44 venues this year, over 3500 dealers ... Tucson has come alive again!
This is always an exciting place to be in winter as this city comes alive for rockhounds of every ilk.
We have 2 weeks to see all that we can of this wonderland of rocks. While we won't get to every venue, hopefully we can share with you some fun and insightful views of this passion that we all share.
We will be posting some images and impressions as we go along, so stay tuned.
The Kino Gem and Mineral Show
Kino Sports Complex, formerly known as Tucson Electric Park)
January 26 to February 12
This huge, mostly-outdoors show continues to amaze. We could not find many vendors selling collector quality petrified wood at this locale this year, but if you are in the market for coffee table-size slabs from Indonesia or carved animals and skulls, there was plenty to choose from. What really catches the eye is the massive size of some of the mineral specimens - amethyst geodes over 15 feet high, the already mentioned Indonesia pet wood slabs that can double as furniture as well as polished trunk sections fashioned into stools (hard to sit on and harder to move and clean around ...)
It is amazing just how much material of any and all descriptions is located at this show. Plenty of lapidary material for the hobby cutter, as well as some really high- grade materials for the professional gem cutter. Material from all over the world can be seen and while our photos seem to concentrate on petrified wood, one also can enjoy agates, jaspers, jade, faceting rough and rock shop types of mineral specimens. If you need equipment to cut and polish the treasures, several major manufacturers of lapidary saws, grinders, polishers, sphere makers, etc. have their products on display and for sale. There is a genuine international fair atmosphere here. The vendor spaces all seem occupied.
A side perk is that this is one of the best shows for parking -- which is no small accomplishment during these shows which attract thousands of people per day.
(And just how many rock and gem shows have you attended where someone has brought their pet pony? It is emblematic of the weird and wonderful place that Tucson is this time of year!)
The Fossil and Mineral Alley Show
Days End Motel on I-10
January 27 to February 12
This show is literally crammed with dealers and material -- as some of these pics illustrate! 73 Vendors in this one location! The show dealers mostly concentrate on vertebrate and invertebrate fossils but an occasional incredible piece pops up as well. Large, complete cycad plants like this are always in the five digit price range - usually awaiting someone who wants to cut it into slabs and sell the polished slabs instead of displaying the entire plant. If our photos look like this show is a bit congested with rocks, people and rather little room to move around - it is because that is indeed the situation.
Even though we don't personally collect or sell fossil fauna, we do enjoy looking at some of the most amazing preparation work imaginable. The patience and skill required to gradually chip these well preserved out of their matrix is indeed an art.
It is an interesting experience to simply walk around and hear all of the languages being spoken. Fossil dealers from England, France, Morocco, India, China, Germany and Russia can be heard answering questions about their inventory -- which invariably spills out of their rooms into the sidewalk and sometimes into the parking spaces in front of the rooms. It is quite the sight!
January 27 - February 12
Mike Jacobs Sportspark
6901 N. Casa Grande Highway, Marana
This is a show fairly far out of town to the north that is the only one in the Tucson area where the dealers can stay in their trailer, RV, or tent right at their booth. It mirrors how many local club shows in California are run. As you might imagine, the opening hours are entirely up to the individual dealers for their own both so it is the most informal show in town. The Coop is a cooperative venture of all the dealers, each of whom is quite independent. In the past we have found some really interesting petrified wood and algae specimens at this venue but this year, we struck out. Nevertheless, there were mineral specimens and lapidary materials that we had not previously seen before. Many of the dealers are indeed the actual diggers and "miners" (note their logo) who have discovered new materials and recovered it for the market. In summary, a really interesting group of people with really interesting material but no collector-grade petrified wood this year. Perhaps next year!
1820 Oracle Wholesale Show
January 25 - February 12
Top Gem Mineral Buildings
1835 N. 11th Avenue, Tucson
This is a very small show of only a dozen dealers but the history of the facility is quite interesting. The late Mike New, founder and owner of Top Gem, a long-time importer and wholesaler of mineral specimens established this complex of industrial condominiums many years ago. Dealers have the same space every year and can keep their inventory and equipment in their own space so opening up for the Tucson Show is merely a turnkey operation. Unlock, open the door, arrange the specimens and add the new stock for the current year. This concept has now proven to be the main focus for many of the mineral dealers who have turned the neighborhood from a shoddy industrial zone into a series of similar buildings (new and refurbished older ones). It is actually quite a brilliant idea and it is a wonder that it took so long for others to copy Mike's idea. We have found great wood from Australia here in the past and wonderful plant leaves as well. It is a group of a dozen dealers who know their stuff and are generally willing to share details.