By Ross Forman
Longtime dealer Kip Ingle sold three Albert Pujols-signed baseballs at a three-day card show in early-February – and it wasn’t held in St. Louis or Southern California, the two baseball homes of the noted home run hitter.
Rather, it was the 31st annual Tristar Collectors Show, held at NRG Arena in Houston.
Selling three autographed baseballs of any athlete is good. Selling three autographed baseballs of the same athlete at a regional card show in 2017, especially one where the athlete does not call home, is great.
The Tristar show Feb. 10-12 was great, perhaps better than great, Ingle said.
“This was one of the best shows of all Houston shows I’ve ever done (dating) back to 1991,” Ingle said. “This show gave me the opportunity to have two National (Sports Collectors Conventions) in one year; that’s how good this show was.”
So what was selling?
“Everything,” Ingle answered. “About the only thing that didn’t sell too well was oversized, framed pieces.”
But Ingle had luck selling signed baseballs, game-used equipment, golf relics and much more ... much, much more. His sales included Houston Astros team-signed baseballs from 1983-1986.
And, a University of Illinois full-size, game-used football helmet, signed by three of the school’s former players who ultimately landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Bobby Mitchell, Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus. Ironically, Ingle had planned to bring that helmet to the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular in mid-March in the Chicago area, but with multiple interested collectors in Houston, Ingle sold it.
Ingle’s sales also included a Ronald Reagan-signed book.
“This was the best Tristar show in at least three years,” added longtime dealer Rich Gove, who noted strong vintage card sales of late-1950s and early-1960s Hall of Famers, as well as high-end commons, and 1961 high-numbers.
Gove said the most sought-after cards were those of Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron.
The three-day show was a star-studded autograph extravaganza, a Tristar tradition. The lineup of autograph guests included new Baseball Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, along with Hakeem Olajuwon, Len Dawson, Tony Dorsett, Ray Guy, Joe Montana, Nate Archibald, Carlos Correa, Clyde Drexler, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Rick Barry, Tony LaRussa, Reggie Jackson, Fergie Jenkins, Mary Lou Retton, Mike Tyson and others.
“Houston always seems to bring out the best,” said dealer Randy Cook. “Friday was a little slow, but both Saturday and Sunday were very good.”
Cook told of weekend sales to a cook. Well, an executive chef, to be exact. The collector/chef quizzed Cook for more than an hour on his collection – and ultimately purchased four Babe Ruth cards.
Cook also told about two 12-year-olds who spent more than $300 on vintage cards, including a card of Bob Meusel.
Who was Bob Meusel?
None other than an outfielder who played 11 seasons (1920-1930), mostly for the New York Yankees and was best known as a member of the Yankees’ championship teams of the 1920s, nicknamed, ‘Murderers’ Row.’
“Sales like that are sales that you never, ever anticipate, but were great to see,” Cook said.
Cook’s collection at the Houston show also included four Ruth-signed baseballs. Sure, none had sold by mid-afternoon on Sunday, but Cook was still content. “They definitely are a fun conversation piece,” Cook said.
Cook noted that he sold about the same amount of vintage and newer Ruth cards at the show.
The weekend’s autograph lineup also included Charles White, Eddie George, ‘Hollywood’ Henderson, ‘Cadillac’ Anderson, Lee Smith, Charlie Waters, Christen Press, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Buster Douglas, Alex Bregman and ‘Butterbean,’ among others.
“Overall, every dealer who I talked with did well,” at the show, said Marty Davis of Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “The show was good, as expected. I knew (new) football (card boxes) would sell well, as they did, because of how well the (Dallas) Cowboys did (this past season).
“I can’t think of anything that didn’t sell. Houston is just a great collector’s market. If you bring the right stuff, you’ll sell a lot of stuff.”
Rick Haskins, the Dallas-based dealer who specializes in pennants and has been selling on the show circuit for about 30 years, was honored at the show with the annual Starry Award from Tristar Productions’ President Jeff Rosenberg.
Haskins said he was “very honored, surprised and proud” to be presented with the award.
“Tristar is a first-class company that runs tremendous shows,” Haskins said.”
He added that he did “very, very well” at the mid-February show.
Ike Rodriguez has been painting since 2004 and doing so professionally since about 2010. His first painting featured Donnie Avery, an NFL wide receiver from 2008-2014.
Rodriguez has since done more than 120 paintings, mostly of football stars.
And he was selling his work – both the originals and the smaller reproductions – at the Tristar show. Original paintings, which were 30”x40” or so, carried a $500-$1,200 price tag. Prints (11”x17”) were only $20.
The most popular paintings from Rodriguez are Carlos Correa, J.J. Watt, Kris Bryant, Craig Biggio and a University of Texas dual drawing of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
All are ideal for autographs.
And many athletes have purchased their own paintings from Rodriguez, such as George Springer. Rodriguez also has sold paintings to Brian Cushing, DeAndre Hopkins and Jamal Charles, among others.
Rodriguez said his paintings take about two weeks to complete, with more than 15 hours of handiwork to finish.
Here’s a look at the top-selling new releases at the mid-February Tristar show in Houston, according to Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore:
• 2016 Leaf Certified Football ($105).
• 2016 Panini Prizm Football ($165).
• 2016 Donruss Optic Football ($105).
• 2017 Topps Baseball, Series 1 Jumbo ($99).
• 2016 Bowman Draft Baseball ($129).
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.