Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.14.2015 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


This is a great time of year in Bancroft. The woods are full of deep green, the lake is warm enough that it’s no longer only the dog who thinks swimming is a good idea, and… it’s our mineral show season.

SummerMorning, Bancroft, Ontario

The forest on the morning of the Club Show

Every summer, on the last Sunday of July we host the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show, and the following Thursday marks the beginning of the four-day Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree.

Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show

Our Club Show is focused – of course everyone is welcome to attend, yet it is a show for minerals and mineral collectors of all levels. You won’t find any gem trees or pewter miners glued to specimens. Local collectors and dealers come together for a great day, and it all goes by too quickly!

Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Show

End of morning setup at the Club Show.
Well-known Canadian collectors and dealers in this photograph include:
David K. Joyce (right, back to camera), Doug Wilson (in distance, black T-Shirt, as if starring in Monty Python’s How Not to Be Seen), George Thompson (centre, in white, holding a flat full of minerals, as he pretty much always is), Robert Beckett (to George’s left, on a critical early-morning mineral phone call), and Mark Stanley (left of centre, in blue, leaning on the table for support until his coffee kicks in). Somehow Frank and Wendy Melanson escaped a photo here, but as always they were instrumental in organizing, as always.

The Club Show includes exhibits of fine minerals on the show theme, and this year’s theme was “Apatite and Other Phosphates.” George Thompson put together a superb display of Yukon Phosphates from his collection, and since you may have seen a photograph of a similar display by George in my Rochester 2015 post (link below), I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the specimens up close this time. Many of you will know Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge. He of course takes excellent mineral photographs, has shot some of George’s collection, and he generously shared copies of the following photos for this post.

9.2cm wide

Bobdownsite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 9.2 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.


Vivianite, Big Fish River, Yukon, Canada – 7 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

8.3cm wide

Augelite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 8.3 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

4cm wide

Collinsite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 4 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

4cm high

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada – 4 cm
George Thompson collection. Michael Bainbridge photo.

As life would have it, I put together a display of fluorapatite from my own collection – here’s a portion of that display case:


Fluorapatite, R. McDougall Collection. For sense of scale, the purple crystal from the Golconda is 2 cm.

The grand finale of the Club Show each year is the live auction. Long-time collector and Club member Mark Stanley is also a professional auctioneer, and when he’s at full auction speed, it is something to behold. He always delivers good laughs along the way.


The Club Show is only possible thanks to the dedication of the club members who volunteer to put it all together. We’re a small club and we’re all grateful for all efforts that have made this such a fine event. All proceeds from the show go to the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum (if you’d like to read more about the museum, there’s a link to a post on it, below). Next year will be our 20th already (!).

Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree

The Gemboree has been a mainstay in Bancroft for over 50 years. This is truly an old-school mineral show, with field trips to local mineral localities and everything from grab bags and minerals for kids, to typical commercial fare and also fine minerals. The indoor venues, the hockey arena and curling rink, might reinforce the notion that Canadians don’t like to spend time away from these facilities at any time of year.

Bancroft GemboreeA cold place in hockey season, but hot and humid on a warm Gemboree day.
(Safety netting ensures that no pucks will leave the Gemboree and injure the photographer.)

Frank Melanson Bancroft Gemboree

Frank Melanson with Canadian collector Gil Benoit.
Possibly explaining how he gets his mineral show T-Shirts to last more than a decade.

However, the outdoor venue is where you’ll find many of us. We spend a lot of time indoors when it’s cold and love being outdoors at the height of summer! The outdoor gig is a four-day tailgating affair.

Outdoors Bancroft Gemboree

Bancroft Gemboree, under the watch of the town water tower.

Among others, David K. Joyce, George Thompson and Rod Tyson are all at the outdoor venue. Of course the outdoor venue brings some challenges… hot sun, winds and even dust devils, and spread has to be fairly basic, since the set-up and tear-down is a daily routine (even more than once daily when it rains…) All a small price to pay for being out in the summertime with the sun and a good breeze!

TableMy goddaughter Zoe did both of the shows with me this year, which was good fun!

The Plague

It doesn’t matter where you are – indoors, outdoors, or Bancroft, Ste Marie, Springfield, New York or Tucson – one universal constant remains. Minerals are so cool that people want to touch them. Of course that’s good and I even actively encourage it, because I love it when people are blown away by the coolness of minerals! It’s so great to see when someone has that same moment that we, as collectors, have all had when we are struck by how amazing it is that these gorgeous crystal specimens are completely natural. And yet obviously I’m happier when people are reasonable and the handling is not of the most fragile things – naturally, that’s not so good! (careful serious collectors excepted, of course – except they’re the ones who know better and don’t stampede in to paw things in the first place!).

Really, it’s amazing, the total lack of self-awareness one observes. It’s the Plague of our era. So many people have no idea what they are doing, reaching for fragile mineral specimens they have no business handling.

Despite this sign, many people grabbed clumsily for these pieces!


Zoe suggested some new wording for this sign…


… but it could have said “Your Doom is Near!” (I might try that one next time) or really anything else, and few would have noticed. The unscientific lesson: signs are of minimal assistance, when faced with the Plague. Physical protective steps (like glass cases) are truly necessary to ensure specimens will be safe. I sometimes enjoy fantasizing about Wyle E. Coyote contraptions for the deserving – during the Gemboree, a large ACME anvil did spring to mind more than once.

Mineral Music

My next-door neighbour at these shows is my good friend and collecting partner, David K. Joyce, and he always has his guitar along. Usually during show hours he plays instrumentals, sometimes instrumental versions of our favourite mineral songs. Helps soothe the soul while I imagine anvils.

Dave is a great guitarist and banjo player too – the banjo is usually out at some point during Gemboree. He has a good sense of humour about banjos and the fact that they are not universally popular, so he has a banjo joke or two on hand, when he’s playing.

“If you drop a banjo and a set of bagpipes out of a plane, which one falls to the ground fastest?”
(Answer: “who cares?”)

“A guy goes into a restaurant for dinner and leaves his banjo locked in the car while he’s inside. When he returns after his meal, as he’s approaching the car he can see the window has been smashed in. He’s heartbroken that his prized banjo has been stolen. Arriving at the car, he looks inside to see a second banjo has been put on the seat with his.”


The outdoor area is where we typically see most local minerals. These days, not so many new fine Canadian mineral specimens are being found, but there are some, always fine Canadian minerals, including older specimens.

This year, George Thompson had some interesting titanite contact twins from near Tory Hill, collected in the early 1990s, and Rod Tyson had some excellent Yukon phosphate minerals. The titanite finds of Moncerf, Quebec, have produced some more very fine titanites. As always, since titanite is so brittle and crystal edges are thin, it is extremely hard to obtain undamaged specimens, and in this locality there is also a lot of contacting, which leaves many specimens with an incomplete look. The sharp, complete ones are nice.


Titanite with minor diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 7 cm


Titanite with minor diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 5.7 cm

We typically see a few specimens from the old silver mining camps of the Cobalt and Gowganda areas, and this year I was fortunate to find a super crystallized silver from Gowganda. Classic!


Silver, Castle Mine, Haultain Township, Gowganda area, Timiskaming District, Ontario, Canada – 9.2 cm

Every year at the Gemboree we see amethyst from Thunder Bay. Usually we see mostly lower-grade bulk material, and once in a while some finer specimens. Truly fine specimens remain hard to come by. I didn’t see any great ones on display with others this year, but Dave and I had some of the David and Ian Nicklin ones out, including a few remarkable large specimens.

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 29 cm

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 23 cm

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Quartz, var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada – 18 cm

To see the Nicklin amethysts from the Diamond Willow Mine, Thunder Bay District, click here. (And if you missed the article on Thunder Bay Amethyst this past May, and would like to take a look, it’s here.)


It’s thunderstorm season here and we had interesting afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. Each day, when the storms moved in, it was time to pack down.



Every once in a while, timing works out perfectly – on Sunday, five minutes after the last of flats were packed into the car, we drove home through a deluge.

Rain2Back out to the woods

Until next year… back to the world of minerals online, where no anvils are necessary.


Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum

Michael Bainbridge Photography

Bancroft Shows, 2014

David K. Joyce mineral songs: (if you don’t have a copy yet, they’re here)

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.13.2014 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

If you’ve ever wondered about mineral shows as they used to be, the smaller-town affairs meant for all sorts of people – serious collectors, beginners and families alike – the Bancroft Shows offer a glimpse, going back to the first show, over 50 years ago. Even the name of our original show, the Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree (at first, named the Gem-Boree), harks to an earlier era in the evolution of mineral collecting. In an older incarnation, the Bancroft Gemboree was held a few kilometres north of town at the old Bird’s Creek fairgrounds…


Gemboree, August 1964  (Archives of Ontario, RG 65-35-1, 8-H-1964)

Now the show is in Bancroft, with mineral-related activities to make up for the fact that there is no longer a ferris wheel.

There is a lot to be said for these kinds of mineral shows, based in smaller towns – the Bancroft Area has beautiful scenery, wildlife and, of course, rocks!


Common Loon on nest (Bay Lake, just outside of Bancroft)

The Bancroft Shows

Although Bancroft on a snowy day in early December or late March is a very quiet little town, at many other times of year Bancroft is an outdoor destination, and the height of it all is the week of the Bancroft Shows!

Bridge Street

Bridge Street, Bancroft, during Gemboree weekend

When I say the “Bancroft Shows”, we have two separate annual gem and mineral shows, within one week. The large Rockhound Gemboree, in its 51st year, is held for four days, Thursday-Sunday, every year on the first weekend of August. The Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club also hosts a smaller show, on the last July Sunday that falls one week prior to the Gemboree – next year will already be our 20th year for the show.

It’s hard to come up with three more truly Canadian venues: the Bancroft Shows are hosted inside the Canadian Legion (the Club Show), the hockey arena and the curling rink (the Gemboree).

Starting the week off each year, the Club Show is a small non-commercial show, organized and run buy the members of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club. All proceeds go to funding the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum. Usual Suspects Wendy and Frank Melanson are key organizers of this fine local show.


It isn’t too hard to see what’s wrong in this photograph. (Not staged – he really was walking around like that for a couple of hours.)

The exhibitors at the Club Show are mostly local Ontario dealers and collectors, with some from further afield as well. As a result, this show often offers a “sneak peak” availability of what’s new and interesting in Canadian minerals. Over the years, lots of interesting things have shown up here!

Club Show

Club Show, before morning opening

Club members contribute to very fine mineral displays – this year featuring quartz.

George Thompson contirbuted an excellent display of Canadian Quartz, all the more impressive since several of George’s Canadian quartz specimens are already on display in his separate Minerals of Ontario display across the river in the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum! (For more about our new museum, click here.)  His show display, anchored by the giant Diamond Willow Mine amethyst (near Thunder Bay, Ontario), showcased fine quartz specimens from localities across the country, including Bathurst, New Brunswick, Boylston, Nova Scotia, Black Lake, Quebec, Kamloops, British  Columbia and  Emerald Lake, Yukon, among others.


Canadian quartz specimens from the collection of George Thompson.

Wendy Melanson put together a case of quartz from all over the world, with a central riser of beautiful amethyst specimens. The large one at back centre is from the Anahi Mine, La Giaba Distsrict, Sandoval Province, Santa Cruz Dept., Bolivia.


Quartz specimens from the collection of Wendy Melanson.

The Club show ends in the late afternoon with an event that is not to be missed if you can help it – Club member and professional auctioneer Mark Stanley conducts a mineral auction to benefit the Museum, and he is awesome! Always a lot of laughs, it is a good time.

A few days later, the town is host to the Rockhound Gemboree. The Gemboree is Canada’s largest commercial gem and mineral show, with displays of minerals, jewellery, and other mineral-related items (books, tools, historical mining artifacts). Of course, the Gemboree has a large indoor setup featuring many dealers at both venues (a very short walk apart from one another).

GemboreeGemboree, hockey arena venue, before the morning open

For those of you who appreciate details, in the photo above, you’ll see the fine netting to stop hockey pucks from hitting spectators, and also the row of colourful hockey victory banners hanging from the rafters. The boards around the perimeter of the ice surface are all hidden by the nice curtains (all in, you don’t feel like you should be wearing skates).

A great part of the Gemboree experience is that it also has the old-style, outdoor tailgating section for dealers. That’s where you’ll find a few familiar faces, including George Thompson, David K. Joyce and me.


A quiet moment after two drops of rain had chased everyone inside for a few minutes

Yes, we’re at the mercy of the weather (which was fantastic this year!) but it’s worth the risk – what could be better than summer sun, fine minerals, friends, mineral talk and of course mineral music?

DaveSerenadeDave Joyce serenades some of his non-website minerals with an as-yet unnamed tune.  (Something about love and red dots.)

Mystery Mineral

One morning while innocently talking with people looking at my table, a woman stopped and asked me if I had any “Mystery Mineral”. A smart aleck might have replied “you tell me”.

But I could see that it was an earnest request and I explained that “Mystery Mineral” is not a mineral name, but rather a marketing name of some kind, so I was not sure what mineral she was looking for.

Mystery Mineral Woman: “No, that IS the mineral name: Mystery Mineral.”
R: [Pause]
MMW: “Aren’t you based in Bancroft?”
R: “Yes.”
MMW (now with edge of annoyance): “Well you SHOULD know all about it. It’s a new find, from very near Bancroft itself. If anyone should know, it’s YOU.”
R: “I promise you it is not a mineral name. Can you tell me what it looks like? Is it white or colourless and clear?”
MMW: “Oh so you DO know of it!”
R: “Does it form slender, pointed six-sided crystals?”
MMW: “Yes!”
R: “And can you tell me where you saw them?”
MMW: “At a store… [Ed. Note: the name of which suggested something to do with spiritual odysseys]”
R: “Hmmn…”

I don’t think she believed my diagnosis. People really do give common quartz all sorts of names in order to sell it.

I didn’t tell her “Mystery Mineral” might be my favourite to date.

Real Minerals

It’s been a quiet run in Canadian minerals lately, but it is always possible to find interesting things at the Bancroft Shows.

From Nova Scotia, beautiful zeolites and associated  minerals are still found from time to time.


 Stilbite on Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia – 4.5 cm


Natrolite ball (2 cm) on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

Classics from Quebec are becoming increasingly hard to obtain, but there are usually a small number of good ones at these shows.


Vesuvianite with Diopside, Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec – 7.5 cm


Prehnite crystals (to 1.2 cm), Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec


Rutile crystals to 1.2 cm, McGregor Lake, Outaouais, Quebec


Rhodochrosite and Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec – 6.5 cm


 Titanite with diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Québec – 5.5 cm

Stay tuned for Canadian mineral updates over the coming weeks.

Well, the Bancroft Shows are over until next year, but they usher in our late summer and early fall – the time of year that often affords some of the Bancroft Area’s best field collecting weather. Hope to see you in the trenches!