By Ross Forman
For $2, you could have purchased an autographed 8-by-10 color photo of Brandon Pirri at the annual Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular, held Nov. 21-23 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.
Pirri, a left-handed-shooting center who was born in Toronto, made his NHL debut for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2010-11 season, the lone NHL game he played that season. He spent parts of the next three seasons with the Hawks before he was traded to the Florida Panthers for draft picks.
For $2, you also could have purchased an 8-by-10 autographed photo, or for $3 an 11-by-14 signed photo, of Brandon Bollig, an undrafted hockey player who signed with the Hawks in 2010 after playing for St. Lawrence University. Bollig made his NHL debut in 2012 and was a member of Chicago’s Stanley Cup-winning team in 2013. He now skates for the Calgary Flames.
In other words, not everything was pricey at the three-day sporting extravaganza, though much of the available merchandise was. Memories, however, are priceless.
The show featured, as usual, an amazing lineup of autograph guests, including 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, 16-time World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and six-time NBA Champion Scottie Pippen. Other show signers included Jose Abreu, Anthony Rizzo, Fergie Jenkins, Lou Brock, Kyle Fuller, Jim Leyland, Ryne Sandberg, Jim Thome, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann , among others.
Here’s a look at some of the souvenirs seen on the convention’s show floor, which attracted about 8,000 attendees.
– Meadowlark Lemon autographed basketballs were listed at $100, but the one-day price slashing on Saturday moved the price to $60.
– Full boxes of Twinkies were $2 or 3-for-$5. They were the new-era sweet treats . . . not the vintage ones with cards on the back of the boxes.
– Various Bench Warmer card sets were $10 each.
– Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler bobble heads were $15 each, or the pair for $25. Steve Wilson of Jim & Steve’s Sportscard Shop (Waukegan, Ill.) sold more than 50 of those bobbleheads by mid-day on Saturday. “By far, they are the hottest thing at the show,” Wilson said. “I was in St. Louis for a show and did pretty well with them, so I figured I’d do pretty well with them in Chicago … I just didn’t figure I’d do this well.”
– One dealer brought his dog to the show, and that dog split time wearing a White Sox and Cubs jersey. When asked how much the dog was, the dealer replied, “Seven figures.”
– Orlando Cepeda’s game-worn, signed 1969 Atlanta Braves jersey was $1,595.
– It was only 25-cents for wrappers from vintage Topps non-sport sets, such as The A Team, Return of the Jedi, E.T., Batman and The Karate Kid. Or you could get five wrappers for $1.
– An 8-by-10 color photo of The Famous Chicken was only $1.
– There was a World Football League football with the Barcelona Dragons’ logo emblazed on it, housed inside a football display case. The seller was not selling the football, just the display case. But, a collector was interested in the football and asked, “How much?” The dealer replied, “$300.” No sale was made.
– Rashard Mendenhall’s game-worn and signed Pittsburgh Steelers jersey from 2008, his rookie season, was available for $595.
– A framed Sports Illustrated magazine signed by the cover athlete, O.J. Simpson, was $70.
– A Bears’ game-used kicker football – the ball used only on kickoffs, and documented accordingly on the ball – was $250. A Bears’ game-used football was $300.
– An Oscar Gamble-signed 8-by-10 color photo was $15, while Ralph Garr was $20.
– An 11-by-14 signed, framed photo of Greg Maddux was $150. Well, at least I think it was Maddux. It was a blur action photo, perhaps more like art, so Maddux truly was not identifiable. Not sure why anyone would buy this, as opposed to a regular photo of the pitching great.
– Game-used cleats of A.J. Burnett were $240, while Ian Desmond’s were only $99.
– A game-used, signed catching glove of Bobby Estalella was $125. He played in the majors from 1996-2004 and holds the distinction of having hit the most career home runs in MLB history by a player who also had fewer than 200 career hits (48 HR, 195 hits).
– A Bobby Orr-signed 16-by-20 photo was $199.
– A Bill Russell/Sam Jones dual-signed 16-by-20 photo was $400.
– A Mario Lemieux-signed 16-by-20 photo was $225.
– Dwier Brown appeared at the show, signing autographs and asking attendees if they “wanted to have a catch.” Brown appeared in the hit 1989 film Field of Dreams, playing John Kinsella, the father of Kevin Costner’s character.
– A Bob Knight-signed 16-by-20 photo was $109, and it showed the former Indiana University coaching great throwing a chair from his classic career moment.
– There was a nice Nolan Ryan commemorative poster for his seven no-hitters. It was $15 or two-for-$25.
– Joakim Noah-signed Chicago Bulls’ jersey was $275.
– Matt Forte-signed Bears jersey was $250.
– Dan Hampton-signed Bears jersey was $150.
– Jay Cutler-signed Bears jersey was $200 . . . and I’d bet none sold at the show.
– An Indiana University1968 pennant was $45.
– Who’s your favorite Blackhawk, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane? There were signed 8-by-10 photos and signed authentic replica jerseys of each for $85 and $395, respectively.
– Ronald and Nancy Reagan autographs were spotlighted in a mounted piece for $500.
– A 1964 Topps Giants Baseball card complete set of 60 cards was $300.
– Kevin Savage Cards of Maumee, Ohio, offered cut Hostess panels, with cards of Ray Burris, Thurman Munson and others. However, there were no Ding-Dongs.
– A Jim Umbricht cut signature, among others on a piece of paper, was $550.
– Blowout sale: NASCAR 1:24-scale die-cast cars were $5, including Dale Jarrett and Kevin Harvick.
– The 1972-72 Topps Basketball complete set of 264 cards was $425.
– Sports books were $1.
– One of the most eye-catching pieces was the framed 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey jersey, which also included a ticket and puck from those Games and more. It measured about 7-feet-by-4-feet and carried an $8,000 price tag. There also was a framed 8-foot-by-5-foot piece featuring autographs and jerseys of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman – for $25,000.
– The 2015 NHL Winter Classic replica puck, for the game between Chicago and Washington, was $8.
– A Purdue University sweater and pin from 1978 was $225.
– The premiere issue of Beckett Golf Magazine from 2001, with Tiger Woods on the cover, was $4.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at email@example.com.