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Tucson & Denver: Is there trouble ahead?

Posted by Bob Harman  
Bob Harman September 28, 2015 03:12PM
Altho I did not attend this year's recent Denver show, There are several reports of troubles. And the troubles seem to be multiple.

The "Denver show" has grown from several days in length to well over a week long and from only 3 locations to more than twice that many. On the surface this sounds good, but some say it is beginning to become too long and spread out rivaling Tucson. And Denver is a larger city with more traffic and hassles getting around. Tucson has always been out there by itself; many say that this is the way it should always remain. So some Denver show goers say that the show is now getting a bit out of hand. At this time I don't take a stand on this point other than just to mention it.

The sad event of Rock Currier's passing the other day brings up another discussion point. The aging of many long well known and respected mineral collectors and show goers. Look at the most recent big national show attendance. It is down a bit and while we do see young and middle age folks, many of us unfortunately are moving along well into our upper 60's, 70's, and 80's. Travels and getting around get more difficult after we arrive into our mid 70s; has this begun to take a toll on show attendance yet? Will it in the next few years? I know it will definitely affect my travels within the next 2 - 6 years. Several reports have it that the Denver show attendance was down this year (Tucson as well). Is this drop in show attendance coincidence or directly related to the many mineral collectors of increasing age? Just another observation from me.

But the point that I really want to discuss now is the observation from several show goers that some international dealers were having a difficult and worrisome time getting proper visas for their show weeks in the U.S. and also their mineral/fossil stocks were tied up in customs. This seems something new as there were only isolated complaints about this in the past. International dealers......some hi end and long time show attendees.....always found it easy to do business at the Denver show and also their month or so in Tucson. Their inventory almost always quickly passed thru customs; business was not a hassle. No so this year. Forms and paperwork were new, different, and cumbersome for many. For some, their dealer inventories were tied up in customs so little or no business could be transacted. Needless to say quite annoying if the dealer trips cost many $$$ and the object of their coming to the big show is to transact business and make $$$.
These annoyances and problems hopefully will be settled by Tucson of February 2016 or, I fear, some international dealers will opt out of the future larger U.S. shows.

Maybe I am too much of a pessimist, but much food for thought. CHEERS.....BOB
gary moldovany September 28, 2015 04:34PM
I'm not sure if this relates to your post, Bob, but we just got back from doing the Franklin, NJ show. This show has been going on for over 50 years and is well known on the east coast and normally well-attended. Saturday's attendance was very light, probably about 1/2 of what it has been in the past. Sunday was much worse. I have been to Franklin shows in the past and the place was packed with people. This year has seen a big drop-off in attendance and no one is really sure why. The weather was pretty good all weekend, so that's not a factor.
Norman King September 28, 2015 05:25PM
My biggest concern about this year's Denver shows was the strong showing by higher-end dealers, many of whom had similar inventories, all priced well beyond anything I would ever(!) purchase. There is clearly no shortage of any tourmalines, kunzite, Sweet Home rhodochrosite, and lesser hot items such as topaz, heliodor, and Milpillas azurite--tourmaline being my number one pet peeve. I am even reluctant to buy such items from the wide selection available at every recent show(!), because of the likeliehood the presumed (by me) bubble will burst some day. Of course, there is actually a spectrum of rarity or desirableness, such as the maroon (dark reddish) tourmalines that hit the market recently and go for ridiculously high prices, to star rutile-on-hematite, of which one can find somewhat reasonably-priced pieces, even if not the very best in degree of perfection, and that is always a determinant of price for any minerals. At Denver this year, I thought there were relatively few dealers in the mid-range that I prefer.

Another issue is the spread of sites. However, I think there was only the high-end show ("Denver Fine Mineral Show") at the Marriott Denver West that was removed from all of the other shows clustered around the intersection of I-25 and I-70. I agree that Denver traffic has become almost like that in southern California (we probably all have our favorite "traffic-mess" cities). Tucson is much more traffic-friendly. I also hope that such geographic spread remains no worse than now in Denver, and that it remains just a single week affair. For me, in fact, I could have done all that I did in less than seven days (actually the high-end show opened on Sept. 12--giving two more days than a week, but closing early to allow exhibitors there to relocate to other venues--that was an optional early opening, if you ask me).

I actually spent three days in the mountains during the week, while managing to depleat my budget on the remaining four days. It helped that I finally ponied up for a Sweet Home rhodo, and that perhaps shortened the amount of time I needed for the rest of my "work." Even so, my Sweet Home piece was not very expensive (just over a grand), as prices go for them these days. And then I found that there does seem to be some work going on presently at Sweet Home Mine--see my recently uploaded Sweet Home locality photos: photos No. 707380-707384 that demonstrate so. Imaging blowing perhaps ten times that or so, as for a true high-end piece, and then the supply suddenly increased or the Chinese economy went into even more of a recession, and watching prices drop precipitously! Oh, well--nothing ventured, nothing gained. That's just the way it is.
Bob Harman September 28, 2015 05:50PM
HI GARY, Before I get into your observations, I have a very old sort of funny story about collecting in your area. When I was growing up in NYC and just into high school, I had a NYC buddy that was a rock collector. One day, while at my apartment, he looked into my 10 gallon fish tank and saw a rock that he really really wanted. It was a pale lime green cabinet size NJ prehnite that was used as decoration in the tank. He paid me $5.00 for very first mineral experience! Initially, I had no idea what he was even talking about. After that we conspired to get our folks to take us to collect in the northern NJ mining areas. 1950's vintage. BTW, that prehnite might be worth a lot more than $5.00 today !

I fully understand your concerns as they are mine as well. In giving this whole aspect of mineral collecting and shows considerable thought over some time, I too am concerned. One facet of concern, as I have mentioned, is trying to come up with a reasonable guesstimate of collectors ages. About what % is what age? After all, dealers exist to make money and the shows only go ahead if the dealers are there and satisfied. Attendance by just casual lookers (with or without children or families) do not, in and of themselves, make a successful show. And little or no attendance is even worse. Every show and all its dealers needs true collectors willing to spend a bit.
So I have come up with an age guesstimate for true collectors.......those actively collecting and at least willing to consider occasional buying at mineral/fossil shows. Whether they buy $25 or $25k items is irrelevant. The important point is they attend shows and are willing to financially support the dealers at each attended show. Here are my guesses; age 40 and under maybe 15%. Age 40 - 60 maybe 40% . Age 60+ maybe the remaining 45%.
If I am even close, then half or nearly half the mineral/fossil buying collector base is retired or close to it and over 60 years of age. As I previously noted, for those over 70 years of age, travel becomes more difficult and lots of us are getting there. Travel with food and lodging and even fuel (with lower gas prices) is stressful and not cheap.

Need I say more? Like you noted Gary, a looming problem? CHEERS.......BOB

P.S. And to add to my NYC story, you and most others will know of the fellow high school student friend who bought the prehnite specimen. He became an attorney and was the lawyer who defended Mark David Chapman, the jerk that killed John Lennon. I saw this high school friend interviewed a number of years ago on the Larry King Live show and recognized him immediately!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2015 06:13PM by Bob Harman.
Alfredo Petrov September 28, 2015 06:20PM
I do not believe that attendance at Denver as a whole is shrinking. Yes, the elderly drop out, but there is a constant flow of younger newbies. I met several people at Denver this year who said it was their first time. Hopefully they enjoyed themselves and will come back.

The "low attendance" is an "optical illusion" for which you gave the explanation yourself, Bob: More venues and more days. If you spread visitors out over space and time, venues get less crowded. This, imho, is a good thing... I hate crowds! It's much easier to do business with one person standing in front of the table than with a crowd rubbing elbows, pushing.... crowds waste time and encourage thievery and breakage.

A funny observation: At the main/club show (Merchandise Mart), in the same half-hour period, I heard one person complaining that attendance was down, and another person complaining that the enormous parking lot was full and it had been hard to find a space. How can both statements be true? Illusions, that's all. Do you know how you'll be able to tell when attendance and sales really go down? It's when the dealers stop coming the next year. :-D
Matt Ciranni September 28, 2015 07:01PM
One possibility: As prices, especially for higher end stuff like the colored tourmalines, etc. spiral ever upward, there are progressively fewer and fewer people who can afford them- many younger, or older collectors of modest means, end up getting priced out of the market. And, increasing restrictions on field collecting may be discouraging newer collectors from starting out.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph September 28, 2015 07:22PM
> there are progressively fewer and fewer people who can afford them

However from a purely economic point of view this has to be good for the market as a whole. People blame dealers for high prices, but minerals are only priced at what the market is prepared to pay for them - otherwise dealers would soon go out of business. Higher prices may mean fewer people through the shows but if these fewer people are spending more money then that is all that matters for the dealers.
Alfredo Petrov September 28, 2015 07:55PM
A famous man once complained that dealers were raising prices so much they were killing mineralogy!
.... It was the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, about 200 years ago. (He was a mineral collector too; Goethite was named after him.)

Familiar lament, isn't it? :-D
Henry Barwood September 28, 2015 09:10PM
No problem for me. I work with microminerals and there is an abundant supply of them in all price ranges from free to .... Well, I have to admit that a few really rare micro are going for about 100X more than I would pay for them, but most of them are imminently affordable.

Henry Barwood
Troy University
Troy, Alabama USA
Bob Harman September 28, 2015 09:18PM
Extensive and significant worldwide loss of collecting sites has contributed (along with many other changing interests) to younger kids no longer being interested in rock collecting as youngsters. Just look around at the shows and see how relatively few younger folks are serious customers.....arguably not too many in my opinion.
But, also in my opinion, higher prices have little to do with this overall discussion. The higher end dealers need only a few sales to have a successful show and the higher end buyers manage to get to the big shows, not only to buy but as a yearly social event. The higher end examples also are available in many many forms at all higher end prices of the pricing scale. Only when these folks do not show up at all (advancing age???) are sales hurt.

And no one, as of yet, has even touched on my main point. That the international dealers might be having a more difficult time getting to the shows with their inventories. CHEERS.....BOB
David Von Bargen September 28, 2015 09:24PM
Things change over a period of time. In the early 1900's, there were probably only a few dozen mineral dealers. There were a few shops, but most business was carried on by postal orders (the really big collectors tended to be catered to personally by the dealers). After WWII, there was a proliferation of small rock shops that carried local materials and lapidary supplies. The majority of these shops have gone out of business. Probably from the 70's, there have been a proliferation of shows and some have grown (Tucson & Denver), but others have not fared as well. Currently, there is a lot of activity on the internet and foreign dealers have cut out the middlemen in a lot of cases. My general feeling is that there are a lot more people making a living as dealers today than there were 25 years ago. There are more "high end" dealers today than 10-20 years ago.
Aaron Greenblatt September 28, 2015 10:14PM
Jolyon & Katya Ralph wrote: "minerals are only priced at what the market is prepared to pay for them"

In my opinion, the difference today as compared to previous decades is that show dealers are often directly competing for buyers with worldwide online dealers instead of just other show dealers, and Internet prices for specimens are often ridiculously high (with overhead costs for those selling online often being very low by comparison) because of market expectations in more expensive areas than the US (such as the EU and China).

Further, unlike in past decades, there's now a huge "mystical" and "healing" market for crystals and minerals that drives up the prices of what should be inexpensive material. This fraudulent market is, in my opinion, extremely harmful to the mineral collecting hobby from both a price and a science perspective.

Finally, popular TV shows (like the Weather Channel's "Prospectors") also inflate the prices of specimens by often over-stating their worth - thus misleading the average person into thinking that specimens are worth more than the supplies or quality of them should otherwise dictate.

So I think that higher-priced global market influences, rampant fraud and egregious market manipulation have entered the hobby today to a greater degree than ever before. And I also think that the result is that the average layperson and new collectors here in the US often now have a false sense of what a specimen should in fact be worth (based on the actual supplies of it).
Alfredo Petrov September 28, 2015 10:14PM
Back to Bob's point about the problems that several international dealers had at Denver:

The rules regarding foreigners doing business in the USA haven't changed; they're the same as they've been for decades already, but previously the enforcement of those rules was flexible and sporadic, and in Denver this year some bureaucrat must have decided to be stricter. The problem is somewhat semantical:

A foreigner with a business (B1) visa, or no visa at all if they come from one of the countries whose citizens aren't required to get visas to enter the USA (ie. wealthy friendly countries whose citizens are unlikely to want to stay indefinitely in the U.S.), are allowed to enter the USA to conduct "business", but not to "work", an important semantic difference from the immigration and customs agents' point of view. That difference is often open to individual agents' interpretation and mood. Many say that "business" just means attending meetings, showing samples, and signing contracts, whereas actually selling something and receiving money into ones hands on U.S. soil is "working", which is not allowed. But there have been cases of foreign journalists turned away from the U.S. even though they only came to research a story and were not receiving any cash in the USA, so, like I said, the agents have a lot of individual discretion to decide who they will and will not let into the USA, with or without their merchandise. And it doesn't do any good to argue with them; is in fact more likely to be counterproductive.

How this will play out in Tucson remains to be seen. A reduction in number of foreign sellers would reduce the show's attractiveness for buyers too, and the whole event would shrink. There are precedents: Switzerland used to have an international mineral show but, largely because of too strict enforcement of rules, it shrank down to being just a domestic show and no one considers Switzerland to be part of the international mineral circuit anymore. It would be a pity if this were to happen to Tucson - The Tucson Chamber of Commerce would obviously not be pleased ;-)

But the prognosis is not all grim, and I'll make a prediction: if enforcement of rules against foreigners selling becomes a problem in Tucson (still a big "if"), then only the smaller, poorer foreign dealers will drop out in future years. Bigger foreign dealers will find legal ways around the extra bureaucracy, like for example going into nominal partnerships with Americans who will receive their shipments for them and be the "official" sellers of record. This implies extra costs, like sending shipments well in advance of the show, paying several hundred $$$ to U.S. customs brokers to fill out clearance forms, commissions to the U.S. partners, etc... not a big deal for those who sell $X,000 priced rocks. It also implies higher costs for some American dealers, because they'll have to travel abroad more often to acquire the rocks they used to get in Tucson. As always in business, it's the little guys, with the more affordable rocks, who will get hurt most.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2015 10:22PM by Alfredo Petrov.
gary moldovany September 28, 2015 11:26PM
Bob, your story is a good one! I have some observations about the makeup of show attendees. Every show is different. The percentage of what I like to call "hardcore collectors" varies with each show. As far as the local shows we do in the NY/NJ/PA area, Franklin, NJ has the highest percentage of "hardcore". It's also the most lucrative show, profit-wise. Some of the smaller, local shows have larger percentages of a) families with kids looking for something to do. b) gem, jewelry and curio buyers. c) metaphysical people who buy crystals for the various things they do. d) regular people off the street who saw the signs and decided to stop in.
I would say that our sales are about 65% to "hardcore collectors", 25% to metaphysical people and the rest to kids and families looking for "pretty rocks" that are inexpensive. We stock mineral specimens accordingly and try to change things around for each show based on our experience of the makeup of attendees.
Is it changing? That's a great question. I still get a lot of older folks that are systematic collectors looking for that special mineral to complete a series, but I also see a lot of younger (under 30) people with an interest in minerals as well.
A few years ago, my wife decided to start selling jewelry in our booth next to the minerals. She has done quite well the last few shows, sometimes surpassing in dollars the amount of minerals I am selling. That tells you something about why people come to mineral shows, not all of them are looking for minerals.
I apologize for perhaps rambling on, but I did want to share my observations. Gary
Bob Harman September 28, 2015 11:42PM
Alfredo has just discussed this point of international dealers well and it remains to be seen how this will play out as the foreign dealers plan to come to Tucson 2016.

David V B has made an important point that the internet might now be playing an important part of less IN PERSON attendance and purchases at the bigger shows. Besides purchasing thru the internet, important clients even might have the hi end dealer traveling to them rather than the other way around. The ways of doing business are changing.

Recent price increases and other points such as Aaron G discussed have little impact on the major show attendance. Customer buying habits may change, but plenty is still available in all price ranges, especially at the big shows like Denver and Tucson. It is the actual attendance at these shows that is in question. AND PLEASE NOTE THAT IN MY ORIGINAL POSTING I NEVER ONCE MENTIONED RECENT MINERAL SPECIMEN PRICE INCREASES. Using mineral specimen price increases to blame any ills on the mineral collector business at the Denver or Tucson show is just not really the case.
Jim Chenard September 29, 2015 01:47AM
Gary, I am not sure on the drop off either. The weather was good, and the only thing I can see is lack of good promotion of the event. For the shows to work, you have to have something for everyone. Look at Springfield. You have high end, middle and wholesale, from jewelry to minerals. Yes, the internet has had an impact and made it easy to buy on line, but, sometimes it really is a plus to see the piece, to make the choice. For the shows with dropping attendance, it may be time to take a hard look at what is happening, and make the adjustments to change with the times accordingly before the show is a figment of the past. Sometimes, it may be difficult, because what has worked for 30 years may not be working in todays economy. Just my 9 1/2 cents, adjusted for inflation
Doug Daniels September 29, 2015 01:52AM
Should bureaucratic nonsense cause problems at Tucson, maybe the Tucson Chamber of Commerce could put some pressure on the State and Feds, in that they are hindering Tucson's (and, Arizona's) economy. Get them politicians involved, especially if they want the votes.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph September 29, 2015 08:15AM
My understanding is that the "bureaucratic nonsense" at Denver was cause because some dealers were caught trying to come into the US to sell at the show using normal tourist/business visas /ESTAs which are not compatible with bringing in produce to sell at a show, which would need a different visa.
Vincent Rigatti September 29, 2015 12:26PM
I live in Denver and have been to the show every year since 2001. There have been some major changes in venues over the last few years that has seemed to made a difference in attendance at the main show at the Merchandise Mart:
1) The Denver Coliseum show started 3-4 years ago, and what was at first relatively small has progressively grown to over 300 dealers and over 8 days. They start putting up billboards all over the city 2-3 months prior and are by far the largest advertiser. I would classify most sellers as entry point to mid-range with minerals, jewelry, fossils, and some other collectibles also being sold. I did not attend this show this year but I heard it was very well attended.
2) The Denver Fine Mineral Show at the Marriott in Golden started last year and is a high end show along the lines of Westward Look in Tucson, and run by Dave Waisman. This show opens the weekend prior to the Merchandise Mart and is only open 4 days. This year there were over 50 dealers with excellent minerals to be found, but as expected very high prices. But there were some good deals to be had if you know what you want and what it's worth. I attended Saturday and Sunday, and the crowds were thinner than last year but it was still moderate. Sunday afternoon attendance was particularly light but it was also opening day of the NFL season. I did enjoy walking around that afternoon without be jostled. I believe there are a lot of dealers at this show that used to attend the Ramada and Merchandise Mart show, but no longer do. Too expensive and time consuming to do both shows. Also in my opinion this show takes away a lot of the higher end buyers that used to go to Ramada or Merchandise Mart the following weekend.
3) The Merchandise Mart show does not advertise like the Coliseum show, and it seemed like attendance was way down the last couple years. I went opening day, and where it used to be elbow to elbow, is now a light to moderate crowd. The final day on Sunday seemed almost like a ghost town, in several of the dealer rooms I was the only one poking around.

So while Merchandise Mart is down, 2 other newer shows seemed to be doing well. I did not attend the Ramada show as parking there is always a challenge. I am not sure where this is all going and what it means for the overall Denver show going forward. I was very happy to see the new shows come to Denver, especially the Fine Mineral Show, but they have changed the dynamic and energy that used to go with the Merchandise Mart show when they were the primary show in town. To some that is progress to others it is not.....
Steve Pegler October 30, 2015 05:30AM
Aside from bureaucratic nonsense, I think the free market will eventually correct the mineral specimen pricing and show attendance issues. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and for years I drove down to Tucson, stayed in a nice hotel for a few days and went to the shows and bought some stuff. However, prices got so high for mediocre specimens, I didn't go last year and I may not go this year. If the Tucson show wants to survive for the general public and not the super rich, they better do more than be a venue for the sale of high priced mineral specimens to very rich clientele. I will go to the local Flagg Foundation show in Mesa, AZ to swap collecting stories with others in the area but I'm about done with Tucson.

I guess I'm not a good customer for buying minerals from dealers anyway so they don't care if I go to Tucson or not. I would rather spend my money traveling to good local collecting locations dig the stuff up myself.even if it is not "museum quality". I really like to go up to the Lake George area and play "Prospector" and dig up a few unimpressive specimens rather than pay a fortune for some really impressive specimens but that's just me.

Don't get me wrong, I wish all the best to the specimen miners like Joe Dorris to make it worth their time and big investment in equipment to dig up the really valuable stuff and sell it for a premium. Without great guys like Joe, we would have very little access to world class collecting sites in the U.S.

Maybe the high mineral specimen prices give us diggers the incentive to go out and prospect for something potentially valuable. Even if we have no intention to sell what we find, the high prices give us great "bragging rights" that make the digging worthwhile. At least I use the high prices to justify what I spend on collecting trips to my wife :-) . The old collecting sites in the books are all picked over or are privatized but the high prices may help uncover new locations, at least in the public lands areas of the West. That's the true free market at work, that is unless the Forest Service or the BLM screw everything up.

One more thing, is the best resource that I have ever seen for finding new locations from existing data. An old mine may be bulldozed over and not accessible but the data gives clues as to where to look nearby for mineral specimens. Thank you Joylon!
Anonymous User November 22, 2015 11:21PM
Something that nobody has touched on is the strong US dollar. foreigners have all lost a lot of their buying power. This affects me as they find Mexican minerals more desirable.
Many collectors and especially high end ones are in the gas and oil business. This includes those in mining. With the slowdown they have cut back in purchasing.
Brian Greenstone December 27, 2015 04:25PM
Seems to me that any decline in show attendance is most likely the direct results of the prices of specimens. This industry has priced out 99% of the population over the last 10 years. I remember when I was a kid I would go into a rock shop and could buy a really cool rock for $4-$10. That same rock today would sell for $200-$300. Any fine specimens are now priced totally out of reach for the average person, so the only people remaining are the hard-core and well-funded individuals.

At the Denver show earlier this year I was looking at some specimens in a display case when the guy standing next to me says "Wow!". I thought he was referring to how nice one of the specimens was, but then he says "This is definitely a rich man's hobby!". I think that's how most people view this now. They bring their kids to the shows wanting to buy something cool, but then they realize they won't be able to send their kid to college if they do.

Rob Woodside December 27, 2015 04:47PM
This year, almost as usual, I was stopped by the US border guards while on my way to Kelso, Washington for the Pacific Northwest Friends of Mineralogy Symposium last October. They were very concerned that the displays I was bringing were illegal. I'm familiar with the law saving American jobs, by not allowing foreigners to sell rocks in the US, but this was new. They went on the Internet to check out this very suspicious activity. Fortunately they discovered that NO admission was being charged, so after near an hour I was allowed entry with the displays. They told me in no uncertain terms that if admission had been charged, I could not have brought the displays into the country. Since they charge admission to the main show at Tucson, I wonder how many empty cases there will be this year?

I think Dennis is right. $1.00 US is now over $1.40 CDN and six months ago it was at par.

The eye popping, bankrupting prices have brought a lot of material to market that otherwise would remain unknown. So I have mixed feelings about prices I can't afford.
Alfredo Petrov December 27, 2015 04:57PM
Re prices scaring people away from the hobby, we've had this discussion on Mindat before - too many times to count. I somehow never fail to find numerous interesting specimens for less that $30 at every show I go to. If you are not finding them, you just need to unglue your eyes from their moth-like attraction to brightly lit cases, and go poking around in the more obscure corners of the show. ;-)
Bob Harman December 27, 2015 11:46PM
I started this thread and will continue to add my 2 cents worth (or is it now my 5 cents worth!) regarding the current high prices.

Every collectible, where a very limited supply of a revered collectible item craved by more than 1 collector exists, has seen significant price increases. As with most any collectible, the very best of the best commands hi and rising prices. This almost always drags up the slightly less perfect examples. Where minerals (and probably fossils as well) may be different is that while there are only a few truly perfect examples of the highest end examples in existance, many many not so perfect "nice" but not great examples.....especially of the more common minerals are to be found. This is unlike coins, stamps, art, collector cars etc etc etc. In all these other collectibles the quantity is usually finite and often quite limited. Not so for many of the more common minerals where the quantities of nice, but not great examples far out number the collectors; witness the flat after flat of these minerals in wholesale dealerships. So the complaints of the current hi prices (in my mind) really needs to be amended specifically to mid range examples being passed off as higher end perfect examples with over inflated prices. It is these examples that are now too highly priced and by dealers trying to make an extra buck.

I liken all this to the price of a genuine Rembrandt art work. The price is high and rising......ok, fine. But when the price of an artwork by one of his minor students gets high and way over priced, as if it is by Rembrandt himself, then the market prices have gotten out of sync.

Frequently I see nice ordinary common species labeled as perfect with hi sale prices, but try to sell this dealer a similar example all you get are frowns with "lots of dings or tiny chips" etc etc with a low buy price. These dealers seem to know their sell prices are out of sync with the buy prices, and the true state of the market for the more common minerals. CHEERS.....BOB
Holger Hartmaier December 28, 2015 12:02AM
Just checked the US government websites regarding conducting business in the USA as a non-resident. Non-residents are not allowed to sell at all in the USA. So, this rule basically prevents me from bringing my specimens from Canada to a US show for re-sale. Only US citizens can sell in the USA. So, in order to do so legally, one has to set up a US counterpart company with US staff and import the specimens using a formal entry procedure through US customs.

As such, these regulations are likely impacting big shows like Denver and Tucson, as any private, non-resident collector that is hoping to re-sell specimens at the show would be doing so illegally, if in fact he managed to sneak them across the border in the first place. In that respect, about all a non-resident can do at the US shows is buy and with the continuing current low CDN dollar I expect it will be a deterrent in 2016. Given the perfect storm of escalating mineral specimen prices, unfavorable exchange rates and the inability of non-residents to (legally) convert excess specimens to cash at US shows without jumping through bureaucratic hoops, I think these shows could see further negative impacts.

Of course, as a fraternity of collectors, there are many reasons for attending larger shows that are non-commercial in nature and for that reason, a certain core will always attend.

I'm sure there is lots of material that collectors would be happy to sell that can't reach buyers in the USA because of customs and working visa requirements. Bringing the foreign material to shows gives potential buyers the advantage to see the actual material rather than doing a transaction based on photos and written descriptions over the internet.

Using Bob's demographic, I fit into the retired, 60's age group of serious collectors that attends shows and frequently buys from dealers. I've never been to the Denver shows but been to Tucson several times over last 20 years. I wish there was a simplified way to just bring my mineral specimens across the border to shows in the US for personal sale or trade. I think this would benefit everyone- existing dealers would have access to more material and collectors would have access to a broader spectrum of prices and quality of material. In doing so, more people would see the hobby as all inclusive instead of a "rich-man's" pursuit. It would be interesting to hear back from anyone (dealers and private collectors) regarding their interpretation of the current regulations regarding importing and sale of minerals in the USA and whether their experiences are deterrent to future show attendance.

Thank you,
Paul Brandes December 28, 2015 12:55AM
Are the Denver/Tucson shows in trouble? Probably not, and here is why....

The high-enders will always purchase/trade the most expensive of specimens at the premier shows.
The mid-range collector will still purchase specimens of slightly lower quality than museum yet within their means and budget.
The common collector will still frequent one of the hundreds of shows across the country looking for those couple of specimens to aid in filling their collections or to add something shiny to their collection.
The self-collector will still be going out to their favourite abandoned mine pile or beach and enjoying their time outdoors in search of their next treasure.

The point I am trying to make here is that personally, it doesn't bother me what the price of minerals are. I have what I like to collect and if I can't afford it, I simply move on without feeling remorse or jealousy of those that can; no amount of whining on Mindat is going to change that. Collect what you like and can afford, and leave it at that. I believe more people in the hobby should adopt this attitude.

To add to Alfredo's comment earlier; it is also not impossible to find quality specimens at any show. I go to the Houston Fine Mineral Show every year and while yes, there are many specimens with 5 digit prices or P.O.R. (priced out of reach), there are also plenty of deals to be had at reasonable prices, one just has to look. I remember a person once at Tucson (I believe it was Jolyon, but correct me if I'm wrong) who set out to build a very nice collection of minerals with specimens that cost less than $20 apiece. I saw the results and while it wasn't "museum quality", any collector I know would have been proud to own it.

Concerning US customs and the non-resident dealer; sorry to say but you have to play by the rules of the land. Is it right, probably not but it's what we have to live with; again, no amount of whining on Mindat is going to resolve the issue.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/2015 01:07AM by Paul Brandes.
Rolf Luetcke December 28, 2015 01:57PM
This thread brought back a couple of people we overheard at the Tucson show at the Electric Park. There was one tent of Elmwood Tennessee Calcite and Fluorite toward the end of the show. The tables were about 50 of more feet long and full of open flats of the big yellow calcites and another full of the fluorites. As we walked through and looked at the material, all nice but all the same of basically two minerals we overheard the owner of the material talking to another person, presumably a friend, "I am going to have to pack all this stuff up and haul it back home". They were talking about what a pain it would be to pack up all the stuff again.
As we left my wife commented about the conversation and said it the material had been priced where people would buy specimens then they wouldn't have to pack it all up and haul it home again. We also talked about how both were about the most common minerals and the hundreds of dollars being asked for the material made it no wonder they had to pack it all up again.
To see tables and tables of the same material with these kinds of prices it was no wonder they were taking most of it back with them.
A common trend we have seen but as was stated above by Alfredo, other tents at the same show had material that was very affordable so looking was certainly a must.
Reiner Mielke December 28, 2015 02:47PM
Well if they pack it up enough times they will eventually come down in price, that is the way the system is supposed to work, supply and demand. Just out of curiousity does the EU have the same restrictions on selling at the shows there? If not then I think you will see the importance of the American shows fade. It also makes me wonder how the Moroccan dealers manage to get across the border into the Tucson show. All it takes is a few silly rules to kill something. Back in the late 60's ( can't remember when exactly) American dealers used to come up to the Bancroft show until customs raided the show and charged the dealers with failing to pay duty on the boxes the rocks were in. Result, no more American dealers at Bancroft ever since forcing people to travel to the Detroit show to do their shopping. So what did Canada get from that? Fewer visitors to Canada and less business and the US got more visitors and more business. :-S

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/2015 03:02PM by Reiner Mielke.
Alfredo Petrov December 28, 2015 03:05PM
Brian wrote: "I remember when I was a kid I would go into a rock shop and could buy a really cool rock for $4-$10. That same rock today would sell for $200-$300."

There is a psychological illusion at work here that we all suffer from: It is not "that same rock"! When I look back at the crappy specimens I used to buy as a kid... I'd use those specimens as driveway gravel now, not even good enough to be flower pot decorations, although they looked mighty fine to me when I was 10 years old. ;-)
Our tastes grow more refined with age, and we only even look at rocks now that are way better than we used to get excited about as kids. But we aren't aware of how many orders of magnitude our tastes have improved, so we think the rocks have gotten much more expensive. In reality, for equivalent quality and rarity, I doubt the prices have inflated more than, say, the prices of medical treatment or a college education have. And you earn 20x more per hour than you did when you were a kid too.
Bob Harman December 28, 2015 04:09PM
Literally tons of mid range and mediocre specimens are available from the Tennessee mines, the Illinois fluorite district, pyrite from Peru, vanadinite from Morocco and it goes on and on. If it is as ROLF, ALFREDO, I, and others have noted priced far too hi for the market, then the dealers will have to cart the heavy stuff around from show to show with slow sales.

This does allow, as ALFREDO noted, an adventure searching for bargains. And they are to be found! If you have a good eye for aesthetics and the wherewithal to trim specimens, you can find bargains (especially in the tents) with larger specimens then trimming them down to leave smaller, but more perfect and aesthetically pleasing examples. These can then be either added to your collection or resold often at a higher price than purchased for, to pay for additional specimens. This whole process can be an adventure at the larger shows and it has worked for me. CHEERS.....BOB

As an addendum, if it becomes a burdensome and economic chore for the foreign dealers to come here and do business, then some of the fun at the larger shows will be lost. I don't know about storing the stuff in Tucson and Denver and opening the store rooms around show times.......this doesn't sound economical to me, but might be an option. Then there are the Moroccan dealership folks and others from some far off lands that are always suspect in some xenophobic's eyes..........

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/2015 04:51PM by Bob Harman.
Peter K. Szarka December 28, 2015 04:50PM
There's probably some right-size scaling due at the very large venues.

Mineral collecting throughout history seems to have been a preserve of the rich and educated. Many notable collections were the property of scientists, nobility and other well-to-do people. There's no reason to assume that this isn't the same today. Those with the money will buy the very best they can afford and as such, the high-end trade will remain.

Many collectors and dealers will get shaken out of the U.S. international shows because of the cost of:
- currency disparity
- marginal quality
- import/export/trade/tariff issues
- access to the Internet
- possibly even the xenophobic attitude and security concerns that Americans are currently displaying

We can probably all relate to at least one of these issues. And I believe these factors will start to limit the contraction/expansion of these shows. I foresee smaller shows but with increased quality. The lesser minerals will get shaken out and find themselves homes at regional shows and the Internet. Serious, moneyed collectors will still attend the major shows.
Rudy Bolona December 28, 2015 05:07PM
Like Alfredo said, Cool specimens can be found at shows if you are willing to spend the time and dig around. especially if you're into more esoteric minerals. Most people that attend shows are only interested in the "pretty rocks" and would never be concerned with looking for something like bismutotantalite, or even know about such species. I have gotten some funny looks when asking for such things at shows like, "What? Oh no. You're one of those people who collects that ugly crap." I have also noticed that WHO is selling the mineral is just as important as the specimen in determining price paid. For most collectors, it's like buying a car. Once it's in your possession it's not worth what you paid for it. I can understand this for a car, it being a wear and tear item, but not for a mineral specimen. Weird isn't it?
Frank de Wit December 28, 2015 05:35PM
Becoming older now, the more I love 'ugly' black massive sulfosalts,
(and the less big "high-end" shiny colorful crystals)
must be that the minerals mirror my current physical and mental state... ;)
Norman King December 28, 2015 06:19PM
Sorry for this single-paragraph, train-of-thought story, but I could never manage to make it into fine prose. And, sorry to be so uncouth as to mention prices, but no one will really know what I’m talking about if I don’t.

The bargains are out there, no matter what venue you prefer. For example, I have been to some really backwoods mineral shows in the Midwest, where you never know what you'll find. There is "always" some person/people who aren’t professional dealers and are selling stuff they found. Like the older couple from Ontario, Canada who had huge clusters of ferri-fluoro-katophorite in undamaged, well-formed, terminated crystals. I bought a 10 cm specimen for $60. Another was about 25 cm across, for not much over $100, but I just don’t have the room for it. At a different show an engineer who liked to go on exotic vacations had three spinel twins of spinel from Tanzania (the rough one is 9.4 cm across) and a topaz from Brazil that is not quite the largest one posted on Mindat, that we discussed and I got him to sell them all to me for $150. Then, you will find dealers who are clueless about just what they have, like the small cabinet-size cluster of fluorite trisoctahedrons I picked up for $10 (at yet a different show) and the even larger sea-green fluorite dodecahedrons for $35 (still another show). At the bigger shows (such as Denver) with foreign dealers in tents, you can sometimes buy stuff by the pound, like some nice malachites from the Congo that were actually out in the rain (another form of field collecting?), and spectacular faden quartz for $100 per pound (you can get real big fadens for much less than $100!); you go over a great big table with piles of faden quartz, most of which will be total junk except for one or two, and pick out those. The one I still haven’t photographed cost about $20, and the big one (now uploaded to Mindat) cost about $110. The dealer and I had a nice conversation about working in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan (one of my academic colleagues worked there until 2001), but he told me about two of his brothers being killed by the Taliban (that wasn’t so nice, and he read the horror in my face); he said he liked teachers, and after weighing my stuff he knocked another 25% off the prices that were already the best deals I had ever seen for faden quartz. Another dealer at Denver who was actually a specialist in jewelry had two flats full of really junky rutile on hematite, but in there somewhere was one nice, fully exposed six-rayed star that had a $400 price on it that I got for $150 (sometimes you have to bargain to get the real deals!). A Chinese dealer at Denver had a scheelite specimen marked at $350 (scheelite is one of the minerals that is over-priced these days), and he offered 20% off that ($280). He really cringed when he lowered the price to $250 to make the sale. I said, “$250 you say.” He said yes. So I pulled out two $100 bills and waved them in his face and said this is my offer. "No check–green money!" He looked surprised, took a few seconds, and said, “OK.” At Tucson in 2014, two of the dealers (just the hired help, actually) I first spoke with were not authorized to sell stuff at the prices I said were my tops, and in two cases they made phone calls to get authorization, and in another the boss came back the next day to authorize it. You have to be persistent, and green money talks. Don’t be afraid to tell them that the marked price is too high for what it is. Like that $115 little muscovite crystal from Mt. Antero at Denver. I said everyone has muscovite, and I while realize this one is especially nice, you have to give me a reasonable price if you’re going to sell it to me. I got it for $50, which I actually think was still too high, but if that is the specimen I want, then I may have to go there. After all, I have at least never noticed one like that, and I may not find another during my lifetime. These are just the examples that came to mind this morning (morning for me). You have to comb the hills, and make your own deals.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/2015 10:32PM by Norman King.
Reiner Mielke December 28, 2015 06:54PM
If you must have something you seldom get deals, if you don't care if you get it or not you will always find deals.
Norman King December 28, 2015 08:09PM
Yeah, Reiner. Never go with a "buy" list. Maybe buy what you might not have expected to see, and didn't really "need" if it is a once-in-a-lifetime piece.
Sami & Muhammad F. (Fasi) Makki December 30, 2015 09:36AM
From what I have heard the trouble with the CBP in Denver was very Fossil-centric. The mineral guys had problems as they were sharing the shipping container with the fossil dealers. The immigration problem at port of entry for foreigners is true. ESTA, B1/B2 - no cant do ! Tucson Chamber of Commerce must step in to help the Foreign Dealers come through for the show. - Sami
victor rzonca December 31, 2015 01:02AM
Sami, do you think there is time for the Chamber to do anything. It's kind of a federal thing. And if nothing gets done, and dealers uninformed about the B1/B2 issue get stuck, me thinks it could be a real mess for those dealers.
Geoffrey Krasnov January 03, 2016 03:36PM
As a dealer who has attended all of the major US shows for a decade I can offer some new information along with a new perspective.

There was much concern in Denver over the two shows (Fine Minerals and Club Show at the Merchandise Mart). I was involved in several conversations between show management for both and they were truly working together, sharing concerns and trying to find options. The case suppliers were also involved, to insure there was an adequate supply of cases for two shows to run concurrently).The conclusion was that Dave Waisman would move his show to overlap the main show in order to reduce the spread of time required if people wish to attend both. Daves show will open (I believe)on Tuesday and run through Friday. The Club show will continue to open on Thursday through Sunday. Thus, someone wishing to attend both may do so by coming in on a Wednesday and stay as long as they wish. This does strain the dealers who show at both, but it is manageable and seems to be a very adequate response to the concerns. I applaud all who worked together to address it.

As far as attendance goes, it is not so much volume as it is quality buyers. Sure, it is nice to have steady traffic, but I'll take 20 people who are serious collectors over 200 that are interested but not buying. The key to attracting buyers is the right specimens at the right prices. Just like used car lots, there are those that carry vehicles that are barely in usable condition but look decent, dealers who have solid, reliable cars that may not be especially appealing, dealerships with great looking cars that may have been bought at auctions, and dealers who represent the best possible condition as well as appeal. Each has price points for cars that look similar. Mineral specimens are not vehicles, but the analogy of price to value can be used. Thus, each mineral dealer positions himself in the hierarchal ladder. Pricing is a wicked thing. If a dealer prices material too low he sells it quickly, often to other dealers. This is good, until the supply for that quality material begins to dry up or is scaled to current market pricing. It leaves the dealer who wishes to provide the best possible price/value relationship in the quandary of having adequate ongoing supply in a ballooning market.
gary moldovany January 03, 2016 04:38PM
I agree with everything Geoffrey has stated above. I have been doing the local shows for several years in NY, NJ & PA. If you want to be successful at selling minerals, you must have reasonable prices for decent quality minerals. I also believe in displaying a wide variety of specimens with an equally wide variety of price ranges. I have seen this scenario too many times. You go to a dealer's table, he has a number of minerals with no labels and no prices. They look like good specimens. Many people will not ask what the price is for a specific specimen because they are intimidated by either their lack of knowledge or the amount of available cash they have. I am a firm believer in labels and prices on every specimen. I have often heard these dealers complaining about their poor sales numbers. Maybe you need to be a little more friendly to your customers? Of course, we've all seen those dealers who sell rather common mineral specimens that are overpriced. There is a misconception among some dealers that a high price will make a specimen more interesting. In fact, I have even been told that raising the price on a mineral that I have been sitting on for a while will sell it. This has never worked for me. I usually do the opposite, lowering the price so I can move the piece and replace it with a fresh specimen. Another one of my practices is to have fresh material for each show, or at least vary the display so I am not showing the same minerals each time.
Rudy Bolona January 03, 2016 05:24PM
I have also noticed the no label, no locality, no price, just specimens on tables approach by some dealers. Is this some form of trickery to snag uninformed buyers?
David Von Bargen January 03, 2016 05:31PM
Probably dealers that don't want to make up labels. If they do shows in a number of countries (different currencies), it can keep things simpler for them. also more work if they don't use boxes, harder to keep labels with specimens and they will look bad after a few shows.
Bob Harman January 03, 2016 06:07PM
Beginning to stray off the real topic at hand.....the future of the Tucson and Denver shows.

To me a true test of all this will come within the next several weeks. And that will be when all the foreign dealers with all their personnel help and all their mineral and fossil stocks arrive here. How much unloading hassels will they encounter and how will their stocks be treated, both by security and by the US tax people? Also, will show visitors who fly in be well treated when they leave with boxed up fragile specimens? If the dealers and/or the visitors buying fragile examples are either roughly treated or encounter long delays with their stocks, it will deal a huge(!) blow for Denver and next year's Tucson show. The future of the upcoming big shows waits to be determined by treatment in the next few weeks at the Tucson show. CHEERS.....BOB
Ronald January 06, 2016 03:48AM
More aggressive AMT mining activities like the Dorris'es , Eshpenshades, Ledfords, Harrises and the like do.
Thats the answer. Dig baby DIG!
Ronald January 06, 2016 06:53AM
Also, this problem can be mitigated quite nicely in 2017 when the theme is "Midwest Minerals"
Therefore it is incumbent on those persons who have access to mineral localities there to bring forth
their bounty. There have been several localities in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana that have been productive
in the last 10 years, the great strike by the late Gail Deck at the White Rock Quarry in 2007 is a good example.
Also in the Indiana Geode Belt, there are some incredible millerites/honnesites that have been hoarded that need to be
Bob Harman February 21, 2016 01:33PM
I started this thread shortly after the 2015 Denver show and here we are 6 months later, shortly after the 2016 Tucson show. JOLYON, GAIL SPANN and others, on several web sites, have taken many many pix of great specimens, great talks and get-togethers, and the great Arizona weather this year. But was it all wine and roses for this just concluded Tucson show? No one has talked of the crowds, the attendance and the sales. Seeing great specimens and long time friends is all fine and dandy, but the basis of the Tucson show is not meant just as a great get-together; it is meant to sell minerals, fossils, gem stones and all other related material.

To date, I have heard several dealers comments about this year's show, but I will reserve further comments until after others come forward with their 2016 show assessments. CHEERS......BOB
Tony L. Potucek February 21, 2016 04:02PM
I asked one of the local dealers in AZ that specializes in Southwest USA minerals how their 2016 Tucson show went. Their assessment was the same as other similar dealers they spoke with. Their show sales were significantly down--"way down"--in their words. This group of dealers would be considered a second tier of dealers--ones who sell great minerals but they sell more local minerals than worldwide, and they do not have the supposed ikon minerals that attract the wealthy collectors, and certainly not the omnipresent gem minerals. A further observation made would indicate that the main event at the Tucson convention center is not attracting the heavy weight wealthy collectors for the most part. The impression is that group flies into Tucson for the heavy weight financial shows, makes their purchases, and departs, not waiting for the main and final event and displays. Apparently, they don't engage in the socializing with other collectors as many of us do. On a personal level, the interaction with other mineral collectors and dealers I seldom see has and always will be important to me, just as the acquisition of mineral specimens for my collection. In particular, I really enjoyed the by-invitation only memorial to Rock Currier, and I thank the folks like Bill Besse, Joseph, Gary and others who put it together.
Tony L. Potucek February 21, 2016 06:43PM
As a PS, I would further add that Jim and Gail Spann attended all of the functions and shows (exhibiting every year) and support every aspect of the mineral shows and publications. This is an admirable quality and I wish others would do so as well, regardless of their stations in life. Now that I have pretty much retired as a geologist, I have enjoyed participating at symposiums, and in 2015, I gave 4 talks. All of the talks were different and unrelated, and I received great support from several museums when I needed some questions answered and research. In particular, the American Museum of Natural HIstory, Smithsonian, and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Technology really stepped up. But I digress from Bob's topic. The point is, that all of these entities attended Tucson and greatly enriched the Tucson show experience this year. Deep enough.
bob kerr February 21, 2016 08:04PM
some additional thoughts on this year's Tucson Show - i think the wholesale dealers in general did just fine thank you.
- the Rogerly Mine people brought their usual large number of flats and were essentially sold out the first week.
- Adam at the Adelaide Mine brought his usual containers of crocoites and was sold out within a few days.
- the Russian guys at Axinite-PM, KARP and others are still living off the Dalnegorst and Rubtsovskoe mine material (however this is really starting to wane now).
- Top Gem had the usual feeding frenzy for their opening day as did Jewel Tunnel (these have become very uncomfortable experiences)
- Clive Quiet had a wonderful selection of Shattuckites, Cactus Quartzes and lots of other African material that sold quickly
- Jesus Valenzuela had lots of Milpillas Azurites, brochantites for kinda high (more like retail) prices but the selection was pretty good - I wonder how much longer this will last
- Jimmy McNeil was selling his Elmwood/Cumberland material well
- for the Chinese, Moroccan and Indian dealers, my impression is that they do not have all that much to offer anymore - maybe I missed the "first day feeding frenzy" at these places or maybe I'm jaded a bit but it seems there's just not what there used to be for them to sell. (Superb Minerals India seems to be the exception as they seem to always have new and unique material) Is the mine output in these countries being controlled by the "big boys" such that the smaller dealers are being starved??

I also heard from most of the retail dealers the same feedback that Tony received - sales were poor and traffic was way down - at the HTCC and at the TGMS - lots of lookers but not a lot of buyers..

so there appears to be a split between the retail and the wholesale dealers - the wholesalers seem to have a steady group of dealers wanting to buy their material - how many dealers can afford to pay retail and expect to mark a specimen up enough to make a few $$. and maybe that's what is going on here - today the buyers are mainly dealers and there's fewer and fewer collectors spending the time to explore the hundreds of retail dealers.

Holger Hartmaier February 22, 2016 10:10PM
The above remarks based on dealers' experience at the 2016 show are very interesting. I think the low Canadian dollar likely kept a lot of the "snowbirds" away this year. I was not planning to go this year for that reason, however, at the last minute, I decided to fly down to use up a flight credit that was about to expire. I was surprised that I could still get a motel room at "normal" rates during the show period at the Days Inn on Congress, right in the heart of the pre-shows ahead of the main Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show. Normally, everything is booked solid months in advance. I was there the weekend of Jan 28-Feb.1. I don't go every year, but compared to previous years, it was noticeable that dealer attendance was down. I saw a lot of empty tent spaces at some of the shows, so one might say less dealers, but it could be they went to another venue. At many of the hotel room venues, I noticed a lot of closed dealer doors during regular hours, including, surprisingly at the Hotel Tucson City Center (HTCC). The former Executive Inn, was almost dead. Depressing, considering this was once the central mineral dealer venue 20 years ago. I was one of not more than a half-dozen there at the time. These observations may be due to the timing of my visit ahead of the main TGMS as well as the Westward Look show, but for what it's worth, it looked a lot quieter than in previous years.

The increase in wholesale sales is interesting. Could it be that a lot more collectors are getting business licenses to purchase minerals at wholesale prices and try to sell the excess on the side to stretch their collecting budgets?

Further to my earlier post to this thread, it would be interesting to hear from some foreign dealers regarding their experiences in coming to Tucson and Denver and conducting business.

I am with Tony with regards to his posted comments to doing more to support the show(s) in terms of attendance, participation in activities, education and socializing with fellow collectors from around the world. I don't think there is trouble ahead for Tucson and Denver. The momentum of these events will likely keep things going despite worldwide economic cycles that might affect sales and attendance on a year to year basis.
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