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Treasures Abound at Fanatics Sports Spectacular in Chicago

The March Fanatics Sports Spectacular show brings big autograph lineup, varied memorabilia options and a hot recalled product.

By Ross Forman

A few weeks before the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular, which was held March 20-22 in Rosemont, Ill., John Arcand went to Iowa looking for rare, hard-to-find relics related to the University of Iowa in preparation for the second season of Big Ten Treasure Hunter, the TV show that he hosts on the Big Ten Network.

Arcand spotted a 1925 football program from an Iowa-USC game, and he quickly thought he might have a gem on his hands – because of a possible USC player who might be in the publication.

Arcand, a hobby veteran and former longtime store owner in Chicago, knew that the Trojans had a player named Marion Morrison around that time.

We knew him as, John Wayne.

The Big Ten Treasure Hunter, John Arcand, was at the Fanatics Sports Spectactular, and he picked up a coveted USC program featuring Marion Morrison, better known as John Wayne.

The Big Ten Treasure Hunter, John Arcand, was at the Fanatics Sports Spectactular, and he picked up a coveted USC program featuring Marion Morrison, better known as John Wayne.

“I actually thought it was 1923 (when Morrison played for USC), but when I asked the owner, he confirmed the correct year,” Arcand said.

And sure enough, in a 1925 Frosh Team photo in that program, Morrison is near the center of the front row.

“It’s a really cool piece,” Arcand said. “Thankfully, the program owner had two copies.”
The collector told Arcand that he had to get $200 for the program, so Arcand jumped at the deal.

“Anytime you can find content like that, with celebrities out of their normal element, it’s really unique; I think this was a steal,” Arcand said.


The Iowa segment is scheduled to air on the Big Ten Treasure Hunter as early as June, possibly not until the fall.

“I would have to think this ranks pretty high,” among all Big Ten-related relics,” Arcand said. “John Wayne is, no doubt, 80 percent of the overall value of that item.

“I would have to say this program ranks in the top 10 percent of value of items found for the show. As far as rarity, this ranks in the top 5 percent.”

Arcand said the first season of the Big Ten Treasure Hunter “went well,” with more advertisers coming onboard. They have already started filming for season two.
Arcand purchased close to 200 items during season one, and he is expecting higher-priced items will be purchased during season two.

Arcand, wearing his black Big Ten Treasure Hunter collared shirt, shared the Iowa-USC program with collectors at the Fanatics Authentic Sports Spectacular. It was being sold for $450.

Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota

Around the show floor
The three-day Fanatics Authentic show was a success, with about 8,000 collectors attending and about 50 autograph guests appearing. Signers included Joe Montana, Carlton Fisk, Peyton Manning, Pedro Martinez, Colin Kaepernick, Mike Singletary, Julius Erving, Randy Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, George Gervin, Dale Murphy, Brian Urlacher, Rick Barry, Dave Parker, Jim Otto, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Jim Rice, Bob Lilly and Joakim Noah, among others.

On Friday, the show featured autograph appearances from about 20 signers for “A Tribute To Notre Dame,” including Lou Holtz, Ross Browner, Vagas Ferguson, Chris Zorich, Allen Pinkett and even Rudy Ruettiger.

“This show is crazy . . . crazy good,” said Marty Davis of Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore, based in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The show featured plenty of memorabilia – cards, jerseys, autographs and more. Let’s take a look:
– A signed, three-photo framed piece of tennis great Martina Navratilova ($235).
– A signed 16-by-20 black-and-white photo of Pelé, PSA certified, with custom framing ($550).
– A University of North Carolina jersey of Michael Jordan, signed and framed with PSA/DNA ($1,975).
– Colorful football cleats – new, never used, nor team-specific – were $40 for the pair, or $25 for a single.
– Robin Yount-signed baseball with a pink fight cancer logo and stitching ($60).
– Roberto Clemente cut signature with an 8-by-10 photo, framed ($1,900).
– An Ernie Banks-signed Chicago Cubs mini helmet was $95 . . . the same price for a Jorge Soler-signed Cubs’ mini.
– There was a bobblehead of Chicago Cubs’ super-fan Ronnie Woo Woo for $20, and “it talks, too,” the dealer said. White Sox fans could have grabbed a Sox Man bobblehead for $20. (Sorry, despite being a lifelong White Sox fan, I’m not sure who the superhero-looking Sox Man is or was.) The bobblehead of Add-A-Tude, the mascot of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which promotes good sportsmanship, was $25.
– Boxing memorabilia was selling well, one dealer said. Ironically, his booth was not filled with many boxing relics at all.
– A Jeff Bagwell-signed 1992 Fleer card (No. 425) was $15.
– Kip Ingle offered a unique framed piece, featuring signatures of Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan – the first and last astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Armstrong signed a napkin. The item ($1,300) is from the 1970s, Ingle said.
– Ingle also was selling John Smoltz’ worn, signed 1996 All-Star Game spikes ($800). Smoltz was the National League starter that year, picking up the win.
– Longtime dealer Mike Stoner had one of the most unique and most historical relics at the show. He was selling a large, framed piece, featuring authenticated signatures of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey ($2,750). Robinson’s signature is on a postcard, while Rickey signed a telegraph. Stoner said he once before had a similar item, and it sold. As for this one, Stoner said, “You just never know what’s gonna pop (sell).” Stoner noted that finding a good quality Rickey signature that’s certified has long been a challenge.
– A Chicago Cubs’ uniform, signed by Andre Dawson, including his “HOF 2010” inscription, was $300.
– Minnie Minoso-signed Gold Glove baseballs were $59, marked up from their original $39 on one dealer’s sign.
– Jose Abreau smacked his first career home run on April 8, 2014. A ticket from that game was selling for $60. A ticket from a June 3, 2014, game, when Kolten Wong hit his first career home run, was $25.
– Brett Favre-signed 2010 Pro Bowl jersey was $200.
– For $35, you could buy a 1976 Topps Football empty cello pack box. That’s right, no cards included.
– March Madness is rampant at the University of Kentucky, and a 2015 team-signed ball was $300.
– Meadowlark Lemon’s 1971-72 Fleer Harlem Globetrotters card was $5.
– A Homer Simpson doll was $25.
– Topps issued a statement the same day the show opened regarding damaged autographs that appeared in packs of 2015 Topps Tribute Baseball, which began arriving in hobby stores earlier in the week – and immediately generated negative feedback when collectors complained about autographs that were scratched or appeared to be bubbled up on the card. The Topps statement said the company is “initiating a complete recall” of the product and blaming the damage on “a UV contamination on the card.” Topps said that exchanges will be made for another card “of equal or greater value,” plus the collector will receive a bonus auto card or relic. Despite the recall, or perhaps because of it, the product sold exceptionally well in Chicago, said Davis, who alerted every customer about the recall, yet that seemed to help push sales. “Collectors don’t seem to care (about the recall); they are really buying the product,” he said.
– Aaron Moorehead-signed University of Illinois mini helmet ($15).
– Brandon Marshall-signed 16-by-20 photos were $80, and Marshall-signed Chicago Bears jerseys were $100. “We’re blowing those out,” the dealer said.
– A Denis Savard-signed vintage-style skate was $200.
– A St. Louis Cardinals’ team-signed baseball from 1950 was $250.
– Packs of Topps 2015 WWE cards were $2.50.
– A Brian Urlacher-signed full-size Chicago Bears helmet was $300.
– A Derrick Rose-signed authentic NBA Spalding ball was $250.
– A framed movie poster from Brian’s Song was $25 when spotted Saturday morning . . . it was sold by Saturday afternoon.
– Chiro One Wellness Center had a booth at the show. “Wanna get your spine checked today?” the representative asked, repeatedly.
– There was a tub of cards, with a Chicago Show Special sign. They were priced two cards for $1.
– There was a sports table-top pinball game, from Northwestern Products Co., of St. Louis, for $50.
– A signed, framed 8-by-10 photo of brothers Bobby and Dennis Hull was $85.
– Cool product alert: There were framed “Mancave” signs, featuring mini helmets of select teams and/or schools for $79.


Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at