Fallen stars in Tucson

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, February 19, 2008
A piece of the rock that struck Earth 50,000 years ago, creating the Barringer Meteor Crater, this 235.4-gram iron is a classic for all meteorite collections. The meteorite was recognized in 1891; it is an iron octahedrite, coarse (IA). The main mass was vaporized, and about 30 tons have been found. David J. Eicher

Last week, I spent several days in Tucson, Arizona, and the surrounding area. Not only was it a welcome relief from the near-constant snow and frigid temperatures of Milwaukee, but it also meant observing the sky from a super-dark site with a large telescope. More on that in my next blog.

Before the observing came a couple of days at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the greatest annual event for geological collectors. Accompanying me were Senior Editor Michael Bakich, his wife Holley, and Contributing Editor Ray Shubinski. Spread over numerous hotels around the city, this event brings together hundreds of rock, mineral, gem, and meteorite dealers from all over the world. Thousands of collectors flock to the city, hoping to find just the right mineral specimens, pieces of jewelry, beads, or meteorites to take home with them. Fortunately, meteorite collectors, myself among them, were hardly disappointed.

Among the shows catering to meteorites were the Westward Look Show, the Inn Suites, the Ramada, the Quality Inn Benson Highway, and the Best Western Executive Inn. These satellite shows occurred from February 2 to 16; the main show, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show itself, featured a wide variety of minerals, gems, and meteorites, and took place February 14 to 17 at the Tucson Convention Center.

Any meteorite collector should make an effort to attend the Tucson shows at least once in a lifetime. Specimens offered range from $2 battered bits of common iron meteorites like Nantan or Sikhote-Alin to unique, nearly priceless stones like some of the newer lunar meteorites, or at least large pieces of them. The world’s dealers turn out en masse. Foremost among them was Bob Haag, friend of the Astronomy editorial staff and a special person who we profiled in our August 2006 issue. Also present were many other important dealerships, including R. A. Langheinrich; ELKK; Impactika; Labenne; Meteorite Caravan; Meteorite Collection; Meteorite Hunter; Pani; Edwin Thompson; Comet Meteorite Shop; Meteorite Show; and Blaine Reed.

Prices were fairly uniform and offerings included some pretty spectacular pieces from a wide variety of sources. As with all of the specimens at Tucson, prices were generally negotiable.

The French dealer Labenne was stocked with treasures. A huge hand specimen of Allende with extremely fresh, black crust was going for $15 per gram, or $4,295. A huge slab of Cape York with a troilite inclusion was marked at $2 per gram, or $2830. Dhofar 459, a beautiful lunar meteorite, went for $600 per gram, or $17,610 for the whole stone. Amazingly, this dealership also had an end cut of Ensisheim, the first meteorite fall ever recorded, from 1492. The 14.75-gram-slice, formerly belonging to the Muséum National d’Historie Naturelle in Paris, was marked at $14,750.

Meteorite collectors should rejoice. All they need do to see the greatest pieces on the market is come to Tucson each February. The trick is bring the pocket change, checkbooks, and charge cards too. Maybe even a second mortgage on the house. But Tucson need not be a painful experience. Each year the show serves as a museum and as a chance to see the greatest treasures of the world of natural history, even if the greatest ones don’t make it home to your personal collection.

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.



Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter. View our Privacy Policy.

Find us on Facebook