Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tucson 2013

One day in Tucson during the first two weeks of February can provide enough material for a year’s worth of Mineral Bliss posts spread out one per week. It can all be quite overwhelming.

The dinosaurs pictured in the courtyard of the Inn Suites (for over a year now officially named Tucson City Hotel) are mobile. They enhance the atmosphere here at this Martin Zinn hosted Arizona Mineral Show. This is the most popular among serious mineral collectors of the approximately two dozen shows going on around town at this time. Featuring minerals, gems, jewelry, fossils, beads and meteorites, they precede the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's “big show,” which happens over four days through the middle weekend of February.

Having driven across the country with a brief stop to collect at the Blanchard Mine near Bingham, New Mexico, I arrived at the Inn Suites on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013,  the day before the action there was slated to begin. Notwithstanding, before one could walk beyond the lobby, Dan and Diana Weinrich were waiting in the little adjoining room where they do business each year. Against two walls were cabinets of their typically expensive mineral specimens. Surrounding the other two walls were less expensive boxed minerals the Weinrich’s had keystoned (that means reduced by half) from original prices that were mostly  reasonable to begin with. Having disregarded a favorite aphorism  “Don’t take the first thing off the shelf,” I'm still delighted with my Weinrich purchases two weeks later.

Otherwise, my first stop would have been a second floor room above a courtyard beyond the one where the dinosaurs lurked. lt is the room where the iconic and ever fascinating dealer Alfredo Petrov holds forth each year. Alfredo was only about halfway finished setting up, but already had a small quantity of very interesting minerals on display. From somewhere behind them he lifted a seven pound boulder of river polished gneiss bearing a quartz vein in the shape of a heart. “Anyone looking for a Valentines gift,” he inquired? SOLD to Your's Truly for $40! I correctly anticipated that Mrs. Yi would be overwhelmed when presented with it upon flying in to join me for Valentines Day. Even better, Alfredo provided with this rock with one his signature handwritten labels.

Two days later was Superbowl Sunday. Not a soul at the Clarion Show, the Riverpark Show, the Pueblo Show nor at the Inn Suites, all of which I visited that morning was wearing purple. However dear the fellowship of my mineral friends in Tucson, none would suffice as superbowl watching companions  without sharing my passion for the Baltimore Ravens. Thankfully, a Baltimore friend with no interest in minerals, who had rented a condo 30 miles south in Green Valley and knew I was in Tucson, was kind enough to invite me  to watch the game with him and his family. .

The following week, I returned to Tucson from a side trip to Los Angeles in time to enjoy “Collectors Day” at the posh Westward Look Resort on Ina Road in North Tucson. Each year on this weekend before the Big Show, most of the world’s top high end dealers rent suites to display and sell their best material. The world class minerals in all of these suites attract  museum buyers and well-heeled collectors along with plenty of gawkers. Featured in the Westward Look Lobby each year on Collector's Day is a display featuring selected specimens belonging to a notable collector. This year's  honors went to Kevin Brown, who also is the Gallery Manager at Dr. Rob Lavinsky’s heralded Arkenstone in Richardson, Texas. While  in the lobby, I stepped aside from shooting photographs of Kevin's rocks to make room for Mindat Founder and Chief Executive Joylon Ralph, as he photographed an image of Kevin standing in front of the collection.

Mrs. Yi flew in from Baltimore late that night. The following day, I directed her on a tour of as many shows as time would permit. To impress her with the vastness of what happens in Tucson during February, we made a stop at the humungous annual extravaganza taking place at the Kino Sport Complex. As I ambled about in the out of doors looking over  millions of poor quality overpriced minerals, Mrs. Yi ventured inside the huge tent to find a Colorado based jewelry dealer who sold  her for $100 a ring that had been priced at $160. I beamed upon noting that the featured stone was a polished cab of the rare turquoise family species chalcosiderite.

After a brief side trip to Sedona, Mrs. Yi and I were back in Tucson for the first day of “the big show” on Thursday, Feb. 14, Valentines Day. Because it’s a weekday, fewer people attend than on the following three days, making it much easier to take everything in and make purchases. Each year’s show has a specific theme. This year the show theme was fluorite. It was  chosen because fluorite is a relatively common mineral that's much cherished by collectors for its beauty, as well as diverse colours and habits. Except for theme, the big show is  much the same from year to year. The amazing exhibits, though different each year,  are always in the same place, and the dealers are likely to be working the same spot as the year before.

The big show and all the the other shows leading up to it are much the same in another respect.  Prices different dealers ask can vary drastically for species where the size and quality can suggest equal value. Not at all unusual is for one dealer to be selling for $20 something similar to what another dealer has priced at $200. This speaks even more for how subjective the pricing of minerals can be than the likelihood that a dealer is seeking to take advantage of  buyers. More important, however, than asking price are the prices negotiated negotiated between sellers and shrewd buyers, many of whom are also sellers, when others are not present. Pity the buyer who has not been on the scene long enough to fully understand this aspect of the market.

With the largest extravaganza of its kind anywhere else in the world, Tucson in February offers perspective like no other regarding the various earth science related hobbies and businesses it showcases. As much as viewing and buying, many who attend each year  value being there for the kind of fellowship that is available with others they would otherwise rarely get to see or meet who share their unique interests. That the weather can usually be counted upon to be perfect makes it all the nicer.

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