By Ross Forman
The 33rd annual TRISTAR Collectors Show, held June 7-9 at NRG Arena in Houston, was the company’s best summer show in five years, anchored by a polarizing Heisman Trophy winner, a reunion of NBA champions from the hometown Rockets, and an exhibitor base that represented more than 20 states.
Plus, five members of the popular Astros were among the signers – and two of them signed for free.
“The Astros, being so hot right now, were big draws,” said TRISTAR Productions Vice-President Bobby Mintz.
But it was a football player who shined brightest. Johnny Football, that is.
Johnny Manziel signed autographs Saturday afternoon at the show, marking his first-ever appearance at a TRISTAR show.
Mintz was not surprised Manziel was the No. 1 signer.
“We have a big collector base of Heisman collectors, coupled with Texas A&M University fans. (It was) a great appearance,” Mintz said. “He was very accommodating (to the fans), a joy to have at the show and someone we look to having back regularly.”
The Rockets’ Championship Reunion on Sunday, featuring Vernon Maxwell, Mario Elie, Rudy Tomjanovich and Clyde Drexler, among others, was very well received – and a walk down memory-lane for Mintz, TRISTAR President Jeff Rosenberg and hundreds of others.
Also signing at the show: Kevin Mawae, Mel Renfro, “Mean” Joe Greene, Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins, Warren Sapp, Robert Griffin III, Gil Brandt, Bob Lilly, Andre Dawson, Harold Baines, Thurman Thomas and Jordan Thomas, among others.
Cooper and Michael Gallup were nice draws, Mintz said.
“Hopkins (was) extremely popular and we (could) bring him to every show if he was available, Mintz said.
“RG3 was terrific and Harold Baines is such a gentleman; it was nice seeing him for the first time since his Hall of Fame announcement,” Mintz added.
Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick also was a popular signer.
Gil Brandt had a much better crowd than expected, Mintz said.
“Ron Wolf and Bill Polian have done appearances for us before, yet Gil was much bigger. I guess the Dallas Cowboys’ brand made that happen,” he said. “Gil was taking photos with a lot of players and getting autographs, especially all the Cowboys’ draft picks. He thinks Tony Pollard has a tremendous future.”
Mintz noted that the interaction between the former Rockets was special.
“Rudy T told me they were successful because the players liked each other so much. He said it was a tight-knit group and no personality conflicts. You could see that at the show. Many players told me that this was their family,” he said.
Overall, Mintz said he was pleased with the show.
“I was very pleased with our team’s job as the show went off without a hitch, a credit to our leadership that (vice-president) Mandy (Fuerst) oversees and our experienced staff,” he said. “They did a great job and we had very little challenges. All 38 players appeared and did a great job.”
Here’s a look at items that were available for purchase at the show:
• An issue of Sports IllustratedFor Kids, with Landon Donovan on the cover from nine years ago: $2.
• Earl Campbell signed football, in a case: $200.
• Bum Phillips signed white-panel football: $200.
• Joe Montana signed white-panel football: $300.
• Paul Hornung signed 16x20 photo: $50.
• Willie Mays’ signed “Say Hey” book (first edition): $125.
• Who’s Who Baseball books – from 1950 ($12), 1960 ($12) and 1979 ($7).
• Autographed Baseballs: Mickey Mantle ($500), Joe Collins ($899), Ed Lopat ($299), Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio on same ball ($549), Satchel Paige ($2,999).
• Autographed Authentic Replica Jerseys:Bob Lilly ($70), Mel Renfro ($70), Johnny Manziel ($75), Chuck Foreman ($70) and Nolan Ryan ($225).
• Replica Super Bowl trophy, with case: $185.
• Jennie Finch signed, framed item, with plaque and photo: $200.
• Jose Altuve Pop! Funko Figurine: $12.
• Team logo drinking cups, with the University of Houston, University of Texas, Rice and others: $5.
• A 2017 World Series program: $10.
• Signed Full-Size Helmets: Andre Johnson ($499), Billy Cannon ($300), Archie Griffin ($350) and Eddie George ($400).
• Green Bay Packers baseball hat: $15.
• Carlos Correa signed, framed jersey: $525.
• Carlos Correa 3-foot-tall bobblehead, limited-edition (3 of 10), holding a replica World Series trophy: $1,000.
• Liquidation Sale: 1990 Donruss Baseball rak-packs:$1 or 3 for $2.
• A 1970-71 Topps Basketball partial set, with 150 of 175 cards: $699.
• A 1977 New York Yankees home jersey of Thurman Munson: $4,995.
• Autographed batting helmets, no ear flaps: Pete Rose or Reggie Jackson ($125).
• 1964 Beatles Board Game, mint condition with all the pieces: $300 OBO.
• A 2018-19 Sports Illustrated College Football Preview issue, with Kyler Murray on the cover, signed: $99.99.
• Alice Cooper signed 16x20 photo: $80.
• There was a tub of miscellaneous Michael Jordan cards for $1 each.
• Michael Phelps signed 16x20 photo: $299.
• Ichiro signed 16x20: $295.
• Hulk Hogan autographed replica yellow boot: $90.
• David Ortiz signed baseball: $125.
• Jennie Finch signed jersey: $75.
• Dale Murphy autographed bat: $259.
• For $5, you could grab a full box of 1987 MISL cards, made by the Pacific Trading Card Company. FYI, MISL is Major Indoor Soccer League.
Roger Neufeldt of Oklahoma-based Sports Memories reported strong weekend sales of turn-of-the-century cards. He sold thousands of dollars worth of Hall of Fame tobacco cards.
For the first time in 40 years, Neufeldt brought a box of about 500 autographed baseball cards – from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Sales were strong, he said.
Interest in Mantle remains at the top of all athletes, and Roberto Clemente was just a step below, Neufeldt said.
Items available from Neufeldt: 1984 USFL set, unopened - $350; 1956 Topps Flags of the World - $200; 1939 World in Arms cards - $500.
Pack wrappers: Elvis ($30) and Six Million Dollar Man ($35).
The next TRISTAR show is the 34th annual TRISTAR Collectors Show at NRG Arena, Feb. 7-9, 2020. Confirmed signers, as of now, include Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Brooks Robinson.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.