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.
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.