After reading Tony Nikischer’s article on the demise of mineral shows (Mineral News, May 2006), we thought particularly of the Houston Show. Our show, now in its 53rd year, went from a humble beginning to one of the larger shows in the country with over 10,000 in attendance and 85 dealers. We have hosted two national federation (AFMS) shows and three regional federation (SCFMS) shows. However the 1990s were not kind to our show or to our club, and a variety of factors caused the show to decline precipitously to the point where the club seriously considered cancelling it altogether. We would like to relate this downfall and what the club did to rejuvenate the show. We feel these lessons are relevant to any club show that is experiencing dwindling attendance and revenue.
By the mid-1970s, the September Houston Gem and Mineral Society show rose from a successful local show to an important regional show rivaled in the fall by the Detroit show. There were many important dealers attending the show, and we had an impressive list of others wanting to attend. Attendance regularly was 8,000-10,000. We accomplished this by capitalizing on a growing public need to be educated in all aspects of our hobby. The club was known for its classes teaching lapidary arts and mineral and fossil identification. We had lapidary and jewelry-making demonstrations at the show and a booth that provided gemstone, mineral, and fossil identification.
The 1980s could be considered the heyday of the HGMS show. It was when we moved into venues that eventually allowed us to expand to 85 dealers. Show profits were outstanding, allowing us to purchase our own clubhouse in 1985. Our main concern was to schedule our show so that it did not interfere with the Denver show (which rose in importance to eclipse both the Detroit and Houston shows). The Denver Show had several advantages over Houston and Detroit. It was closer to the West Coast, which many dealers call home, plus by being in the fall, people could schedule a fall vacation in the Rocky Mountains and combine it with the show.