2013 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

This was quite an amazing year at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. We had gone with plans to get a big supply of meteorites for the next year and to have some fun. But, we had way more fun and found some really spectacular material.

Our schedule was back to the regular week with all the meteorite related activities. Last year we had been there early and missed the IMCA dinner and the Meteorite Men Birthday Bash. This year we would get to go to both.

We hit town at around noon on Wednesday and immediately had our glitch for the trip. Our rental car was not in the lot and we had to wait a while as they sorted out what was going on and finally got us a different car. So just a little late we finally got out of the airport at about 1:15 and headed toward the Tucson City Center Hotel The former Inn Suites. I wonder how many years will go by before we all start calling that hotel by its new name. It will always be the Inn Suites to me I think. I personal dislike the new name.

This visit was just a quick pass to say hello and greet everyone. We had dinner plans and had to still check in at our hotel. We made it to a few rooms and when we got to Geoff Notkin’s room we were there at just the correct moment to meet Suzee Corbell the writer and director of the film Unfinished Business which is about to begin filming and will have as a cast member Geoff himself. There is a longer story behind why meeting Suzee was cool but I need to move on with the gem show report. Geoff was on his way out to continue giving Suzee and her mom the tour of the show so we said goodbye and went next door to see Anne Black. We had a few seconds with Anne before she got busy and went back to working.

I usually find a number of meteorites in Anne’s room but I actually did not get back to see her until Sunday. I did find something nice then however. We stayed around there for a while then headed off to our hotel to check in. We had connected on the phone with our dinner guests and were looking forward to a great evening of friends and good food. It was all that and much more. We shared stories and got caught up a little with what they had been doing. Wish it had been a lot longer but finally we had to leave the restaurant and call it a night.

I had actually been to Arizona three times in three weeks. The first trip had been with my wife to bring some things to Tucson two week before the gem show. On our way home we had stopped in Quartzsite to have some fun and I had seen an old roll top desk sitting outside at one of the collectibles stores. It was in terrible shape and was a big project. The price was certainly OK at only $75 but I hesitated and passed on it even though I had been complaining to everyone including Paul about the state of my current desk and how I needed a new one. We left there and headed over to one of the mineral and rock areas and walked around there for a few hours then came home. But the desk was in my mind and about three days later I said to Sara “I should have bought that desk.” I added you want to go back to Quartzsite on Friday and try to get it? She said, “Why wait until Friday we could go tomorrow. I have nothing planned.” Then we both said at the same time “Road Trip.” So Thursday exactly a week after going to Tucson we were back at Quartzsite again and I got the desk. With the help of a nice stranger we got the beast loaded into the truck. I worked on it every day until I had to leave for the gem show. The desk was on my mind as I was there.I had gotten some of my rock hounding and lapidary rock needs taken care of the two times we were at Quartzsite so I could almost completely focus on meteorites at the gem show. I say almost because I did have my eye out for some bumblebee jasper if I found any. There had been none at Quartzsite and I was eager to get a supply.

Thursday morning we do what we always do on our second morning and that is to take care of all the business everywhere other than the former Inn Suites. So after breakfast it is down to the Ramada and say hi to Blaine Reed and whoever is hanging out with him this year. We can usually count on Mike Martinez and sure enough he was there. For two years in a row we have run into Eric Twelker in Blaine room. It was nice to see Eric. We had missed him for so many years of gem show and then to see him two in row was great. We had three other stops at the Ramada and two or three other hotels to get to so we moved on to Mike Miller’s room. We found some items there and I found a few pieces for my collection that I could not leave without. A nice piece of Norton County out of the University of New Mexico and a nice Wolf Creek also formerly from that collection have a new home. I had both in my collection but upgrading to pieces with cool museum provenance was just to good to pass by. We finished our business with Mike and chatted a minute then moved along so he could get back to work. We ducked into two other dealers and met them. Adam Bates was at the show for the first time and we had a nice conversation with him. He had brought some really fine meteorites for sale. We stopped by Said’s room, I could not resist a few chondrites that I found in one of his plastic tubs so I was well on the way to a heavy bag by the time I left. It would be a long day of carrying them around, but I will have fun cutting into them after I get a little caught up with cutting for the business.

This is a beautiful fully crusted 434 gram stone with a nice shape and thumbprints. I doubt this will be one I cut.

Down the road is the Riverpark Hotel and we had a few stops to make there. Midweek is a nice time to hit these hotels. There is usually parking in the lots which is not the case on the weekend. We decided to pass the Riverpark and walk down to the Days Inn and do our work there before seeing the dealers in the Riverpark so we would have to carry the load we expected to buy for a lot less time. A good choice except I passed a dealer with bumblebee jasper down at the Days Inn and ended up with five pounds of that in my bags. It would not be the last of that I would buy either. I found two more places and got a little more at those two stops before we left Tucson. The first five pounds was shipped home with the first batch of meteorites so I did not have to carry it around except the first day.

Paul stopped at a dealer to look at something we needed and I told him I would catch up with him and headed down to a meteorite dealer. I found some nice stones there and a few pieces for my collection also. He had some classified material as well as unclassified. I sorted though both and found a few pieces of a nice classified chondrite.

The pieces were in a low price tub but they had shock veins running through some of them and would be nice specimens. I had a chance to cut one which is shown above. He had some irons there from a couple meteorites finds that have been around for a while and some nice pieces of a new iron just making is debut. I got three specimens a little larger then what I had seen others selling. I am interested in hearing what it is classified as. There are some conflicting reports of what is seen when it is cut and etched..

I had done OK and headed back to where Paul was just finishing up getting some great pieces he had wanted to look at. He had done well also. It was hot and time for a drink. Paul had gotten me a diet coke but I had laid it down to look at meteorites and walked away without it after only a swallow or two. So I was still thirsty. Little did I know it would be a while before I got anything else to drink. We had to resupply on one of our best selling meteorites and we knew where we could get some. We had not visited this dealer in probably 10 years. But, we were really unhappy with the quality we were seeing at our regular suppliers. We were so happy that we tried this “new” place. The quality was better than we had seen in a couple years and the price was too. We cherry picked two or three kilos and found some other meteorites in addition. Got to know them a little better and made a nice contact for the future. We said goodbye after handing them a nice check and it was time to go see Erich and Silvia.

We never go to Tucson without stopping to see the Haiderers and spend a couple hours with them. We always have a great visit and we find a few things in their room to sell during the next year or two. This year I guess it has to be the beautiful highly sculptured Henbury irons that I will remember. And it won’t be hard to remember actually because the nicest one is now in my collection. But, several people will also be pleased when they buy the others from us. I suspect that they will not last long in the store they are so nice.

This Henbury is so well sculpted that I had a great deal of trouble picking an angle to shot the picture at. It is quite exceptional.

It was early afternoon when we finally finished at the other hotels and made our way briefly back to the former Inn Suites. The IMCA dinner was that night so we had to basically kill some time until heading toward El Charro Resaurant. I had been there before years ago and knew it was really close to the former Inn suites. I parked the car in the lot across the street from the restaurant and was locking the door when this huge white monster of a car turns into the parking space next to me. I was bending down to pick up my camera case which I had set on the ground. I was not sure the driver had seen me. I thought for an instant that this was the end I was going to be squashed. But, the driver flashed their high beams to signal that I had been seen. And I moved quickly out of the way as the monstrous car continued to move forward. We were milling around for a couple minutes before finding seats when Anne comes up and announces that it was her driving the monstrous white suburban and hoped that I had not been scared. It was only then that I remembered reading an email to the list stating that she was on her way to Tucson in a giant white vehicle. I assured her that I had not been too scared and we laughed. Paul and I found seats and soon had a great group of individuals gathered around us to share a fun meal. Russ Finny had found us pretty fast and it was great to see him again. After years of corresponding and sharing a love of tektites neither Paul or I had formally met Norm Lehrman or his charming wife Cookie. But they seated themselves across the table from us and we had a wonderful meal. It was so great to finally meet them and get a chance to talk. We have so many connections with mutual friends and experiences that it was instantly like old home week meeting them. We will certainly look forward to seeing them every year in the future. Norm told us something we had never heard of. It seems that he had been conversing with Doug Dawn aka Mexico Doug about shattercone structures in Tatahouine. I was fascinated by the idea. I had only the small one gram or so piece of Tatahouine that I had gotten 20 years ago. But, I would be on a hunt to find a larger piece and look for shattercones. I found one too and it is maybe the most interesting thing I have experienced in a while. Though just today I was cutting some Chergach that we had been sitting on for a year or so and noticed that two of our pieces had slickensides on them. So I guess you never know what will come along to impress you again with the wonder of meteorites.

I think there is a lot more work to do on this. Certainly it would seem that the shattercones must have been produced during the impact event that blasted the asteroid from is parent body. It seems to this writer that it is unlikely that they formed during the entry and explosion in our atmosphere. Note that they are seen on the cleavage planes of the crystals and not on the regular outside fragment surfaces.

Friday morning we shipped back a box of what we had bought so we would not have to worry about carrying it around. This was our day to stay at the former Inn Suites and really get to see most of our friends. As it turned out it was another long day of finding great material to add to our stock. For me it was an opportunity to get a really nice size piece of Martian meteorite without breaking the bank. NWA 7397 is a most remarkable meteorite. I found a beautiful half crusted stone that gave a nice view of its internal structure as well as (for me) a huge amount of fusion crust. I frankly have not gotten deeply involved in collecting planetary meteorites. I have them of course in my collection but they are small and there are not that many.

Half crusted fragment of Martian meteorite. Still only 1.7 grams

We always get something from Mike Farmer when we are at the show, and this year it was slices of a really fine howardite. One of the slices in particular had such huge inclusions it is going to take some time for me to figure out how to divide it up into smaller pieces. I hate to reduce those wonderful huge clasts. I saw in his case a piece of Bishopville and asked him about it and he said he had a few more pieces. I sorted though them and found a very nice piece. This was material that had been in the Center for Meteorite Studies, at ASU and came of course with an id card and specimen number. Bishopville had basically been unavailable for many years and I now have a fine specimen with wonderful provenance. Of course it looks just like several other Aubrites and that always makes me think for a moment about what it is that really attracts me to a meteorite. I think it is the history and the story associated with the particular stone that often makes it desirable. Mike had no container that was safe enough for the fragile stone so he said he would bring in a membrane box or something to hold it and that was fine I would pick it up later. Later came on Sunday and I again checked out the really incredible slices of Springwater he had. We had talked to Marlin Cilz earlier about them and I could not get them out of my mind. There is something about a pallasite that is cut thin, polished perfect and also beautifully etched that just makes them outstanding. I was buying a lot less numbers of specimens but the quality was way better this year. So far nearly all the pieces were former museum pieces or pieces that were (sorry for this) out of this world beautiful.

We had stopped for just a second to say hi to Pani Ahmed the first day and now was our chance to go back and visit longer. It is always great to see him. Paul started making a small pile of LDG soon after we arrived at his room and I soon had a small pile of chondrite stones from a batch that had come in the same morning. I also found a really neatly twisted Sikhote Alin shrapnel piece. We chatted for a few minutes and got caught up on what had been happening with him. We told him we would stop back to say goodbye before leaving on Sunday.

Down the same side of the rooms was Edwin Thompson’s room and we had not spent enough time there yet. So we parked ourselves there for a fun visit. We ended up buying some wonderful meteorites from them. Some on this visit and some on Sunday right before leaving. But, oh boy what great meteorites. I guess the most special items for me were the twenty or so chunks of Canyon Diablo cut by H. H. Nininger in an attempt to find the little carbonado diamonds. These were truly historic pieces. Once again in keeping with the theme of the trip; great collector pieces with a very special story.


Above are pictured two specimens of Canyon Diablo cut by H. H. Nininger in a hunt for diamonds. Diamonds are found in the shocked meteorites from the crater rim that suffered the heat and pressure of the impact. Nininger failed to find diamonds in meteorite fragments found out on the plains surrounding the crater.

One our first visit to ET’s room I had bought a small piece of Essex an H5 from the California Desert. I had wanted a piece for a while and this piece needed a home. When I was a kid my parents drove nearly every weekend to Bullhead City, Arizona and dragged me along of course. They had intended to retire there. In the end they did not but they did build two homes there. It was during this building phase that we drove through Essex every weekend. My parents would never have just gotten on the interstate even if there had been one. Not if it was five mile shorter distance to drive tiny back water narrow roads. I found out later on another visit to ET’s room that the specimen was from Larry Sloan which made me even happier. Larry was there and thanked me himself and told me the story of the meteorite and how this was the last piece. This is several years in a row that I have run into Larry and gotten something nice from him. So I was really happy I had gotten it and not passed it by like the desk.

We had to figure out what we wanted to do for dinner before the birthday bash celebration for the Meteorite Men; Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold. We decided to get something before the party on our own and have a nice quiet meal. Then enjoy the crowd and noise and fun. We both had a taste for Chinese food and Paul looked up the ratings on restaurants near us. He picked one and gave me the directions and I drove us to it. Wow, what a great meal. Service was spectacular, food wonderful and abundant. We looked at what they brought us and we both said “that’s a lot of food.” But, not too long later and we had devastated the pile and consumed almost all if it. We skip lunch almost always while in Tucson and we were eating the smaller senior breakfast pretty early so I guess we were hungry.

It was not a long drive to the birthday bash there were some people there when we arrived but soon the room was really filling up. Maria Haas was the MC and planner this year and she did a great job. The Harvey Awards were given out and the recipients were as always thrilled to be included in the select group of honorees. Geoff and Steve performed humorously as always and a fun time was had by all. We did not stay until the end, it had been another long day for us so we headed back to the hotel without staying for the music. Saturday was our “do other things day” and it would be another long day.

We usually go to the wholesale show down near the Holiday Inn. I find something nice for Sara and get some supplies for the next year’s jewelry making. I was looking to get some sterling wire and was surprised at how poor the supply was. I found one type of bezel wire I could use and nothing else. In another tent I found some findings that I wanted for pendants but no wire like I needed.

We headed just down the street to the show over by the medical center which used to be called the Tucson Electric Park. But, I did not see signs saying that this year so maybe that name has changed too. I wanted to get some information from the lapidary suppliers there on tumbling and get some diamond polish for my ruby work. I did not have much of my 14000 mesh polish left. The price was really pretty good on the diamond polish so I got some 8,000 mesh too. I have some unakite that needs to be polished with it also. I have found that several of my regular stones also work quite well with diamond polish. I talked to some people about tumbling and got some info and some catalogues.

We had really done well and were close to the end of the budget we had set. We had shipped two batches of meteorites home and three dealers were shipping meteorites to us. We headed to our meeting at the Outback restaurant near our hotel. We have both been watching what we eat for several months and I was ready to dig into a nice steak and I think Paul was also. We had a nice celebration of a successful Tucson Gem Show. Tomorrow was basically say goodbye day and kill time until our flight left.

We were leaving later then most years not until 6:15 in the evening so we did have most of the day. We headed to the former Inn Suites and started at Pani’s room. We said goodbye and wished him a great remaining show time. Then headed down to take a look for that Tatahouine piece with shattercones that I wanted from the dealer we had bought from for several years. With all the larger pieces of Tatahouine we have sold over the years I had never looked at them microscopically or even upgraded to a larger collection piece.

We already knew he did not have much with him this year but hoped he might have a few larger pieces I could look through for the shattercones. The very first piece I looked at had them and it was the best representative that he had so it had to be the piece I would get. You have already seen the pictures and read my comments above about this. We said goodbye to him. As we left the room ET called me back over to his room and I said I would met Paul later. But, ET said Paul needs to come too so I yelled for Paul before he turned the corner and we both headed up the few rooms to ET’s suite.

We thought we were done buying material but what can I say. There were some boxes of meteorites that we just could not pass by. We buy these all the time and none that we buy were as nice as these or with the history these specimens had. So we “took the lot” as Harry Potter might say about candy from the trolley. And we had been thinking about something else ET had for a day or two and decided we were nuts if we did not take those too. So we had a great morning on Sunday getting some more fabulous meteorites. A couple of each would somehow make their way to my collection.

Gradually we got around the hotel to say goodbye and thank everyone. We had a couple hours left so we drove over to the Ramada and made the rounds there too. And wouldn’t you know we got a few more things over there. I had made it right up to the last two hours without buying any glass except for one really nice piece of LDG. I had survived a meal with Norm and Cookie talking about tektites and not bought any the following days. But, I failed at the last tent I walked into. There were some wonderful large Chinese tektites and the price was really good. So five tektites found their way into my luggage wrapped in newspaper I could not read. And after saying our parting fairwells to Mike Miller and Blaine Reed we headed to the airport really satisfied that we had done very well this year at getting what we needed and some great material besides.

It took me another five days to finish the desk and get it moved into my office. It turned out fantastic. I got the peeling veneer all glued back down. It took every C clamp and clamping device I had to do some of the surfaces but I got them fixed. I replaced what I had to with new veneer. I was afraid I would never get the big blue/black ink stain out of the top of the actual working surface but I did. After the desk was done I could get back to meteorites. I have been working everyday on them so we can fill the catalogue back up that was so depleted at Christmas time. Soon I will get a day or two to play with some of the unclassified stones I brought back from the gem show. But, I think those days are still a few days off. It is back to the garage for me now that this article is done to cut some more and clean some more meteorites for the business. But it is all fun and there is always a surprise inside the next stone I put in the saw.

Next issue will be the final part of last year’s vacation story that is taking a while to get to now that we are every other month as a publication. Till then enjoy, Jim

About the Author

James Tobin
The Meteorite Exchange, Inc. was born in 1996 with meteorite.com and Meteorite Times Magazine in 2002. Still enthusiastic about meteorites and all things related to them, we hunt, collect, cut and prepare specimens. We travel to gem shows and enjoy meteorites as much now as in the beginning. Please feel free to share any comments you have on this or any of our other sites.
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