We just finished up another trip to Tucson for the annual gem and Mineral shows.
Having missed the shows entirely last year, we were more than ready to make a trip over this year for some exploring, buying and just plain relaxing.
This was the first time we had attended the shows as non-exhibitors and have to say we had a blast.
Our trip started in late January and we decided to fly into Las Vegas instead of straight to our traditional Phoenix, AZ destination. The reason we added the extra 4 hours of driving time was two fold. Firstly, the Super Bowl was going on in Phoenix along with the Tucson shows which made the rental car prices astronomical. We actually saved over $1,200 on airfare and rental cars by stopping in Vegas first. And secondly, well, it’s Vegas, need I say more?
After a little time in Vegas, we headed over to Sedona, AZ to take in some scenery and relax at Grace Grove. Grace Grove is an organically elegant retreat center and an oasis in the desert. Our time here was brief, but was so very comfortable.
The next morning we awoke early for a creekside walk and then headed over to the city of Sedona for a nice lunch and some shopping. Sedona is a very earthy and artsy city with many small shops that we had a great time visiting. The surrounding mountains are truly breathtaking and will remind you of a beautiful painting. I believe these are some of the most spectacular mountain formations and colors that I have ever seen. We have seen larger ones, but none with the unmistakable Sedona colors. If you ever make it to the area, don’t miss Sedona.
Later in the afternoon, we headed on down to Phoenix to pick up a friend of ours Carnes Barnes who was flying in from South Carolina. We then made a beeline for Quartsite, AZ, our next destination. Quartsite is a few hours west of Phoenix and is where the gem shows actually start each year. In late December to early January, RV’s start migrating into Quartzite for the start of the season. They are there to make purchases and sells of rough gems and minerals coming in from all over the world. These are the down and dirty shows with large quantities of rough material changing hands. It is here where go and speak with the actual people who find and dig the gems along with the everyday brokers trying to make a buck or two. By the time we arrived, on the 28th. most vendors had already left for home or they where headed down to get ready for the start of the Tucson Shows. Even though we were at the tail end of it, we were able to make some of the best finds of the show and will make sure we are here earlier for our next year’s journey.
Tucson Arizona, for those of you who have never been, is situated in the southern end of Arizona and is different from anywhere else in the world. When you first arrive, the lack of trees is one of the first things that you will notice. Once over that shock, you will then get to see a landscape that is like no other. Flat, rocky and lots of cactuses. Sure there are some shrubs and tiny trees, but nothing like back in Florida where we live. Fortunately, during January and February, the weather is considerably nice. Despite a few days of uncommonly hard rain, we had cool evenings and middays that would warm up nicely. The dry air will also catch you off guard, but a good supply of Chapstick and lotion helps. Be prepared though for an occasional nose bleed or irritated sinuses.
Each year we opt for a home rental as opposed to a hotel rental when we stay in Tucson for the shows. The house gives us a better base, sense of security and fresh coffee early and late each day. The price also comes out much better than the high hotel prices that are offered during this show dates.
Now that we have talked about the fluffy stuff, let’s go shopping.
Tucson has it all for anyone associated with our industry, from the simple hotel shows to the more elaborate GLW Gem Mall mega tents.
The hotel shows are some of the first to open and is where we dug our hills in and got started. It is here where you can meander through each individual hotel lobby and actual rooms to find treasures from around the world. I always find it so fascinating to walk down a hotel hallway and look above the door to see signs from countries everywhere. Poland, Iran, Egypt, etc. are only a few of the occupants you will find peddling their wares. Rough crystals, artifacts to fine jewelry are scattered throughout the rooms and open areas. Yes, they are a little unconventional, with the vendors and their crock pots of food and sleepy faces on from days of travel and setup. But, it is by far some of the best shopping we experience each year.
If you get to make it over this way, make sure you check out the following:
GIGM Howard Johnson Gem & Mineral Show at 1010 S. Freeway Rd.
GIGM Globex Gem & Mineral Show at the Days Inn, 222 S. Freeway Rd.
Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show at the Riverpark Inn, 350 S. Freeway
There are many more, but these are some of our favorites.
After a few days of the hotel run, we made our way on over to the large GLW tents to do some bulk wholesale buying. The shows were a little different this year since GLW decided to consolidate their Holidome show with the Gem Mall show. As a shopper, I was fine with the change, though many of the vendors were complaining. Only time will tell how this move will change the actual show and the bottom lines for the vendors.
Over at the Gem Mall, there is ample parking and the shuttles were at least attempting to help with the large facility and visitor flow. Restrooms and food is easily accessible and you really do not have any need to leave once you are onsite. To get into the shows, you need to have a wholesale license and I would strongly suggest that you register online to save you some time. The wait can be a good hour and don’t think you will slide in early and get a place, because everyone seems to slide in early. The first few days this year were tough with more rain than Tucson had seen in a long time, but when you have thousands of shoppers hell bent on finding deals, they will not be contained. The Gem Mall is just what the name implies, a mall. A large space with many booths set up to entice you to spend your money. There are the simplest of booths with piles of beads stacked high across dozens of tables. Along with the more decorative booths that invite you into a different world with their large displays and colorful decorations. The Gem Mall is for the bulk buyer and make sure you bring plenty of cash. Credit cards and checks will work for most vendors, but cash talks.
After countless trips back to the car to carry our new found goodies and three days of shopping at the big tents, we hung it up to head back to some of the smaller local shows.
Our next stop was to the 22nd. street show. This has always been a nice stop on our trip and has a nice mix of vendors with a primary focus on fossils. I was also very excited this year to stop by and see the plans for the new facility they are planning with a 2016 opening date. You can read more here about here 22ndstreetview.com.
The last few days were a compilation of a few more small shows and some revisits back to the hotel and Gem Mall shows for a few last purchases. I would like to say we hit em all, but there was so much more left to do, and we just ran out of time. After a quick stop in Phoenix to send our friend Carnes back on his way to the east coast, we finished our trip back in Vegas. I would like to share a little of that adventure with you, but we all know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas :0).
One last parting shot out of our airplane window as we were taking off over Lake Mead near the Hoover dam right outside of Las Vegas.
Keep an eye opened for some of the new products we brought back from the trip.
We will be posting them soon.