Rock & Gem
Remembering Prized Tucson Displays
The Tucson mineral shows are certainly exciting. With over fifty shows to choose and millions of mineral specimens to see and buy, Tucson is a mineral wonderland of high value, the mecca of the mineral hobby.
Have you ever thought about the astronomical value of minerals and gems in Tucson during the show? The main show alone displays millions of dollars in gems and minerals. Security is critical! The wife of a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent once told me the FBI assigns extra agents to Tucson during the show. That was over 35 years ago before the show exploded and mineral and gem prices hit the roof.
FABERGÉ EASTER EGGS
When I was the Tucson show chairman, I arranged for Peter Carl Fabergé Easter Eggs to come to the show. These are the multi-million-dollar eggs originally made for the Czarina of Russia for Easter. They are unique, and the last Fabergé egg sold for $7 million, so you get the idea.
One show egg came from the Forbes
Museum in New York so it had to be flown into Tucson. At that time the Tucson club had no credit card, so I had to use my credit card for three first-class plane tickets; one each for the curator, the guard and the egg. Yes, the egg had its own seat! Yes, I was re-paid by the club.
When the egg and its companions arrived, we had a Tucson police escort meet them and carry the egg to an armored car which was convoyed by two police cars to a vault where the egg rested each night. At showtime the armored convoy reversed, bringing the egg right to the show floor. We also invited Tatina Fabergé, the last surviving Fabergé from France, to lecture at the show. My wife, Carol, was her escort.
SUTTER’S MILL GOLD NUGGETS
I also chaired the Golden Anniversary Tucson Show. We arranged to display one of the original Sutter’s Mill gold nuggets found in 1848. We also secured the California gold nuggets, coins and bars from the 1857 shipwreck off the Carolinas. Millions were lost in that shipwreck – it caused Wall Street to crash!
With such valuable displays, security had to be tight! Off-duty Tucson police were on duty during the entire show. At night, police patrolled with dogs inside and outside the building.
Thefts happen at all mineral shows, which is sad. But one year, the Tucson Show had a funny theft. Before the show opened, workers
entered the convention center through one door that was guarded by a police officer named “Gator.” He enjoyed the show and knew of all the costly gems and minerals. One day, Gator decided to have some fun with us. He found an ugly stream-tumbled nondescript worthless rock. He put it in a fancy box, labeled it “rare specimen” and priced it at $5,000. He displayed it by the dealer entrance. We all got a laugh over his sense of humor. The real laugh came when Gator’s worthless rock was stolen two days later and never returned. The thief was never caught!
When the egg and its companions arrived, we had a police escort meet them and carry the egg to an armored car which was convoyed by two police cars to a vault where the egg rested each night.”
Bob Jones holds the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, is a member of the Rockhound Hall of Fame, and has been writing for Rock & Gem since its inception. He lectures about minerals and has written several books and video scripts.