By Ross Forman
Quarterbacks were the most popular signers at the Chicago Sports Spectacular, held March 15-17 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
Two in particular – and not surprisingly – were Mitch Trubisky and Johnny Manziel.
Trubisky, star of the hometown Chicago Bears, was greeted on Sunday by a slew of blue and orange-wearing Chicago football fans, each paying $100-$150 per signature, plus another $40 for inscriptions. And an official photo-op with Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, was $100.
Manziel was also a sought-after signature, especially since the day before his show signing, March 16, Manziel signed an agreement to join the Alliance of American Football. Under the league’s regional allocation process, the San Antonio Commanders had the first opportunity to sign him via his Texas A&M connections, but the Commanders waived his rights, thus he was assigned to the 1–5 Memphis Express.
Manziel autographs were $90 for any item, and an additional $30 for inscriptions (up to three words). Official photo-ops with Manziel were $90.
Trubisky and Manziel each signed hundreds of autographs, often adding unique inscriptions, and also posing for countless photos and selfies.
“The March 2019 Chicago Sports Spectacular was another great show, headlined by Mitch Trubisky, who seemed to have the longest line of the weekend, shaking every fan’s hand and enjoying the experience,” said collector Jon Carr. “Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, (was making) his first (major) card show appearance, (and) was in awe of the massive back room. ‘Johnny Football’ was great with the many inscription requests and happy to take photos with fans who asked.”
The three-day show also featured autograph appearances by Dick Butkus, Barry Sanders, John Hannah, Jim Brown, Ray Guy, Emmitt Smith, Cam Neely, Mel Renfro, Curley Culp, Earl Campbell, Robin Yount, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Steve Carlton, Bobby Cox, Bobby Knight, Jim Thome and others.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather was among the scheduled guests who were last-minute cancellations.
“We were involved with over 30 of the guests at the show, so we had a full, busy weekend,” said Brian Schwartz, president/CEO of Schwartz Sports Memorabilia, Inc. “I think the show was relatively consistent with recent shows, and from an autograph guest perspective, the popular and fresh names (sold) better, while some of the lesser-known names, or guys that are circuit regulars, sold less.
“The big exception to that rule was the guys at Rollback (prices, such as) Dick Butkus, Jose Canseco, and Dave Parker, who have all been recent (show guests, but still were) putting up big sales, showing that price definitely does matter.”
Schwartz added, “Mitch Trubisky was the top draw at the show, to (the) best of my knowledge, as Bears’ fans got a taste of the playoffs this (past season) and are all-in on Mitch being the guy (who) can lead the Bears to the promised land. Among the most popular items (to be signed by Trubisky) were Riddell’s special line of chrome football helmets, which came out in the fall, thus this was the first time (the helmets) were available (to be signed) – and they look great signed in various color paint pens.”
Hobbyist Scott Widelitz said, “(Trubisky) was the leading signer (at the show) and (is) a fan favorite.”
Longtime Chicago show promoter George Johnson, who now owns a card shop in Arizona, agreed.
“He was the best draw here, by far,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that, if Khalil Mack had been signing too, “this place would have been a mob scene.”
Here’s a look at some of the items for sale at the Chicago Sports Spectacular:
• Autographed mini helmets: Dan Fouts ($95), Rocket Ismael ($65), Ara Parseghian ($90), Ricky Williams ($50) and Tony Dorsett ($110).
• Autographed 16x20 photos: Johnny Manziel ($60), Alex Ovechkin ($145) and Odell Beckham ($100).
• Trubisky-signed 8x10s, $100.
• Trubisky-signed full-size Bears helmets, $350.
• Wrigley Field chair, $350.
• NFL programs from 1969 were $10.
• One dealer was selling a load of past-dated tickets, for $1 each.
• An Indiana University seat cushion from the 1967 Rose Bowl, which the Hoosiers lost 14-3 to USC, was $75.
• Signed baseballs: Bob Feller ($35), Robin Roberts ($45) and Johnny Sain ($59).
• Signed 16x20 photos: George Brett ($95), Trevor Hoffman ($90) and Kerry Wood ($30).
• More autographed mini helmets: Jim Brown ($300), Jerry Rice ($160), Barry Sanders ($270), Joe Namath ($300) and Devin Hester ($110).
• Any Bears fan would want the framed, oversized picture of legends from team history, which was signed by 20 of the all-time greats, including Walter Payton and Mike Ditka, among others. Only 750 were made, with a $995 asking-price.
• Talked to a dealer who was selling vintage sports trophies for $100. He acquires them at flea markets, he said.
• Nick Mangold game-used, signed New York Jets helmet, $225.
• Autographed full-size football helmets: Deion Sanders ($325), Dick Butkus ($300), Brett Favre ($500) and Lawrence Taylor ($350).
• The complete set of 1979 or 1980 Kellogg’s baseball cards was $30, while the ’78 set was $65.
• An 8x10 signed photo of former pro wrestler Baron von Raschke, from a match against Jesse “The Body” Ventura was $20.
• Glenn Hall-signed 8x10 photo, $40.
• Javier Baez-signed Chicago Cubs World Series jersey was $299.
• An Andre The Giant 3x5 black-and-white photo was $47.
• Saw a few dealers selling buckets of cards labeled 2-for-$1.
• Autographed baseballs: Monte Irvin ($60), Rick Ferrell ($100), Whitey Ford ($85), Carl Yastrzemski ($175), Tony Gwynn ($125) and Johnny Mize ($100).
• Longtime dealer Randy Cook sells some of the most unique Babe Ruth relics, such as the 2017 Leaf Pearl card with five – yes, 5 – pieces of Ruth-used bats, including one swatch with lettering. The card was 1-of-2 with a $2,000 price-tag. Ironically, the card is mislabeled on the back by the manufacturer, as it states the card contains official used bat and seat swatches. In reality, it just has five bat swatches. The card, Cook said, is truly “spectacular.”
• Cook also was selling two unique signed cards of Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback. They were 2018 Panini Instant MVP cards, number of 5. They were $2,500 each. “I didn’t even know such cards existed,” said Cook, who bought both cards on Sunday.
• LED Man Cave signs, with team logos, were $79.
• Dennis Rodman game-worn, signed shoes from the 1995-96 season, via Upper Deck Master Collection, were $2,250. “I have a little wiggle room (on the asking-price), if you’re interested,” the seller said.
• Top-selling unopened hobby boxes, according to dealer Marty Davis: 2019 Topps Heritage Baseball ($77), 2019 Topps Jumbo Series 1 ($75), 2018 National Treasures Football ($850), 2018 Panini Certified Football ($155), and 2018-19 Panini Prizm Basketball ($215).
• Longtime dealer Kip Ingle was selling unique souvenirs from the career of former MLB catcher/coach David Rickets, including a suitcase from the 50th All-Star Game and 1971 World Series pocket patch and buttons.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.