Carl Gerjes had his first customer at the 21st annual Tristar Collectors Show within minutes after the doors opened at 3 p.m. on Jan. 19 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
The customer purchased every box of Ultimate Collection Baseball that Gerjes had, a sale in excess of $1,000, and then left the show.
"Right then and there, I had a hint it would be a decent show," said Gerjes of Alvin, Texas-based T&C Investments.
When the three-day show closed, Gerjes said the Houston event was, "The best Tristar show ever, period."
Gerjes had customers from Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and, of course, throughout, Texas. Tristar officials said approximately 4,000 collectors attended the show.
"I had my strongest Saturday ever; it rivaled an NFL Experience Saturday, and that says a lot, especially since I've been doing this for 18 years," he said. "There were customers here, and they were spending. Sure, I was hopeful for a good show going in, but I didn't expect it to be as good as it was.
"The show was way better than I expected," he continued. "There were a lot of products that I could have sold more of, if I could have gotten them."
Gerjes said the hot sellers in Houston were most high-end products. He also praised the sales of Tristar Prospects Plus, which he labeled a, "big, big hit." Gerjes ran out of Prospect Plus on Saturday. He acquired more Sunday morning, though he had to pay above his normal cost and thus increased pack prices. He ran out again.
"People like to speculate, like with stocks," he said. "I think that's one of the reasons it's such a popular product."
One of Gerjes' best Houston show sales was to one of his own employees - Melissa Guajardo, 30, of Richmond, Texas. She pulled a game-used, two-color jersey patch card of Drew Stubbs that was signed and numbered 4 of 5.
In addition to Prospects Plus, Gerjes praised the Houston sales of 2006 football products. He said football card sales "were extremely strong."
"Anything football-related has done well this season," he said. "This is as good as the '98 season and better than the '01 season. Ultimate Collection ($90/pack) sold well, as did Bowman Sterling ($60), SP Authentic ($145/box) and Playoff Contenders ($155/box)."
Kyle Boetel of Colorado-based Kyle's Sports Cards said vintage card sales in Houston were exceptional. He sold a 1956 Topps Ted Williams for $1,800 and a 1957 Topps Gino Cimoli (PSA8) for $900. Other Houston sales of PSA 8s included: 1968 Willie Mays ($200), 1960 Roberto Clemente ($415) and 1967 Hank Aaron ($250).
"Even though the show traffic seemed to be down a bit, the spending was up," Boetel said. "High-grade stuff sold well, especially cards from the 1970s," particularly 1971-73, 1975 and 1977.
Dealer Paul Sjolin said the show was "better than average; this has been a good show." He noted strong sales of 1950s and 1960s baseball, and an abundance of set-builders at the show.
California-based dealers Mike and Cyndie Philpott of Home Run Sports were presented the annual Starry Award on Sunday in Houston from Tristar president Jeff Rosenberg and sales manager Dane Jenkins.
The Philpotts were at shows 30 weekends in 2006, and have logged more than 96,000 miles inside their 40-foot RV since August 2005.
The three-day Houston show featured autograph appearances by Craig Biggio, Darrell Royal, Deion Sanders, Gordie Howe, Al Kaline, Carlos Lee, Mike Singletary and Hanley Ramirez.
Also appearing: J.R. Towles, Wade Townsend, Matt Albers, Pat Listach, George Kell, Mark Howe, Marty Howe, Golden Richards, Ken Stabler, Lee Roy Selmon, Drew Stubbs, Kevin Kolb, Brad Lincoln, Josh Anderson, Troy Patton, Doug Drabek, Kyle Drabek, Clayton Kershaw, Kyle McCulloch, Garrett Mock, Hunter Pence, Rayfield Wright, Jerome Walton, Jared Wells and Aaron Thompson.
"I was very pleased with the show, and know collectors and dealers were as well," Rosenberg said. "Every dealer I spoke with said they had a great show."
Biggio and Royal were the top sellers. The show featured 15 free autograph guests.
"Houston is a good sports city, and that often translates into a good collectibles city," Rosenberg said.
Royal, who coached the University of Texas to the 1969 National Championship, was making his first public autographing appearance. He signed about 400 for the public. "Personally, I wasn't surprised by the interest in Royal, but I did hear others say they were surprised at how many autographs he signed," Rosenberg said.
Tristar's next show is Feb. 23-25 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The only other 2007 shows already announced by Tristar are June 1-3 back in Houston and Labor Day weekend in San Francisco.
Traditionally at this time, Tristar would have announced its entire yearly show schedule.
Speculation remains strong that Tristar will dramatically reduce its show total in 2007, mostly because of the success of Hidden Treasures and Prospects Plus, however, Rosenberg would not confirm that.
"We have not made a lot of show commitments for 2007 yet," Rosenberg said. "Shows have to be a win-win situation. Dealers have to be happy, and collectors have to be happy. So, we're not going to announce our show schedule a year out. We won't announce a show until we're sure we can bring the right mix of athletes, dealers for the consumers.
"In the past, we've announced a show date and then put the pieces in place for that show," he continued. "Now, we're going to put those pieces in place, and then will announce the show. It's just a different approach, a different strategy. Bringing the right talent to a show has a tremendous impact on a show. Having the big-ticket autograph guests was, in the past, the key. But that may not be the right formula in 2007 for the dealers, for all collectors.
"We're re-assessing the shows, what we're putting into a show, who we're bringing to a show, etc," he continued.
Rosenberg said Tristar is considering new show markets for 2007 and/or 2008, though none have been confirmed and none can be announced. He also said theme-related shows are being considered.
"We're not going to put on a show just to have a show. It will have to be a great opportunity, a great show," he said.
Rosenberg and Tristar vice-president Mandy Fuerst were in Cleveland in late-January, along with other executives from the National Sports Collectors Convention, which will be held in the Ohio city this summer. Rosenberg said he plans to produce a better autograph pavilion than in 2006, with perhaps as many as 100 autograph guests.
"The National is like doing three shows for us. It really takes a lot of work," Rosenberg said.