February 10: We just returned from the big Tucson show---the one that will be remembered as "the year Alain Carion had Ivory Coast Tektites for sale!".
Ivory Coast Tektites: Until now, only a hundred or so were known, recovered from alluvial gold mines long, long ago. All had been swallowed up into museums and private collections with virtually none in circulation. Dealers we spoke with claim it has been over 20 years since they saw one for sale. One serious collector commented that they had removed Ivory Coast from their lifetime bucket list as it seemed literally impossible to obtain them. But against all odds, Alain acquired a substantial (and previously unknown!) collection from a descendant of a Cote d'Ivoire cotton farmer who picked them from his fields over 50 years ago. Alain brought 30 fine specimens to the show. When we heard, we advanced our schedule and went straight to his room (stopping only at the bank on the way!). We scored seven of the little jewels and will be posting them to the website within a few days. They won't be cheap, but I'm betting they won't last long.
Locenice Moldavites: This classic locality is being reworked with impressive results. Fine specimens that rival Besednice in quality have been recovered, many with Anda-like sculpture. We skimmed the very best of the offerings from the single Czech dealer that had them, and after a closer look at them, went back for more. Typically, it is hard to find moldavites with specific locality provenance information. With the obvious exception of Besednice, most other moldavites are intermingled by buyers into a single unidentified lot. We are very excited to find this superb Locenice material. It is very deeply ornamented like Besednice, but is less spiny. It has a very glossy finish, deeper color, and an overall character that lends itself to jewelry applications far better than Besednice.
Besednice Moldavites: There is very limited new inventory being offered, with the source fully mined out. We found one dealer with specimens that we had not cherry-picked in past years. We acquired some fine new pieces, but the supply is in its last stages. Very soon, the great ones will be gone. We saw a few winners being offered at $56/gram wholesale!
Libyan Desert Glass: While quite a few rooms had large quantities of low-quality trash, we found only one dealer (a new Russian supplier) with one tray of really gemmy stuff. We bought all of the very best from this tray.
Chinese/ Thai/ Vietnamese Indochinites: Things are changing fast on this front. In past years, Cookie and I sometimes spent entire days unpacking and sorting through boxes at our favorite suppliers, and it wasn't unheard of to rack up purchases over $10,000 in one room. This year, our favorite Chinese supplier had a couple of small flats and we bought one (1) lonely piece for $10. Bulk used to come in huge wooden crates that we could acquire virtually without limit. This year we bought all the decent quality bulk we saw---less than 40 kilos. We passed on a few boxes of badly chipped and abraded junk. Our Chinese suppliers are saying that the huge glut of material in past years came from the beginning of more relaxed governmental views on capitalistic business. College kids could go out and collect more tektites than they could carry and turn them into cash. Now, a trip through the same collecting areas may yield a few glassy chips. It's over. I'm starting to think our over-stuffed inventory may be a good thing!
Australites: I asked every Aussie dealer at the show if they brought any flanged buttons. No one had any or knew where to get any. Other more common morphologies that would usually be of interest to us were offered at prices we could not resell. For the first year ever, we bought no Australites.
Meteorites: While this is a sideline item for us, we usually have fun sorting through the boxes of NWAs in nearly every Moroccan tent. We used to get complete individuals, sometimes even fully oriented, for as little as ten cents a gram. Now, maybe one out of ten Moroccans has any to offer, and most are garbage chips that I wouldn't take if they were free (I'm not exaggerating!). We bought a few pieces, but the better specimens are around $1/gm. There used to be rooms with literally tons of Sikhotes, now there are scattered trays of shrapnel. We used to buy nice bullets by bulk weight pricing. Now they are at single specimen pricing (and we found only one to buy).
Saffordites: We had a chance to spend a few hours out in the desert collecting Arizona's wannabe tektites, the Saffordites. We found a kilo or so of really nice pieces, but my real goal was to learn about their mode of occurrence and maybe arrive at a more informed opinion about their origin. Alas, they occur in transported alluvial gravels, probably quite far from their source. They are interesting though. Not at all perlitic like Apache tears, these are more lenticular to biscuit-shaped and have very tektite-like pitted skins and an unusual (for obsidian) smoky purplish tint. Really fun to collect though. We had flashbacks to Australite hunting in WA (with no flies!).
Take nothing for granted. Seize opportunity. Changes are inevitable, and happen endlessly. In our relatively short run, we have watched the tektite scene explode and now, like the final dissipating smoke of a fireworks grand finale, we are seeing it fade. I can foresee the year that we can no longer justify the trip to Tucson on legitimate business grounds---
Norm & Cookie