Hey rockhounds, greetings from Tucson and welcome to my online Tucson 2001 Gem and Mineral Show report!
Ramada Inn - Jan 28 to Feb 11 - 1601 North Oracle - 520.623.6666
Saturday, Jan 27th / Sunday Jan 28th - The 2001 Tucson Show officially kicked off today on Saturday with the Jump Start show and several others opening to rainy skies. The low last night was 40° with a high today of 54°. While I appreciate sunny skies and 70° browsing weather as much as anyone, the showers occurring throughout the day on both Saturday and Sunday did seem to have the effect of suppressing attendance by the locals at least, which was fine by me.
I was looking forward to adding another ammonite or two to my fledgling ammonite collection at the Ramada Inn Fossil Show and was content to trade a wet hat for less early bird competition and thinner crowds. Of course it wasn't raining inside the dealer's rooms, although I noted that some of the carpets in rooms adjacent to muddy areas in the walkways were soon tracked up in what I'm sure was a pretty indescribable condition as far as the Ramada Inn maids were concerned.
The Ramada Inn is one of four locations for the Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show, which are organized and promoted by Martin Zinn Expositions. The Arizona Mineral and Fossil Shows are public shows and retail customers and traffic are welcome by most of the participating dealers. The other Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show locations are at the Executive Inn, the Inn Suites and the Mineral and Fossil Marketplace. The Ramada Inn is located at 1601 North Oracle Road with the Executive Inn and Mineral and Fossil Marketplace shows clustered together within easy walking distance at the intersection of North Oracle Road and Drachman.
The Fossil Show at the Ramada Inn is host to approximately 100 dealers this year, virtually all of them fossil dealers. Although it does not officially open until tomorrow on Sunday, January 28th, I found most of the dealers here already set up, or nearly so, and ready to rock on Saturday morning. I noted many sold signs already on fossils ranging from a few hundreds of dollars to pieces going for $40,000 and more. The most unique and highest quality pieces are the first to go and there is a savvy population of well healed early birds scratching for the creme de la creme. I may not be well healed, but getting here early anyway didn't hurt my chances of getting the best possible specimen within my means. Shown at left is the guide to dealers for the Arizona Mineral and Fossil Shows, which features some cool cover art by Wendell Wilson, editor of the Mineralogical Record.
This show is popular with Tucson locals as well as fossil collectors from around the world. An Exhibition Hall with a number of dinosaur skeleton replicas is a popular attraction for children of all ages. Above left several youngsters ponder some reconstructed Carcharocles megalodon shark jaws in the lobby of the Ramada. Megalodon lived from roughly 25 to 1.6 million years ago, during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs of the Tertiary. It is believed to have reached lengths of up to 60 feet, dwarfing the modern day great white shark by comparison, and to have fed primarily on whales.
There is also an excellent fossil book dealer in the Exhibition Hall with texts written at juvenile, layman and technical levels available on numerous paleontology related subjects. However parents should exercise common sense and discretion taking their children into most of the dealer's rooms. Most of the dealers here show even very delicate and expensive specimens completely open for close inspection and an inquisitive child could do devastating, irreparable damage to them in very short order. Some of the dealer's rooms are so packed with specimens that some are laying about on the floor, and it wouldn't be too hard to have an accident with some of these unless you are cautious and mindful of where your feet are.
While I knew even broken pieces would all be priced well beyond my budget, I decided to kick off my ammonite admiring tour with a stop at Canada Fossils in the Colony Room at the Ramada Inn, as they can be relied on to show their latest finds of mind numbingly colorful Placenticeras meeki and Placenticeras intercalare from Southern Alberta, Canada. Unique geological conditions as these ammonites fossilized are responsible for the highly iridescent and colorful prismatic layers covering these specimens. This gem material is known as ammolite, and it is officially recognized as the national gemstone of Canada. A staff member at Canada Fossils told me the entire annual production of specimen grade pieces at their quarry was only about 2 percent by weight and averaged perhaps 40-60 specimens per year.
The specimens shown in the case and on the table in the picture above left is but a fraction of all those on display, but contained some of the nicer (and more expensive) ones. The price tags on those visible in this picture added up to well over $100,000.
A thousand dollars won't even begin to touch one of these specimen grade ammolite covered ammonites, but a grand will buy you a box of pieces if you are interested in some ammolite for lapidary work. $1000 is just what this box shown above right was marked. That's a quarter I stuck in the box to provide some scale. There's actually quite a bit of ammolite there in terms of gemstones for jewelry unless you're making really large pieces.
Shown above left was Canada Fossil's top ammonite for this year's Tucson Show, approximately 30" diameter and bearing both a $30,000 price tag and another sign proclaiming it already sold. The specimens exhibiting the widest variety of colors are considered the most desirable, all else equal, and this exceptional piece had them all in abundance.
Above right, approximately 16" diameter, was a predominately electric green specimen that was offered at $15,000. While the price on these is variable depending on the overall aesthetic and quality of the color(s), it looked to me like for a rough rule of thumb you could plan on spending about $1000 per inch of diameter for a good Canada Fossils ammolite adorned ammonite.
At left, approximately 12" diameter, was a red specimen with very intense color for $8,500. When viewed on edge it was apparent this one was a little compressed on one side, which did not affect its appearance from the front but the less than full cross section did impact its value to connoisseur collectors.
Canada Fossils, Colony Room - WWW: www.canadafossils.com 536-38A Avenue, SE, Calgary, Alberta, Canada TG2 1X4 Phone: 877.242-6637 Fax: 403.243.3959
Since the theme of this year's Tucson Show is Russian minerals, I figured a Russian ammonite would be appropriate to add to my personal collection and to go with a Russian pyritized Cosmoceras acculeatum I acquired at the Ramada Inn last year.So one of my first stops after loosening up my camera's shutter at Canada Fossils was at Petersburg Paleontological Laboratories, which is a heavily trafficked dealer of Russian fossils.
Shown above left is a group of Cosmoceras ammonites on matrix from the Ulanovsk Formation, Ulanovsk, Russia. These had a beautiful iridescent, golden pearly prismatic layer on the surface which proved to be pretty challenging to capture under the bright lights illuminating the specimens. The matrix on this specimen was about 8" overall and the largest individual was about 3.5" in diameter. It was the largest of 4 or 5 similar specimens and wanted $350.
Above right is an interesting and rather aesthetic Australiceras sp ammonite from Volga, Russia. It was about 12" in overall length and was commanding $1500.
Petersburg Paleontological Laboratories Room 172 - Email: email@example.com Podvoyskogo 24-1-49, St. Petersburg 193231 Russia Phone: 7.812.967.6974 Fax 7.812.312.3128
Shown above left is a Deshayesites deshayesi from the lower Aptian, Saratow, Russia. This specimen was about 2" in diameter and was priced at $25.
Above right is a Deshayesites imitator from the lower Aptian, Saratow, Russia. It is about 4" in diameter and was priced at $65. This one exhibited some red iridescence in an area on its phragmocone when the light hit it just right.
At left, a Deshayesites deshayesi specimen from the lower Aptian, Saratow, Russia with multiple ammonites, perhaps the result of a mass mortality. This piece was about 6" in overall length with a largest ammonite of about 2" in diameter. It wanted $140.
Okay, so they're not ammonites, but I thought some of you would appreciate this composite Russian trilobite specimen featuring several species including Illaenus tauricornis, Subasaphus platyurus, Neoasaphus punctatus and Neoasaphus kowalewskit from the Middle Ordovician, Wolchow River, Russia. A Neoasaphus punctatus close-up is shown above right. This individual had an approximately 2" long body and its eye stalks were nearly an inch long. The matrix was about 24" across and this piece wanted $3200. I referred to this piece as a composite because it was basically constructed by a preparer and is not "natural" as found. The preparer may have begun with a piece of matrix containing one or a couple of trilos and the rest of the group has been added.
The preparers of composite specimens are often very good at their art and it can be difficult for a non-professional to tell just by looking at a specimen if it is natural or a composite. As I explore fossils at the Tucson Shows I am seeing more and more composites and they're not restricted to just Russian trilos of course. "Seeing" more of these no doubt has something to do with becoming more educated and aware regarding fossil specimens and the markets for them. Fossils are a little different than mineral specimens, in that repair and reconstruction of specimens by their preparers is more commonly accepted practice. With fossils it doesn't seem to be a so much a matter of if its been repaired as a matter of degree. However, constructed composites such as this do not seem nearly as attractive to me from a collector's perspective as less tampered with specimens.
I dunno, constructing these things seems like gluing extra crystals on a mineral specimen to this Missouri farm boy, but to each their own. I suppose there's nothing necessarily wrong with this practice as long as it is disclosed to the buyer. I would like to assume by the time a collector is plunking down several thousands of dollars for a piece they would know the score without having to ask. While this particular dealer was quick to disclose and explain that this and an entire batch of similar specimens he was showing were composites, not all dealers are so voluntarily forthcoming. Funny how you just don't seem to see any signs posted proclaiming "These are preparer constructed composites and not as found in nature"...
The moral here I think is if you begin to get serious about adding a piece to your own collection you should always explicitly ask the dealer to disclose any repairs or constructions. One nice thing about browsing and buying fossils at this show is many of the dealers are also the preparers of the specimens and have intimate, first hand knowledge of what went on in the preparation/restoration process.
Rotonda Rock, Inc. Room 190 - WWW: www.rotondarock.bigstep.com 147 Annapolis Lane, Rotonda, FL Phone: 941.698.122 Fax: 941.698.1660
I figured I would be in for some treats and possibly a keeper at British Jurassic Fossils, where I purchased a really great pyritized Dactylioceras comune in matrix from owner Chris Moore last year for only $30. Chris generously spent some time educating me regarding English ammonites and appreciating ammonites in general last year at the 2000 Show even though my purchase was a modest one. I hope to become a regular annual customer of British Jurassic Fossils during Tucson as I like what I see here.
Shown above left is an eye catching Asteroceras obtusum from the Lower Lias Formation, Lower Jurassic Period, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. A floppy disk provides scale. This specimen wanted $3200.
Above right is another Asteroceras obtusum also from the Lower Lias Formation, Lower Jurassic Period, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. This specimen was abut 6" in diameter and priced at $750.
Shown above left is a nautilus Cenoceras sp, another type of cephalopod which was contemporary with the ammonites. While this Cenoceras is from the Lower Jurassic and of course now extinct, there are contemporary species of nautiloids on Earth today, unlike the ammonites which did not fare so well during the mass extinction at the end of the Mesozoic era that also wiped out the dinosaurs. Note the druze of calcite crystals filling the opening of this specimen which was about 8 inches in diameter. This one was from Dorset England and priced at $1500.
Above right is a group of Cadoceras sp and Sigaloceras sp from the Mid Jurassic, Gloucestershire, England. The matrix was about 10" across and the ammonites wrapped around one end of it, with another individual or two concealed around a corner from this vantage. The largest ammonite on this $390 piece was about 3" in diameter.At left is an appealing Asteroceras obtusum specimen, featuring four individuals with nice 3 dimensional relief. I particularly liked the aesthetics and preparation of this specimen. The largest individual was about 3" in diameter. From the Lower Lias Formation, Lower Jurassic Period, Lyme Regis, Dorset, England. It wanted $700.
Here's another non ammonite intruder that I thought had rather handsome aesthetics and couldn't resist including. These Paleocoma sp starfish are from the Middle Jurassic, Middle Lias Formation, Dorset, England and were apparently victims of a mass mortality. The matrix was about 24" high. It was covered with many starfish, the largest of which would probably have measured 12" or so from tip to tip were they stretched out fully.
If you scrutinize the close-up view above right you will see the break running across this piece. In spite of having been broken and repaired this piece still wanted $8000.
Pictured above are two Arnioceras budlei specimens from the Lower Jurassic, Lower Lias, Watchet, Somerset, England. I appreciated the high contrast between the light colored ammonites and the nearly black matrix which I thought provided some nice aesthetics. The single individual above left was about 3" in diameter and priced at $250. The triple featured a largest individual of about 2.5" in diameter and was priced at $300.
The Forge Fossils Room 189 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel : 44 1297 560005 Fax : 44 1297 561118, The Street, Charmouth, Dorset, DT6 6NX, England
I found several appealing Texas ammonites in Room 176 at Renaissance Fossils where I had an informative and enjoyable conversation with Kevin Bridges regarding ammonite collecting opportunities in Texas, which harbors extensive exposures of Cretaceous marine sedimentary rocks.
Pictured above are two Calycoeras tarrantense ammonites from the Upper Cretaceous, Arlington Member of the Woodbine Group, Dallas County, Texas. The specimen shown above left had already been sold for $450. It was about 5" in diameter and meticulously hand cleaned without power tools to produce a connoisseurs's collector piece. Note the embracing calcite veins which have been preserved. A penny provides scale.
The specimen above right was about 8" in diameter and bore some small nicks and dings from being cleaned with power tools but was none the less a very attractive specimen. It was asking $200 which I found pretty tempting. Kevin related that 12" is typically the largest these are found but they are known to go up to 22" in size.
Kevin said that there is a significant amount of collectable strata right in the Fort Worth - Dallas beltway that is now largely inaccessible to urban collectors there due to its having been almost entirely built and paved over. While my ammonite budget for this year was a little short of the $200 the available Texan wanted, I now have something even better, which is a personal invitation to come collecting one of my own with an experienced collector from Texas.
Kevin also introduced me to a really superb reference on Texas ammonites, B. L. Emerson et al., 1994, Texas Cretaceous Ammonites and Nautiloids, Number 5, Paleontology Section, Houston Gem and Mineral Society. It was about an inch thick, crammed full of incredible amounts of information on Texas ammonites and pertinent geology and best of all I it can be ordered from the Society for under $20! If there'd been an extra copy available for sale by Renaissance Fossils I would have eagerly purchased it on the spot. Texas Cretaceous Ammonites and Nautiloids can be ordered online from the Houston Gem and Mineral Society's web site. If you have a general interest in ammonites and/or collecting Cretaceous fossils in Texas this reference and other Texas Paleontology Series Publications are no-brainer must haves for your bookshelf.
Holy cow, did Kevin say 22 inches.?! ;)
Renaissance Fossils Room 176 - WWW: www.rfossils.com217 E. Linda Drive, Garland, TX Phone: 972.278.0473
I also stopped back in Room 120 this year to visit and chat with David and Roxanne Anderson of Earth's Past. They source primarily ammonite specimens from the Pierre Shale of South Dakota but also resell specimens from other localities. Last year I purchased a pair of cross sectioned pieces cut from a Phylloceras ammonite from Morocco from David and Roxanne. They had even more of the cut Moroccan ammonite pairs to choose from this year. However, already owning one of those I was more interested in their Pierre Shale specimens, which I thought harbored some bargains and noticed they got picked over pretty quickly last year.
Shown above left is a Discoscaphites conradi from the Fox Hills Formation in North Central South Dakota. It is about 3.5" in diameter and wanted $75. Above right is a Hoploscaphite nebrascensis, also from the Fox Hills Formation in North Central South Dakota. This specimen was approximately 4" in diameter and it was priced at $40.
Above left is another Hoploscaphite nebrascensis from the Fox Hills Formation in North Central South Dakota. This specimen was approximately 4" in diameter and it was priced at $55. Shown above right is a Placenticeras meeki from the Pierre Shale, Pennington County, SD. It was about 8" in diameter and covered with a well preserved pearly, iridescent prismatic layer. This one wanted $995.
David and Roxanne were also displaying a group of polished Baculites sp segments displaying ornate suture patterns. Baculites were a family of ammonites that grew uncoiled shells that are generally slender and shaped like tall, stretched out cones. Baculites are among the most important groups of marker fossils used by North American geologists to correlate late Cretaceous rock formations. These had an oval shaped cross section and are from the Pierre Shale in Wyoming. I found one of the better ones at $16 to be irresistible, so this is the second year running that I've purchased an ammonite specimen from David and Roxanne. Some detail of the suture markings on it is shown above right. They also spent some time educating me and getting me connected to some references on ammonites last year and I'll no doubt be back to see them again to go for three in a row next year.
Earth's Past Room 120 - [May-Sept Tel: 907.983.2880 PO Box 863, Skagway, AK 99840] [October-April Tel: 605.393.2878 3703 Dawn Street, Rapid City, SD 57703]
Right next door to Earth's Past in room 118 are Tom and Betty Woodden of Dakota Fossils who were also showing South Dakota ammonites.
Above left is a Discoscaphite cheyennscesis, from the Upper Cretaceous, Fox Hills Formation, South Dakota. This pretty specien was about 3.5" in diameter. It wanted $350.
Shown above right is a Hoploscaphites nebrascensis, also from the Upper Cretaceous, Fox Hills Formation, South Dakota. This specimen was about 5" in diameter. Note the numerous bumps on the surface of this specimen, which Tom conjectured to be the remains of limpets, a type of gastropod, that had invaded the body chamber of this ammonite. Between all the limpet bumps on the body chamber and suture patterns on the rest of the phragmocone, I thought this specimen to be unique and pretty aesthetic. If my 2001 ammonite budget had covered the $350 this specimen wanted it likely would have gone home with me.
Shown above left is another Hoploscaphites nebrascensis from the Fox Hills Formation, SD. This specimen was about 5" in diameter. Note the rough area in the region of the body chamber which was due to a most likely fatal injury inflicted by a predator. This one was priced at $65.
Above right is a Placenticeras meeki from the Cretaceous, Pierre Shale in South Dakota. A nice feature on the exterior of this specimen were several fossilized limpets which had attached themselves to the exterior of this ammonite's shell. This one was about 13" in diameter and asking $675.
Dakota Fossils Room 118 - 3716 Dawn Street, Rapid City, SD Phone: 605.393.1963
Okay, time to show off the prize kill from the early moments my ammonite hunt. Pictured above is the great addition I made to my fledgling ammonite collection this year. It is one of several Cosmoceras ammonites on matrix from the Ulanovsk Formation, Ulanovsk, Russia that were being shown by Petersburg Paleontological Laboratories, one of the Russian dealers at the Ramada Inn.
Needless to say I found this specimen to be irresistible and judged it to be nearly perfect for condition and preparation as well as its aesthetics. It was outclassed for size and number of individuals by the 3 or 4 other similar Cosmoceras specimens offered by Petersburg Paleontological Laboratories, but none surpassed this piece for quality in my assessment. The larger of the two individuals on my specimen is just over 2 inches in diameter. The iridescent, golden pearly prismatic layer on the surface of the ammonites is very eye catching and its coverage of both shells is complete. The shape and particulars of these specimens is quite fine with bifurcated ribs that are very distinct and the whorls exhibit wonderful detail all the way down to the ammonitella. And the matrix even forms a perfect built-in stand!
I snarfed this specimen up the instant I laid eyes on it, which probably occurred within the first 15 minutes of my Ammonoidea tour and hunt at the Ramada Inn. Not to rub it in or anything, but hey, what more could a silverpicking ammonite collector possibly desire for only $70?! :)
I greatly enjoyed the two days I spent at the Ramada Inn hunting ammonites to purchase and of course also photograph for my 2001 Show Report. Of course I also saw and took time to appreciate many superb specimens of many other types of fossils while at the Ramada Inn and highly recommend this show as a Tucson Show must-see for any fossil enthusiast or nature appreciator.