By Ross Forman
The husband-wife combo came to dealer Randy Cook’s booth during the mid-November Chicago Sports Spectacular at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to search for Babe Ruth relics, such as limited-edition cards with an array of game-used swatches from the legendary Baseball Hall of Famer, and also some autographed Ruth items.
They spotted a card with four swatches and asked for the price. Cook replied, but they didn’t jump at it. Instead, they said that they’d think about it and then walked to a nearby dealer.
That’s when the fun started.
She looked back at Cook, motioning that, yes, she wanted the card.
She casually walked back over to Cook’s area minutes later while her husband checked out souvenirs from another dealer. She discreetly handed him her credit card and Cook started processing the transaction, all while not wanting her husband to see.
But then he walked over, so Cook had to hide the paperwork and act calm.
Then they walked away, though Cook still had the Ruth card.
Eventually, she returned, telling her husband that she was going to the bathroom.
Transaction complete … and one Ruth-collecting husband will be getting a rare card for Christmas.
“That definitely was a very memorable transaction,” Cook said, laughing.
The three-day, newly named Chicago Sports Spectacular, held Nov. 17-19, featured many familiar dealers from across the U.S., plus a star-studded autograph lineup, including Bobby Hull, Albert Pujols, Chris Evert, Joe Montana, Mark Messier, Ryne Sandberg, Brandi Chastain, Carl Lewis, Dominique Wilkins, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tommy Lasorda, Grant Fuhr, Reggie Jackson, Ben Zobrist, Dominik Hasek and Spud Webb, among others.
The list of non-sports stars appearing included George Wendt, Jimmie Walker and Barbara Eden.
More than 5,000 people attended the show.
Ozzie Smith, Ivan Rodriguez and Jon Jay were among the announced show guests who did not appear.
Joe Greene and Tommy Okon were popular signers – a flashback about 40 years, from the vintage Coca-Cola commercial that both appeared in.
Okon was the youngster who gave Greene a Coke in the commercial.
The show was their first time together in Chicago.
Okon inscribed photos, “Thanks Joe” for free, while Green added, “Hey Kid, Catch” or “Have a Coke and Smile” for free.
“Chicago is usually a really, really good market. This was not a bad show, but not a great show, either. It probably was a little below average, by Chicago show standards, but still decent,” said Marty Davis, of Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore.
Davis, who specializes in unopened hobby boxes of all sports, said hockey sales were the biggest surprise of the weekend – or lack thereof.
“Hockey cards are not selling like I thought they would,” he said.
But basketball card sales were, “extremely good,” he said.
When asked what’s selling in Chicago, Davis tagged the 2017 Panini Prizm Football ($105 per box) as the top-seller. Other hot boxes at the show:
• 2017 Bowman Chrome HTA Baseball ($115);
• 2017 Topps Diamond Icons ($1,295 per pack);
• 2017 Topps Chrome Baseball ($99 per box); and
• 2017 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions ($82).
Here’s a look at what else I found for sale at the Chicago Sports Spectacular:
• Frank Thomas signed 8x10 photo, matted and framed, $89.
• Michael Stoner, as always, had a wide-range of relics, specifically, high-end, high-dollar framed items. Such as the one with photos and autographs of both Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean ($1,895). Or the one with Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella ($3,450).
• Mike Ditka signed football, $95.
• A 1934 Chicago Cubs team-signed baseball, $1,900.
• Theo Epstein signed 2016 World Series ball, $275.
• 2017 Spring Training t-shirt (Cactus League), $6.
• Cory Seager signed ball, $125.
• Victor Robles signed ball ($55), or an issue of Baseball America with him on the cover, $95.
• Paul Furfaro of PTF Sports brought thousands of authentic jerseys to sell, and reported that top sellers were Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge from the 2017 All-Star Game.
• Autographed baseballs: Mark DeRosa ($30), Johnny Damon ($49) or Joe Torre ($55).
• Forest Gregg signed 11x14 photo, matted and framed, $259.
• Hank Aaron signed 16x20 framed photos, $399.
• A dual-signed photo of Jack Buck and Harry Caray, $300.
• Jack Buck signed ball, $450.
• John Denny signed ball, $125.
• A Chicago White Sox Hawaiian-style team give-away shirt, $10.
• A 16x20 signed photo of the late Roy Halladay, $495.
• Gordie Howe signed Detroit Red Wings jersey, $399.
•Tommy Lasorda signed 16x20 photo, along with Frank Sinatra, $89.
• Carl Yastrzemski signed Boston Red Sox jersey, $375.
• Stan Musial signed St. Louis Cardinals jersey, $275.
• Bill Russell signed basketball, $250.
• A pink Major League Baseball, in cube, $23.
• Phil and Tony Esposito dual-signed vintage 16x20 photo, $90.
• An Indiana University Rose Bowl pennant from 1967, $65.
• Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series program, $15.
• The full edition of the Chicago Tribune from 2016 – the day after the Cubs won the World Series, $5.
• Al Lopez signed ball, $150.
• Bud Selig signed ball, $85.
• Mickey Mantle signed Mitchell & Ness jersey, $3,695.
• Stephen Curry signed Golden State jersey, $645.
• Sandy Koufax signed Los Angeles Dodgers jersey, $895.
• There was an Olsen’s 1922 Baseball Game for sale, which many longtime dealers said they had never seen. Asking price was $1,000.
• Seems like there was more demand for 2017 WWE cards of the stars on Raw as opposed to SmackDown, as the former was priced $5 higher – at $55.
• John Wall signed basketball, $130.
• Paul Pierce signed basketball, $140.
• Ben Eager signed Chicago Blackhawks puck, $5.
• Marcus Kruger signed Hawks puck, $10.
From 2016 Topps Transcendent Baseball was a signed Kris Bryant card, graded 9.5 by Beckett, $350.
Al Sorenson of Tinley Park, Ill., was painting on-site, as always. He was painting a Converse shoe for a Larry Bird collector.
I always like seeing the amazing-looking canvas prints from R. Todd Williams of Iowa-based Williams Sports Memorabilia, which are perfect for framing and autographing. Some of the canvas prints are made from paintings, some are photos which he superimposes onto the canvas. Williams reported that he sold Sandy Koufax and Bart Starr offerings for $495 and $395, respectively. He said those two “sell at every show.”
He also sold all five Carl Lewis prints that he had for sale, no doubt to collectors who were going to get them signed.
Complete set report: 1970 Topps Baseball ($1,750), 1971 Topps Baseball ($2,000), 1953 Bowman Black & White ($750), 1956 Topps Baseball ($5,250).
Game-used footballs for sale: Carolina Panthers ($300), Atlanta Falcons ($250), Chicago Bears ($250).
Complete set report, round 2: 1988-89 Topps Hockey ($25), 1983 Donruss Baseball ($25), 1962 Post Baseball ($900), 1971 Topps Baseball Coins ($250).
Autographed baseball alert: Ned Yost ($40), Kris Bryant ($150), David Ross with “Game 7 HR” inscription ($185), Paul Konerko on a 2005 World Series ball ($100), or Jon Lester ($90).
Autographed puck alert: Martin Brodeur/New Jersey Devils ($120), Stan Mikita/Chicago Blackhawks ($128), or Gordie Howe/Detroit Red Wings ($169).
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.