What a Gem: Xtra Ticket musician grew up surrounded by minerals

Evan A. Jones will showcase his collection at the Flagg Gem & Mineral Show from Friday, January 6, to Sunday, January 8. (Evan A. Jones/Submitted)

By Marc Fleischer

Some people know Evan A. Jones as a member of Xtra Ticket, a Grateful Dead tribute band that started in 1994. The Cave Creek resident takes on Bob Weir’s role, playing guitar and vocals.

But Jones is well established as a serious gem and mineral collector and dealer, he’s taking part in the 50th annual Flagg Gem & Mineral Show Friday, January 6 to Sunday, January 8, in Mesa Community College’s southwest parking lot. 

The Flagg Gem & Mineral Show is very special to him. The son of Bob Jones, editor of Rock and Gem Magazine and author of “The Frugal Collector,” he has been surrounded by minerals his entire life. 

“My father gave me a fossil set at age 7 along with fossil and geology books, which really started things for me. Prior to that, minerals were just the cool things in my dad’s cabinets and collection drawers. No other family members were really interested at the time,” Jones says.

By age 12, he was attending shows with his father. Later, as an adult, he began participating as a dealer.

“Back in the old days it was all about visiting rock shops and attending shows,” he says. “What’s great about the Flagg show is that many of the dealers have been participating for decades, and they’ve passed their love of collecting down to their kids and grandkids.”

It’s the largest and longest-running gem and mineral show in the metro Phoenix area, and it attracts thousands of people every year, ranging from serious collectors to families with young children. Admission and parking are free.

This year’s Golden Anniversary event will feature more than 100 dealers who will showcase and sell a variety of minerals, fossils, gems, beads, jewelry and lapidary materials. In addition, several organizations will exhibit educational information and the event features fun children’s activities, including gold panning.

A native of Arizona, Jones found it natural to specialize and collect minerals from the Grand Canyon State. He was on the advisory board in the early planning stages of the new Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

Over the years, he has split his time between performing with his band, buying and selling minerals, and attending gem and mineral shows. 

“I chose to join a Grateful Dead tribute band because it’s my favorite genre of music,” Jones says. 

“They basically invented what’s now known as ‘jam band’ music. Xtra Ticket has played for deadheads all over the country.”

He says he knows many mineral collectors and dealers who started collecting or vending while on Grateful Dead or other jam band tours. 

In addition to going to shows, Jones has explored more than 100 underground mines throughout the state. “Most were devoid of specimens, but the thrill of exploring underground is a strong pull,” he says.

He estimates that his current collection has more than 1,000 specimens, all from Arizona.

“It’s hard to pick a favorite. I really love wulfenite, the official state mineral of Arizona,” he says.

“It has tabular crystals with a bright orange-red to yellow-orange color. I also love azurite, which is characterized by its soft, deep blue color. Cuprite is also a mineral I enjoy collecting. A soft, heavy, red oxide mineral, it’s also called red copper ore and it can form beautiful crystals.”

Great deals and fair prices

Jones credits the internet with reviving interest in collecting gems and minerals. “I’m seeing a lot of new collectors, and many are very knowledgeable and sophisticated,” he says. 

But attending a show provides a chance to meet dealers and examine specimens in person. 

“If you’re just starting your collection, go to as many shows as you can,” Jones says. “Look at mineral dealers’ inventory, examine their specimens and read the labels. That’s the quickest way to learn minerals and the hobby.”

Jones says one reason he likes the Flagg Gem & Mineral Show is because there’s really something for everyone.

“I like the friendly, hometown attitude and easygoing nature of the show,” he says. “There’s good camaraderie with other dealers, there are plenty of great finds for seasoned and new collectors, it’s a ton of fun for kids, and there are amazing deals and fair prices.” 

The Flagg Mineral Foundation is a memorial to A.L. Flagg who was a renowned and inspirational founder of the Mineralogical Society of Arizona. The Flagg Mineral Foundation is a non-profit scientific and educational organization.

The 50th Annual Flagg Gem & Mineral Show

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, January 6, to Sunday, January 8

WHERE: Southwest parking lot of Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Avenue, Mesa

COST: Parking and admission are free

INFO: flaggmineralfoundation.org