Tucson Gem Show Memories

In a few days it will again be time for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. I will be off to find treasures from beyond the Earth. If memory serves correctly this will be my twentieth Tucson Gem Show. Often I have used the January issue of my article as a time to remember the past and get some perspective on the upcoming year. So this month will be a short journey down memory lane.

I am a kind of hands-on buyer of meteorites. I like to see and touch the meteorites that I buy if I can. Probably 40% of my collection has been gotten over the years at Tucson. I always get a little excited with anticipation about what I will find when I get there. I know that there will always be some of the more plentiful meteorites like Canyon Diablos, Campos, Gaos and many North West Africa like NWA869 that seem to always be around. I dream before the show of others; the ones rarely seen that will fill some gap in my collection or satisfy some unspoken desire I have.

I have shared in the past some of the ways in which my collecting has changed over the last 4 decades since I got my first Canyon Diablo. I think if anything it is more focused now on older falls and new falls. But, I remain a sucker for that completely crusted stone whether find or fall. The last few years of abundance with Sahara and NWA recoveries has put a big number of those crusted individuals into my collection. And even though they will likely never be classified it does not lessen their importance to me. But, there was not always even the slightest direction to my collecting. I just loved meteorites so much that I got stones for practically no reason at all. Now days I at least spend some time handling them and thinking about it before they come home with me. There was a time though where there was more urgency in the decision making. There was no flood of material from anywhere. There were only the meteorites that a handful of dealers had brought with them to the show. And if you left the room without buying it there was a very good chance that you would not return even a short time later to find it still there. There just was not all the choices that we have today. So many meteorites that were locked up in collections at museums and universities have come out through trades that it has changed the way we collect.

I remember a time of two diogenites, Tatahouine and Johnstown. I remember a time of only one of many classifications. There may have been many more but there was only the single location that was occasionally available to the collector. The others if they existed were locked away somewhere. Now with what has happened in the deserts of north Africa most classifications have many representatives. And what about the number explosion of Martians and Lunars. Wow. It was not really that long ago that there was no lunar material available to collectors. Then there was one in private hands for a while. Now there are many. Though they have never grabbed me very hard I have acquired quite a few of each of these types over the last few years.

During the next couple weeks I will perform my yearly ritual of preparation. I will print out a copy of my catalogue so I limit the purchases of meteorites I already have. It also helps me to see if I want to upgrade to a larger specimen. I will also put together a short list of ones I would really love to add to the collection and that I want to keep an eye out for. I never come close to filling that list but it is surprising how many times I have found one or two in a single show.

For the last few years Paul and I have spent much of our time looking for things to sell all day while we‘re there. With most of the evening filled with the ever increasing number of gatherings for the meteorite community to enjoy. So I do not get to run off across town to look at out of the way tents and seldom visited hotels where no meteorite dealers advertise their presence. In years past I found some very nice space rocks on some of those off the beaten path journeys. Maybe this year we can sneak away and do some just for fun exploring. I think when I retire I will come to the show and stay for a long time. I will really get to see much more. There are so many different things I am interested in displayed at Tucson. I think it would take a couple weeks to do a good job of looking around. Maybe next year my wife and I can go and spend a long time at the show. Paul can come out and join us for a few days so we can take care of work for the business.

The other benefit of being there longer is you can visit meteorite dealers when they are not so busy. On the week of all the meteorite gatherings it is almost impossible to have a conversation with most of them. They are there to do business and it is expensive to get a suite. So being too busy to talk is a good thing. But, without a doubt Tucson is the only time I will see most of them in person all year. If I was there at another time then the big weekend they might be free to chat a while. I guess I am an old school person even as I write this for online use. I use email and voicemail and all the modern stuff but I enjoy seeing people in person more. There is something about the strength of a memory that is created in person verses one created by sending an email. I have acquired a great volume of fine memories over the last twenty years of Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows. And I am really looking forward to the one coming soon. If you are there and see us stop and say hello we would enjoy meeting you.

Until next month when I fill the article with pictures of the show, enjoy your meteorites.

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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