Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 4/4/17
Most mineral, gem and fossil shows in New Jersey take place in church basements or municipal parking lots. Although the events are fun, participants and vendor numbers are modest and attendants don’t venture very far to attend.
The same definitely cannot be said for the three-day New York/New Jersey Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show, held every April inside the 150,000-square-foot New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave., Edison.
This year, anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 people are expected to attend the April 7 to 9 event, eager to check out the 350 vendor booths and seven exhibits, including those from the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History and more.
People come from all over the tristate area to attend the cash-only show, which costs $10 for children 4 to 10, $15 for all over 12 and free for those under 4.
Next year, the show will last for five days rather than three.
“People come back year after year due to the changing exhibits and the fact that each year, they are getting better and better,” said Lowell Carhart, who co-founded the show in 2012 alongside his siblings, Russell Carhart and Christine Perner, under Eons Expos. “It’s also a unique and huge shopping experience — you can look at dinosaur eggs and then walk down 20 feet and buy them.”
The show and sale features fine mineral specimens, fossils, dinosaurs, meteorites, gemstones, artisan jewelry, gold, silver, crystals, metaphysical, interior decor, amber, turquoise, emeralds, beads, petrified wood, craftsman jewelry boxes, tools, supplies and more.
Plus, Carhart said that prices at the show are about 60 to 90 percent lower than museum stores, gift shops and jewelry outlets because this is where they come to buy, plus, vendors don’t have to pay a shipping or commission fee that they would if selling online.
The show’s popularity has more than doubled since it began in 2012, with about 115 vendors and 6,000 attendants, when Carhart, who now lives in North Dakota but is originally from Union Beach, launched the show while he was in the business of selling dinosaur eggs.
Sick of traveling to other shows that he thought he could organize better and charge vendors less, Carhart and his siblings began organizing shows such as the Denver Coliseum Show and the Tucson 22nd Street Show before planning one for the Garden State.
“It was so easy for us to plan a show for Denver, so we said, ‘Why don’t we do a show in our own home state?’” he said. “It was risky because people weren’t used to going to the area for a mineral and fossil show, so we had to create a market and a demand.”
Carhart chose the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center as the venue since it is large and centrally located — it is only six minutes off Exit 10 on the New Jersey Turnpike, two exits off of the Garden State Parkway and just a couple minutes off Interstate 287.
To help grow the show for this year, Carhart has been promoting the family-friendly aspect of the event.
“We are giving every $10 child admission a free fossil, mineral or cut gem,” he said. “We’re letting families know that you can get the kids off the iPad for a day and have them take a look at some dinosaurs.”
This year, the show will have two new exhibits — one from the Smithsonian Institution called The Evolving Universe and one from the American Museum of Natural History called Picturing Science. Also, three more exhibits are returning from last year.
Among the most popular exhibits is the glowing ultraviolet minerals in the dimmed Junior Ballroom, presented by the Franklin Mineral Museum, as well as “inevitably, the dinosaurs,” said Carhart. “We always have a T-Rex, and this year we will also have a woolly mammoth.”
Some of the other activities and exhibits at the show include digging for fossils at the PaleoBond booth, free fossil identification by American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Carl Mehling, an exhibit that allows attendants to touch specimens from the moon, Mars, asteroid Vesta and more.
“We all have that little dinosaur fossil fascination within us,” said Carhart. “People say, you mean I can dig for that? That would make me $1,000? And they’re hooked.”
If you go
What: New York/New Jersey Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show
Where: New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave., Edison
When: Friday, April 7 from noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: $10 for children 4 to 10, $15 for all over 12 and free for those under 4
Contact: ny-nj-gemshow.com, 732-778-6501