Tucson Gem and Mineral Show: Ultimate Guide #2 – History

To get the most of out of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, you must know the show’s vibrant history as a starting point! As our next installment in the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show Ultimate guide, enjoy learning about the intriguing history and growth of the famous Tucson Gem and Mineral Show! As an added bonus, learn about some fascinating changes coming for 2015 and beyond!

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show History: 1955-2015

What is now the largest show of its kind in the world – the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase, held annually in early February in Tucson, Arizona – really had humble beginnings in 1955. Imagine a show of this size, spread across vast parts of Tucson, having started at an elementary school in midtown Tucson. Yes, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, was first held 61 years ago at Keeling Elementary School. The event was organized by a group of rock enthusiasts – rockhounds, if you like – that called itself the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. And even that group was somewhat of a fledgling, having been first formed in December of 1946. This group of volunteers put on its first Tucson Gem and Mineral Show March 19-20, 1955, at Keeling Elementary. Admission was free (!) and included about 1,500 visitors and nine dealers. Compare that to today’s Showcase, with the main show being the TGMS’s Tucson Gem and Mineral Show that takes up about every available inch of the Tucson Convention Center downtown, and its 40 “satellite shows” spread throughout the Tucson area. It’s now an event that brings more than $120 million of direct spending to Tucson, and buyers spent more than $70 million in 2014 at the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. How did the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show grow so big under the leadership of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society?

Organic Growth of the Gem Show

Well, the show moved out of Keeling Elementary the next year to a Quonset hut at the Pima County Fair and Rodeo Grounds on South Sixth Avenue. It stayed there until 1972, when the then-new Tucson Convention Center downtown became its home. It has remained there ever since. Articles in the Arizona Daily Star point to 1961 as a representing a significant leap forward for the show. It marked the Smithsonian Institution’s first involvement in the event. It centered on mineral displays at the show with the Smithsonian’s theme of “Uncommon Gemstones and Mineral Crystals.” 1961 also represented the appearance of the first “satellite show.” It lacked a sponsor, but it was made up of 13 wholesale dealers and the show at the Holiday Inn South (now Howard Johnson Downtown) was apparently enough of a success that other satellite shows began popping up. The 2015 Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase is expected to feature 39 such shows. It has grown in such a way that the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase actually attracts a higher ratio of out-of-town buyers than Tucson-area residents. Its organizers in 1955 probably couldn’t have predicted that. Now the showcase, still organized and run by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, can count on thousands of vendors descending upon Tucson, according to a 2014 Visit Tucson study. The study found that out-of-town buyers, who come from 45 states and 18 countries, outnumber locals by 54 percent to 46 percent.

2015 and Beyond for the Gem Show

2015 may represent a watershed year in the way vendors are attracted to Tucson. The owners of one of the largest satellite shows – the 22nd Street Mineral, Fossil and Gem Show at 22nd Street and the Interstate 10 freeway interchange – is proposing a permanent home for their show. The proposal includes building a $12 million cooperative exhibit hall on the 22nd and I-10 site it bought in 2014. This venue, according to a story in the Arizona Daily Star, would feature 86 selling rooms on the first two floors that dealers would own outright as “business condos.” The third floor would be a year-round event space. In addition, during the annual Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase, the top floor would be a high-end annex for the 22nd Street Mineral and Fossil Show, which would continue to be held in a large tent on the site. The owners hope to begin selling the condos at the 2015 show.

Can’t Wait?

While the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show may be a few months away yet, retail and wholesale buyers alike can enjoy a taste of what the gem show has to offer. Feel free to look around and see the the amazing beauty nature has to offer. Stay on the lookout for the next Tucson Gem and Mineral Show Guide article!

The post Tucson Gem and Mineral Show: Ultimate Guide #2 – History appeared first on Rockology - Nature's Rarest & Most Extreme Minerals.

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