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Show Report: Fanatics Authentics Show in Chicago

The latest Fanatics Authentics Sports Spectacular Show was held Mar. 18-20, bringing a healthy autograph lineup and items to the show floor that aren't seen at most shows. Come along for a tour.

By Ross Forman

A few years ago at a show, George Johnson purchased Jim Taylor’s 1959 Topps rookie card and though the former Green Bay Packers fullback does very few public autograph appearances, Johnson was hoping to someday get it signed to add to his collection.

Johnson just didn’t realize that the Jim Taylor shown on the card was not the Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer, but rather, the Jim Taylor from the Chicago Cardinals.

Topps actually did the same error in 1960. For back-to-back years, the cardmaker used the photo of the Cardinals’ Jim Taylor on Packer Jim Taylor’s card.


It wasn’t until 1961 that the Packers’ Jim Taylor appeared on a card, his card – and that’s why the 1961 Topps card of Green Bay hero Jim Taylor sells for a premium.

Jim Taylor of Green Bay fame played in the NFL for 10 years, with the Packers from 1958-66 and then with the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967. The former LSU All-American was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

Trevor van Riemsdyk

Trevor van Riemsdyk

The HOF Taylor appeared at the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular, held March 18-20 in Rosemont, Ill., and Johnson was ready to get that ‘59 card signed.

Taylor hesitated and told Johnson that he hasn’t signed that error card in about 25 years.

Johnson had approached Taylor, along with fellow former Green Bay Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, and Hornung encouraged Taylor to sign the Near-Mint card for Johnson.

Sure enough, Taylor signed the card.

Johnson was one happy collector at the convention, where he also was selling souvenirs from his years in the industry, particularly the Chicago market. For years, Johnson was the top show promoter in Chicago. Johnson now runs Cactus League Sports in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Steve Largent

Steve Largent

The three-day Fanatics Authentic show drew a solid crowd for the football-heavy autograph lineup, which featured Joe Bellino, Joe Theismann, John Hannah, Larry Little, Vince Ferragamo, Bob Griese, Dan Marino, Dick Butkus, Howie Long, Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. The autograph lineup also featured current and former Chicago Blackhawks, such as Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Scott Darling and Teuvo Teravainen. In addition, the show featured signing sessions with Mike Piazza, Bernie Parent, Bobby Portis, Clyde Drexler, Dennis Rodman, Dwight Clark, Hakeem Olajuwon, Joe Montana, Kevin Greene and Kirk Gibson, among others.

Several dealers reported strong weekend sales. Several other dealers were unavailable for comment on the show because they were too busy talking with customers – and that, of course, is a good thing.

Take, for instance, Marty Davis, who sells unopened hobby boxes. He was working on large sales when approached a few times for comments on the convention. He couldn’t stop to talk, but, when asked how the show was, he smiled and replied, “It’s been a busy weekend.”

Story Balls
Roger Till, a dealer based in Lewiston, Ill., was selling autographed baseballs, along with a card of the player – and each had a wordy twist.


Take, for instance, the ball signed by Bob Cain, the left-handed pitcher who played in the majors from 1949-54, and had his moment-of-fame in 1951 when he issued a walk to Eddie Gaedel, whose single plate appearance made him the shortest person to appear in a major league game.

The Cain-signed ball Till was selling had a lengthy, four-panel write up from Cain about the Gaedel at-bat.

“They’re just something different than a standard autographed baseball,” Till said.

The baseballs sell for $75-$100.

Other unique signed baseballs offered by Till included Virgil Trucks, Roy Sievers and Pete Rose, among others.

With row after row of sports memorabilia available, the first Fanatics Authentic show of 2016 lived up to expectations. Here’s a spattering of souvenirs available for sale:

  • Tony Esposito signed, color 8x10 photos were $20.
  • Bobby Hull signed, black-and-white photos were $10.
  • A photo signed by Glenn Hall and Bobby Hull was $65.
  • Mike Stoner offered a beautiful shadowbox with six replica rings of the Chicago Bulls ($659). The shadowbox with a replica World Series ring of the 1907 Chicago Cubs was $359.
  • Stoner also had a snazzy, framed, tri-signed piece featuring Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron for $1,295. The multi-photo piece included shots of Mantle’s 500th home run, Aaron’s 715th and Mays making "The Catch." Stoner said that Dave Winfield and Chris Perez are among the former major leaguers who have purchased that framed similar spectacle.
  • Paperback fiction books were $3 each.
  • Hardcover fiction books were $5.
  • Various sports team patches were $6.
  • A blue cashmere sweater (XL) with Mantle’s signature embroidered into it was $100.
  • Anthony Rizzo signed 16x20 photos were $125.
  • Hats from the 2015 Cubs’ Wild Card and NLDS were $15 each or 2-for-$25.
  • PTF Sports of New Jersey always has the best, largest quantity of authentic jerseys, throwback jerseys, T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and more – all at very reasonable prices, with friendly customer service. PTF reported that the most popular item at the show was a white Chicago Blackhawks jersey. They brought 50 to the show and, by early Saturday afternoon, were down to four. The youth blank jersey was $35, with a player’s name on it was $50, while an adult blank jersey was $60. Paul Furfaro, who runs PTF, said this was the first show in about 10 years he had Hawks’ jerseys for sale. “I can never get them,” he said. Furfaro reported that he sold the most jerseys and shirts of Kris Bryant.
  • Hand-made and hand-painted bird houses with team logos and in team colors were catchy and reasonably-priced at only $30.
  • Jim Kelly signed Buffalo Bills helmets were $245.
  • A Bud Selig bobblehead was $5.
  • Kip Ingle offered a variety of golf souvenirs, including signed balls and flags. A Master’s flag signed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus sold for $600. A Palmer-signed flag from the Master’s was $300. Ingle said Palmer long has been a “great signer.” In fact, Ingle joked that it’s a close race between Palmer and late Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller as to who has signed more autographs. “Golfers of (Palmer’s) generation, like most of the NASCAR drivers, worked really hard to promote their sport; they knew they had to be fan-friendly,” Ingle said. “Golfers owe a debt of gratitude to Palmer and others who helped bring the sport to the mainstream.”
  • Who are five golfers to consider getting autographs from? Ingle suggested Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan and Tony Lema. Any Watson-signed, Master’s-related item is relatively rare, as he long refused to sign such items in public, Ingle said. Jones-signed golf balls are about $300, Ingle said. And Lema appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1964.
  • Hunt Auctions had an authentic Cubs jersey of President Obama, signed by Obama. Was told that they had not yet found an auction to offer it.
  • There was an aisle with Renewal By Andersen (window replacements) and ChiroOne. I always wonder, do they do good business at a sports memorabilia convention?
  • Tony Gordon ( was selling a complete set of 1962 Salada (tea) coins for $2,200. The set features Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Al Kaline, Billy Pierce and others. When asked Saturday if he thought it would sell, Gordon replied, “It would make my weekend.” Gordon runs Sports Card Shows monthly at the Clarion Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis. His upcoming shows are April 16, May 28 and June 18.
  • Jimmy Butler-signed Chicago Bulls jersey, with PSA/DNA was $180.
  • Unsigned Notre Dame mini helmets were $20, or 2-for-$35.

The next Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular in Chicago is May 14-15 in Chicago, and the autograph lineup already includes Anthony Rizzo, Barry Sanders, Charles Woodson, Deion Sanders, Hector Rondon, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.