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The Tucson Mineral Show and the market for collector minerals: The potential for artisanal and small scale miners


  • Ross, Brad
  • Dessureault, Sean
  • Rieber, Michael


Minerals that are sold to collectors are often produced by artisanal and small scale miners in many developing countries. The market for collector minerals is not well understood by most government agencies or NGOs but has a large impact on the artisanal and small miners that have the opportunity to produce these minerals because of the high prices that can be realized. This paper describes the collector mineral market that is held annually in Tucson, Arizona, that analyzes the competitive forces that affect the profitability of the mineral dealers at the show and describes potential methods for artisanal and small scale miners to participate successfully in the show. Most collector minerals produced by artisanal and small-scale miners are valued for their aesthetic qualities instead of mineral content. The 43 shows that operate during the first two weeks in February make up the largest gem and mineral show in the world, the Tucson Show. The Tucson Mineral Show is a subgroup of six shows that specialize primarily in collector minerals. There are several competitive forces at the Tucson Mineral Show that can affect the profit potential of dealers that participate in the show. These forces include potential entrants, suppliers, buyers, substitutes, and rivalry among existing competitors. New entrants face several barriers to entering the market place including the supply side economies of scale, demand side benefits of scale, and capital requirements. Because of these barriers, the cost of doing business and the way that promoters organize and manage the shows, it is difficult for artisanal and small scale miners to enter the show and compete with established dealers. However, with support from entities such as local governments, non-profit organizations, and international organizations the artisanal and small scale miners have the potential to have their minerals sold at the Tucson Shows for prices that would be greater than what can be achieved in the local market. Methods to help the artisanal and small scale miners compete include direct sales or consignments to retail dealers, tailgating, development of sales co-operatives, and the creation of an artisanal/small scale mineral show.

Suggested Citation

  • Ross, Brad & Dessureault, Sean & Rieber, Michael, 2011. "The Tucson Mineral Show and the market for collector minerals: The potential for artisanal and small scale miners," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 168-177, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jrpoli:v:36:y:2011:i:2:p:168-177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cartier, Laurent E., 2009. "Livelihoods and production cycles in the Malagasy artisanal ruby-sapphire trade: A critical examination," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 80-86.
    2. Nyame, Frank K. & Andrew Grant, J. & Yakovleva, Natalia, 2009. "Perspectives on migration patterns in Ghana's mining industry," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 6-11.
    3. Hilson, Gavin, 2009. "Small-scale mining, poverty and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa: An overview," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 1-5.
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