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National Dealers Still the Star, Part Deux


 This is the second and final part of a look at some of the odd stuff from the recent National Convention in Chicago that caught my eye.

Some of the things that stop me are just fun and/or silly, but almost always nostalgia based. Dave & Adams, with a massive arrangement the size of a couple of boxcars, was offering a pile of cases from the Steve Myland Collection Find of last year, but one of the things I noticed is hardly as compelling as that.

Remember those “Bag O Cards”-like thingys from 25 years ago that featured about two dozen packs of, at the time, fairly recent Donruss cards, including their early 1980s golf issue? They were a pretty good bargain in 1983 or so at a whopping $1.29; I suspect they still provide a lot of fun at the $25 price tag a quarter-century later.

Dave & Adam’s also was offering a “Show Special” of a slightly discounted Upper Deck Authenticated Aaron Rodgers signed Green Bay Packers jersey. I’m sure they were just being timely; I know those guys from Buffalo understand how wrenching the last several weeks have been for us Packer rooters. I could puke.

Veteran dealer Skip Hunter had a whole bunch of “bricks,” groups of 50-100 vintage cards that used to be such a staple of shows in the old days when using such items as a start on building a complete set wasn’t quite as daunting (read expensive) as it might be today.

Steve Hart initially had a couple of things I would have liked to see, but he sold them during the course of the show: full boxes of 1961 and 1962 Topps Cellos.

Still there in his showcase (and presumably at the end of the show) was a 1959 Topps Cello with Wes Covington on top. I couldn’t pull the trigger this time, but I’m eyeing it as perhaps something for my 60th birthday in two years. SCD readers may recall that eight years ago on my 50th birthday, I opened a 1960 Topps Cello. Now I am thinking of doing it again, though as each year passes it becomes ever more of an investing blunder to actually open unopened material. We’ll see.

As always, the artists knock me out, with my hectic swings around the 700 or so tables spotting the legendary Robert Stephen Simon hawking his Yankee Stadium (and many other) prints, or Robert Hurst, a damn fine artist (no letters, please: that’s his tag line), indeed, painting one of his originals at his booth. I also got to talk to Al Sorenson, who will be featured in a later issue of SCD, and another hobby figure of renown, Monte Sheldon, creator of remarkable hand-painted baseballs that are stunning collectibles.

Sheldon was encamped alongside Charles Mandel of Helmar Brewing, which made sense, since Sheldon is part of the stable of Helmar artists which produces the most gorgeous baseball cards you’ll ever see (

If you like coincidences, Heritage was offering the actual baseball that Gabby Street caught in 1908 after it was dropped from the Washington Monument, and only a few tables away, Sheldon had created original art for the Helmar series showing Street himself, with the Washington Monument ever so barely visible in the background. Baseball card collectors are quite often baseball historians, and the two pursuits never have a better arena than the National Convention.

Wayne Hitchens had something you don’t see every day: the 1961 Chemstrand Iron-ons. The Dagsboro, Del., dealer came across 159 of them, and had a number of them (at left) graded and on display at his table.

And I ran into another old friend, Paul Madden, and got to see some of his newest handiwork on the Sportkings Series B, which was featured at the Sport Kings booth. These are just as remarkable cards as the Helmars, and so evocative of the original Sport Kings series that you’ll just shake your head (

Steve Wolf is yet another sort of artisan, in this instance the creator of absolutely exquisite replicas of great ballparks. He was displaying a huge replica of Comiskey Park, complete with working stadium lights and a $17,500 price tag that you would likely describe as a bargain if you got to see this stuff (

I noticed the price tag on Friday – the table was only a hoot and a holler away from the SCD booth – but by the next day the price tag was gone. The model had been purchased by Gary Cypress, whose museum in downtown Los Angeles houses what is easily one of the finest collections in the world of sports cards and memorabilia. He has purchased a number of the Wolf creations, and the Comiskey model is slated to make the move to Los Angeles with several others that have done the same thing, not even counting the real-life Dodgers and Giants.

Cypress’ museum was the featured Mastro event at the 2006 National, part of the auction house’s annual “treat” for dealers and hobby high rollers every year. Mastro chartered several buses at the 2006 Anaheim National to ferry the guests downtown to the museum; it did the same thing this year to bring everybody to the ESPN Zone for the live auction.

The trip from the Rosemont facility to downtown – I would guess 20-plus miles or so, took about an hour and 15 minutes going to it Friday evening. Not griping, just noting Chicago traffic.
For the return, I boarded a bus when the driver said there was one seat left, and by the time I got to the back and found no vacancies, he was pulling away. No problem: I sat on the floor for the return, feeling like a dwarf in an NBA huddle.

I couldn’t see much of anybody – and couldn’t really converse with anyone, but I listened intently as an unidentified old-time dealer reminisced about attending shows in the 1970s and introducing youngsters Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson to the peculiar gastronomical delights of White Castle Sliders.

I could have gleefully listened for the whole stretch of another hour and 15-minute bus ride – even sitting on the hard bus floor – but the return trip to Rosemont only took about 20 minutes.

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