Our 4 6-foot Showcases were already waiting outside of our Showroom (Photo 1). First things first, though, and we spend the rest of the evening unpacking our vehicle (Photo 2), which is critical as I am aware of several vehicle break-ins over the years, with thieves targeting the boxes full of specimens dealers bring to the Show.
After a good night's sleep, we start to break the hotel room down to begin the transformation, starting with removing the light fixtures from the wall, then dismantling the bed, and moving various pieces of furniture into new positions (Photo 3). With this finished, time for the crew from Dynamic Events of Denver to put in the serious effort it takes to move the cases into the Showroom, set them up properly once we establish what our shelf-spacing will be, and to clean them so we can immediately start loading our specimens into the cases (Photo 4). Thanks to Paul and Joey, again, and thanks also to the hard work put in by the new people on their team from the Lost Boy Camp, located "somewhere in the Trinity Alps" of Northern California.
Around 8am on January 26th, most of the work is finished, and we are availed the opportunity to open our doors to a pleasant day, looking out at orange and palm trees, meeting old and new friends, and considering innumerable other possibilities. Ken Coleman (Tinyminer's Minerals & Exploration) shares the room with me and is shown in front of his Showcase in Photo 7, and I take time to pose proudly in front of my 2 Showcases (Photo 8). This year, we had a special guest set-up on consignment; many seasoned American Exploration Geologists recognize the name Marty Houhoulis, who brought specimens from decades of self-collecting and picking-up pieces through extensive work in North and South America.
When Marty was available in the room, it made three of us with nearly identical backgrounds: we each started collecting minerals (and other associated things) at a very young age, focused this interest into degrees in Geology when we attended various Universities, found jobs in mining where we knew the minerals came from, and then evolved into Exploration Geologists, allowing us to prowl entire regions of mineralization. Because of our collective experiences, we provide unique accounts of real experiences in mining and exploration, not simple photos from a "tour." Kinda like talking to people who spent years mapping the Grand Canyon while rafting every last bit of the Colorado River in the Canyon's extent, versus someone who spent 2 days there on vacation...
PHOTO 10. Apex's second Showcase, with published photos of several of our pieces. specimens.
A few points along the road provide clearly visible views of parts of the old mills and tailings for the Vulture mine complex (Photos 28 to 30). One point provided immediate proximity to a smaller working, where we were able to find material directly eroded from the old exposure. The metamorphosed host rocks and associated veins of "bull" or "bucky" quartz are characteristic of "orogenic" gold systems, typified by the Mother Lode gold veins in California (Photo 31). Per Wikipedia, the Vulture mine produced 340,000 ounces of gold and 260,000 ounces of silver, before being shut down by the US Federal Government in 1942. This was part of a national program whereby the War Production Board deemed gold mines as non-essential to the efforts needed to sustain the US involvement in World War II. Miners and mining equipment (mills, etc.) were either melted into the war effort or moved to focus on lead, zinc, copper, and/or tungsten mines, among others (think uranium), and most gold camps went dormant until at least the 1980s (more on this someday), with the vast majority still waiting proper exploration and development.
2017 Tucson Show Report (scroll-down for photos and details):
Back home from Tucson and still unpacking more two weeks later. We spend more than a month preparing for the Show, and keep our Showroom at the Hotel City Center (formerly the Inn Suites) open from 10am on January 25th through past-midnight on February 11th, the last day of the Show. In total, we spend 4 days on the road, 2 days setting up and breaking down, and 18 straight 12- to 14-plus-hour days making certain we are available to our friends, old and new, who spend a great deal of time, money, and energy to attend an Event that continues to grow and contract in different ways that mimic a living organism.
Imagining a grove of aspen trees in the mountains, the stalwart shows (the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society "Main Show," the Arizona Mineral & Fossil Show at the Hotel Tucson City Center, the Fine Mineral Show at the Westward Look Resort, etc.) are the few true trunks with independent root systems, the numerous surrounding venues are "runners" spreading out from the trunks and representing the largest volume of foliage, and now, the very small independent venues operated by one or a few dealers are popping up in the grove and even outside of its edges "like mushrooms after a spring rain."
Everything about this growth is positive for collectors and dealers from around the world, as we have never before had such opportunity to view so many great specimens in a single city, but is also incredibly challenging for many who have limited time to visit the various venues, and those with limited budgets who are witnessing prices continuing to grow due to globalization and the buying power of new and old collectors, alike. This trend won't change (think of the price histories of other works of art), and when a specimen is sold these days, it might never again be seen by people from Western countries.
Globalization became the main theme of the Event for me, as I am only 1 of around 400 dealers at the HTCC alone, and of reportedly 4,000 dealers who operate at various venues across Tucson. Every country from every continent (except Antarctica, of course) is represented by indigenous people, as are all the major, minor, and barely known religions. Despite the vast differences some might assume we had, there was never discussion on religion or politics; we are an especially "woke" group who all work very hard for and focus on the simplicities that unite us, rather than philosophies others might try to use to divide us. We all go to Tucson for the same reasons: to take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Perhaps the best experience I had was Super Bowl Sunday, coinciding with my 47th birthday. This is usually a slower time for us, as many hunker down to watch the game, whether to witness the NFL Championship, or to simply experience the cultural phenomenon that is the Super Bowl, so I mustered a few friends to watch in our Showroom. There were 5 of us from 4 continents representing at least 4 religious or secular creeds, but all we focused on was the spectacle. Afterwards, we all simply went back to business without discussing anything other than the nature of American football versus other more global sports like rugby, boxing, and what every other country in the world calls Football since as early as the 8th Century AD!
Note, I neither take nor post photos of other dealers or collectors ever, unless given permission under special circumstances, for the same reasons I never use social- or business-networking websites. Many of us live and/or work in potentially dangerous parts of the world (including parts of the United States) where it is important to maintain anonymity. Also, I almost never leave the Showroom, so what would I photograph and write about? John Veevaert (trinityminerals.com; one of my favorite websites ever, and part inspiration for my own layout) has posted nice photos from his nearly identical driving route from Reno, NV, to Tucson in his Show Reports, and others like Jolyon & Katya Ralph (mindat.org) do great jobs of documenting various new venues and finds. Instead of mimicking aspects of their reports, I've decided to show photos and details you won't find anywhere else: a 1-time glimpse of set-up, operation, and tear-down of our Showroom (won't redundantly post these again for each year), and photos from the ride back to Reno after the Show (likewise on the redundancy front).
Now the true fun begins! Set-up is one of the best times of the Show, as we finally get to see all our specimens out at once, comparing the displays with what we had imagined, and starting to anticipate catching up with the many friends we expect to see. We work late into the evening of January 25th (Photo 5) to meet our expected opening on January 26th, culminating with finding spaces left to add our Show Poster (below left) on the Information Boards around the HTCC, and finally hanging our banner (Photo 6).
The only really new issue for us this year was the dust! Photo 20 illustrates how much dust (mostly spores, I think; pollen, mold, and bacteria) settled inside of our locked cases by the end of the Show. Outside of the cases, I remember waking several times in the morning to watch the dust that had settled on me "pop" into small clouds when I first moved.
What I notice in Photo 20 is how many "layers" of specimen movement were recorded by the dust, indicating the daily levels of interest in the entire display. I also had to wipe "nose-prints" off regularly! These dotted the Showcases at various focal points, usually centered on a number of our eye-popping pieces with exceptional aesthetics.
...and, back home again!!! No more to describe, other than unpacking from the Tucson Event (still shaking off the dust). But, I'll leave off with a photo from my back patio when we returned from Tucson (Photo 51), hopefully illustrating part of the reason Apex works so hard and long. Now time to relax... "beer one tastes just like a beer, beer two a little bit better than one..." - thanks to Chris Janson for providing the background song for this year's Show!... and thanks to Ken and Marty.. and thanks to so on and so on... see y'all back in Tucson next year!!!
There are several old operations between Wickenburg and the Nevada border, but Ken and I focus on gold and silver, which really starts to become abundant just north of Las Vegas, and I'll stick to these, for now. First, a few photos that impressed me by the scale of human modification to the landscape, starting with the road-cuts between Kingman, Arizona, and the Nevada border (Photos 32 and 33). I've worked in mining and exploration since 1995, and understand that gold and silver mines, in particular, are commonly maligned in the US culture as negative offenses that permanently scar the land for human consumption. Rather than argue the point, I'll simply state that I travel extensively, and over the last several decades, I've witnessed growth outwards from major US cities that on individual bases dwarf the impacts of all the gold and silver mines in history combined together! Talking to you, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Washington, D.C., New York, etc. Consider the road-cuts in the photos below, and how much material had to be blasted and removed to carve the highway through the hills in as straight a line as possible, while remaining economically viable, or these would mostly be much more costly tunnels.
The next stop with any real provisions is Goldfield, Nevada (Photo 42), a town of extreme historical significance, but one that is essentially forgotten already by younger generations. In the early 1900s, Goldfield was exploited for its gold veins that comprised the most valuable ground in the United States at the time. I've spent months of my life working in and around Goldfield, mostly exploring the Gold Point district to the southwest, and love every aspect remaining of the former boomtown. There is a publicly accessible road looping around the various head frames and open pits in the district (Photo 43), and the huge foundation for the mill still rests above the tailings just north of town (Photo 44).
2017 Tucson Set-up
I've shown a few presentations that included what it takes (in time, effort, and money) to set-up as a Mineral Dealer at the Tucson Event, beginning as early as 2005. Time for an update, as logistics have advanced a point of simplified elegance, comprising the ultimate culmination of planning and coordinating with a professional team of friends and friendly people all working hard for each other. Let's start with our arrival at the Hotel Tucson City Center (HTCC) in the afternoon on Tuesday, January 24th...
2017 Tucson Show Report
Once we pass the obvious military presence, it's another hour-plus to Beatty, where the real action starts again. Photo 37 was taken just south of Beatty looking right (east) at a striking assemblage of rocks with obvious drill-roads at the base of the canyon in the center of the image, used to define parts of the currently active Sterling exploration/development project. An older mine here produced around 200,000 oz gold between 1980 and 1997.
Swinging my camera back to the north, I try to zoom in on the open pit at the Lac-Gold Bullfrog mine, visible only as more intensely pink coloration at the left-center of Photo 38, between two wooden power-line poles. Besides the production from the open pit, there was important production from the Original Bullfrog mine, and numerous smaller occurrences in the area.
Finally, we reach the Arizona-Nevada border, with Las Vegas just beyond, where we make another stop at the Hoover dam. Here we observe another series of human achievements that has had tremendous impact on the local region and ecology. The dam itself was built between 1931 and 1936 as part of Depression-era work programs, constructed by the US Government to use remaining tax dollars to put millions of unemployed Americans to work, continuing to link the American infrastructure that began with the completion of our railway system of transport, starting during the Industrial Revolution in the East (beginning in 1810), and culminating with settlement of the West (through 1890). Photos 34 and 35 show the dam as it sits now, and Photo 36 shows a view from below of the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (named after a personal hero), which just opened in 2010.
PHOTO 51. "beer one....."
A couple hours later, and we're "in the pipe, five by five!" Reno is in our sights, and so are many other "colorful rocks." On a small ridge between Washoe Valley and the Truckee Meadows, we pass several geothermal plants, generating electrical power from active hot springs. At this point, the alteration envelope associated with silver- and gold-vein deposits in one of the world's most famous mining districts, the Comstock Lode, and Virginia City, the famous mining center, is clearly visible to the east (Photo 50). Note, Virginia City lies on the other side of the ridge, and the mines start just south of the vantage point of the photo below. I won't discuss details of the Comstock here, as a quick internet search will yield a year's worth of reading material already written...
After paying our respects, we focused on the geology of the area, and general disposition of the old mine itself, while considering their old operations in the context of regional geology and future reinvigoration of the area.
At the end of the Show, our efforts have clearly paid-off, as Photos 17 and 18 show our principal and second Showcases partly rearranged by specimens moved out and new ones moved in. Photo 19 shows a few of our new acquisitions, presented in the Tucson 2017 New Finds Gallery.
Opening Day culminated with the final set-up of the consignment case of Marty Houhoulis's specimens (Photo 12). With most of the specimens loaded (a few still need work, and I brought an additional 100 thumbnails to replace sold pieces in my second Showcase), we have plenty of time to tweak our displays over the next 2.5 weeks of 12- to 14-plus-hour-days. Time for some well-earned rest in preparation for the weeks to come!
...and, back on the road again! We stuck with Showroom mantras 2 (stay hydrated) and 3 (stay rested), waking mid-morning on Feb 13th to head back home. I'd like to share a few photos of the ride from Tucson to Las Vegas to Reno, for anyone else who drive's these routes and wonders "what are those colorful rocks I see along the route?" Some of them are simply oxidized (i.e. rusted) layers of ash from ancient volcanic eruptions. The rocks I'll emphasize below owe their colors to "alteration" due to physical and chemical changes to the original form, due to interaction(s) with hot waters and gasses driven by fossilized volcanic and/or other tectonically related processes. Hopefully, the photos help emphasize the scales of some of these systems. There are also a few other photos to compare them to the scale of human modifications to the landscape.
On our way down to Tucson, Ken and I agreed to take a visit to the Vulture mine, just outside of Wickenburg, Arizona, part way between Phoenix and our halfway stop in Las Vegas, Nevada. The mine was discovered in 1863, and remains the most productive gold mine in Arizona's history. Our interest was more than historical, though, as we wanted to see examples of the quartz veins mined for the gold and silver, and of the rock that hosted these veins. First, photos of the mine area starting with the "secret" road to the old mine (Photo 25).
A little bit later, we arrive in Las Vegas, share a great meal, and crash into our beds. I sleep lightly, going over various aspects and reflections from the Tucson Show, and really looking forward to seeing my family tomorrow... slowly falling asleep... I think... or something...
...and, back on the road again! Up early, and on our final leg back to Reno. There are many beautiful views just north of Las Vegas, including spectacular Mount Charleston just to the north, but this quickly gives way to a long stretch of road memorable for a correctional facility on the left and minimally marked access roads to military installations running nearly the entire time on the right; these are real "no-go" zones, so don't stop to investigate the occasional drone whizzing by!
Photos 9 and 10 show cases in our Showroom on opening day. But before we even had time to take these photos, one of the best specimens I brought to the Show sold, So I'm adding a photo (courtesy of The Sunnywood Collection) of this amazing piece, a Rhodochrosite-Barite combo from Nevada that measured around 6.5 X 4.7cm (Photo 11). This is the best piece I am aware of from a very limited find made around 2 decades ago (more on this in the future), and part of a group of specimens recently released from my Personal Collection (mostly pieces from Nevada). For the record, I am in the process of releasing the entirety of my Personal Collection, keeping now only self-collected specimens and gifts. I've been collecting a long time, and these special pieces are finding happy homes with both advanced collectors and museums. In exchange, I get to take care of my family, and enjoy more time with them. But please don't inquire about the remainder of the Collection in the meantime, as the pieces are in various stages of cleaning, preparing, and readying to be displayed as I had always imagined them. A final indulgence before saying "good-bye," I suppose...
Just about ready, and now focusing on the three mantras we use in the Showroom:
1. Stay positive
2. Stay hydrated
3. Stay rested
PHOTO 9. Apex's principal Showcase for 2017, full of "eye candy."
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Just north of Goldfield lies Tonopah, the next emergence of hard rock after a basin filled with younger sediments (Photo 45), another town famous for being one of the wealthiest places in America during its boom period in the early 1900s. Tonopah, versus Goldfield, is known primarily for its silver mines. The lighter colored rocks ahead are obvious expressions of hydrothermal "alteration" (i.e. changes due to mineralizing fluid interactions) associated with the silver veins.
We scouted the area for possible access, but the property is well fenced and well marked as "private property." As professional Exploration Geologists with full understanding of our various "rights" regarding private ground (i.e. owned by a person or group who can tell you to vacate, "or else") vs. public ground (i.e. vast expanses of Western lands that still belong to the Citizens of the United States), plus things in-between, we fully understood the implications and stayed just outside the private fences. But, this wouldn't prevent us from "remote-sensing" with our eyes, and making notes of rocks along the roadway that were eroded directly from the outcrops just on the other side of the fence. First, two photographs of a cemetery on the edges of the mine dating to "circa 1870." I've encountered numerous similar burial sites in more remote parts of Nevada and California, and am struck every time by the size of the graves, as they are so small, commonly not measuring more than 4 feet in length (Photos 26 and 27).
Like Goldfield, much of Tonopah's mining history is on full display, with old head frames and other obvious workings for several underground mines, dumps, and tailings left essentially as they existed. Nevada's dry climate precludes the extreme weathering the old workings would have experienced, if, for example they were located somewhere in the Eastern coastal states, where the dumps and tailings would have already washed away, and the head frames would have suffered possibly terminal wood-rot and rust. Photos 46 and 47 show the head frames still standing on their shafts, almost looking ready to go back to work...
Operation and Tear-Down
Because we remain swamped nearly throughout the entire Show, I don't have much time to take meaningful photos from other venues. Instead, I'll share perspective from the Hotel Tucson City Center, where we set-up. Despite starting with below-freezing temperatures at night, Tucson quickly warmed up, and crowds were out in force (Photos 13 through 16). I've read numerous other 2017 show reports by others regarding their experiences in Tucson, and a common theme was the lack of attendance and sales, but this was not our experience. For older dealers (>20-25 years selling), many are experiencing continuing downturns due to the competition from growing ranks of quality mineral dealers, diluting markets they used to own. For newer dealers (<5-10 years selling), previous expectations have no bearing on today's market, as many regular American customers have recently retired and are considering selling their own collections, while new markets explode in unexpected directions, like the deluge of Chinese collectors we saw over the last several years, who generally arrive upwards of a week before any official Tucson Show openings. Adapting to, and more importantly, anticipating change is paramount to the success of any business.
Once the specimens are safely away, its time to coordinate again with Dynamic Events of Denver, allowing us to reassemble our sleeping room while the Showcases are moved out (Photos 21 and 22). With everything in the room back in place (Photo 23), we keep our main flats of specimens in the kitchenette (Photo 24) to quickly load in the morning...
We noted one occurrence in particular, in the darker colored rocks on the far-right side of Photo 38. This outcrop revealed its significance immediately in the form of the old foundation of a mill not attributable to any modern (post 1980) efforts (Photo 39), focused on a series of orogenic gold-quartz veins in metamorphosed "basement" rocks exposed here (Photo 40), versus those buried by blankets of younger volcanic rocks, like those hosting the the Bullfrog deposits. Note, these different occurrences are simple to discern, even for the most amateur mineralogist or geologist, as the "orogenic" occurrences comprise "bull-/bucky-" quartz veins with big, crystalline pockets of gold that only occur in metamorphic basement rocks, versus the banded veins of cockscomb to amorphous quartz/silica that characterize the "epithermal" occurrences in the younger volcanic rocks.
But ... we can occasionally stretch the rested and hydrated part, as our choice to remain open for much longer hours than at least 90% of the other dealers has certain disadvantages of lost sleep, at times, but we have traditionally finished at least 50% of our business at Tucson after other dealers shut their doors at 6pm. Again this year, we met with hundreds of friends during these later hours, which also allowed some to bring in material for trade or sale. I mentioned earlier that I almost never leave the Showroom, but that doesn't mean we don't have access to incredible material from new finds and old collections, as we continue to build our brand and reputation. This year, collectors and dealers showed us 1,000s of newly available pieces.
Between Beatty and Goldfield are very "colorful" outcrops of the Cuprite district (Photo 41). Note, there is no actual cuprite here, only clay-altered rocks representing fossilized geothermal activity. This area is well known by geophysicists, as it is commonly used (like the rocks around Virginia City, Nevada), to calibrate remote-sensing instruments (e.g. satellites and "drones") and associated algorithms with well-documented occurrences of various clay minerals commonly associated with gold and silver in the general vicinity, in spite of the fact that no one has found any significant gold or silver at this occurrence.
After a quick stop for fuel in Beatty, we're ready for the final roll to Reno...
With the Showcases ready, we have 120 feet of shelf length to fill with fantastic specimens we've worked all year to procure, as well as pieces from our own mining operations and personal collections.
A few minutes later we can see Mt. Grant (Photo 49), in the Wassuk Range, and another military complex surrounding the town of Hawthorne. This is an extended bit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, and in small forests just below the snow-covered peaks, I've had personal encounters with black bears! The elevation, low-humidity, landscape, flora, fauna, and relief (difference between the base and top elevations) of the Wassuks make them ideal transitional grounds for anyone going to places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, amongst other countries with similar terrane.
There are plenty of older workings on each side of the road heading north out of Tonopah, toward the next "major" stop at Hawthorne, our final stop before pushing the last 2.5 hours to Reno. A half-hour south of Hawthorne, another group of colorful rocks is visible to the right (east; Photo 48), in the vicinity of Luning. These are part of a large altered system of rocks, with a few relatively small mines scattered throughout. One of these is relatively new, and is reportedly being permitted for operation. As with the other photos, the colorful nature of these rocks is an obvious visual anomaly associated with volcanic activity. I love the content of this photo, contrasting pre-1980 equipment partly rusting in the foreground, with modern mines in the distance, and a huge array of solar panels being assembled in the middle!
As promised, we kept our Showroom open until midnight on February 11, the final day of the Show. Then, for the first time, we allowed ourselves to really think about heading home to our families, which spurred a flurry of initial break-down that lasted until 3am.
Break-down is very different than set-up, as the Show is now finished, most of our friends are already home, and we are thinking about ours. Now, it's just hard work, plain and simple, to get packed up and back on the road. We start by repacking all remaining specimens and new inventory.