Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tucson 2011: the First Day

Very quickly, an explanation of what's happened to Mineral Bliss since its post of Nov. 22, 2010: The author has been using time previously set aside for blogging to engage a private tutor to help enhance his skills at mineral photography. So why isn't the title photograph for this post more relevant? The first Friday of Tucson action (Jan. 28 this year), leading up to the "Big Show" at the Convention Center (Feb. 10-14), was for me more about meeting top mineral people from all over the world and seeing first hand as many "new" minerals as possible. Plenty of time for photographing them later.

Although over a dozen shows were underway throughout town today in various motels, tents, and lots, by far, the greatest number of dealers and the widest selection of minerals were at one location. That was the sprawling Hotel Tucson City Center at 475 North Granada, historically referred to as Inn Suites. I was there by lunchtime and ventured no farther. Interestingly, the word on line and in the Tucson EZ-Guide proclaims the that this and three other shows organized by Martin Zinn were getting underway the following day, Saturday, Jan. 29. All the better for me that the action had begun a day early.

Though a significant minority of dealers had yet to set up or were in the process of doing so, the level of activity was overwhelming. Prices were all over the map with plenty of bargains. This first Friday is always a good day for buyers seasoned enough to recognize undervalued minerals and scarf them up. In some instances, these buyers are also dealers who over the next two weeks sell their purchases to other dealers around town at ever higher prices. This goes on to the point that by the time they make it to the Convention Center in two weeks, some of these specimens have changed hands and price several times. Note that bargains are to be scored as well on the final day of the show (Feb. 13) from dealers prone to unload some of their inventory quite inexpensively rather than pack it for transport to wherever.

The most attractive values I encountered today were being offered by Ray Grant of Raycin Minerals from Chandler Arizona. Lots of great material here including numerous thumbnails, especially from renowned Arizona localities such as the 79 Mine, Old Reliable Mine, and amazing yet very reasonably priced small wulfenite specimens from the Red Cloud Mine. Among the higher end dealers were the likes of Collectors Edge from Boulder Colorado, Crystal Classics from UK, and its US Counterpart Kristalle. If the prices being asked in these rooms were steep enough to boggle the mind, their dealers are among the most reliable, respected, and successful in the world with customers willing to pay for the best. Sometimes the most subtle distinctions in quality or aesthetics tend to justify exponential differentiations in price.

Another reason this first day is so special for me relates to a penchant for rare and obscure minerals. There are only so many to go around, and every day, especially today, the selection will diminish. One rare species dealership I visited was Middle Earth/Cal Neva from Sparks, Nevada. Plenty of thumbnails here as well as the widest selection of Mount Saint Hilaire material I've ever observed being sold in one place at the same time. Famous in the rare minerals niche is Jaroslav Hyrsl from the Czech Republic, who co-authored with Jan Bernhard the already classic book Minerals and Their Localities. While mingling about later in Jaroslav's room, I recognized and introduced myself to Jordi Fabre, the iconic Spanish dealer/collector, and producer of the renowned international FMF Minerals Forum. Earlier while walking through the courtyard, I'd passed Jordi's room where a sign on the closed door noted he'd begin selling on Tuesday, Feb. 1. "It's just too much to have to be in that room every day all that time," Jordi explained.

From Jaroslav Hyrsl's room, I headed to that of the German dealer Gunnar Farber. As with the selection of Hyrsl, the extent of rare and newly discovered minerals being offered was sufficient for more than a year's worth of weekly Mineral Bliss posts. Here are just a few particularly intriguing ones that were particularly unusual or recently discovered:
  • Chromian lawsonite from Cape Marmari, Grammata Bay, Syros Island, Greece.
  • Blue nyboite crystals with crystallized jadeite also from the same Syros Island locality.
  • Askagenite from Askegan Quarry, Filipstad, Varmland, Sweden.
  • Anatacamite (epitactical triangular wings on atacamite) from Lavendida mine, Caracoles, Sierra Gorda II Region, Chile.
  • Strontiodresserite from Dielengraben, Stein, Drautal, Gailtaler Alpen, Carinthia, Austria.
  • Vertumite from the Eifel Mountains, Bellenberg, Rhineland Palatinate, Germany.
  • Anhydrite crystals!!! from Kohnstedt Quarry, Niedersacswerfen, Nordhausen, Harz, Thuringia, Germany.
  • Ammineite, blue crystals on halite, from Pabellon de Pica, Chanabaya, Punta Colina, Iquique I Region, Chile.
  • Mejillonesite from the Mejillones Mine, Mejillones, Chile, which Gunnar discovered.
While enroute to Gunnar's room, I encountered Alfredo Petrov, who on quick visual inspection, can identify a species as well as anyone in the game. Deliberately placed in my handbag to show him was a specimen labeled teallite acquired several years ago from an old collection that I suspected was actually frankeite. Alfredo assured me I was right.

Alfredo's room was the last that I visited before leaving. Since I'd paid $5 a few years ago for my chunk of frankeite mislabeled as teallite, it heartened me to observe that Alfredo had for sale a frankeite with a price tag of $320. Alfredo's specimen, however, was attractive enough to represent the better value. He also was selling a huge specimen of fluoropotassic-hastingsite (type and only locality). Last September, I acquired from Alfredo what he believed---and knowing him I would take that to mean is the largest piece of this rare amphibole known to exist. However, what he had for sale today was larger, so I asked him about it. "Yes," said Alfredo, " it's a bigger rock, but it's mostly magnetite. You've still got what has the biggest amount of fluoropotassic-hastingsite." Alfredo's big rock was priced $180, which is more than the $145 that's being asked for that "largest piece piece in existence" being offered by my Jake's Minerals. Three days from now, if it's still unsold, that asking price at Jake's minerals will be going up to $220.

Tomorrow, I leave Tucson for visits to Death Valley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco before returning for the big show at the Convention Center. Expect the first of at least two more Tucson related Mineral Bliss posts to appear the second week of February.