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Tucson Tales I.
Tucson Tales I.
This is the first in a series of posts(until I run out
of notes) regarding the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show,
Tucson, AZ, Feb. 5-13, 1994. I spent the majority of my
time in "Fossil Hall" at the Quality Inn. This area was
widely recognized as perhaps the best fossil exhibit of
all the myriad of Tucson shows.
For those of you that aren't aware of what happens in Tucson
every February, fossil and mineral dealers from all over the
world with an incredible assortment of material turn the town
convention center as well as maybe 50 hotels into one big rock
and fossil shop. Most dealers set up right in their hotel room
with trays on the beds and shelves, etc. The larger dealers
are in hotel convention rooms. The "main show" refers to the
downtown convention center and lasts from Feb. 10-13. Hotel or
"satellite" shows generally begin around Feb. 3-5 and end around
the 13-15. The sum total of all the hotel shows probably exceeds
the main show by a good margin, and the entire event pumps about
$35 million into the local economy.
Some of the exhibitors at the Quality Inn included:
* The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (BHIGR)
(Hill City, SD)
This is the group that has found the T-rex's Sue, Stan
and Duffy. They had some fascinating products including
a set of casts from Stan's teeth. Most of Sue's teeth
were still in the skull while Stan's tended to be loose
but still have their roots. Thus, they were able to cast
"study sets" of Stan's teeth which allows you to handle
realistic T-rex teeth and feel their serrated edges.
Also for sale were bronze and cast sculptures of Sue's
skeleton done by artist Joe Tippman. Clearly visible on
these sculptures are several pathological features of
Sue such as the broken/rehealed left fibula, fused tail
vertebrae and bony growth from injury to an eye socket.
The sculpture was available as complete skeleton, skull
with neck vertebrae, or just skull. Terry Wentz, the main
preparator of Sue's skull was quoted as saying "it feels
like Sue". I'm not sure what the scale is, but the full
skeleton looked about 2 feet long x 1 foot high. Joe himself
was present and working live on a _full size_ sculpture of
Another eye-catcher was a full-sized mount(castings of original)
of an Edmontosaurus skeleton. Other Edmontosaurus skulls were
also on display.
A selection of videos was available which included much info
on Sue. One of the videos was raw field footage of the discovery
and excavation procedure, including some work back at the lab.
This video was about a half hour and has not been edited, but
I was glued to the monitor as I watched them excavate this
terrific T-rex. I did get a feel for the incredible amount of time
and expertise required to find, excavate, and prepare a fossil
of this size. Other videos dealt primarily with the politics and
legal battles. They also had a beautiful selection of ammonite
fossils which may reflect vice-president Neal Larson's expertise
* Dreamstar Productions - (Needville, TX)
This is a sculptor named John Fischner who does some of the
best dinosaur sculptures anywhere. There were small sculptures
of T-rex and triceratops hatchlings, midsize brachiasaurus,
stegosaurus, mososaurs, and many others; but his showstoppers
were a life sized velociraptor (you should have seen the kids
eyeing that one) and a full-sized headmount of a Corythosaurus
(somewhat larger than a moosehead, it would look great in a bar:-)
John is not only an artist, but is a tireless researcher as well.
He wants his work to be as scientifically accurate as possible
and regularly attends SVP (Society of Vertebrate Paleontology)
meetings to hear the latest ideas on anatomy, posture, and behavior.
John showed me some pictures of sculptures positioned in natural
wooded or lakeside settings and they look _very_ lifelike.
* Warfield Fossils - (Thayne, WY)
I believe that Warfields primarily work the Green River Fm.,
an eocene deposit with rich fossil layers. They didn't have any
dinosaurs but they had some great fish (giant Xiphactinus) and
some huge fossil palm fronds.
* The Look of the Past - (Moab, UT)
They had a nice selection of agatized dinosaur bone from the
vicinity of Moab. It looked to be mostly sauropod bones but
alot was small chunks and hard to tell. Being agatized, it
takes a great polish and makes good cabochons, earrings, etc.
Marrow structures are well preserved through the agatization
process. Mostly a brownish color but nice reds and blues also.
End Tucson Tale I.