531........23......578...2.72 lbs
1998....2365........23......594...2.75 lbs
1999....2527........29......578...2.77 lbs
2000....2928........30......530...2.62 lbs
2001....2698........29......530...2.58 lbs
2002....2803........35......466...2.31 lbs
2003....2844........34......492...2.28 lbs
2004....3046........38......482...2.48 lbs
2005....3422........43......501...2.63 lbs
2007....3935........44.....500...2.44 lbs
2008....3798........41.....500...2.08 lbs
2009....3640........45.....450...2.03 lbs
2010....3242........43.....426...1.91 lbs
2011....3188........43.....393...1.61 lbs
2012....3203........39.....321...1.34 lbs
2013....3127........37.....321...1.49 lbs

Of course these numbers from the show guides are not all that accurate because there are a number of other venues around town where just one or a few dealers are present. It also does not take into account the hoards people set up in gas stations or just hustling stuff out of the back of their vehicles or campers. But the numbers do give a snap shot of how the show has been during the last 20 years.

Note that I have no data for 2006. If someone can locate a 2005 copy of the buyers guide for that year and do the counts I would be greatful. I found a 2006 Metaphysical buyers guide on Amazon, but not the Colored stone 2006 buyers guide.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 08:04PM by Rock Currier.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph March 26, 2013 01:42PM
I think I have the 2006 guide somewhere at home
Bob Harman March 26, 2013 03:10PM
While very non-scientific, Rock's Tucson Show guide weight study does give a glimpse into recent trends. I agree with his assessment that the show has been slowly shrinking over the past several years. This was confirmed by several friends who attended this year; I did not attend this year, but hope to next February.

After the show quickly enlarged in the early years of the last decade, the worldwide economy faltered and gasoline prices rapidly rose, all conspiring to work against many dealers trying to sell rocks to hobbyists. Actually all that has happened is not to be unexpected. The 25 - 30+ high end dealers are affected, but apparently less so than other mid and lower range dealers as the larger customer base of these lower range dealers probably was more affected by the faltering economy. For mid and lower range dealers, it is expensive to cart around tons of rock from their homes to one show after another. Most of these dealers have to break even to stay on the travel circuit or they drop out after a year or two or three. In addition, I believe that all hobbies, over time, have their ups and downs. Classic and hi end stamp collecting was a hot item in the late 1970s thru about the early 1990s but then really took a hit. As an aside, I googled the Holland tulip bulb bubble of 1637 and read some interesting facts of that gardening hobby bubble so many hundreds of years ago. So all this is not new!

Now we can look forward to a better US (and hopefully worldwide) economy with both stabilizing Tucson Show attendance (dealer and customer) and stabilizing or even more affordable specimen prices. CHEERS.........BOB

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 03:25PM by BOB HARMAN.
Kelly Nash March 26, 2013 03:47PM
Although the downward trend in dealers started before it's passage in April, 2010; and is probably mostly due to economics, I think the state's harsh anti-immigration law and attendant policies may have also contributed to a depressed attendance by some dealers and visitors (it's kept me away, and I'm a documented American citizen).
David Von Bargen March 26, 2013 05:00PM
If you look at the amount Pima county took in for motel room taxes, there really doesn't seem to be any effect by the boycott (mid 2010)

2008-09 = 1,072,151
2009-10 = 901,924
2010-11 = 894,555
2011-12 = 885,972
2012-13 = 1,017,600
Bob Harman March 26, 2013 05:46PM
Kelly's astute comments on Arizona's political positions about current social issues is probably a minor component to dealer and visitor numbers. But for some small numbers of both dealers and attendees it may be important. Kelly has noted this in the post. I personally know that the shooting of Gabby Gifford and killing of others at that rally several years ago, left me feeling rather cold about ever coming to Arizona and spending even one dime there ever again. At this time, I am still not sure of my future there.

David's comments on the motel tax revenues show equivocal numbers, down until up this past 2013 season. I assume they are for each full year; if we could cull out the months of January and February during the Tucson show time, we might get more meaningful figures. But, I think the overall economy (recently improving) is responsible along with the state's political and social policy. Also, if you look at the year 2013 in terms of 2008-2009 motel prices (and room tax) you might find the motel tax revenues to not be as high as they initially seem to be ???? CHEERS............BOB

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 05:55PM by BOB HARMAN.
Alfredo Petrov March 26, 2013 06:04PM
Over the last 12 years I've noticed some reduction in number of European visitors to the Tucson show, but I think this is more due to federal government policies rather than anything done in Arizona. Europeans were quite upset by rough handling of specimens in luggage by the TSA after the 2001 terrorist attacks. (Luckily there has been some slight improvement in this field in recent years.) Visa requirements became more onerous for many potential visitors. And in 2010 the government instituted the $14 ESTA fee to apply for entry (allegedly a "tourism promotion fee" - Great way to "promote" something, by charging :-S ). Anecdotally a couple of Europeans told me this is why they no longer come to Tucson, but I suspect that it is statistically of little significance compared to the overall numbers of attendees, and has been more than offset by increasing numbers of visitors from Australia and China.

One thing the motel tax figures don't reflect is the ever increasing number of visitors sharing rent for houses and apartments and thereby avoiding the inflated motel prices altogether.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 06:07PM by Alfredo Petrov.
Phil M. Belley March 26, 2013 07:32PM
Figure 1. Normalized values of # of exhibitors and approximate average of Dow Jones Industrial Index (for previous year) to illustrate the correlation between Tucson show size and US economy.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 07:33PM by Phil M. Belley.
open | download - Tucson shows.jpg (141.9 KB)
Rock Currier March 26, 2013 08:18PM
Yes, it is not very scientific. I was writing up a Tucson report to send out via email to our customers and started to think about how to try and get a handle on what has been happening at Tucson that would be more indicative of reality rather than a bunch of stories about how I or someone talked to some dealers and asked how they did or if they felt sales and or the attendance had been and they said such and such. I thought about calling up some trucking companies or some of the air lines and trying to find out what kind of freight increase took place during the show for various years. Almost certainly most of them don't keep track of such things beyond noting they get a big boost in freight and trying for data for past consecutive years would almost lead no where. So I figured that down and dirty, the best bet to get a bit of a look in on what was happening was to pull numbers from the big show guide. Counting up all the dealers was by far the most time consuming part of this little project and I threw in the weight of each years guide as a sort of a lark. After all, how many of us have lugged that monster around the show from time to time. Peter McGaw to whom I sent a copy of the data to said he would turn it over to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society show committee. Perhaps the Tucson Chamber off Commerce may have other and better statistics, but I doubt it.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Steve Hardinger March 26, 2013 08:21PM
It might be amusing to plot Tucson hotel prices as well.
Phil M. Belley March 26, 2013 08:24PM
Give me any data set and I will plot it. Steve, if you can get hotel prices for 1992-2013 I will do it.


This way it is easy for me to import it into excel.
-- Edit--
Steve: Yes, I know it is not a very good indicator. I have no idea where I could get any other sort of index that might work better, so it's for informational purpose only. Feel free to provide a dataset in the above format.

...By the way I said correlation, I did not say causation ;-)

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/2013 08:32PM by Phil M. Belley.
Rob Woodside March 26, 2013 09:08PM
In the Summer of 2007 the rot began to show up with faltering house prices and evaluation problems with asset backed paper. At that time the US economy had dropped to 30% of the world economy and so a 10% US recession would only be a decline of 3% in the world economy. Why worry? So the 2007 Tucson was the last before the rot set in.

Then American exceptionalism took two forms. The US economy was believed totally superior and absolutely crucial to the world economy, so 1) A US recession would be an absolute disaster and 2) such a recession would destroy the world economy and China would never need another ounce of metal. So throughout the rest of 2007 and until the fall of 2008, investors worried the stock market ever downward.

Finally by the fall of 2008, it was discovered that the emperor had no clothes and insured securities could not be valued. Why buy something if you don't know what it is worth? The distrust of the securities immediately led to distrust of the institutions who owned them. Now there was a full blown crisis of confidence and the Great Recession was on.

The 2009 Tucson was right in the middle of the Dow lows in Nov 2008 and March 2009. Pensions, savings, and jobs were evaporating. The wisdom before that Tucson was: 1) the Big Guys had the most to lose, so the high end would be wiped out. 2) The mid range would get hit but do OK 3) the low end died years ago and this would just shovel more dirt onto its grave. But here's what happened: 1) the big Guys may have lost millions but they still had millions left and the high end rocketed on. 2) The mid range buyers just saw their pension savings evaporate and so their mineral budgets vanished too and the mid range suffered badly. 3) Dealers with old stock priced years ago got very scared and brought this material to market and the low end was resurrected.!!!

Since late 2009 the market has been clawing its way back against the worries about US, China , and Europe. It has been reported that the fear of the US (and everyone else) printing money. meant that commodities were a safe place in addition to gold and bonds. By 2011 it was clear that the currencies weren't the problem and so people started exiting the mining stocks. While the mineral market bobbled along with a small contraction, the rest of the stock market has recovered. However the mining stocks are in real trouble with explorers and developers unable to raise funds.

Supposedly the stock market has some efficiency with narrow spreads between bids and asks and the mineral market much less so with wide spreads between buyers and sellers. Looking at the fluctuations in the stock market in the last few years, I'm not so sure stock trading is that much more efficient. In fact I am coming to the conclusion that any rationality in either market is purely illusory. It is only gambling!
Bob Harman March 26, 2013 09:12PM
Rock's non scientific Tucson Show guide weight and number of advertisers seems to be as good a measure of trends as anything else. Rock, ask the Tucson show committee to give you main show attendance figures for the last 10 - 20 years; that should be easy to do and then correlate them with the number of dealers at the main show and satellite shows. That combination should give a good general idea of dealer/customer trends over the last number of years. To my mind, while there is no real scientific way of measuring any trend of show size, trends are important. Phil might plot Steve's idea of motel prices; I suggest he also plot gasoline prices over the last number of years as well. Only in 10 and 20 and 30 years can we look back at show dealer numbers, attendance figures, specimen price trends and then determine the health of our hobby. But saying all this, it still seems important to try and get a handle on all of this CHEERS.........BOB
Rock Currier March 27, 2013 01:45AM
Bob, thats a good idea. Ill ask Pete and see if I can get the Tucson Gem and Mineral show attendance numbers for those years.


Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Dean Allum March 27, 2013 03:13AM
Rock, this is the first time I have seen any sort of market analysis information.

Is there any chance that more specimen sales are moving online, or into high-end showrooms? Is there any way to get EBAY mineral sales numbers for the last 15 years?

Does anyone think that there will be a surge in collector purchases into China?
Philip Persson March 27, 2013 03:59AM
Rock, Rob and others- Very astute observations and thanks for the thought-provoking thread. As Rob said, trends in mineral collecting, at least as far as purchasing specimens goes, seem to mimic the growing income inequality and associated negative social trends in the U.S.

At the Tucson show this past February, I noticed two major trends, which may be somewhat subjective:

First, The number of dealers carrying rare species or unusual minerals (ie; more than the hundred or so aesthetic, well-known/desirable minerals and localities favored by 'high-end' collectors.)

Second, the number of more 'exclusive' dealers definitely seems to be growing every year. These dealers attempt to separate themselves as much as possible from the 'riff raff' vis-a-vis cordoned off areas with flashy glass cases, flowers, complimentary wine and cheese, etc. Their specimen prices are also quite incredible- it seems almost as if there exists some secret roulette wheel which high end dealers use to calculate their prices. These case are typically full of specimens which start around $500 or so and climb up into the range of a small home. The question is, given the net state of the U.S economy and the ease of getting on the internet and finding a similar specimen for perhaps a tenth of their asking price, how much business are they doing and how much is 'smoke and mirrors'? I certainly wouldn't know. As Rob said though, the really insidious thing about the U.S recession is that the bankers and lawyers and corporate CEO's who supposedly lost their shirts had so much money that taking a million or ten million dollar hit really didn't inconvenience their lifestyle very much. I support the appreciation of fine mineral specimens and dissemination of knowledge on mineralogy and earth science in any form, to be certain, but the present U.S trends don't point towards a very egalitarian future in mineral collecting.

Ah well... as much as I might drool over a 6-inch gem tourmaline or Tsumeb Azurite specimen like any other collector, I know I will never own these things, and frankly get more satisfaction out of going out into the field, collecting some obscure ugly rare earth element minerals, and then analyzing them to find they represent a new species for the U.S, the locality, whatever. Each to his own.

Rob, regarding U.S exceptionalism, we are already getting our comeuppance, but most people are in denial. As someone said once, if you give the Middle Class enough cheap crap from China, processed food, and T.V-fed pop culture, they won't realize they are basically enslaved to a tiny fraction of Americans which control over 40% of our collective wealth.
I love America and many things about it, but feel lucky to have an E.U passport, and living in Sweden again last year was a great change of pace and reality shock as well. Sweden has lots of issues as well, but I will say as far as mineral collecting goes, I was surprised and pleased not only to find a large number of inexpensive, field collector type dealers at the Swedish mineral shows, many with both rare species and an interest/connection to analytical mineralogy, as well as a surprising number of young, broke students interested in mineral collecting. I hope this trend makes it over here.

Regarding mineral specimen 'consumption' by Chinese Collectors, I could definitely see this growing in coming years- Rock would probably be a better person to comment on this as he has actually been to China, but it seems to be that part of the gap has to do with aesthetics- our Western idealization of large, euhedral crystals doesnt always seen to jive with Eastern ideas of form and shape. But, we have exported some of our materialism to China's middle class identity, so who shouldn't they want to buy minerals too? Same would go for India as well.

Joseph Polityka March 29, 2013 12:34AM

Personally, I don't see what immigration policy and shootings have to do with Tucson Show attendance. I doubt any hard working miner from South of the Border would be deterred by immigration policy if they had good minerals to sell or if they feel they can make a living selling minerals, carvings, etc. As for the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Giffords she would probably be the first person to condemn a boycott of her home state and the mineral show in Tucson because boycotts hurt the average citizen, not the politicians. My cousin was murdered in Philadelphia in 1968 by two holdup men, but that has not prevented us from going down to Philly for sporting events and other activities. The working people of Philly did not murder my cousin, two criminals did. Heck, if people took into consideration the war crimes of WW2, no one would go to Germany or to the countries who collaborated with Hitler. My point: people living today had nothing to do with the atrocities of the past. All is forgiven.

I think many of you have pointed out a combination of factors that may have contributed to attendance, from the economic downturn to high travel expenses and hotel prices along with the Internet. Also, the mineral population is ageing, so discretionary income is increasingly being spent on other needs. I went to Tucson in 2010 and spent over $2500. on travel, hotel and other expenses before I spent one penny on minerals, many of which were way over my price range. Heck folks, believe it or not, there are minerals for sale in every part of the world and not all of the good rocks make it to Tucson. Internet dealers and auctions have made it cost effective for me to stay home. Why go to Tucson when I can buy it elsewhere? Yes, the experience of Tucson is great-- from the culture, to the food, to the magnificent scenery; but what is the purpose of attending if all I can afford is a quartz crystal after I pay my expenses?

Here in the East, every show I have attended this year has gotten great support from the general public and support from collectors. Yes, the shows are small with 20 to 30 dealers but the good minerals are still there. What did I get at these shows? An anglesite mini from Idaho, an analcime small cabinet from Michigan (collected in the 1890s), a pink inesite from California, and specimens from other classic locations all in the space of 3 months. Will these shows ever compete with the variety and vastness of Tucson? Of course not,,but they don't mind coming in last if show attenance is good.

Personally, I want Tucson to grow and I want dealers to be successful because it benefits our hobby and science in general. Only time will tell.

Best wishes,

Jolyon & Katya Ralph March 29, 2013 12:51PM
2006 guide in front of me

pages: 480
venues: 34 (but shows 40 - which figure is right? for example, AGTA and TGMS are the same venue)

Not sure where the number of exhibitors is listed - I don't have time to sit and count!

Weight: 2 lb 4.4oz
Jesse Fisher March 29, 2013 04:40PM
Using the total weight of the guide as an indicator of of trends looks a little suspect as the page number to total weight ratio is not consistent. This suggests that there are unaccounted for variables such as changes in the weight of the paper used or something else in the printing process. I know I'm picking nits here, but we are trying to be scientific about this.

Unfortunately, there is always far too much "anecdotal evidence" offered up each year about pricing and attendance trends at Tucson, and I enjoy the effort to find some objective way to measure what is happening from year to year. Plotting attendance figures for the paid admission shows such as TGMS would also give a glimpse at attendance trends, but unfortunately, most of the shows that make up the greater "Tucson Show" are not paid admission, so I'm sure there are no attendance records. With the show now spread out over 2+ weeks, I'm sure there are a significant number of attendees who now come for the early part of the hotel shows but don't stay for the finale at the convention center due to factors including cost, or the need to spend some of one's available vacation time with family who may want to do something other than hang out at a mineral show.

My own "anecdotal evidence" from selling our mine's produce at the show since 2000 is that sales from our wholesale room rose fairly steadily each year. In 2008 with the recession at hand, we were worried about a fall-off, but in fact we sold almost everything we had that year. Subsequent years have been much the same. The produce from the Rogerley has always been mostly wholesale, and I am convinced that there is really an almost limitless market for this sort of thing, if priced correctly. Concurrently, the small number of really good specimens we turn up each year will also readily sell. It's the mid-level stuff that languishes. No surprises there!
Rock Currier March 29, 2013 08:03PM
I am not sure how to reply to or comment in what Jessie's Observations. I might observe that the good specimens always gravitate to where the money is. In the late 1800s a lot of the wealthy people were in the UK and there were some auction houses there that sold specimens that during that time were thought of as insane by the average collector who lamented that only the very rich could hope to own specimens of Chinese cinnabar or Russian Crocoite that were valued at more than their weight in gold. Yes I have been to China, but don't know much about the Chinese market. Brian Lees and Rob Lavinsky both know much more. Both have taken a crack at the Chinese market and think that they may have sold enough to cover their expenses there, but I think that by far the bulk if their sales are still in western countries. It would appear that most of the good specimens that are found anywhere in the world to day still appear to mostly find their way to the USA. But logic dictates that the possible market for specimens in China is huge and at some point as the GDP of China passes that of the USA, that they will become a net importer of specimens and a few rich people in China will develop a western taste for fine specimens and we may see many fine specimens that used to find a home in the USA and Europe will start to flow to China and other parts of Asia and the Middle East. There is already one man buying specimens for a museum in Lebanon that has bought a number of world class specimens at high prices for that Museum.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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