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The Days Inn, Convention Center, Executive Inn
Wednesday February 7th - The weather was partly cloudy and today with a high of 80 degrees.

Today I added my 35mm to my gear so I could return and photograph some of the specimens I had previously seen and video taped with higher resolution media. In spite of the fact that I knew I was biting off a lot to chew, I couldn't bear to leave home without the camcorder in tow as well. It was the only day I tried to carry both 35mm and video cameras and all the associated gear and equipment. It was just too much stuff for one person to haul around and keep track of. I won't be making that mistake again...

I returned Crystal Springs Mining and Jewelry Company in Room 153 at the Days Inn on the strip to photograph the gorgeous mesolite and vivianite specimens I discovered there several days ago. While there I found an entire table they'd placed outside in the courtyard and loaded with these large chunks of Illinois fluorite. They were priced from $60 to $500.

I have several nice Illinois fluorites in my collection and I got into a conversation over these pieces with another rockhound who came up and was browsing the table while I was video taping. She called in her husband to consult, and they took this one home for $250.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society retail show, a.k.a. the "Main Event", starts in the Tucson Convention Center tomorrow. The shuttle I was taking back from the strip to the Executive Inn stopped there, and I decided to get out and check out the preparatory activity. Here's a couple of views of the main floor they've set up. The Convention Center is going to be crammed full of rockhounds for the next four days.

This floor is pretty much divided on the center isle. On one side are jewelry and gem dealers. On the other side are mineral and fossil dealers. Both sides see a lot of traffic.

On the way out I found these workers busy assembling the skeleton of a giant ground sloth. This one was involved in doing some major damage to Florida flora about 150,000 years ago. I knew these things were big, but when you stood up next to this one you couldn't help thinking you never realized they were that big!

One of the fellows who was assembling it reassured me that it was strictly a vegetarian. Yea, well, I've got news for him. So are mules, but they can bite and stomp the hell out of you. It would probably not have been a good idea to fight with this guy over apples...

Back at the Executive Inn, I stopped by to see Rob Lavinsky in room 275. I had become previously acquainted with Rob, lavinsky@jeeves.ucsd.edu, through the Rocks-and-Fossils and Rockhounds mailing lists. Here Rob smiles hi to his mom, fiancee and the net while fielding a question from a browser regarding tanzanite. Rob is also the US distributor for the Matthew Webb Mineral Video from Australia. On an earlier visit to his room I was impressed with Rob's sales abilities, as he managed to sell me my "major piece" for this year's Show in about 5 seconds flat. Rob knew the magic words... "double keystone" ...and a magnificent and very large, heavy galena crystal from the Westfork Mine in Missouri was mine.

It was late in the day when Rob first offered me the galena. I knew I was tired and probably not hitting on all eight. I actually had the discipline to express my interest and tell him I'd sleep on it. I started doing one of those "I should've spoken up for that piece and told him I'd take it. What did I hesitate for? He's making you a great deal. I should have asked him to save it for me. What if someone else..." within an hour after leaving it. Anyway, I reloaded at my bank first thing the next morning and beat it down to the Executive to claim my prize. The damage was $125. I will, of course, put up an image of this specimen in the Shop's Image Gallery in the not too distant future. Thanks, Rob!

Rob's set-up was typical of many of the motel rooms. Mostly big pieces on one side, small on the other. A couple of display cases. You could spend a modest amount and leave with a nice specimen. Or you could spend a lot and leave with a nicer specimen... kind of like good, better and best merchandising with a couple of thousand intermediate levels.

Note the large copper against the wall. Rob had many smaller, eye-catching specimens of dioptase crystals scattered throughout these flats.

Rob also displayed this case full of heliodor from Tajikistan. The crystals in the box were offered at $20 per gram, $12 per gram if you purchased 20 pieces or more. Other heliodor crystals in this case were individually priced from $10 to $1000. Rob recently sold some of this material to the A.E. Fersman Mineralogical Museum of Moscow.

Tucked away on the kitchenette counter in Rob's room was this flashy stibnite, which was offered at $5000. While I was there some fellow who did not speak English came in and made an inquiry regarding this specimen. Rob told him the price and this fellow got visibly irritated and flustered. At first I thought he was objecting to the price (I would not have given five grand for it myself). ;) No one could understand what he was saying. I think he might have been speaking Portuguese. Finally he got out a piece of paper and wrote down 6000. Then I think he said something about coming back tomorrow. Then, still visibly agitated, he left.

The entire incident was rather strange and left everyone else in the room trying to figure out whatever it was he was trying to communicate. Most of the transactions go a little smoother than that one in spite of the fact that many of the dealers and buyers at the Show do not speak English as a native language, or at all. It's not unusual at the Show to have someone more fluent in both parties' languages spontaneously step in and serve as a translator when folks are suffering from a communication problem. At least everyone speaks rocks!

So, can you say "key-stone"? ;)

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