The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

2007 Edition

ammoniteThe Tucson Gem and Mineral Show 2007 Edition is now underway. Whether you arrive for the fossils or the minerals, the annual show held in Tucson is more amazing with each passing year.

Many shows got underway yesterday and will run for approximately two weeks. Most shows follow a similar schedule with variations in start and end dates by one or two days.

While most folks just refer to “The Tucson Gem and Mineral show” there are actually a number of “shows” managed by different individuals. For the attendee, this matters little, but after a few annual visits, I have become aware of differences in focus. russian ammonites

For example, some venues are careful to focus on fossils and minerals while others are like an international marketplace with folks selling items from rugs to baskets and beyond. Depending on your particular area of interest, these broader venues can eat up time and energy as you pick your way among the massive displays.

With an astonishing 44 official locations not to mention the unofficial stands set up here and there around town, you’ll never see it all and, unless you are able to stay focused, you may miss the things you came to see.

This year, we traveled to the Tucson Gem and Mineral show with a narrow list, knowing that we’d be seeing, and buying, plenty of things not on our list. For this first installment, we’ll focus on our happy fossil hunting experiences and put out some recommendations for those of you who will arrive at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show little later or in the years to come. You can count on most venders returning to the same spot year after year. graptoliteThe fossil seeker has plenty on which to feast her eyes. The Tucson Gem and Mineral show has approximately ten venues just focusing on fossils, you’ll see amazing specimens from around the globe. Here are just a few that caught our eye this year:

  • We found the somewhat rare graptolites at Crystal World. These Australian vendors bring both fossils and minerals, with some interesting carvings and gift items, too. A particular mineral favorite of ours this year, were the smoky quartz encased in their natural geodes. This will make a wonderful teaching tool for our geology classes and online informational texts.

  • There were full skeletons of mosasaur and an ichthyosaur relief skeleton at the Mineral and Fossil Co-op at 1635 N. Oracle Rd. The display area of Mineralischen Zentrum never fails to deliver museum quality specimens of astonishing proportions. They also displayed a 6-ft tall crinoid.

  • Incredible, near-perfect 6’inch Chacharocles Megalodon teeth are on display at Lowcountry Geologic, room 229 a the Inn-suites venue. Mark is a master diver and displays a wide variety of meg teeth for the beginning collector to the most advanced. Each year, he sets up his private collection of perfect specimens, too. They aren’t for sale, but they are simply the best specimens available for view at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show.

  • Mastodon teeth and tusks abound at both the Inn-suites and the Ramada Limited venues of the Tucson Gem and Mineral show. In fact, an entire Mastodon skeleton was on display behind the building at the Mineral and Fossil Coop. Nord-Fossil, a German company, always has especially perfect specimens of teeth, bones, hair and shell. He occupies two rooms (305 and 306) at the Inn-Suites. At the Ramada Limited, one room is filled with Mastodon tusks. Try room 107, the Relic Shop, if you’re looking for these. We didn’t accurately record which of these vendors had the tusks, but they’re along this section of the building on the inner courtyard rooms.

  • At the Sahara Sea Collection, also at the Mineral and Fossil Coop, there was a most stunning example of a fossil turtle. It had been prepped so that the shell could be raised to expose the inner skeleton and mounted with a mirror underneath so the full plastron was in view. Parts of the skeleton had been restored, but much of the head, legs and inner skeleton were the originals. This specimen alone MADE the trip!

  • One vendor from Germany had brought some plates of sea urchins, not so amazing as individual urchins by themselves, but his particular specimens had preserved all the spines. While urchins are relatively easy to find, these plates that also included the spines were really special.

  • Many of the Moroccan vendors had teeth from the Charcharodon, a dino that resembled the T-Rex because it walked on two legs and was a meat-eater. But one vendor had beautiful specimens that were much more affordable than the others. Finding bargains is fun, even at fossil shows!

    Charcharodon tooth

  • The Black Hills Institute has great whole skeletons. These are the folks who found the dinosaur named Sue, so they can be counted on to display big unusual finds. They also have many instructional books for the young and old, beginner or specialist. BHI shares a room with Bone Cones, a company that deals in full scale replicas. Bone Clones’ replicas are museum quality. My favorite was a replica of a famous fossil specimen in which a Raptor is locked in a death struggle with a Protoceratops. Impressive and fun…these are great photo ops!
pyritized ammoniteThe pyritized ammonites from Russia were brilliant this year. They are prepared by slicing or simply polishing just one side to reveal the pyrite that settled in the septa and interior cavities. The outer shell on the back side provides the background for the brilliant septa formations, but also lets you see how the outer shell preserved in pyrite.

A particularly great find for us at this year's Tucson Gem and Mineral show was Sharks Underground, tucked up on the second floor balcony of the Ramada in room 201. He was the only vender on the 2nd floor, but it was certainly worth the trek upstairs. Proprietor Mark Palatas offered at least four different types of brachiopods from the Midwestern US, all carefully researched and recorded on identification slips to accompany each specimen. We enjoyed the beautiful blastoids and Archimedes “screws,” a special kind of bryozoan.

Mark also seemed to specialize in early arrowheads and tools from the Midwest. It was fun when an elderly many came in, as excited as any young boy, to purchase a special axe head that had two rows for lashing to the shaft instead of the usual single space.

He shared a story of the last one he’d seen…the one that got away to a higher bidder at the auction block.

There were a number of fabulous crinoids at the show, but Mark had some complete crinoid calyx, with lots of detail, that were afordable. Unfortunatly by the time we saw them we had already spent all of our money and then some. Of course there are always the spectacular crinoids offered by Tom Witherspoon. His Indiana crinoids have exceptional detail and clarity.

trilobite tracksTrilobite tracks were a special find at Sahara Treasures. Hmad Ssgaoui and his brother were super friendly, with much knowledge to share. They even offered all-inclusive sight-seeing tours in their homeland. A delighted past customer happened by while we talked and said the each day of his 10-day journey exceeded the expectations set by the previous day. He couldn’t say enough about his wonderful trip.

Bob and Bonnie Finney who own Fossil Lake Fish Company are always fun to see. They on our must see list at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show. This year they had several beautiful rays on large 6 x 4 slabs of sandstone. One of these pieces also bore a fish with a full set of teeth. Bonnie’s prep work is meticulous, allowing the fish to reveal themselves to her as she painstakingly removes the grains of sandstone that have protected these specimens for millions of years.

lepidodendronNext door to Bob and Bonnie, we had another new find: Howard Shanks and his wife from Mid Iowa Minerals and Fossils. Their specialty is plant fossils from the carboniferous period. I’m certain their drawings defining the particular characteristics of each of four large trees of the period will find their way to our websites. We left with the bark, leaves and branches of several species to add to our collections.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral show grows with each passing year and it is more and more difficult to get to each venue and to remember all the fantastic things we’ve seen. Tucson makes a wonderful mini-vacation for us as we end each work day to visit old friends, enjoy our favorite Mexican restaurants, and escape from snowy Colorado to warm Arizona.

The list of memories at this year's Tucson Gem and Mineral show seems unending, but I imagine the stories of this year’s show will continue to bubble to the surface of my thoughts for weeks to come. I’ll save those for another issue. For now, if you can hop a flight to Tucson on next weekend’s last minute discount fares, I’d do it!

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