Annual mineral show keeps Tucson glittery

Jan and Gary Truesdail selecting minerals. (Photo by: Paige Facchino/ Arizona Sonora)

Ancient skulls, a 100-ounce gold crystal, vibrant rubies, and a couple thousand unique minerals are enticing 55,000 people from across the globe to travel to the city of Tucson.

It’s that time of year again, as the annual Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, the largest event of its kind, is in full swing throughout the city, and benefiting Tucson immensely.

A mineral from Madagascar reveals sparkling crystals inside. (Photo by: Paige Facchino/Arizona Sonora)

With tourism peaking in Arizona during the winter months, out-of-town guests largely contribute and spend their money at Tucson’s hotels, restaurants and sustain jobs for many.

“It’s a massive economic boom to our community,” said Andy Squire, economic development specialist for the City of Tucson, and the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show liaison. “These two weeks are the biggest part of the year for us in Tucson.”

Each year, the number of vendors, buyers, tourists and economic revenue increases.

The event, which started in 1955, only had 15 vendors and now in its 63rd year, there will be 45 separate shows operating throughout the Tucson metro area, according to Jane Roxbury, the director of convention services for Visit Tucson. This showcase is a vital part of the Tucson community.

Within the last 10 years there has been a 20 percent increase in direct spending, according to data compiled by FMR Associates, a Tucson-based international research firm, which conducted three separate studies on the showcase in 2000, 2007, and 2014.

The result of the 2014 Gem & Mineral economic impact survey revealed evidence of $120,534,732 generated in direct spending for the Pima region. “I believe that was a 20.5 percent increase over seven years prior to our last analyst,” Squire said. 2007 brought in $100,011,476.

In 2014 tourists traveled to Tucson from 45 different states, and 18 countries.

As these numbers increase, will the city of Tucson be able to keep up with the demand and host this event?

“Tucson itself is able to provide the logistical underpinnings that are needed, which is the most important part. There is plenty of room for it to grow. I think that Tucson is certainly capable of welcoming more shows and more visitors,” said Roxbury.

The city has the reputation of providing the necessary requirements the showcase needs. Squire says the issue of the show becoming too big revolves around our tourists. “We need to make sure we can provide a great guest experience for the people who keep coming back.”

Visitors, such as Jan and Gary Truesdail, are apart of the out-of-town buyers, as the couple travels from Sacramento to attend Tucson’s Gem and Mineral Show and have for almost 10 years now.

“Every time we come back the show gets better and bigger,” said Jan. “That’s why we keep coming to Tucson.”

Paige Facchino is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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