In mid-February of 2014, the mineralogists from the Department of Mineral Sciences went to Tucson, Arizona for the 60th Annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. Held every February, the Tucson Show is one of the largest shows of its kind in the world and is regularly attended by representatives of the Smithsonian Institution.
Ahhh…sunny and warm Tucson, Arizona and our annual trip to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is finally here! What a nice break from the cold of Washington, DC. Time to buy some minerals. Jeff Post, Russ Feather and Christine Webb had already been in Tucson attending the major gem shows for almost a week prior to the arrival of Paul Pohwat, Joe Mack and myself on February 11th. This was Joe’s first trip to this mineral and gem extravaganza and he had a great time. Once we all got settled in, we began the business of looking for new specimens for the collections. This involves lots of walking and visiting mineral dealers who convert their hotel rooms to “mini-shops”.
One of our favorite vendors is Jorde Fabre of Fabre Minerals. Jorde is a really nice guy and always has interesting specimens to show us. It seems every year he has set aside something that we can’t resist getting for the Museum’s Mineral Collection. This year it was a chalcocite/chalcopyrite specimen from China.
Not all deals take place in hotel rooms…some even occur in the parking lot! We were shown some fabulous azurites from Milpillas, Mexico. Fantastic material, but a bit pricey for us. Most people do not realize that selling minerals is big business. Minerals can be found at every price level. Low-quality specimens can be bought for as little as $5. Prices for very good specimens can range anywhere from $100 to almost $5,000 and "museum-quality" mineral specimens suitable for display in public exhibitions can easily have prices in excess of $20,000. In my many years of attending the Tucson Show, I have also seen nicely displayed minerals with price tags of $100,000 or more. Too much for our budget...but still nice to look at. Speaking of mineral displays, check back later for an update on the Smithsonian's displays at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.