Two of my favorite things in the hobby are now linked in a fashion that seems utterly perfect. Hunt Auctions’ considerable reach into the sports memorabilia marketplace expanded once again this week with the announcement that the Exton, Pa.-based auction company had purchased the famed Philly Show and will move the venerable hobby institution to Valley Forge from its current location in Reading, Pa.
Hunt Auctions, on the heels of its recent linkage with Upper Deck, now conducts annual auctions with Louisville Slugger and at the Major League All-Star Fanfest, in addition to its own annual sales. Company President David Hunt said the show, currently underway this weekend at the Greater Reading Expo Center, will move to the Valley Forge Convention Center in suburban Philadelphia, bringing it closer to the city and to its roots tracing back to the mid-1970s.
“We are really excited about this,” Hunt said in a phone interview prior to making an official announcement planned for at the show on Friday evening. “We’ve been a part of this show with Bob Schmeirer for many years, and he did a great job,” Hunt continued. “We saw a need for a show, and this makes sense for the industry.”
Hunt said their goal was to keep those elements that had made the show – in its 100th edition with the show this weekend – so rich in its tradition and legacy, and in turn, modernize a bit by, among other things, bolstering the autograph component. He stressed that nothing was off the table in terms of future plans, but that changes would be mindful of the show’s noteworthy elements, which include providing free autographs and a reverence for all things vintage. The show will be held twice a year, in March and September.
The Philadelphia Sports Card & Memorabilia Show, initially linked to the Eastern Pennsylvania Sports Collectors Club, traces its roots back to September of 1975 and an inaugural show at Spring Garden College outside of Philadelphia. The show hit its stride first in Willow Grove, Pa. (1978) and later in Fort Washington, Pa. (1993). With two shows annually in 1978, it expanded ultimately to four shows annually by 1990, and had also included several editions on the Jersey Shore in the 1980s. I used to set up at both the Philly Shows in Willow Grove and the Seashore ones, and it was right up there among the most fun I've ever had in the hobby. Technically, it may have been work, but I just can't call it that with a straight face.
The show had flourished at the Fort Washington site but was forced to move in 2006 with the closing of that facility. Schmeirer had been actively searching for several years for a more permanent location than Reading, which was regarded as a transitional location not ideally located close enough to the Metro Philly area. Schmeirer had plans under way to bring the show to a different facility in Valley Forge prior to the announcement of the sale to Hunt Auctions.
For three decades, the Philly Show has been regarded as perhaps the premier vintage card show in the country, bowing only to the National Convention in that regard. It was also felt that the primary reason the National never was staged in the Philadelphia area was the strength of the Philly shows.
This is cool stuff, having an auction house with this kind of a reputation now running a show of the same ilk.