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Posted by Bob Harman  
Bob Harman February 19, 2013 08:00PM
Each year the mineral websites and dealers hype the "greatest rock show on earth". Now Tucson 2013 has come and gone. While I was not there this year, I have been 5 times over the last 9 years so I know about what to expect. I just got off the cellphone with a friend who is currently on the road returning home from 2 weeks at the shows. He, like me, has been there a number of times over the past 15 years. I asked him his impressions and I respect his objective observations. He is a long time collector and field collector of moderate means.

Firstly, the weather, like the last several years was changeable and not the best. Both last year and this year there were several very cold nights and chilly days with a bit of rain. While this is to be expected in February, several nights in both years were unusually cold, even by Southern Arizona standards. But the majority of the days were nice, especially by Northern standards. Then there was the flu. This is a meeting of many folks from all over the globe. Lots of hand shaking and touchy feely stuff etc.etc. The upshot, according to my friends, was lots of colds and flu like illnesses during the 2 week show period. They too were affected, but not laid low to any great degree.

On to the shows themselves. The friend's impressions were that the crowds this year were significantly down from past years. The years that I was there the crowds were good but also in decline, probably due to the mediocre economy. So according to my friends, this year was no exception with less attendance than even last year. I suppose main show attendance figures might be available from the TGMS show committee. Those attending the show seem, primarily to be the same several hundred or so high end collectors and dealers who follow each other from show to show schmoozing with each other as at a social event. They buy a few high end pieces to make most of all the high end dealers satisfied, but many of the other dealers, according to my friends, complained about the lack of buyers and low attendance. The exhibits were, as usual fabulous, but new specimens were largely from China and other obscure areas and quite pricey, perhaps turning off many attendees of moderate means.

So these are some impressions relayed to me just this day. Anyone else out there attend the show and have thoughts??
WaterDog February 20, 2013 01:22AM
I attended the main show on the final Sunday. It was very lightly attended. I haven't been to the main show in a few years so I don't know what the Sunday attendance has been in past years. The mix of dealers has definitely changed over time. My estimate is a third or less of dealers are selling mineral specimens or fossils, half are selling jewelery, and the remainder selling books and "stuff".

I've been to the hotel shows most of the past twenty years, focusing on the mineral and fossil dealers. This year I visited the Westward Look, Inn Suites, Pueblo, Days Inn, Electric Park, and gas station shows. This is the first time I've made it out to the Westward Look show though I remember many of the dealers from the Executive Inn. I haven't made it to GJX in several years.

My thoughts: Across the board, across all quality levels, prices are insane and likely unsustainable. A ten fold increase in prices at the high end and a five fold or more increase in mid-range quality specimens over the last decade are my impression. My wife and I used to joke that we didn't really need a car but could be happy with "that" specimen. Now "that" specimen costs more than the house and the cars combined. Some of the increase is likely due to the devaluation of the dollar in the global market but I can't help but think that mineral specimens are modern day tulips.

Fewer thumbnail and micromount dealers than I recall from years past.

Fossils prices have held steady or risen with general inflation. The quality of fossil preparation is better than ever. This year, there seemed to be a pullback at the higher end with fewer spectacular specimens being offered. I didn't make it to the Ramada so I may have missed something there.

Those are my impressions of the show this year.
Mark & Linda Mahlum February 20, 2013 03:36AM
Linda and I spent Thursday and Friday at the Main Event. I'd say attendance was a little down. The economy has something to do with that but my worst fear is that interest in minerals and earth related things is declining. I'm afraid that electronics is what turns people, especially young ones on. Maybe the pendulum will swing and there will be a renewed interest in our hobby. I wonder how much damage to the extractive industries has been caused by the now fashionable "environmentalism"? Maybe I'm exaggerating.

It seemed that prices were higher and that high end specimens had increased in both quantity and quality.
Alfredo Petrov February 20, 2013 04:01AM
I've been hearing almost the exact same story every year for most of the 20 years I've been going to Tucson. Back in the 1990s dealers were complaining that "It's not as active as it was in the 80s", and one dealer liked to complain that he could "roll a bowling ball down the Executive Inn corridor without hitting anybody"! (and that was back in the days when every room there had at least one dealer in it) :-) There are always many dealers every year lamenting that there were too few customers and that the show fees are killing them. Take it all with a big grain of salt. There is a small turnover of dealers every year as some retire or change to other businesses, but the majority of dealers come back every year. Would they be doing that if they weren't making money? And would they be making money if there were no customers? :-S

Contradiction alert: Show reporters often comment on the allegedly skyrocketing prices of minerals. Others sadly comment that there is declining interest in minerals and fewer collectors than in the good old days. Sometimes it's the same reporter making both of those comments! Don't they realize that by the most elementary laws of economics those two ideas cannot be both true at the same time?

Well, this illusion (and that's what it is, just an illusion) has a very long history... Two centuries ago the famous German writer Goethe (after whom goethite is named) complained that dealers were killing mineralogy by charging too high prices for specimens! There is truly nothing new under the sun. :)-D
Malcolm Southwood February 20, 2013 04:36AM
Well said Alfredo!
I'm a great believer in market forces; dealers who are charging "too much" will make no sales and go out of business. And don't forget that most high-end and mid-market transactions occur at a discount to the ticket price anyway.
Having just spent 11 days in Tucson - I'm writing this in the departure lounge at LAX on my way back to Oz - my impression of "the show" was a very positive one. Socially, it's a wonderful event, and a great opportunity to catch up with a lot of like-minded folk. Mineralogically, I found plenty to keep me interested, and I've added some nice new things to the collection. Most of the dealers i spoke with said that they'd had a pretty good show.
As a Tsumeb collector, one thing I have noticed is that there is more mid-market and high-end material available than, say, five years ago. I'm inclined to attribute this to a combination of demographics - collections being released by elderly persons or deceased estates - and the continuing economic difficulties, especially in Europe. I think this will be a temporary situation.
While I have some sympathy with the view that kids today prefer video games - certainly true of my kids - I think people have always tended to join our hobby somewhat later in life anyway, and I certainly don't think that mineralogy is dying or that it is in danger of doing so.
Lets hope I'm right!
Brent Thorne February 20, 2013 06:16PM
I attended the TGMS show on Thursday through Saturday. I enjoyed looking at the displays and all the minerals at the dealers booths. Even though most of the specimens I looked at were out of my price range, I still felt lucky to see an abundance of world class specimens all in one place. I was able talk with many knowledgeable people and I learned a great deal from the talks that were presented at the symposiums. Yes the prices for world class specimens were high, but I do not remember a time in the past 25 years, that I have attended the show, where this was not the case. One thing that impressed me is that at Dave Bunk's booth there was a collection of thumbnails on a table with several chairs and benches for people to sit and look through the thumbnails. Every time I went past the booth, the chairs were occupied with people looking at the thumbnails. I noticed that there were quite a few young kids meticulously looking at every thumbnail specimen. I met one of the young kids and her father. She had photos and a list of minerals on her cell phone that she was trying to obtain for her collection. She had found the photos and the list on the internet and she was trying to obtain a sample of every mineral on the list. I know that she was able to obtain a dozen specimens from that particular thumbnail collection. Thumbnail specimens seldom make a lot of money for dealers, but it was encouraging to see Dave put these thumbnails out and have space for people to look at them. This is the kind of thing that will help young people get interested in minerals. The thumbnails are not terribly expensive and a individual with a new interest in minerals can start a collection without a huge outlay of money. Neil Hubbard also had a small table in Dan Weinrich's booth with a microscope and micro specimens to look at and purchase. There always seemed to be a group of people going through his boxes.

On Friday I attended the micromount symposium. The talks were good and the symposium was well attended. After the talks, the micromount group had several tables with free specimens and several microscopes to look at the specimens. There are also several people who are trading and selling specimens. There was a European couple there with their three kids. The entire family was engaged in looking through the specimens on the give-away tables and then bringing the specimens over to the microscopes so that every one in the family could look at the specimens and choose which ones they wanted to keep. In the past I have had the opportunity to attend the show in Munich. It seems that the Munich show is very much a family affair. I think that the European community is much more interested in keeping the the hobby alive by educating and encourageing their children. If mineral collecting, as a hobby, is to remain viable, it is the responsibilty of parents and teachers to get children interested. There are too many distractions for kids nowdays and it is going to take a concerted effort to get them interested in the out-doors and nature.

My interests in minerals is quite specific and narrow and I seldom purchase specimens at the main show. This time however, I was able to get a few things that were of interest to me. I guess the best specimen was a $3 thumbnail of hessite from Botes, Transylvania. Yes, the hessite is covered with chorargyrite and iron oxide stain, but the hessite is crystalized and very typical for the locality. It was found by going through every flat of thumbnails in the back of dealers booth. The other interesting purchase was a specimen labeled unknown blue from Kalahari, South Africa for $10. After looking at it under the microscope I am sure that it is a mineral from the wesselsite, effenbergerite group of minerals. The same dealer also had two flats of Tsumeb thumbnails from a old collection. Many of the specimens were of the more common species found at tsumeb, but several specimens had the original labels with the level in the mine where the specimen was found and the the date that it was found. I was able to find a single tennantite crystal completely covered with tsumcorite crystals. This specimen was a little more pricey at $18.

So in conclusion, the Tucson show is a worth while show to attend if only to see the greatest compilation of minerals, fossils, and gemstones concentrated in one place. The dealers make every effort to display their specimens in a way to show that attributes of each individual specimen. Many of the cases are better than cases that you would see in museums and so are the specimens. Don't look at the prices, just enjoy the specimens and feel fortunate that you were able to see it before it goes into a private collection where you will likely never see it again,.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/20/2013 08:39PM by Brent Thorne.
Greg Toomey February 20, 2013 11:13PM
There are thousands of stories each year at Tucson. Some happy, some sad, some in-between. I don't mean to be trite, but it is only a show (but a Big One), and as Brent Thorne pointed out, it's great just to see the minerals or hear the scheduled talks and symposiums. One cannot put a finger on anything from one year to the next and call it a trend or a sign of things to come.

A couple of years ago, some of the Westward Look dealers had added less expensive minerals displayed separately from their usual expensive minerals - was it the economy, a response to criticism of being elitist or to accommodate an ever-increasing and diverse populace to their rooms?

This year, I went back to a longtime dealer who had some very nice specimens that I saw last year, but could not afford after I had already spent last year's budget. The specimens (same as before, from an abundant source and not from China) he had in 2013 were over twice as much as before - and no I didn't buy any. On the other hand, a dealer I always go to had pieces that seemed less expensive than last year, and the quality was better. Variances abound, and I gave up trying to figure out the mineral collecting trends and it's future by using the Tucson Show as a guide.

I attended a few social events, avoided some expensive dealers and some cheap dealers, heard some presentations and avoided others, and I must say that this was one of the most enjoyable shows I attended. But there is always room for improvement, be it at shows, one's knowledge or one's collection, and that what makes collecting minerals so exciting.
Dave Owen February 21, 2013 02:35AM
This is my 20th year of attending the Tucson show and I think Alfredo pretty much hit the nail on the head.However perhaps skyrocketing mineral prices and fewer collectors is not a contradiction. The people who are buying the high end minerals don't seem to mind the absurd prices.They see it, they like it, they buy it. If you have a deminishing interest in the hobby and can quadruple your prices and sell a few to this crowd your making just as much without depleting your inventory so your actually ahead in the game. I think there are just as many good deals to be found but you have to work at it. Hanging with the big dogs for the prestige or what ever doesn't cut it. Leave those guys and get out there and beat the bush if you want the deals.
Joseph Polityka February 21, 2013 03:47AM

Interesting discussion. I did not go to Tucson this year but would like to make one point: any expenses you incur while going to and from any mineral show have to be factored into the price you pay for specimens. This is, in economic theory, call the acquision cost and the costs go up the further you travel and the longer you stay at a show. If you value the "experience" of Tucson and the chance to drink with your buddies then go out and enjoy yourself because you can't put a price on fellowship. But to think you are getting bargains when you spend $2000.plus on expenses for travel and hotels is really an illusion. I know many collectors who sweep in the first day of February, stay a few days and come home having never attended the main show.

Best wishes,

Rob Cook February 22, 2013 02:09PM
Attended the Tucson show for the first time in 2013 and found it both daunting and extremely enjoyable. It's big (all the venues)! I would have been lost without some help. I used many of the tips from Mindat posters and others including dealer David Joyce to plan in advance - went for 11 days and did the venues in the first 4 days, the main show the last two and hiked and toured in between. After the first few days of looking at literally thousands of specimens, the eyes do need a break. Spent most of my time at the Tucson City Center Hotel and main show but did visit Pueblo show, old Executive Inn and Westward Look. What surprised me was the variation in dealer pricing for what I thought to be relatively similar specimens. This variation was obvious between the connoisseur dealers and the smaller dealers but was also just as prevalent between smaller dealers. To make sense of the pricing required a lot of looking, writing down prices and where you saw them and circling back. Keeping a journal of all of this information was suggested by many before I went and it was invaluable (except the one Green Monster Mountain Epidote I saw and didn't write it in the journal then spent a day trying to find it in hotel rooms but to no avail.) Having nothing to compare it too, I didn't think any of the venues were as busy as I expected them to be. Oh, and being from Canada expecting nice weather, the snow and snowstorms in the desert were a nice touch! Looking forward to the Tucson show in 2014.
Tom Klinepeter February 22, 2013 03:56PM
This years show was quite different for me this year. I attended as a part time mineral dealer for over 10 years buying inventory. Having retired from the business a couple years ago I returned as a collector this year so my focus was different. My daughter also attended for the first time so I had the fun of showing her around but we only had time to see 10 shows in 3 ½ days.
Every year I go for the first weekend of shows and have never attended the main show, maybe next year I will. Also by going the first weekend this year the weather was very good especially for someone coming from the cold far north.
So to minerals, I felt there were a lot more dealers of the higher end minerals and less of the mid to lower cost specimens but that is happing at most major shows. The over all quality was very good and if you took your time you could find almost anything. How many of you that attended saw the dealer with all the red Beryl’s from Utah?
I did not add a lot to the collection but came home with 5 nice and quite different specimens. My tastes have evolved over time and what I desire most often cost more then my budget allows. My mother used to say I had a Champaign taste on a beer budget, how right she was.
I did stop by to see Alfredo but he was deep in discussion with a collector and I just could not interrupt him.
All and all I had a very good time and already am making plans to return next year.
Henry Barwood February 25, 2013 12:11AM
Tucson is what it is. The high end specimens are always overpriced IMHO, but as long as someone with lots of $$ is willing to buy, there are plenty of dealers who are willing to cater to them. If you spend some time poking around, there are lots of "interesting" things to be had. I go to Tucson for research materials so I'm happy to come away with something that luminesces in a new way, or is a potential undescribed species (not a new species, just new to a locality), or even something I need for an analytical comparison. To that end I spend $$$ traveling to Tucson and poking around in lots of dusty dealer stock. Could I order what I get online for a lot less. You bet! But, then I would miss all the hoopla!

Henry Barwood
Troy University
Troy, Alabama USA
Maurizio Dini February 25, 2013 12:39AM
Hello Guys

since I am interested mosty in chilean species, anyone of you can tell me which specimens from Chile was availalbe either for sell or trade?

Maurizio Dini
Keith A. Peregrine February 25, 2013 03:51AM
I spoke with someone this weekend who attended both Tuscan and Quartzite. He said the most surprising thing for him was how inexpensive lapis lazuli was this year. The bulk material went as low as $8 to $3 dollars/pound. Anyone else see this? Sounds like there might have been a big delivery this year.

Ray Hill March 01, 2013 12:41AM
I was at the Tucson shows this year right from the beginning to the end from Feb 1st. I was surprised to see how many dealers were already set up on the 1st. For me, the trip is centered around learning what is new, in both the gem and the mineral fields, as well as getting a handle on prices , since the world not only shops there but it also sells there, and market pressures sometimes mean that specimens can be had at Tucson for less than they cost in their home countries. I went to Morocco, for the Mindat trip and yet, I still was able to find Moroccan specimens at Tucson for less than I saw them for in Morocco. Go figure, with the price controversy. As for TN specimens, almost every quality dealer I visited, had a cabinet or a table with TN specimens. Some were grossly overpriced in my opinion, and others were very fair. Since I am retired, I have , for years now, augmented my specimen purchasing with taking pics of any thing I really like, or that I feel is new and/or rare and that I haven't seen before. This way I have, over the years, put together an interesting photo catalogue of rare, beautiful and unusual specimens , often along with their price tags. In this fashion, I have managed to document price trends for similar specimens. A similar and very valuable service is provided to us all by Minfind.com. I also found that politely asking if the price marked is the best price I can expect, or if I might be able to get it for a slightly better one. Often I find, that asking for a better price if I bundled a bunch of pieces together is even more productive. The worst that a dealer can say, is I am sorry, that is my final price. So pricing is relative, and on very long quiet days, some real deals can be made, especially if you turn out to be their only customer so far...and who wants to lose a sale in that situation.All in all, I enjoyed this show as I have previous shows, and now, I have a lot of work ahead of me, editing my photo log from the many shows I visited there. I did try going on an ill fated collecting trip during the time of the show this year, but after walking 15 to 20 miles up and down steep rocky hills near the Mexican border, and still not finding the elusive mine site, I will not plan to go again next year, unless we have a specific invite into an active mine, or have someone along who has accurate directions...I did get the most tanning of the whole Tucson trip,that day, however, so I actually look like I was down south, so that was a tiny bonus for that day of gruelling trekking. Hope no one is discouraged by some of the previous commentaries and that some of you decide that next year you will make the trip to Tucson. It is the show of all shows and worth the trip. My only advice....plan ahead as to what exactly you are looking for and by so doing focus your attention on specific shows and specific dealers and you will end up enjoying the somewhat overwhelming experience even more.
BTW you can avoid the flu by trying to always get adequate sleep, eating balanced meals, and keeping steriwipes on hand and cleaning your hands after meeting people and handling specimens...since hands touching things is the most common vector for spreading diseases.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/01/2013 09:42PM by Ray Hill.
Stephen C. Blyskal March 15, 2013 05:31PM
I didn't get to go to Tucson this year, opting for a different Show trip in April. Our mineral group in the Houston Gem and Mineral Society had a get together and showed specimens acquired and told stories. Many of our collectors have specific interests and it seemed everyone was able to find something they wanted at a price they could afford. Many of the collectors went to shows that aren't specifically noted for minerals, looking for the odd mineral dealer tucked away with the beads and jewelry. Others hit the bargain tables at big dealers like Dave Bunk and Weinrich, and got what I thought were excellent specimens at fair prices. One of our members buys in quantity, keeps the best for his collection and resells the rest to pay the costs. He has been visiting the Chinese dealers the last few years and reports that quantity discounts are harder to come by and less than in previous years. The only way he got a break on some of the large cabinet fluorite or calcite specimens was to buy a lot of lower price stuff. He said prices for individual purchases were sometimes very high. Many of the Chinese dealers appear to be related and they took great care to shepherd him from one room to another! One member collects Mexican minerals and did well in the upper end. He attended a lot of parties and events and reports people were in good spirits. That's my report from Houston. Thanks for all the other reports. They were very informative and interesting.
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