More on Museums, December 2023
We Love Mineral Museums, so this Fall we made a pilgrimage to see two of my favorites. Our first stop was in New York City to see the recently renovated American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Minerals. As a kid I had the opportunity to learn about minerals there while bending over the classic cases and even asking docents and curators question about them. I recall buying a set of minerals illustrating the crystal system from the Gift Shop. As a young adult in the 1960's I was able to visit the then new hall which had much flasher exhibits, but I missed seeing more of the science. This new renovation got the balance of flash and science right. I congratulate George Harlow and his associates for this difficult accomplishment.
Following our pleasant visit to NYC, where we saw Wicked on Broadway (my choice for best musical ever!), we caught a train to Boston where we rented a car and relaxed for a few days in the New Hampshire countryside and then made the short drive to Bethel, ME. I had the privilege of visiting the Maine Museum of Minerals and Gems twice during its construction and even prepared some of the specimens now on display. But, I had not seen the completed project. I'm here to tell you, they got this one right, too! Under the watchful eye of cofounders Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden who are major supporters of conserving Maines natural beauty and with the hard work of Barbra Barrett, the first director, and science advice from Carl Francis (now curator) and Skip Simmons and a dedicated staff, they built an exemplary small museum with a focus. Actually,there are two foci, as the Stiffler collection of worldwide meteorites is part of the museum. Not only are there superb mineral specimens on view, but the people who found them and developed the pegmatite region of Maine are honored for their work, an unusual aspect of museums. If you love minerals, you owe it to yourself to visit Bethel and museum. The displays are spectacular and many feature cut tourmaline stones and jewelry using them. Mt. Mica was the first gem locality in the US and is still producing 150 years later. I was surprised to learn how many mineral provinces exit in Maine and saw fine specimens I had no idea could come from there. As a teacher, I was pleased to find accessible drawers of specimens from many sttaes and a separated section of drawers showing the product of many Maine localities. I would have been a happy kid opening each drawer to learn, much as I had viewed the old AMNH cases in NYC.
This page features Show Reports, Travel Notes, and other Items of Interest as they strike my fancy.
We have been predominately a show dealer for decades, but shows seem to be declining in importance, so we also have our Colorado showroom available by appointment when we are in town. We have our website, but not checkout carts and such because we enjoy the personal contact that talking to our customers provides. We expect to make some change there during 2024. I'll be working on improving my internet presence to compensate for less time on the road
With the advent of year-round showroom facilitates in Tucson we now offer you another shopping opportunity. Our Graeber & Himes showroom at the Tucson Fine Mineral Gallery is now open all year. When we are not there, our inventory is managed by the knowledgeable staff of Crystal Classics. The building is open Monday through Friday from 10 AM until 4 PM. When you enter you will be greeted by an attendant who can show you any of the several rooms that are available and assist you with purchases. Enjoy looking through our cases. We restock each time we are in Tucson including January, March, May, and November. For travelers to the Southwest, we have enlarged the number of specimens for Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. Tucson is truly the nation's Mineral Specimen Destination! While you are there for a Gallery visit, be sure to walk or drive to the Alfie Museum, there is more about it below. We welcome visitors to the Gallery to contact us directly to learn about additional specimens for sale.
The Graeber & Himes room as we left it for your enjoyment.
A Good Read
You probably know Heritage Auctions as a major source of fine minerals at their Natural History Auctions in Dallas. They also publish very useful internet magazine named The Intelligent Collector. It covers all manner of collectables and has good advice for collectors in general. The current issue has an article security for your collection. I recommend it to you. Check it out at https://intelligentcollector.com/safeguarding-your-collection. You might even want to subscribe to it and their auction catalogs are great way to learn about specimen values.
An Old Friend Passes.
Leonard Himes Dealer in Fine Mineral Specimens
FIFTY YEARS IS ENOUGH IS MY OFFICIAL THEME FOR 2024
In the summer of 1973 a new dealer was allowed to have a table in the booth of the late Joe Tenhagen, a Miami, FL gemologist friend and specialist in Colombian emeralds. That dealer was Minerals America and it was a fledgling in its first show. We (me and my then wife Bobbie) had a good time, learned how shows worked, and made a few dollars. I worked under that name for decades until I sold it to Michael Jacob in the early 2000s. From then on the business was simply Leonard Himes, although I also continued doing some major shows with Cal Graeber as Graeber & Himes. My first show under the Minerals America name was in Opalika, Alabama the following year. When you are the new kid in the business, you start where you can, but we were appreciated there so much we continued that show for many years. We started small with the shows that would invite us, but grew into a well known business in Florida and the Southeast. Eventually we were booking AFMS national and regional shows during summer breaks from teaching. It took a long wait in line until we were in the Tucson main show. We started Tucson in the famous Desert Inn.
So, 2024 represent my fiftieth year as a show dealer. It has been a great run. I've handled some wonderful specimens, met even more wonderful people, and dug in some famous localities. But, I have to admit to being old enough that it is time to slow dow, so 2024 will be my last year with my current schedule. It is already a lot smaller schedule than the 18 shows per year I had in the earlier 2000s and I'll be commenting on some of my show history through out this year. So check back now an then to learn more about them. I suspect that by 2025, my only shows will be somewhere in Tucson and Denver.
Museum From Parking Garage Vistors in the Gallery
Something else to make a trip to Tucson worthwhile.
Pictured above are Linda and Leonard with Lou D'Alonso, three years ago at one of Lou's favorite New Jersey diners. Lou passed away in July 2022 at age 99. If you are not a regular at shows in the northeast, you may not have known of him. Maybe as an introduction, let me refer to him as the Jack Halpern of the east! That is to say, a true gentleman, who was easily recognized at shows in coat and hat and smiling. Lou collected choice worldwide mineral specimens and particularly specimens from the northeast. He especially loved micromounting. His micromount collection is to be distributed to his micromounting friends, over 9000 mounts! Even more important than collecting, though, Lou loved teaching young people about minerals and was a regular presenter schools in his area. He will be dearly missed.
By the way, Jack Halpern is still enjoying his collection at age 103 and still every bit a gentleman!
Besides the shows in Tucson and great attractions like the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Aircraft Museum, and Performing Art Center, Tucson is now the home of a world-class mineral museum. There has long been (and still is) a fine collection on the campus of the University of Arizona as part of the Geology Department, but as of this year, the all new Alfie Norville University of Arizona Mineral Museum is open. The Museum is housed in the most beautiful building in downtown Tucson. It was formerly the County Courthouse, but has been completely remodeled inside to become a museum and a separate Environmental Center. The Museum has became a full Department of the University and has secure funding for the future (but will still appreciate your financial support). The museum is now complete and offering daily visits.
The Alfie,as it is known for short, has special events, so be sure to subscribe to their calendar.
Some Mining News
Earlier this year our friend Gary Freeman hit several pockets at Mt Mica Maine that have produced excellent gem blue tourmaline (Indicolite). If you have never been in a pegmatite mine, you might think that what you see on dealer shelves is how tourmalines are found. We wish that were the case, but Mother Earth can be rough on her kids over geologic time. Here is a photo of a pocket as found after washing it with a hose and water. Not much beauty there! But carefully sifting through the rubble produces crystals for at least parts of crystals and sometimes accessory crystals like quartz or feldspar with a crystal attached, IF you are lucky! This was a lucky pocket. The second photo shows the pocket being washed with high pressure water. The third photo shows some of what was in the ruble of this and several nearby pockets after a good cleaning in soap and water. I have been promised some of these specimens for display in Tucson in 2024. See my Gallery page to see the result of fitting pieces together and filling gaps (restoration) to return crystals to their original condition. Many of the broken crystals that can't be restored t will become gemstones at the hands of experienced faceters ( Picture 4)
Tucson 2023 was once again the world's major mineral, gem, jewelry and fossil event. It was also the wettest, coldest, snowiest event I can recall from my visits there since the 1970s!
We were please to see international customers for the first time since Covid hit. We stayed busy at all three of our venues for the duration. That means that getting out to shop was difficult since we have no hired help, but we still managed to do some shopping and get the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's show, the Grand Finale and show that started it all. With so many major dealers, like us, having to man extended venues, you might think the main show would be vacant. Not So! the exhibits are worth the small cost of admission and many smaller dealers have replaced the absent dealers. There are still some major dealer booths worth attending, too. There are more jewelry dealers taking up some of the space, but the show is still a major mineral event that all should support. You' even find minerals worth buying there, I did!
Mineral City must have around 100 rooms of minerals of all persuasions, from wholesale rocks material to exquisite top end specimens. A new section of the area called the Mineral Vault, opened across the street from the first Mineral City Building, but some dealers were concerned that their room might not be available in time and opted fro adjacent tents next door. Thus there were som unoccupied rooms this year, but 2024 will be in full swing there. One worried dealer was Rob Lavinsky (The Arkenstone) who arranged to move his operation into the nearby La Fuente building and is having some of his large area there remodeled to become his permanent home.
After 20 years of operation promoter Dave Waisman cancelled the Westward Look Show. However, that left some of his former dealers 'homeless'. So they ground together in the three original builds and continued the show with around 12 dealers. I didn't manage to visit the show, but those ywho did said there were some great minerals to be seen, but reported there was light traffic and the rooms they wanted to visit were often closed. I won't be surprised to see with no 2024 show there or the show moving its dates forward to open about the same time as Mineral City and others.
The Tucson Fine Mineral Galley was a busier place in its second year now that people realize it is there. Several new big name dealers such as Stuart Wilensky and Scott Rudolph open new rooms and surely drew top collectors; so does the courtyard social area with food and bar and of course the by-invitation Gala and the free lectures and special displays tha rotate during the event. The Gallery (for short) is a year-round operation and owner Ian Bruce is working with the Mayor's Office to promote Tucson as America's Mineral City. Like some of the other dealers in the Gallery, the Graeber and Himes room is open daily Monday Friday 10AM-5PM and during the May and November Open Weekends. It is short walk from t both the Tucson Art Museum and the Alfie Museum for a great visit any time of the year.
More about Tucson
If you have made it this far, I'm impressed. I hope you find the blog interesting.
The Chamber of Commerce in Tucson commissioned an economic survey of the 2019 Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase Expenditures.
Here are some of the findings.
They estimate a total of $131,426,030 in direct expenditures resulting from the 2019 Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase. Lodging is the largest individual expenditure category ($45,831,096) – followed by Food & Beverage ($27,154,625).
Out-of-town Buyers traveled to Tucson from 42 different states (as well as Puerto Rico) and 17 foreign countries. Exhibitors traveled from 45 states (including the District of Columbia) and 42 foreign countries.
The 2019 Showcase encompassed 48 individual shows and an estimated 4,882 Exhibitors. The 2019 total gate attendance was estimated to include 457,259 Buyers, each of whom visited 6.97 shows (on average) – for a projected attendance of 65,604 unique persons.
Fully 99% of Buyers purchased one or more items on-site at the shows, most often Gems/Jewelry and/or Rocks/Minerals/Fossils. Among international Buyers, two-thirds report cumulative on-site purchases in excess of $10,000.
They estimated that $13,028,205 in local taxes (including sales, bed and rental car taxes) were paid on $122,866,042 of taxable expenditures made by Owners, Exhibitors and Buyers at the 2019 Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase.
My comment: Notice that none of this actually includes sales of specimens, although that is reflected in sales tax collections, but only partly since wholesale purchases must exceed retail and are not taxed.
If attendee purchases average $10,000 (real easy to do) that gets to $50 million immediately, and that only counts official vendors, not all of the 'tailgaters who also do huge amounts of business. So Tucson is big business, my guess is at least half a billion dollars. No wonder the show is so much appreciated.