Sunday, January 31, 2010
Arriving in Tucson
The point was getting to Tucson (by car from Baltimore) as early as possible. Early brings not only the greatest selection of quality material and new finds, but curiously the most forgiving numbers on numerous price tags. Friday, Jan. 29 marked the beginning of the "satellite" shows that start up two weeks before "The Big Show" at the Tucson Convention Center from Feb. 11-Feb. 14. While plenty of choice minerals at dirt cheap prices will still be around as all the hoopla concludes in two weeks, many of the best will cost more after passing through many hands over the next two weeks. Plenty else could go down in price by then, especially second rate material from dealers less than enthusiastic about packing it all up and shipping it home.
I first visited the biggest of these early shows, which as in past years was happening at Hotel Tucson City Center, formerly known as Inn Suites, St. Mary's and Granada. About half its 600 or so dealers were up and running by Friday, many more by Saturday. Though most sell minerals, a large minority do fossils or gems. As always, prices cover the map. The mood seemed upbeat relative to last year, when many dealers lost money because of the economy.
From the "Inn Suites," I headed to the Executive Inn at 333 West Drachman. In past years, dealers have occupied most rooms here, but not this year. Among the few who were set up , one from China sold me two wonderful hematite/quartz pieces for a fraction of what I would have expected.
The adjacent Minerals and Fossil Marketplace at West Drachman and Oracle appeared much as it did last year, with most of the same dealers in the same spots. Rock Deco had a couple flats of minerals from the Mammoth St. Anthony's Mine in Tiger from which I took delight in purchasing an affordable ($45) hand specimen of caledonite with leadhillite for my personal collection.
The Quality Inn at 625 E. Benson Highway is not to be missed. Most of the dealers hail from outside the United States, especially China, India, Russia, and Pakistan. Just about all the Chinese dealers were charging ridiculously high prices, having not yet figured out what the market would bear. But you will also find here Mikhail Anosov, who offered better values than I've observed in years from any of the myriad Russian dealers who annually descend upon Tucson. For aficionados of rare minerals, Germany's Gunnar Farber is a must visit at the Quality. All of Gunnar's minerals are mounted in clear plastic cases with price tags that end with the number (8)---$28, $38, etc.
Farther east, another enormous and definitely worth a visit venue is Tucson Electric Park. Unlike so many other nearby locations that are devoted exclusively to jewelry, the mix here is a hodgepodge of endless rough material, yard rocks to die for (see top picture), and enough minerals to be worth checking out. One dealer has thousands of flats of material, mostly adamite, mimetite, and hemimorphite from the Ojuela Mine in Mapimi, Durango, Mexico.
Most important is that Tucson has it all, enough to provide copy for this Mineral Bliss blog and inventory for Jake's Minerals well into 2010. I encourage readers to travel here and get in on it. Accommodations are easier than ever. Right next door to the Quality Inn show, the flashing sign at Motel 6 touted rooms for $45.95 on Friday, although by Saturday, they'd been raised to $49.95. One can count on rooms being available in the Tucson area---most likely reasonably decent ones for less than a C-note---even on the weekend of the Big Show.