On Saturday afternoon, around 4 pm, we closed the showroom. It was the final day of my thirteenth consecutive show and — unlike the majority of things in the modern world — the Tucson gem shows really do get bigger and better each year. With 4,000+ dealers from practically every country on earth, over forty separate shows, and 50,000+ buyers and visitors, it's exhausting just to think about trying to see everything, but no amount of browsing and touring can prepare you for the experience of being a Tucson show vendor.
The author outside the Aerolite Meteorites show room with his custom neon sign. Photo by Jim Breitinger of Utahredrock.
Our showroom, Suite 230 at the lovely InnSuites at Granada and Saint Mary's was open from 10 am to 6 pm for fifteen consecutive days, plus four more for set up, breakdown, and load out, along with weeks of preparation: selecting specimens for the displays, making ID cards and labels, designing flyers, ads, room signs and handouts. Many evenings we stayed open late, serving wine to our friends and customers, talking space rocks, and listening to Vivaldi or the Two Siberians' modern take on traditional Russian folk instrumentals. My elegant and cultured showroom partner, Anne Black of Impactika Meteorites in Denver, favors a classical soundtrack, so we'd wait for the evenings she left a little early for business dinners before putting Franz Ferdinand or Van Morrison on the CD player.
A gorgeous highly sculptural 619-gram Gibeon iron meteorite acquired from one of my African contacts during the 2009 gem show
Suite 230 sits at the back of the courtyard, right in the middle, at the top of a flight of concrete stairs. We enjoy a terrific view of the lawn, and I often stared enviously at some of our downstairs colleagues who had the foresight to bring along deck chairs — and the time to use them. There is something reassuring and uniquely "Tucson Show" about a German gemologist and a British fossil dealer drinking Mexican beer under a palm tree on a sunny February afternoon.
With my friend and show room partner Anne Black in Room 230. Photograph by Tim Arbon.
Once again, we were were lucky enough to have excellent neighbors. Low Country Geologic from Charleston, South Carolina, dig their own fossil shark teeth from murky and muddy southern rivers, and always arrive with a staggering display of giant-size fangs from Carcharadon megalodon — the biggest and scariest shark of all time. As is typical of so many rockhounds, our neighbors enjoy a drink the evening, and we were forever running from room to room borrowing corkscrews, trading bottles of wine, and comparing notes on the finest English beers. And it's in those moments that the show really shines. The sun has set, most of the day customers have gone home, our red, blue and gold neon METEORITES sign glows radiantly in the window. An amazing and eccentric collection of international prospectors, treasure hunters and paleontologists kick back, reflect on the day's sales, muse about that could-be upcoming "big deal," and maybe pause for just a moment to notice that they really are part of the greatest show on earth. Tucson rocks. See you next year, same time, same room, even better space rocks. 49 weeks and counting.