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Thursday September 13, 2001
I arrived in Denver late Thursday night after driving all day, not sure what to expect after the events of September 11th. I wasnt sure until the last day whether I would be going and my level of anticipation was certainly not like in years past. I stopped by the Holiday Inn Thursday Night about 10:00 PM to see what was happening. Most doors were closed but Dan Weinrich ( www.danweinrich.com ) had his open so I went in to see the new silver minerals he had been telling me about. He is one of the dealers who rent out wall size display cases to show off his specimens. Both walls were covered with fabulous specimens from all over the world. There were superb silver wire from the Uchucchacua mine, Oyon Province, Lima Department, Peru. Silver specimens from Peru were available in all price ranges from $5-over $10K. Dan is one of the few top dealers who often has some nice low priced specimens for the collector who cant spend three figures or more for a specimen. I picked up a couple of the $5 silver specimens as good as some I saw later for $25-50 at the main show. He also had numerous pyrargyrite and proustite specimens with barite on matrix from a new find at the San Genaro mine, near Choclococha, Huancavelica Department, Peru. Dan indicated traffic was down considerably over years past which of course was no surprise. Since it was late we headed back to the motel to get some sleep so we could get an early start for the Main Show on Friday.
Here's one of the new silver wires from Peru
Friday September 14, 2001 Merchandise Mart - The Main Show
I arrived at the Main Show about 30 minutes before it opened. I was among the first ten in line which was as close to the front as I had ever been. Also among the first ten were several other fellow collectors from St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri. I cant think of any other state East of Colorado to have such a large group representing it at this show as my home state (let me hear from others who have large numbers of collectors traveling to the large mineral shows). The line was definitely not as long as past years but still respectable considering the weeks events. The group putting on the Denver Show was going to give the entire proceeds of the Show to the American Red Cross for their relief efforts in New York and Washington, D.C. in a true humanitarian gesture. The effects of the tragedy were immediately noticeable in the form of a few empty booths and several missing displays.
The first booth to really get my interest was German dealer Christian Gornich. He had a nice selection of Tsumeb minerals including many of the rare species. I picked up a couple of pieces with confirmed deep green arsentsumebite on them in association with small but sharp, brilliant azurite crystals.
Azurite and Arsentsumebite - Tsumeb, Namibia
Next I ran across first time dealer Dan Unruh of Dans Used Rocks (neat name too) in Lakewood, CO. His booth was worth the price of admission all by itself. I have started to get an interest in Thumbnail size specimens since buying a nice collection of TNs a year or so ago. Dan said he had just bought a collection of TNs and it showed in his diverse offering of older specimens. Numerous specimens from Tsumeb including Cuprite, Azurite, and many varieties of Smithsonite. Silver minerals Stephanite, Proustite, Polybasite, Acanthite, and Pyrargyrite from Mexico. Over a half dozen Legrandites were available from Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. Superb crystals of Euxenite from Madagascar and micro Chloro-Bromargyrite crystals from Broken Hill, NSW, Australia were also in the collection. Pyrargyrite from Frieberg, Saxony, Germany and Dyscrasite from Pibram, Czech Republic continued the list of classics. Colorado classics were also available. Nicely crystallized Samarskite from Jefferson County, botryoidal Fluorite from Freemont County, and rarely seen Pyrite from the Climax Mine, Lake County. Colorado also produced Phenakite and Aquamarine from Mt. Antero. This was far from all the interesting minerals available at Dans. ALL the above were available for $20 or less.
Out on the main floor where most of the higher end dealers are located were lots of eye-candy. I noticed several dealers selling the new carollite specimens as well as new species hubeite with inesite from China in numerous booths. Classics were mostly what caught my eye. Tysons Minerals of Canada had some sweet Tsumeb pieces I had to photograph.
Dioptase - Tsumeb, Namibia
Cerussite - Tsumeb, Namibia
The Collectors Edge had their usual fine display of jewels from their operations at the Sweet Home Mine. Awesome rhodochrosite, with and without fluorite were the picks of the litter.
The Rocksmiths had their usual great supply of affordable minerals. They had a good selection of Chinese minerals including the Hubeite and Inesite specimens and a small lot of super gemmy Cassiterite. Another newer item they had was kidney ore Hematite from Ilroud, Morocco. These are look a likes for classic English material but have only appeared sporadically.
The theme of this year was Colorado Pegmatite Minerals and it sure made this Missourian jealous to see all the beautiful minerals that have come from a single state. Here are a couple shots of pieces that caught my eye.
Goethite and Smokey Quartz - Lake George, Park Co., Colorado
Calcite (dumb-bell) on siderite
Included in the Colorado Minerals displays was a case with Rocks and Minerals magazine covers with specimens. Below is an awesome Amazonite and Smokey Quartz combination that looked even better in person than on the magazine.
The most interesting items from the word on the street was;
1.Brian Lees of Collectors Edge and Sweet Home Mine fame has starting mining the Benitoite Mine in California for gem rough and specimens. His past track record is pretty good so we will likely be seeing new specimens appearing soon.
2. The latest round of mining by UK Mining Ventures at the Rogerley Mine, Weardale, England has produced the best material so far. Deep green and glassy twinned crystals should appear in Tucson making previous finds pale in comparision.
3. Tsumeb has started to produce specimens again. However, things are not going real well and the operation may have to shut down. Lack of good specimens and mining problems have been the primary culprits.
The Holiday Inn Satellite Show
I headed back to the Holiday Inn Show late in the afternoon to see what I could find. I first stopped in the tents in the parking lot to check out a couple of my favorite Chinese mineral dealers. They did not seem to have as good of a selection as in past years and the prices were higher. I think the concept of supply and demand has not completely sunk in. They seemed to be trying to make up for the lack of customers and sales by charging those who were shopping more. I did pick up a pair of cassiterite crystals from the finds of Ping Wu hoping they will clean up. Great Wall Consulting and another Chinese dealer whose name I didnt get had some large clusters of quartz crystals with clear to milky tabular diamond shaped barite crystals on them from Sichuan Province, China. These remind me of the Brazilian clusters with slender crystals but the barite makes them stand out above the ordinary. They still seem pretty proud of these so I decide to move on (you will see a picture of these later). I hope nuances of the free market economy start to sink in and plan to stop back later to check.
The Moroccans didnt have anything new I saw but the flow of vanadinite continues unabated from the African nation. Ill never understand how they move this stuff, Ive been carrying around several pieces at cheap prices for years now. I have vowed never to buy another piece of vanadinite again. Roy who is able to sell the stuff picks up a few pieces with the bright red crystals on barite. I think they are pretty but refuse to give in. The trilobites, shark teeth, and ammonites also continue to immigrate to this country in multitudes.
In the ballroom tent (located behind the hotel) there is a French dealer selling the celestine geodes from Madagascar at very good prices. My friend Roy decides to go hog wild and picks out over 100 pounds of the things. I picked up one very nice piece with large crystals and very good color to add to his pile. You would be amazed at how quickly these geodes add up in weight. I realize after helping carry the boxes back to the car that I definitely got stuck with the heavy one. Also in the back was Russian dealer He had a nice selection of minerals from Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia. A superb pyrrhotite and galena combo and some clear fluorite on top of cloudy fluorite in two different crystal forms (octahedron on cube) are the highlights. I wish I could add the fluorite to my personal fluorite collection but it is priced higher than I want to spend. After some hard bargaining, I pick up a green octahedral fluorite matrix piece for my collection as well as some water clear fluorite in modified octahedrons .
Inside the ballroom Benny Fenn (Benny Fenn Minerals) had his usual array of Mexican minerals including some monster sized smithsonite specimens from Choix, Sinaloa, Mexico. These come from a new find and have super color and luster. Once inside the motel I make a stop by North Star Minerals of West Bloomfield, Michigan to see Ross Lillie. He has been making trips to Bulgaria and had a nice selection of these minerals. One piece that really caught my eye was a large cabinet group with Quartz, sphalerite, chalcopyrite and galena from Borieva Mine, Madan District, Bulgaria (see photo below right). Ross is a former consultant in the fluorite mines of Southern Illinois and a good source of information on specimens from there. Being from Michigan Ross also gets to see plenty of native copper and silver minerals. Recently he acquired a couple of pieces from the Richard Bree Collection (who was a former Mine Captain). He had a copper specimen standing nearly a foot tall covered with large crystals from the Central Mine mined Ca. 1860s-1870s. You can see it's picture below left however this beauty was much more impressive in person and had to be one of my favorite rocks at the show.
Inside the motel I noticed the Chinese dealers in general were still having trouble with the supply and demand equation. In the "What's new" section I did see something new from the location with the hematite roses and quartz. Sharp tetragonal crystals of helvite were perched nicely on the long slender quartz crystals. I saw these in small numbers at a couple of booths but I did not buy any as I thought they were a little pricey. I want to add I did see quite a bit of new lower grade azurite nodules some with malachite also.
On the third floor I came to Wendys Minerals who sell Chinese minerals. They are one of my favorite dealers of Chinese minerals because they usually have a nice selection as well as decent prices. They also frequently have the new finds first. Their room was the first place I saw the spessartine garnets about three years ago that are now so plentiful. I did not see any of the helvites but did see a couple of other new items worth mentioning. From a new location of Luli Mountain, Tibet, China they had some of the best pumpellyite I had ever seen. They were deep forest green balls of crystals in association with quartz and unlike the helvite they were priced within reason.
Pumpellyite and Quartz - Tibet, China
They didnt have very many and they were easy to miss as I found out when talking to a couple other folks. John Veevaert of The Virtual Show was right across the hall from their room and when I showed the pumpellyite to him he indicated he hadnt seen them. Evidently, after I left his room, he headed right over and bought three for the virtual show that sold out right away. I later saw a collector showing off his helvite from the new Chinese find in Dennis Beals of XTALs room. I asked if he had seen the pumpellyite yet at Wendys. He said he was just there and didnt see any. I later found out he went back to double check and had just overlooked it before. He now owns a couple of pieces for his collection. Just another example of there being so much to see no one person will see it all. They also had a new find of holmquisite from Xingjiang, (West) China consisting of starburst like sprays of black crystals on a silvery matrix as seen below. Also new was a couple large plates of green calcite crystals (see picture below) from Hunan Prov., China. These were much larger crystals (up to 2 inches) than those that have been out a couple of years. Wendys also had nice samples of the Hematite Roses with quartz including the best rose shaped cluster I saw at the show and the new Barite on Quartz that were so plentiful this year.
New Holmquisite on schist.
Green Calcite plate
Tabular Barite on Quartz
Hematite & Quartz
Speaking of John Veevaert of Trinity Minerals/The Virtual Show etc., he had some Tsumeb extras from the Pietsch Collection and the Herb Obodda Fluorite Collection in a special 4 hour sale out of his room available. I picked up some nice azurite, and dioptase from Tsumeb and a piece from the Obodda collection for my personal fluorite collection.
Saturday September 15, 2001
Moving onward I come across a couple of Russian dealers one of who was Victor Ponomarenko of Axinite-PM. I had been hearing about the cuprite and native copper specimens from Kazakstan from several folks and now got to see them. The copper minerals from the Itauz Mine, Djezkazgan, Kazakhstan included the nice octahedral cuprite on copper and spinel twinned copper crystals (similar to Ray Mine material). They also had some nice crystals of chalcocite from the Djezkazgan, Kazakhstan location the bornite crystals have been coming out of for several years. One thing to keep in mind when dealing with the foreign dealers at the big shows is cash is usually king. That being said I found the Russian dealers all but insisted on cash for the best price while the Chinese dealers were mostly willing to accept a check even after negotiations were done.
Even as I keep an eye out at the Shows for what is new to report, I'm always on the lookout for Old Time Classics available only from recycling of old collections. One of the advantages of the slow sales at the show was the dealers who understood the economics of the situation were offering some very good deals. When I stopped in Kristalles room all of the above came together. For those who dont know Kristalle is a top end dealer who has the beautiful specimens and antiquities in color ads on the back of both major mineral collector magazines. They have a retail booth at the main show and a wholesale room at the Holiday Inn. To move some rocks they had marked about half their room stock Double-Keystone (75% Off) during the last two days of the show. Now I'm not likely to find much at the regular price but at Double-Key I can find some things I like. I picked up classics from Butte, Montana; Tsumeb, Namibia; Bad Ems, Germany; Joplin, Missouri; and Cumbria, England.
Hematite in Calcite Cumbria, England
I decided to venture to the other satellite mineral show across the street from the Holiday Inn. This show is weighted toward the holistic side of the hobby. Only three floors of the Hotel have dealers but they make up for that with more and bigger tents than the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Crystals, beads and polished items everywhere!! One dealer had some large pegmatite specimens for sale so I stopped to look closer. Well he had carefully set up his display of fine minerals by DUMPING THE BOXES OF CRYSTALS ON TOP OF EACH OTHER!!! He did have some nice schorl tourmaline from Australia that were separated into their own boxes. I asked about how much they were and it was something outrageous like $300 a pound. YIKES!!! I made a quick exit from there and found a Moroccan dealer with some of the nicer vanadinite pieces I had seen at the show, these were bright red and perched on barite. My friend Roy, who hasnt learned to avoid vanadinite picks out a nice miniature to ask the price. When the dealer started off with a figure of $150 I was out of there before Roy even had the rock back on the table. Economics 101 was still in session for these guys. After seeing more and more beads and rocks stacked on top of each other I had to get out of there and headed back to the Holiday Inn.
As I was wondering the halls looking for anything else new, Roy comes up and asks if I can help him out ($$) with a lot of minerals he is buying. I come to find out Im helping to pay for a lot of VANADINITE. How did it come to this?!?! Im not only paying for vanadinite I have to help him wrap the 9 flats (of vanadinite) to take home! Well at least some of the foreign dealers are starting to understand the economics. Roy did get a good deal, even if I think hes crazy for getting so much vanadinite. Now we are starting to have a problem with space, since my truck was acting up before we left St. Louis we brought Roys Nissan Sentra instead.
Sunday September 16, 2001
The last day of the show we hope to leave town by 2 PM so we dont have to drive all night since Roys car has been acting up. We check in at the Holiday Inn to see what kind of deals are being made. I made a mental note to stop by the Great Wall Consulting room on the third floor as there were some interesting fluorites up there. When I get to the room I am delighted to see they have been studying their Economics 101 and are ready to deal. They have a sign that everything is half off! Roy and I quickly start snatching up a variety of specimens. I get three samples of sparkling drusy quartz from Hunan Prov. completely covering the surface. These glitter like jewels covering 1.5 to 2 cm fluorite cubo-octahedrons and 1 cm saddle shaped dolomite crystals. I don't recall seeing anything quite like these before. I also pick out a number of the purple fluorite with various combinations of chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite (some killers), quartz, ferberite, scheelite, pyrite, and muscovite(?) mica from Yaogangxian Mine, Hunan Province, China.
Fluorite, Quartz, Dolomite and Mica - Yaogangxian Mine, China
Roy drops in to check on my progress and tells me he has found some of the sky blue hemimorphite from Wensham, Yunnan Prov., China. I have been a fan of these ever since they first started to show up a few years back because of thier awesome color (see below). The prices back then had kept me away and I had been waiting for them to come down in price to get one for myself. This was the time as one of the third floor Chinese mineral dealers was having an awful show and was trying to move some rocks offering these as cheap as I had ever seen them. Roy had already snagged the best bargain pieces so I picked out what I thought was the best piece he had and have now added it to my collection.
Before heading out of town we decided to go back to the main show again. I was hoping to see if Ronnie Mackenzie had ever made it to the show from South Africa. When I stopped by his booth he was just starting to put out his minerals. He had been in the USA before the attacks of the 11th but couldn't make it to Denver until the last afternoon of the show. I was interested in some items without labels but didn't want to bother him as he was trying to get his tables set up. Hopefully I'll get to see him next year. For those who like large pieces and money is no object a stop to see The Sunnywood Collection is a must. They have beautiful specimens mounted on special display stands or covers amde of wood and luecite. My favorite was a calcite on green fluorite from China that measured over 2 feet across. They also had a fine fluorite on rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine shown below.
After a quick review of the displays we were ready for the long drive (860 miles) home.Final Thoughts
Denver 2001 will be a show I will never forget even though few new minerals made their debut. From talking to the dealers and my own observations attendance was definitely down which was no surprise. Most dealers also reported slower sales with the big-ticket market hit the hardest. I applaud the generosity of the main show sponsors for donating all their proceeds to the victims of the Terrorist Attacks. The large mineral shows like Denver are an opportunity for people from all over the world with different backgrounds to come together. It may have been my imagination but people seemed to be a little more polite to each other than usual. The drive home was enlightening with the Stars and Stripes flying in/on vehicles from Escorts to Lexus SUV's to 18-Wheelers. You could also spot messages of "God Bless America" in gas stations and fast food spots in every state on our way home. The patriotism continued the whole way with flags of all shapes and sizes dotting house after house along the way home. The terrorists who thought they could shock us into cowering and disarray instead strengthened and unified us more so than anything I have experienced in my lifetime. How this week will effect the future only time will tell.