Saturday, December 24, 2011

John S. White Compares Munich to Tucson

A May-June, 2009 article about John S. White by publisher Thomas P. Moore of Mineralogical Record (which John founded in 1970), mentioned how "some less than reverent visitors used to ask permission to dig in the hypothetical pile of discarded matrixes in John's back yard." Though more reverent than that, I had little compunction about eyeing the pebbles in his driveway as we walked out from his home in Stewartstown, PA for lunch at a restaurant in nearby Shrewsbury. The calcite and epidote in our title picture were the bounty.

John had recently returned from the annual late autumn Mineralientage München (Munich) show. Though my visit was primarily social, I was interested in learning as much as possible from John about how this event differed from the extravaganza that transpires from the end of January through the second week of February each year in Tucson.

Most significant, John noted, is that Munich has no fringe shows and no hotel selling. The event is open to the public for two days only and takes place at a single location, namely the four huge halls of Neuen Messe München. Each of these four halls is larger than the Tucson Convention Center.

Partial compensation for the lack of fringe shows and hotel selling is a policy at Munich that allows admission to certain high-end dealers and well-connected advanced collectors during set-up period, which begins on Wednesday and continues through the following day. Doors open for collectors on Friday. The general public gains admission only on Saturday and Sunday.

Mineralientage München consists of four "worlds:" Mineralworld, Gemworld, Fossilworld, and Stoneworld. While the titles tell the story, it's notable that Gemworld has a few gem minerals and that the wares in Stoneworld not only run a new-age gamut, but can include everything from interior acoutrements to hot stone massages.

My conversation with John focused mostly on Mineralworld. Along with world class exhibits---2011's Show featured European Classics---Mineralworld is divided into sections, halls unto themselves. The "super-premium dealers," as John descried them, operate from the most elaborate stalls in a walled in section. With dealers of all stripes in between, Mineralworld also accommodates dealers small enough to be clustered where each could have as little as a meter of space.

Scattered throughout are Chinese, Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian dealers. The quality and prices of their merchandise can vary from one hall to another. The Chinese dealers, says John, are likely to have the best material and the most new finds. Regardless of nationality, John emphasizes that as in Tucson, quality and prices are all over the map and often far from commensurate.

Moroccan dealers by the dozens are clustered in another hall and as at Tucson generally have more predictable inventory that varies little from year to year. The question was(is) how can they all make enough money to keep returning? The answer, John says is that they are there for many reasons, not just to profit on their mineral sales.

Notably different from the “Big Show” in Tucson, John states with emphasis, is that "excellent food courts are all over the place," with much better fare than available at the Tucson Convention Center. The catalog for the Munich Show is also a lot slicker than at Tucson. John gives me one shortly before I leave.

Walking once again the few steps across the driveway from his door to my car, I stoop to pilfer another pebble, because unlike the others, it's quartz. About to toss it later as the waning natural light in my office rendered little of interest to be visible, I opted first for a quick glance under the scope. Revealed was the phlogopite micromineral at left.

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