First, your best bet is to bring cash. You spare and save the dealer from having to pay 3-6% in credit card fees when you pay in cash. Sometimes that savings will earn you a free gift, or discount toward your second purchase.
We sell geodes and gems ourselves, and can tell you from the experience of running a small business that cash is simply easier for the dealer or seller to manage and administer. So bringing cash is a “win win” for you, and for the dealers, whom you will likely see at another show!
Now the prices that dealers and small businesses such as ours charge are 99.9% of the time going to be lower and better than any retail store or shop. Consider here in New York City, and think about the difference, or “spread” between New York City prices, to those of a gem and mineral show in Long Island, or in Manhattan.
We have attended shows in Arizona, Indiana, Long Island, and Texas, brought back gems, minerals and fossils for our private collections, and for clients and customers for whom we buy, and when you consider what you spent at the show, “You ain’t gonna find that in New York City!”
What are the benefits of buying your gems, minerals, and fossils at a Gem and Mineral Show? The answer is provenance. What does that mean? That means the dealer or seller knows the origin, travels, and story behind the mounted gemstone or fossil you are about to purchase. They can tell you its origin, how they acquired it, how long they have held it, and other interesting facts. Now does that make the piece more valuable than one whose only fact you know is what country it came from? For the serious collector or museum curator, who do attend shows, the provenance is everything.
Prepare before the show. Always bring a cloth bag, one of the reusable and recyclable grocery bags you can pick up at a market. They fold up nicely; you can even fold up 2-3 of them and carry them in your back pockets. Remember that you may be walking out, or walking the rest of the day with 5 to 25 pounds of gems, minerals, and fossils. You need something in which to carry them, and that something needs to have handles. Other suggestions would be a back-pack, or the kind of messenger or Pony Express bag you can sling diagonally across your torso. Do not rely on the bags that a dealer or seller has. While they would, and do, and should offer you a bag, they will not be able to give each customer a cloth bag with handles and may not have big bags, and you may want to consolidate your gem, mineral, and fossil finds to a single bag.
Now while you are at the show, go around the booths one more time before you step out. You know that feeling of angst and frustration thinking what you should have bought, or could have bought someone for a birthday, Christmas, or other holiday? Since each gem, mineral, or fossil is the ultimate one-of-a-kind, get it now, and be at peace.