Friday, August 17, 2012

The 2012 East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show,

This year's East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show held at the Better Living Center-Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, was grand. It impressed me more than any of the the six shows here, beginning in 2007, that I've attended. The basic layout was the same: big hall with ten aisles bordered on each side by dealers of gems, fossils, and mostly minerals. Beyond the easternmost hall was a curtain to partition off a section for wholesalers and buyers with resale tax numbers. Each day the show featured two guest speaker presentations in a smaller room up some steps. They included Bob Jones, Professor Nancy Millard, and Kevin Downey on topics relating to the colour of minerals, the history of collecting, and caves. 

As in the past, the entrance room featured  exhibits and magazines (ie. Rocks and Minerals Mineralogical Record) .Usually the exhibits display specimens from an individual private mineral collection. This year, the theme focused on the watercolor art of Fred Wilda. After  becoming fascinated with minerals about 15 years ago, Wilda, a Massachusetts aftist soon began to specialize in painting them. He has since become renowned for them in mineralogical circles and beyond.  Our title image shows a Wilda painting of an aquamarine from the Tripp Mine in Cheshire County, New Hampshire. The subject specimen sits immediately below accompanied by a vast assortment of other New England gem minerals.  In addition to the exhibits lining the room and the magazines was a microscope equipped desk offering mineral identification. 

A pleasant precursor to a long day of schmoozing and acquiring ---I was only there on Friday, Aug.10---was what first met my eye in the main hall. Green Mountain Minerals of Garrison, New York,  had an array of mineral specimens for sale at eyepoppingly reasonableprices. They had  rows of $5 specimens and $10 specimens. Some of them could probably have commanded far more.Within less than a minute, my wallet was lighter. 

John Betts had set up nearby. He was so busy, I never got to chat with this consummate dealer and proponent of mineralogy. Nearby was Terry Szenics. Want  some  of the eponymous rare szenicsite from Inca d' Oro, Chile that's so popular with collectors? Terry had plenty on hand including a couple of small pieces for as little as $10, larger and showier once for bigger bucks. Not far away, Alfredo Petrov commanded his typical eclectic array of obscure, interesting, and sometimes almost arcane minerals  and as usual had plenty of stories to tell.  One of several that I caught  was about a benitoite find in Japan. The occurrence, albeit microscopic, was in rhodonite. Alfredo suggested that the geologic conditions encouraged speculation as to whether future benitoite finds could be lurking  in certain unnamed rhodonite deposits in California.

Plodding through the hall the entire day, I encountered a few significant "new finds"  and likely missed plenty morel. Michael Walter's Geologic Desires (Nicholville, New York) had a new find from the Rose Road Site in Pitcairn, New York, of diopside that was purple, possibly due to low iron. Another Geologic Desires find was of peristerite (think albite, moonstone) along with some scapolite from the Ellis Farm locality at Macomb, New York. Ryan Smith of Ryan Smith Minerals had a new find of baryte from the Linwood Mine,in Buffalo, Iowa. The crystals were "smokier"  than any Linwood Mine barytes I'd previously seen. Mr. Smith explained how he'd obtained them directly from a geologist with a special permit to collect at the locality.

Speaking of having having sources with access to a locality,  Dan and Diana Weinrich (Weinrich Minerals)  might have taken the cake, just like last year. On tables next to  glass encased cabinets of high end specimens, I joined buyers who were scarfing up keystoned lower end minerals faster than the Weinrich's could lay them out. Some  were of superior quality, many  from the Sweetwater Mine, Vibernum Trend, Reynolds County, Missouri. Dan and Diana know a miner there who has been supplying them with seemingly endless material for years.  Can you believe that from amidst these pieces I scored the almost nine inch Sweetwater Mine calcite crystal pictured at right for $24?

Being from Maryland and with a penchant for regional minerals, one reason this show was so special for me was its East Coast focus. With about 120 dealers, it would seem  small  for being the biggest show  within such a vast and  populous a region. Though the dealers come from all over  (at least within the United States), many were East Coast dealers with plenty of East Coast mineral specimens  for sale. Much of the material is from older collections that these dealers have purchased or arranged to sell on consignment. Specimens so acquired often tend to bear enticingly reasonable price tags.

The highlight of the show for me was Steve Carter's Penn Minerals concession. Earlier this year, the selections from Pennsylvania that he as well as Joe Dague were selling at the Macungie Show in June had dazzled me. What Steve was selling here at West Springfield dazzled me even more.  In less that ten minutes, I'd filled a flat. The cerussite specimen pictured at left from the long closed and inaccessible Wheatley Mine in Phoenixville for $150 was my main purchase of the show. 
Seeing and schmoozing with mineral people at this show is as much fun as scoring new minerals.  I was privileged to join Joe Polityka, of Allentown, Pennsylvania for a late lunch at the Good Living Center's pathetic food concession. Joe's been Mineralogical Record's reporter  on the East Coast Show for more than a decade. He also opined that this year's show was particularly enjoyable. It will be interesting to read what he will have to say when his article appears, presumably in the Nov.-Dec. 2012 Minrec. Since we were grabbing a bite, we talked some about food as well as minerals.It's a topic Joe has touched on in some of his past articles. From the places he mentioned,  I suspect he had yet to find his way to the place I would discover about seven hours later. 

Having spent several hours hours after the day's show  in a hotel room logging my purchases,  I ventured out quite late and on my own, ending up at the Federal just a few miles up Route 5 in Agwam where good fortune afforded me the sole open stool at  the bar. The Federal is a creative "New American" restaurant just a few miles up Route 5 in Agwam.  I don't believe anything comparable exists in or anywhere near so close to Springfield or West Springfield. Though it was packed, I didn't recognize any familiar faces from the show. The people next to me had made a special trip all the way from Hartford. My dinner of a fresh garden gaspacho bearing half a fresh lobster tail and topped  with wasabi oil and baby cilantro followed by a "twelve ingredient salad" were outstanding. I only wish more mineral friends shared my penchant for elaborate food. 


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  2. Question. Should anyone be interested in rocks and minerals left on property that they bought? The previous owner died and was a rock collector. You can't stick a shovel in anywhere without hitting all kinds of rocks and minerals, crystals and agate. Whenever I ask members of gem societies to come look they never seem that interested or they don't have the time. Is it because I couldn't say where the rocks originated from? They aren't anything spectacular to anyone else, but I do think they deserve looking at. I try to educate myself online about the rocks, but it doesn't get me anywhere other than knowing I would need expensive tools to test them, etc.