The 56th Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show started last January 30, 2010 and will run until Valentines Day/Chinese New Year’s Day, February 14, 2010. Popularly known as the world’s largest treasure hunt, the Tucson show is actually composed of 44 individual shows in 42 sites scattered around Tucson, Arizona. About 4,000 to 5,000 dealers from all over the world market sell everything from gems, rough rock, minerals, meteorites, fossils, beads, handicrafts, equipment and tools among others. They use parking lots, hotel rooms, lobbies, convention centers, and even the back of their pick up trucks to sell their products.
The Tucson Show is simultaneously a show, museum tour, exhibition, market, bazaar, swap meet, convention, conference, workshop, party, fiesta, pow-wow, food-fest, and tourist destination that brings together over 50,000 unique visitors, collectors, curators, dealers, buyers, scholars, enthusiasts, tourists, students, artists, even hippies to this three-week event. It is a window to new friends and finds. Old friends also use the Show to catch up with one another.
An economic impact survey-assessment of the Tucson Show by FMR Associates (2007) estimated total gate attendance at 362,816 buyers, each of whom attended an average 6.6 shows. They estimated unique persons attendance at 55,056, the highest ever and 59% more than the 2000 estimated figure of 34,618 persons. Exhibitors came from 42 states of the United States and 38 countries, while buyers came from 43 different states and 24 different countries. In 1969, curator Paul Desautels of Smithsonian Institution and one of the most active supporters of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show called it “The New York Stock Exchange of the (mineral) world”. He also added that “The price of mineral specimens for the world is more or less set at this show” (Jones 2004).
If you want to see globalization localized, the Tucson Show will make for a good study.
Since there is something for everyone, Chris Anderson’s long-tail thesis is proven here.
The premier event remains to be the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (TGMS) organized by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. First started in 1955, this world class show occupied 181,000 sq feet at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) this year (2007).
The FMR study (2007) noted that the Tucson Show is an economic juggernaut conservatively contributing over $100 million in direct expenditures to the local economy, up from $76.4 million in 2000. Lodging, food/beverage and in-town transportation expenditures alone amounted to $49,549,718. The estimated tax revenue from the show was $9,057,217 in local taxes paid on $90,206,326 of taxable expenditures. This is an increase of 51.2% from the year 2000 figures. In terms of likelihood of return to Tucson, majority of the majority of exhibitors (63%) and out-of-town buyers (78%) indicated that they will return and/or attend the 2008 Tucson Gem Show. These figures do not include the sales and trades made during the three week period. Further, as many of these sales are wholesale, the multiplier effect of retail sales as well as conversion into artistic pieces or jewelry for sale worldwide are not accounted in this study.
One great thing about a get together of this scope and scale are the whispers. From a dinosaur bone dealer, I heard that with stocks and bonds down and precious metals peaking, it seems minerals and fossils are an alternative investment. His sales the past two years have been growing. The same was said by a staffer of a petrified wood dealer who shipped in 1.2 million pounds of petrified wood, rocks, minerals, and other materials. He noted that their products have no “functional” value, yet their sales have been growing. I joked that art and furniture had some function!
A fossil dealer had his truck stolen. Fortunately, his specimens were in the hotel room. Another dealer decided to take the risk and bought a well-known area in northern California with considerable stocks of petrified wood. Some of the petrified wood being sold though in the Show comes from an area whose seller didn’t actually own the mineral rights. New finds include the beautiful chrysoverde mineral from Nevada and the Tiffany stone.
My years in Tucson have been enriched by the Tucson , Gem, and Mineral Shows. I’ve met and hosted some of the fascinating people who are into fossils, minerals, petrified wood, beads, etc. They have made me appreciate both evolution and intelligent design. Nature is beautiful, yet functional. It brings people together and connects one another through the appreciation of what is functional, unique, artistic, and natural (FUN/FAN).
I wish Filipinos can see the Tucson shows. Maybe the mining sector in the Philippines, which suffers from poor credibility and trust levels, can learn something here. Promoting the FUN/FAN aspects of minerals and fossils and making it accessible to the general public may increase understanding and awareness of the mining sector in Philippine development.
They might consider a traveling exhibit throughout the country. I know of collectors of fossils, minerals, petrified wood, seashells, etc. who may be willing to share their collections for the benefit of the Filipino youth.