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Headlining in Houston: Harden Shines at Tristar Event

Despite flooding in Texas, Rockets and Astros stars draw fans to the autograph area, while collectors seek out Koufax, T205s

By Ross Forman

Roger Neufeldt purchased a large collection of vintage Dodgers cards, many dating back to the team’s stint in Brooklyn, before the 29th annual Tristar Productions’ Summer Collectors Show, held May 29-31 at the NRG Center in Houston.

He had about 35 Sandy Koufax cards, which is more than his normal allotment of cards depicting the legendary left-handed pitcher.

Neufeldt ultimately sold 10 Koufax cards at the three-day show, making Koufax the most popular star among his throng of cards from decades past. In fact, he sold more Koufax cards than cards of Mickey Mantle, “and I can’t remember the last time that happened.”

Mantle almost always is the most sought-after, and most purchased, retro card.
But not at this show, at least not for Neufeldt.

“I just had a nice variety of Koufax cards, and they were selling,” including three rookie cards, though none were high-grade, said Neufeldt, who runs Sports Memories of Norman, Okla., which specializes in retro cards and vintage publications.

“It was unbelievable that Mantle was not the top seller; it’s really been a long time since that wasn’t the case.”

Flooding in the Houston area kept some fans and signers away from the latest Tristar event, but James Harden helped draw crowds over the three days. Photos by Ross Forman.

Flooding in the Houston area kept some fans and signers away from the latest Tristar event, but James Harden helped draw crowds over the three days. Photos by Ross Forman.

Nolan Ryan usually sells well at Houston shows, Neufeldt said, but he wasn’t even close in sales to Mantle or Koufax. Neufeldt sold only four Mantle cards all weekend.
Other popular star vintage cards at the show were Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Pete Rose, Neufeldt said.

Neufeldt also had success selling about 50 T205 cards, though no major stars were included in the bunch.

“It was an average, maybe above average show,” Neufeldt said. “There was an amazing number of advanced collectors, set-builders, particularly for sets from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.”

He also noted strong sales among lower-grade cards from the 1940s and 1950s.

Overall, Neufeldt said the top-selling cards were from 1952, 1966 and 1967. He also noted strong sales among basketball cards from 1957 and 1969 Topps and 1948 Bowman. Neufeldt also had strong sales of 1971 cards.

Neufeldt’s vintage sales also included a Ty Cobb (PSA 5) from 1910-12 and a 1933 Babe Ruth Sport King card (PSA 2.5).

Neufeldt said sales of vintage publications was limited – and he carried some cool collectibles, such as a 1935 University of Chicago program with Jay Berwanger.

“I thought it’d be a cinch to sell, but it didn’t sell,” Neufeldt said.

He also had a rare program from Ebbetts Field in 1936, a football relic with Ralph Kercheval on the cover, and a 1928 Army-Stanford program ($120) – and neither sold.

Show report
The three-day show featured autographing appearances by about 25 athletes, including James Harden, Craig Biggio and Dallas Keuchel – the top three draws.


Also appearing were Bill O’Brien, Jake Marisnick, Elvin Hayes, Rudy Tomjanovich, Vernon Maxwell, Mel Renfro, Bill Bates, Mario Elie, Robert Horry, Tracy Murray, Brandin Cooks, John Smoltz, Dave Winfield and Terrell Owens, among others.

About 3,500 people attended the show.

“The weather really hurt us,” Tristar Vice President Bobby Mintz said of the flooding that hit Houston area days before and even one day of the show. “That said, all of the players who made it to the show were terrific, and that’s what you can always count on.”
Mintz said Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien drew large crowds.

“We’ve had other Friday night guests, like Bill was, and they didn’t draw nearly as well,” he said.

Winfield went out of his way to talk hitting at the show with a team of Little Leaguers.
“It was really motivating,” Mintz said.

Several signers were unable to attend, Mintz said, due to various reasons.

Marty Davis of Marty’s Sports Card Exchange Superstore (Chattanooga, Tenn.) said of the flooding, “It definitely affected the show . . . there definitely were dealers who we know cancelled (due to the weather).”

Texans coach Bill O'Brien

Texans coach Bill O'Brien

Davis said the weekend’s biggest surprise among sales of boxes of new releases was simply that sales were across the board.

“Basketball (products) are always hot here in Houston, and any football release with J.J. Watt in it sells well. Baseball, thanks to the strong start of the season by the Astros, has done exceptionally well here,” he said.

Despite the excitement skating through the NHL playoffs, which coincided with the show, there was no hockey craze at the show. Davis said he didn’t sell even one box of current hockey products – and he was offering some of the hottest releases. In total, he offered 13 hockey products.

“Hockey never sells here,” he said, and the drought also extended to auto racing releases.

In general, Davis said his top-five-selling hockey releases are:
– 2014-15 Upper Deck Ice – $119
– 2014-15 Upper Deck, Series 2 – $79
– 2014-15 Fleer Showcase – $115
– 2014-15 Upper Deck SP Game-Used – $99
– 2014-15 Panini Playbook – $65.

On the show floor
Here’s a look at some of the other souvenirs being sold at the Houston show:
– A Santa Clause bobblehead ($25).
– A 3-foot tall bobblehead of Babe Ruth, listed as one of only 50 made ($700).
– A basketball signed by Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain ($2,000).
– Larry Bird-signed white Boston Celtics jersey ($350).
– A Babe Ruth-signed, framed $100 U.S. Savings Bond ($4,800).
– A Billy Martin-signed 8-by-10 photo ($200).
– A 1972 Sunoco Stamps complete set, with album ($150).
– A 1970 Chicago Bears set of Clark Oil illustrated photos; the set of eight includes Dick Butkus ($80).
– Manny Pacquiao signed, framed 8-by-10 photo ($79).
– “Pistol” Pete Maravich autographed magazine page ($800).
– Mickey Mantle autographed bat, including his “Best Wishes” inscription and JSA authentication ($2,199).
– Photo signed by Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider, with JSA authentication ($2,799).
– Ted Williams-signed photo, with “The Kid” inscription ($1,499).
– One of the nicest items at the show was a 1926 Babe Ruth-signed bat, graded PSA 9. It includes Babe in quotes, which he didn’t do throughout his career.
– For $12,000, you could have claimed a baseball signed by Ty Cobb – on the sweet spot – as well as Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean and others.
– Or for $14,999, you could have left with a ball signed by Cy Young, Ty Cobb and Dizzy Dean, among others.
– And for $17,999, you would walk with a ball signed by most of the 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, including Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, George Sisler, Cy Young and Larry Lajoie.
– A Bum Phillips-signed, framed 16-by-20 photo ($179).
– Johnny Manziel signed, framed Texas A&M jersey, with stats stitched into the bottom of the jersey ($449).
– Carlos Correa autographed baseballs ($50) or black bat with “2012 No. 1 Pick” inscription ($100).
– A box of Upper Deck mini hockey jerseys was $2 each or three-for-$5.
– There was an 11-by-14 sepia-toned photo of DiMaggio, Mantle and Williams – signed by each – for $1,800.
– The sign stated “Little Bit of Everything Box,” and sure enough, there were items at various price-points and from multiple sports.
– Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was spotlighted in a two-photo, framed item, with JSA authentication ($259).
– It was impressive to see the signed, framed Mantle 16-by-20 photo, a rare item in that it was printed from the original AP wirephoto and carries multiple inscriptions: “No. 7” and “Yankees 1951-1968” ($1,995).
– Paperback books were $3 each; hardcovers were $4 . . . none were sports-related.
– A Joe Black-signed 8-by-10 photo was $20.
– Hand-painted sporting skulls were $35 or $50, depending on size.
– A Wayne Gretzky-signed 16-by-20 photo, with the Stanley Cup from his days with Edmonton (UDA), was $350.
– A 16-by-20 black-and-white signed photo of Arnold Palmer was $200.
– Signed 16-by-20 photos: Hulk Hogan ($100), Shawn Kemp ($40), Henry Winkler ($75) and Tim Hardaway ($40).


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