Each February thousands of people flock to Tucson to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, where mineral, gem, and meteorite dealers offer specimens for collectors to take home. The event consists of several overlapping shows held at numerous hotels spread throughout the city, and offers collectors an opportunity to buy stuff at significant discounts. Although the focus of the show centers on mineral specimens and jewelry, several dozen meteorite dealers show their stock of dozens to hundreds of pieces, all for sale. This year, Michael Bakich and I attended the show and surveyed dealers to draw a bead on the hobby. Attendance was down somewhat, but some buyers were targeting high-grade pieces. In the wake of Astronomy's August 2006 Special Meteorite issue, interest in the field has been strong.
Simple pieces like bins of crumbly Nantan, a notoriously unstable iron meteorite from China, cluttered the floors of a good many dealers. Others had numerous pieces of common meteorites like Sikhote-Alin, Canyon Diablo, or Bensour for sale, from $10 for tiny chips to thousands of dollars. The most beautiful, and pricey, specimens, included recent pallasites like Seymchan and Fukang to Mars and lunar meteorites, going for as much as $50,000 each. The price of grabbing a piece of the distant solar system can be small, or large.
Check back to the August issue to see our lists of dealers, and you can grab your own chunk of asteroid, the Moon, or Mars. It's a great way to get excited about astronomy, especially when the temperature for outside observing may freeze our eyes closed!