It's funny how many of my blog articles start with a disclaimer, but I've never personally attended the Tucson Gem Show (#goals). I credit this entire article to members of the Metalsmith Society community who reached out to share their experiences!
What people call the Tucson Gem show is actually more than 45 different Gem, Mineral, and Fossil shows
The best online resource for all the shows is https://xpopress.com/
These are each run by different businesses, and are in different locations, although many are adjacent to each other. An individual show might have hundreds or possibly thousands of vendors, each of whom is an unaffiliated private business.
- Register ahead online (pre-registering online for wholesale shows will avoid standing in long registration lines especially on a show’s opening day)
- Wholesale-only shows require a reseller’s permit/business license and photo ID to get in and require registration either online or on site
- The schedules for various shows don’t overlap perfectly, so check the dates of the events you want to see before you plan your trip. It’s pretty disappointing to drive across the city, pay for parking and wander through a crowd only to find out your destination left yesterday!
- I would recommend looking up specific mines and dealers that you personally like, and figuring out what show they’re at. If you’re not sure, google stuff like “Tucson gem show 2019 turquoise” and see what comes up. Another place to see a schedule for shows is: https://jogsshow.com/tucson-
- Get a map of Tucson and mark the locations, along with which vendors you want to see when you get there. Don’t underestimate how insanely busy and complex this event is, or you’ll wander around all day looking at cheap beads and get exhausted before you find what you’re looking for.
- Don’t expect to just roll into town and find a hotel room or Airbnb the same night. It’s a big city, but it gets booked up ahead of time. This is Tucson's biggest event of the year. Plan ahead!
- If you use Instagram, make sure you follow the mines and dealers you like because a lot of them post their schedules on there.
- A lot of shows will require your name, address, tax ID number, and business cards. They will give you a form to fill out at the door. Before you go, print out your name address and tax ID number on a label (like address labels) when you get there all you have to do is peel and stick. This will save you time filling out your name so many times. Additionally make sure you have copies of your tax ID for individual vendors you purchase from. I have small ones shrunk so they fit in my little bag with labels and business cards.
- Don’t get overwhelmed, get excited. Bring a pack to carry your treasures, water bottles, and snacks. Plan breaks where you take 2 hours to go to the desert in the Tucson Mountains, climb Sentinel peak or go to a nice Mexican food restaurant (Tucson is an amazing city for food! Just ask UNESCO) Tucson is a beautiful city with breathtaking desert and mountains around it. Just take a break every day or two to get out of the chaos so you don’t get burned out!
- If you’re still not sure where to start I would recommend walking south of Congress, west of I-10. All of the hotels along the frontage road rent out their rooms to vendors, so you shop from room to room like a mall. Walk south to 22nd street, check out the fossil show at 22nd and I-10 (NE corner). There is also a large area of shows near Palo Verde and I-10 including the Kino Gem Show
- Check out this map: https://jogsshow.com/tucson-
- A rental car gives you the most freedom. However, there is a shuttle dedicated to the gem show and it’s free. https://xpopress.com/page/
profile/4/tucson-shuttle-Other options are the Sun Link buses and street car, taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts. routes
- Travel documents such as airline, hotel, and car reservations
- Photo identification
- Reseller’s permit/business license and extra copies for vendors
- Business cards
- Credit cards, cash, checks (some vendors only take cash or checks)
- Samples of items you need to match for restock
- Ruler/tape measure
- Small calipers
- Polishing cloth
- Sharpie pen for marking purchase bags
- Extra zip lock bags for purchases
- Notebook and pen to record purchase notes
- Comfortable shoes and clothing
- Hand wipes and hand sanitizer
- Water bottle
- Small rolling suitcase for purchases and daily essentials
- Give yourself more time than you think you need at a show. Make a shopping list of what you need and want. Create a budget and try to stick with it, but good luck with that! Temptation is all around! If you can imagine it you can probably find it in Tucson!
- If you’re a wholesale buyer, don’t dismiss the public shows. You can often find better deals and/or find things that you couldn’t find elsewhere.
- Take a few sharpies, and ziplocks, so you can price your stones appropriately and whom you bought from on the spot ...It can be overwhelming!
- When you see something you want, buy it. Don’t think you’ll look around the show for a better price and then circle back. It’s often not possible as many shows are huge! The difference in price isn’t always worth the trouble of backtracking. You’ll always find it at a lower or higher price somewhere else. Make note for the following year.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it might be! Sometimes you will be stunned at the affordability of certain items, and although there are insanely fantastic deals to be had, there are also scammers. People sell fake stuff there so if you don’t know what you’re doing, be careful!
- Always ask for a receipt and vendor business card. Not all vendors write receipts or they write lazy receipts. Stuff the biz card in with your purchase and write the amount and method of payment on the back.
- At the end of each day, review and record your purchases with vendor, payment method, total price, item price and quantity. Go over receipts and make sure that it’s clear what you paid for each item. This will save you trouble later on when you get home and can’t remember.
- Turn on credit card email/text alerts and resets. Your credit card activity is going to show purchases from various places around the U.S. and the world, such as China, India, Brazil, etc. Your card will be flagged as fraud transactions and your transactions will get denied at some point. This is common. Vendors are used to this happening. If possible, bring at least two credit cards and a debit card so you have options. In case your card gets shut down and you don’t have auto reset, bring everything you need (such as a bank acct. number, log-in ID, passwords, etc.) to help get your card reset if you need to call your card company.
CLOTHING AND WEATHER
- It can be cold (even below freezing) hot, and/or rainy in Tucson in January/February, but temps usually average in the 70s with blue skies. Bring a warm jacket and dress in layers! There are outdoor and indoor shows. Most of the large tents have heat/ac.
- You’ll be on your feet most of the day so wear comfortable shoes. A small rolling suitcase to carry all your essentials and purchases will save your back and shoulders! It all gets really heavy really fast!
- Watch your valuables! Keep your cash, credit cards, an ID on your body at all times!
- Most of the larger shows have a food court, food trucks, coffee stands, and/or beer gardens. However, bring snacks in case a show doesn’t have this options or it’s not convenient to leave to get food at that moment.
- Restaurants, especially popular ones, are busy and booked in advanced. Expect long waits at dinner time or find some place off the beaten track. There are lots of fantastic restaurants in Tucson.
- Stay at a good hotel that has a bar/restaurant. You will be tired!!
- If you flew to Tucson you can ship large and/or heavy stuff home. You can bring boxes and packing supplies or buy them/pick them up at the post office. Flat rate boxes are usually the best way to ship small, heavy items.
- For large items, there are shipping pods at some shows and dedicated shipping vendors who will ship your items for you in boxes or on pallets. You can also share pallets with someone else who’s shipping to the same destination city.
- Tucson TSA is savvy to gem show attendees bringing purchases through airport security. I’ve never had an issue getting purchases through security in my carry on. If you’re uncomfortable having your bags inspected in public you can request a private screening room.
- If you check a suitcase, be sure to include inside the suitcase a detailed list of the contents and take a photograph for proof in case there’s an issue.
All of these tips were written by @twighlightluxe, @thelumennaturae and @timelessteenya go check out their beautiful work! I'm very grateful to each of them for the time and thought they put into their tips. If you'd like to add to the conversation please leave a comment! If you loved this list please consider spreading the word by sharing the article on Facebook or Pinterest!
All photos courtesy of @twilightluxe
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